On December 28th the Montreal Canadiens made a seemingly inconsequential trade, gladly sending away a forward disgraced by his off-ice problems in exchange for a pricey veteran goaltender toiling away in the AHL.
Now, that newly added goaltender is offering a faint glimmer of hope that just might save Montreal’s entire season.
Ben Scrivens, the 29 year-old goaltender that the Canadiens acquired in exchange for Zack Kassian, has won his last three straight games, allowing just four combined goals over that span. The most impressive of these wins came on Tuesday night as he stopped 37 out of 39 shots against a very dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning offense to secure a 4-2 win.
While three consecutive wins might not seem like much, they’re an immeasurably huge deal right now for a Canadiens team that has been in an absolute freefall. They won a total of just six games in the months of December and January as they dropped from 1st place in the Eastern Conference all the way down to outside of the playoff picture.
Montreal still sits outside of the playoff picture, three points away from the last wildcard spot in the conference, but those three wins, collected primarily by Scrivens, are the best thing to happen to the team in months and give them the optimism, however slight, that the season can still be salvaged.
Scrivens is – to offer the biggest understatement of the year – no Carey Price, the reigning NHL MVP that has carried the Habs a lot more than anyone seemed to realize but still remains sidelined with an injury. Heck, Scrivens wasn’t even playing in the NHL just a few short weeks ago.
That being said, though, he’s a goaltender that’s probably a lot better than his recent history suggests. Scrivens was highly regarded a few short years ago while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers, up until a disastrous 2014-15 season as the starter in Edmonton. The Oilers decided to bring in two entirely different goalies for 2016 and wound up burying Scrivens in the AHL to make room.
He’s also, crucially, a better goaltender than Mike Condon and the recently-traded Dustin Tokarski, the two younger goalies that were asked to step in for Price and, completely understandably, failed to do so. While Scrivens still needs to do a lot more than just win three games to establish himself as a legitimate NHL goaltender once again, and there are still a bunch of other issues that the Canadiens also need to sort out, this is at least a nice start for Montreal to get back into the hunt for the postseason.
It would certainly be a great story, though. Even if it’s one that we already just heard.