Canadiens’ Best Bet in Net Is Now Montembeault

If the Montreal Canadiens needed a sign from above as to how to approach the rest of the season, they seemingly got it when Jake Allen got injured against the Detroit Red Wings. If they needed another, it came at 1:41 of overtime when backup Samuel Montembeault let in his second sharp-angle shot of the game care of Dylan Larkin.

Sam Montembeault Florida Panthers
Current-Montreal Canadiens goalie Samuel Montembeault – (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Still, the Canadiens continue to ignore them.

Montembeault Struggles Against Red Wings

In Montembeault’s defense, he was cold on Goal #1, which he by all accounts still should have had. On the game-winning goal, he had already committed to making a save right beforehand, putting himself out of position. It’s not necessarily a defense, just added context to the situation.

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If you take away those goals, Montembeault had a solid game. Granted, taking away goals against to paint a prettier picture is kind of like saying you got in a fruits and vegetables serving by having a serving of fries. Two, with ketchup.

Ultimately, Montembeault, regardless of how he fared in between the first two goals (which came just 45 seconds apart) and Larkin’s winner, decided the game through his play. And it’s no surprise, really. At this point, it’s abundantly obvious what the Canadiens have in Montembeault: a depth goalie and little more.

The Canadiens themselves know it now too. They certainly knew when he allowed his second goal 45 seconds after the first, when the telecast’s camera caught a glimpse of head coach Dominique Ducharme whose look was maybe a few weeks too late for Halloween, but nevertheless said something to the effect of: “This is some scary *expletive deleted.*”

Canadiens Ride Allen

Honestly, the Canadiens knew it ahead of the game too. How else can they explain having given Montembeault just two starts this season in relief of Allen? Sure, they’ve only had two sets of back-to-backs, with the third ironically coming this weekend, the Boston Bruins awaiting them on Sunday. However, if you’re riding Allen like a No. 1 in November as if a playoff spot is on the line, two things are clear: 

  1. You’re still operating under the illusion your team has a realistic shot at making the postseason.
  2. You have no faith in your backup goalie.

At this point, all due respect to his Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy win last season, Allen is clearly not a No. 1. Oh, he’s an above-average backup, definitely a 1B, but his time with the St. Louis Blues proved he cannot consistently get the results needed in that role. Everyone’s seeing it again right now, as he’s posted a bad 4-8-1 record with a mediocre 2.78 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen – (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Allen just isn’t equipped to put a team on his back, especially not a team that is now just 4-10-2 and six points back of a playoff spot despite it being one and half months into the season. Without Carey Price available the Canadiens most certainly aren’t equipped to go on a playoff run, not at this juncture, with Allen injured too. And, for the record, the wild-card Philadelphia Flyers have three games in hand, on top of everything else.

Canadiens Call Up Primeau

The Canadiens are not tanking, though. Despite them having sent Cole Caufield to the American Hockey League, which would be the logical first step in such a plan, they are pressing on with the hope of earning a playoff spot down the stretch. That much was made clear when they called up Cayden Primeau from the Laval Rocket, as opposed to Michael McNiven, in light of the Allen injury.

It should be noted the Canadiens initially made a conscious decision to bring Primeau along slowly by cutting him from training camp. Making Price available in the NHL Expansion Draft indicated there had at least been a chance Primeau would earn a full-time NHL spot this season. However, common sense ultimately prevailed.

Cayden Primeau Gabriel Landeskog,
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

In fairness, if you’re going to give Primeau playing time, it makes quasi-sense to call him up with the Rocket playing only three games in the next 12 days. However, Primeau is not Price and putting him in a position where he may realistically allow five goals a game playing behind a patchwork defense is not exactly conducive to his development.

For Canadiens, “Better” Is Not Necessarily “Good”

Admittedly, the Canadiens have played better as of late. They’ve got points in three consecutive games, but one overtime loss came against the Los Angeles Kings who had been playing two games in two nights. Meanwhile, a good effort against the Red Wings is not a measure of success, especially when you have to resort to double-shifting your best players in the third period just to get to overtime. This is a situation from which you’d logically want to spare your top goaltending prospect, especially when his last stint with the Habs last season didn’t go so well.

Related: 3 Reasons Canadiens GM Bergevin Must Tank 2021-22 Season

So, the hope is first off that Allen speedily recovers, of course. However, it’s also the Canadiens don’t thrust Primeau into the spotlight of whatever this is, making him out to be a savior that he clearly is not. Sure, give him a game, so as not to overwork Montembeault. However, Montembeault should be your starter until either Allen and/ or Price return. It may not guarantee much success, but look around. What does these days for the Canadiens?

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s admirable the Canadiens do not want to go gentle into that good night, but sooner or later they need to come to the realization they’re sabotaging their long-term prospects to salvage a lost cause. Throwing Primeau to the lions would be a little on the nose. Even they must see it, no?