For the Montreal Canadiens, the goal of the 2021-22 season is simple: finish what they nearly accomplished in the 2021 postseason. While their unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final was a fantastic storyline and incredible moment for the team, no one dreams of being runner-up for the Cup.
A keystone of Montreal’s success throughout the 2021 postseason was, of course, Carey Price. As one of the best goaltenders in the NHL for years, Price’s play has been a consistent factor in the Canadiens’ record. When he is healthy and playing well, the team often finds themselves in the playoff hunt, and when he is dealing with injuries they tend to be on the outside looking in.
Knowing that they needed to solidify their backup goaltending, the Canadiens decided it was time for a change, so they acquired Jake Allen in the 2020 offseason to stabilize the net behind Price. This investment paid off, as Allen started 29 games throughout the season, and while his statistics weren’t pristine, they were enough to keep the team in the playoff hunt.
With Price officially missing the start of the 2021-22 season, this means that Montreal will need to heavily rely on Allen to pick up the slack and get the team off to a fast start. So, the question becomes, how prepared will he be to take on this difficult task?
“I knew the situation coming in and there’s a greater chance for me to play the first game of the season,” Allen said, “It’s completely fine with me and I’m excited for that if that’s the case.”
Canadiens Must Avoid a Postseason Hangover
In order for the Canadiens to make their way back to the playoffs, they will need a strong start to the season. With so much change happening on their roster throughout the offseason, however, they may have to rely on their goaltending to steal a few games to get things off on the right foot.
While they will be without Price, that doesn’t mean that Allen isn’t capable of putting the team on his back when needed. He is a veteran goaltender who has been a great fit in Montreal, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be able to give them a fighting chance each and every night with his play on the ice.
If Allen can win more than half of his starts while Price is unable to play, then that will put Montreal in a position to thrive once he is back in a full-time starting role. However, if his play is good enough, the Canadiens will be able to take their time with their star goalies’ injury, allowing them to stay in the playoff hunt without rushing him back. This would be the best-case scenario, as the fresher they can keep Price for the postseason, the more likely they will be to repeat their success from the 2021 playoffs.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.