WHO IS THIS GUY?

Erik Ersberg earned his first career shutout on Thursday night

Friday, 03.07.2008 / 8:09 PM / Features
By Thomas LaRocca  - LAKings.com Staff Writer
Kings fans may not have noticed it when it happened.

Heck, it may not have even scrolled on the bottom of the screen on ESPN.

But on May 31, 2007, this transaction took place:

Kings sign unrestricted free agent G Erik Ersberg. Highlights 

"We saw him last year at the World Championships. We had him identified before that, and then we watched him there. We had a hole on our reserve list in that age group, so we took a shot at him," Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall told the Associated Press on Thursday night.

Ersberg got the attention of the Kings in the Swedish Elite League, where last season he posted a 22-12-7 mark with a 2.39 goals against average (GAA) and a .908 save percentage (SV%), earning the Elitserien Honken Trophy as the Goalie of the Year.

And through four games with Kings, he has been doing a little more than 'filling a hole,' especially Thursday night.

Ersberg stopped 40 shots against the Eastern Conference’s highest scoring team and last year’s Stanley Cup runners up, as the Sala, Sweden native blaked the Ottawa Senators, 2-0 to secure his first NHL win and shut out.

In doing so, he became the first rookie goaltender to make at least 40 saves in a shutout since Nov. 14, 1996, when Vancouver’s Mike Fountain, in his NHL debut, stopped all 40 shots he faced in a 3-0 win at New Jersey.

The 40 saves were also the most ever by a Kings rookie goaltender in a shutout, breaking the old mark of 38 set by Gary Edwards in a 2-0 win at Boston on March 5, 1972.

Not a bad first win for Ersberg.

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," Ersberg said. "It's a great opportunity to play in this league and show what you can do. It feels good to get some games up here. I'm happy for every game I get. That's why I came over here - to play in this league. When you play a couple of games, you want to get more."

And Kings fans may want the soon-to-be 26-year-old net minder (he turns 26 on Saturday), to ‘get more’ if he continues to post the kind of numbers he has in his first four games.

Since being recalled from Manchester, where he posted a 10-13-2 mark with 2.92 GAA and a .916 SV%, on Feb. 21, the rookie backstop has turned away 119 of 125 shots (.952 save percentage) with a 1.68 GAA in posting a 1-1-2 mark in four games, three of which he started.

He made his NHL debut on Feb. 23 in relief of Dan Cloutier, stopping 18-of-19 shots. Unfortunately, the one goal he gave up was in OT, as Chicago won 6-5.

His first NHL start came on March 2 and he promptly stopped 33-of-35, again losing in overtime, this time to Minnesota, 2-1.

His next start came on March 4, and he suffered his first regulation loss, stopping 28 of 31 in a 3-2 loss at St. Louis.

Despite the losses, his play impressed his teammates, coaches and management.

"His athleticism and quickness are the best aspects of his game, as well as his lateral movement," Hextall said. "He's not the biggest guy, so he's got to use his athletic ability. Obviously, this gives us a chance to look at him and gives him a chance to prove something."

And much has been made of, what Crawford describes as his 'rebound control.'

Defenseman and Captain Rob Blake also is impressed by this ability, though he prefers a different term, 'sponge.'

"I kind of relate it to being like a sponge," Blake said. "Everything that hits him stays within him, and he covers it. He’s very sound. You know that if a shot gets through, he’s in position."

And Ottawa now knows it too.

The Senators, owners of a 5-9-2 mark since the start of February, came out firing on the 5-10 goaltender, doubling up the Kings in shots 16-8 in the first, including a wicked slap shot from Jason Spezza that nearly decapitated young Ersberg. 700K 

But Ersberg rose to the occasion and the two teams entered the first intermission in a scoreless tie.

Alexander Frolov tallied a power play goal in the second, a period in which the Kings dominated, out-shooting the Sens 21-8. But Ersberg and the Kings would have to hold on to the slim lead through out the third period, as a desperate Ottawa team fired 16 shots on net – to the Kings two – but LA would add an empty net goal by Patrick O’Sullivan and hold on for the 2-0 win.

Crawford said this of his rookie goalie’s performance:

"That was a terrific performance for him,” said Crawford. “He was a calming influence all night. When they had their chances in the third and put on their charge and they were throwing everything at us and getting all of their people into the attack, I thought he was so calm and collected back there and it was great to see coming from such a young goaltender who had never won a game in the National Hockey League."

Ersberg was just happy to get the win.

"I was just happy to get a game and get a point. I wanted a win, so I am really happy with that. It is a great opportunity to play in this league and get games here and show what you can do. This is my first year here in this league and I just want to do as best as I can."