What are the odds? A million to one? Who could have ever dreamed of this scenario? It’s almost like a Walt Disney tale where an out of luck baseball pitcher is signed on a lark and steps in at the last minute during the World Series. Goaltender David LeNeveu himself acknowledges how luck, happenstance and being in the right place at the right time created a chance of a lifetime with the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s been a crazy year,” LeNeveu explained to New York Media earlier this week, “to come in here and enjoy the run with them has been unbelievable, a great experience.”
Since 2003 David LeNeveu, the 2002 #46 overall draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, has shuttled around the professional leagues a bit. He has played 327 AHL games with seven different teams (two teams twice at different times), 22 NHL games with Phoenix and the Columbus Blue Jackets, 74 games with two Austrian league teams, and 8 ECHL games this season.
Two seasons ago LeNeveu played with the Oklahoma City Barons as they held top place in the AHL for much of the season, winning the West Division Championship, and they went all the way to the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs. And Dave LeNeveu was a large part of the team’s success that season. LeNeveu along with Yann Danis was one of the best goaltender tandems in the AHL that season and they both ranked near the top with the likes of Ben Scrivens, Ben Bishop, Jeremy Smith and Dustin Tokarski.
Last season while playing with the Linz Black Wings in the Austrian league (EBEL) LeNeveu sustained an injury to his eye after a slap shot puck to the mask from Swede Eric Johansson. LeNeveu received treatment and returned within less than a month to lead his team into the playoffs through the Semifinals.
Following his stint in Austria, LeNeveu and his family chose to remain in North America this season and he signed with the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Providence and Boston Bruins. He only played 8 games for the Stingrays and 1 for the Providence Bruins before the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers AHL team, nabbed him and signed him for the remainder of the season. In late January the New York Rangers signed him to a year contract after Henrik Lundqvist was injured and he backed up Cam Talbot the night of January 21st when the Rangers faced the New York Islanders.
When ask about this season LeNeveu explained, “We wanted to come back to North America but it took a while to get the contract we were looking for. We took advantage of a late run in Hartford, just missed the playoffs. I just didn’t want to quit playing. Thankfully, I was able to come up, still practice every day and stay in condition. It’s been a ride. This team’s not done yet, either.”
On Tuesday in Los Angeles LeNeveu talked to a reporter about his unusual situation. “Coming in as a ‘Black Ace’ early on, you’re practicing every day and you’re just trying to stay in good condition”, he explained. “You never know, you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes the day turns over and you’re possibly in the net.”
Whether it is serendipity, fate or good luck, LeNeveu has found himself in a magical spot that many hockey players only dream about. “An opportunity presented itself, and I was just kind of in the right place at the right time,” he said.
“That’s what it takes for a lot of players who are up and down between the AHL and the NHL, it’s just being in the right place at the right time, getting a little bit of luck and taking advantage of that opportunity.”
The New York Rangers will play their first game of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday which could be enough time for Cam Talbot, the Rangers backup goaltender, to recover from his undisclosed injury. Here’s hoping Talbot well — I don’t wish any player an injury — but if you love a good underdog story you have to be cheering for the Rangers’ Black Ace goaltender David LeNeveu to be on the roster for a Stanley Cup Final game, even if it is only sitting on the bench. How great would that be!
LATE UPDATE 6/4/14: Official word from the New York Rangers is that David LeNeveu will back up Henrik Lundqvist tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Los Angeles. Alain Vigneault, at today’s pregame press conference, had this to say about LeNeveu:
AV on LeNeveu, who'll fill in as backup G: Was really good in Hartford. Experienced guy, practicing throughout playoffs with NYR.
— Jeff Z. Klein (@jzedklein) June 4, 2014
See also my earlier article The New York Rangers Black Ace David LeNeveu published on my site at ArtfulPuck.