by Stephen Meserve | AHL On The Beat
Undrafted free agent goalie Landon Bow is making his mark in Texas. The rookie is halfway through his first season and currently leads the league in wins among first year players.
Texas added Bow on an AHL contract last season, after he spent most of the year in the ECHL and seriously impressed those who watched him there. He did enough to earn an NHL contract from the Dallas Stars this season and was pitted against Philippe Desrosiers for the backup role behind veteran Mike McKenna.
But now, halfway through the season, Bow has emerged as the starter for Texas.
Texas Stars goalie coach Jim Bedard noted the biggest contributing factor to Bow’s success has been “his ability to embrace small changes we made in his game to make him more efficient.”
Bow has one thing you can’t teach, which is size. The Alberta native fits the standard model for goaltenders in the new NHL at 6’4”. He’s also got ‘goalie IQ,’ according to Bedard.
“Knowing when there’s a situation where the shooter doesn’t have any other option but to shoot and you come out a little bit more and make yourself bigger,” said Bedard. “He’s got that, and he’s really embraced what we’ve put in place.
“A lot of it is just repetition. In skating drills, we’ve been working on his feet, so he can get to a spot where he’s covering a lot of the net and just move to the puck. Working on his reflexes and doing things instinctively instead of thinking. He sees that it’s been working and takes it all in.”
Bow was rewarded for his efforts with his first AHL shutout last week against the top team in the league, the Manitoba Moose.
“It kind of feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Bow regarding the shutout. “I had a decent amount in junior and in the ECHL. It was really sweet to do it back at home in Canada in front of some aunts and uncles.”
He has fed on his role as a starter to further improve his play. “For a lot of goaltenders, the more they play the better they play,” added Bedard. “Landon grabbed the ball and ran with it. He’s got the confidence of the coaching staff, the organization and his teammates.”
His goalie tandem partner, Mike McKenna, has helped further reinforce good professional habits on and off the ice.
“I’ve been able to talk to him about absolutely anything. He’s helping me grow as a pro,” said Bow of McKenna. “He’s played on a lot of different teams, and he has a lot of experience that he’s been passing off to me. He’s also a connoisseur of food, so I’ve become a little more cultured that way. It’s not just hockey.”
One might compare Bow to former Milwaukee Admirals goalie Pekka Rinne, who made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year with the Nashville Predators.
“They’re both the same size, and you look at Pekka’s agility and size,” said Bedard. “I like a goalie who is 6’4” but moves like he’s 5’10”. When you’re that big but you play smaller and quicker but still take up that much net, it’s a great combination.”
Bow himself was flattered by the comparison, “He’s a great goalie, and for Jim to say that about me, it’s inspiring.”
Bedard did note that Bow is just an AHL rookie, and there is a lot of work ahead to reach the NHL.
“It’s a day-by-day thing where you work hard, but the rewards don’t come tomorrow or the next day. You’re building experience and a work ethic that builds trust with your coaching staff and teammates.”
Stephen Meserve is the editor of 100 Degree Hockey, which has covered the Texas Stars since their inaugural season.