When the Canadian embarked on the rebuild two years ago, fans literally praised this direction of the new management. But did they expect that?
We could bet a considerable fortune that, for ordinary fans, an NHL rebuild consists of: 1- emptying a team of most of its veterans; 2- accumulate draft picks; 3- accept living through difficult seasons; 4- take advantage of some advantageous turns; 5- finally, in the best case scenario, win again for several years.
Due to the rigidity of the NHL’s salary cap, hockey fans live in a surreal time where finishing in the middle of the pack is considered the ultimate calamity. Generally, the team that narrowly makes the playoffs has little chance of winning the title. As for the team that narrowly misses out on the playoffs, it will be difficult to progress because it does not benefit from advantageous draft picks.
Therefore, it has become normal to see general managers sabotage their team to make them fall in the rankings and increase their chances of winning the jackpot. This practice, contrary to the spirit of sport, is currently accepted. And that ensures that superstars like Auston Matthews and Connor Bédard don’t land in Toronto or Chicago by chance. Or so little. And that creates a huge integrity problem.
That being said, let’s get back to what’s going on with the Canadian.
On April 29, 2022 we witnessed one of the most surreal moments in the history of CH. As the team put the finishing touches on a 55-point season that left them last in the NHL, the spectators in attendance rose en masse to give them a standing ovation.
The message was clear. Since the arrival of Martin St-Louis, the team has given maximum effort despite countless injuries and difficult conditions. The public appreciated it. Supporters supported the first official reconstruction in the organization’s history.
Since then, things haven’t changed much. CH is consistently one of the most injured teams in the NHL. And most of the time, the team continues to fight vigorously despite their inexperience and limited resources. Honestly, by posting a .500 record (17-17-5) in early January, this battered team is exceeding the expectations of a large number of observers.
But the incredible thing is that this record could probably be better if someone, behind the scenes, wasn’t controlling the flow of the tap. This concern, present for several months, became even more difficult to ignore after Samuel Montembeault’s brilliant performance on Saturday in CH’s 4-3 (penalty shootout) victory against the powerful New York Rangers.
The Canadian beat Rangers in the penalty shootout after a spectacular match.
Photo: Getty Images / Minas Panagiotakis
Montembeault faced 48 shots, including 23 quality scoring opportunities, during this game. It took the Rangers two unblockable deflections and trick plays to thwart him three times. And in three implementations, the digital advantage unit of blue shirts, One of the best in the history of the League so far, he has shown himself incapable of beating him.
Thanks to Montembeault, the young and damaged Montreal team had the great Rangers machine at their disposal. It has been a long time since the Bell Center has enjoyed such an entertaining and electrifying evening. Furthermore, this magical Saturday evening illustrated the extent to which Montembeault turns out to be the tap through which someone, somewhere, exercises greater control over the Canadian’s performance.
I’ve been saying for years that NHL goalkeepers are a bit like F1 drivers. It is very risky to compare drivers from two different teams because they do not use the same car. Likewise, it’s difficult to compare the Ottawa Senators’ number one goalie to the Boston Bruins’ because they don’t play behind the same defense.
However, all three CH goalkeepers play behind the same team.
In the rankings we see that CH is a .500 club this season. On the other hand, the team accumulated 21 of the 34 points available (9-5-3 record) when Montembeault defended the net. This .617 average is equivalent to the pace of, get it, a 101-point season.
No, I’m not telling you that the Canadian has the necessary resources to score 101 points in a season. On the other hand, this illustrates the extent to which the team’s chances of winning increase when Montembeault plays.
In comparison, CH scored 10 of the 28 points in play when Jake Allen was sent in front of the net (4-8-2 record). That’s a .357 average, a season pace of 58 points. For his part, young Cayden Primeau defended 8 points out of 16 (4-4-0). That’s a season pace of 82 points.
As I mentioned in my column on Friday, it is unthinkable, under these conditions, that Samuel Montembeault is the least used number one goaltender in the entire NHL. The same reasoning would apply if it were Allen or Primeau who asserted themselves with such panache. “ Just win, baby “, as legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said.
Doesn’t Martin St-Louis constantly repeat that
the game she speaks to us, we must listen to what she tells us?
Obviously, CH fans are ready to experience a reconstruction and appreciate, night after night, the efforts made by their young team to carve out a place for themselves in the sun.
On the other hand, it is not at all certain that they will agree that we prevent the best goalkeeper from playing as often as he should to prevent the pie from rising too quickly.
The more time passes, the more space this elephant takes up in the room.
Subjected to very polite questions about goalkeeping management, Martin St-Louis seemed to be walking on a fine wire after Saturday’s game.
We always make calculated decisions.the coach responded when asked about the relevance of perpetuating a rotation with three goalkeepers.
St-Louis went on to highlight that Montembeault is improving and that we are starting to see a
small separation between his use and that of his two masked colleagues.
He refrained from saying that he considers Montembeault his number one goalkeeper, but ended up letting slip that the latter
play like a number one.
At the end of the day, he doesn’t play as consistently as a number one. And this is what is becoming increasingly difficult to explain.