The Montreal Canadiens have improved their play over the past five games. Defensively, new pairings are starting to take shape. Offensively, the team has scored 21 goals in their last five games. Despite these improvements, the Canadiens goaltending has been among the league’s worse to start the season.
Montreal Canadiens Goaltending Among League’s Worst
After 13 games this season, the Montreal Canadiens have a 4-8-1 record. One of the biggest reasons is that All-Star netminder Carey Price has been playing poorly. Although backup Al Montoya has been better than Price, he hasn’t thus far been able to steal a game. If the Canadiens want to officially get back on track it will need to start between the pipes.
The Price is Wrong, Carey
Price no longer looks like an elite goalie. Currently ranked 35th among NHL goalies, he has a 3.77 goals against average. His .877 save percentage ranks him 54th out of the 68 goalies who have played a game this season. He is having the worst start in his career, going 3-7-1 in 11 starts.
Some might argue this is nothing new. Last year, Carey Price had a span where he performed subpar. This was in part what led to the firing of Michel Therrien. Price soon bounced back. Could it be that Price wants something else to change within the organization? One thing is for sure, the Canadiens defense inconsistency is not helping Price to find his game.
This year, the Canadiens locked up Carey Price long-term, signing him to an eight-year contract extension worth $84 million. The deal comes with a cap hit of $10.5 million per season and will make Price the highest paid goaltender in the history of the NHL. How can Price get his head back in the game? There is no way his poor play can continue if the Canadiens are to salvage anything of this season. Some have suggested it is time to rest Carey Price, to allow him to spend some time with goalie coach Stéphane Waite. What are the Canadiens’ options should they decide to give Price a rest?
Relying on Al “Monty” Montoya?
Al Montoya has played three games this season. While he has played well behind a team that has struggled. He is 1-1. In his only loss on the year, the Los Angeles Kings scored four goals late in the game. His win came in an 8-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
The problem is that while Montoya has looked more consistent, he has a slightly worse save percentage .873 and the same poor goals against average 3.77. While Montoya isn’t expected to play more than 20-25 games this season, if the Canadiens want to make a run to the playoffs, he will need to win his match-ups.
Other Goaltending Options
For a team with a number of question marks on defense and uncertainty at center, the Canadiens have a lot of depth in goal. In addition to Price and Montoya, Michael McNiven was the OHL goaltender of the year last season. Zachary Fucale was touted this summer to battle Charlie Lindgren for the top spot in Laval.
Unfortunately, the Canadiens affiliate goaltending has also been relatively weak. Charlie Lindgren‘s .885 save percentage ranks 44th in the AHL. His performances have been underwhelming compared to last season’s .914 save percentage. He, like other goalies on the Canadiens, needs to improve his game.
While Lindgren has been struggling, his backup Zachery Fucale‘s .866 save percentage has not earned him the starting job either. While Fucale’s record is better, this simply means that the Rocket has played better front of him. Fucale had an amazing year last season, with the Brampton Beast and hopes to bring his success to the AHL level.
In the ECHL, Michael McNiven has not performed like the OHL goalie of the year from last year. He has yet to win a game with his .868 save percentage which is actually the best on the team. However, he has lost the starting job with the Beast to Andrew D’Agostini.
For Habs, Goaltending is Key
Recently the Canadiens have found their scoring touch. This has resulted in winning three of their last five games and scoring five or more goals in each of the wins. However, it seems unlikely that this level of scoring is going to last.
Fans will recall this is a team that was designed to win low scoring games. If the Habs can’t depend on elite goaltending, it complicates the entire basis for the team as currently constructed. If and when scoring dips, good goaltending will be the difference between sneaking into the playoffs or being a candidate to do well in the draft lottery next year.
In order, to make the playoffs, Carey Price will need to be able to steal some games as the team revolves around his play generally. A few big saves will give his team some needed confidence. That’s why he needs to step for his team. The Canadiens could have added another win or two if it had been for good goaltending. As for Montoya, his job is to step up when called upon. If he can’t, Charlie Lindgren could eventually steal his job as NHL backup. In addition, there are some pretty interesting prospects ready and waiting to take the next step toward an NHL career
While Habs fans have lots to be concerned about this year, Carey Price is still an elite goaltender. What do you think? Should the Habs rest Price and give him a chance to find his game or should he play through this poor start to the season and find his game on the fly?