Priceless Habs Not Unbeatable

The Carolina Hurricanes hosted the Montreal Canadiens Friday night and to borrow a line from a song for ‘Canes fans, “Oh What a Night.” In goal for the Habs was not Carey Price, but backup goalie Al Montoya. While at home and with Price playing the Canadiens look unbeatable, sans Price and on the road in Raleigh against the ‘Canes, they were not. In fact, the road has not been kind to Montreal, with their three regulation losses thus far this season coming in away games. The Hurricanes beat the Habs and Montoya 3-2.

Price the Key

Habs backup goalie Al Montoya Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Canadiens backup goalie to Carey Price Al Montoya Photo by Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last year at this time? The Habs started the 2015-16 season blazing out of the gate, looking like they were going to run away with the Stanley Cup. On November 19, 2015, they were 14-4-2 and sitting atop the league as the team to beat. Then the unthinkable happened. Price sustained a knee injury that would derail the rest of their entire season.

I wrote on November 28, 2015, the Habs’ Hopes of Hoisting Cup Hinge on Price’s Knee. Sadly for the Canadiens, it turned out that the post was extremely accurate. What was originally said to be an injury that would keep Price out for “a few weeks” turned into a season-ending injury for the Habs goalie. The team never recovered and what started as a house afire in October turned into a season that smouldered in the ashes of disappointment. Price is just that important to the Canadiens’ success.

Journeyman Montoya

Montoya has been around the NHL since 2004 when he was drafted by the New York Rangers. He played his first NHL games with the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2008-09 season and has been a 20-30-games per season goalie since. Now with his sixth team, he has a one-year deal with the Canadiens to serve as a backup goalie to Price.

Montoya is a serviceable backup goalie and has never been the number one during his tenure in the NHL. His career goals against average is 2.62 and save percentage is .909. While not likely to ever land the starting job on a team unless thrust into it due to a starter’s injury, Montoya is pretty much a typical backup goalie in the NHL. His moment of fame this season was not one he would like to remember, however, as he was hung out to dry when the Columbus Blue Jackets pummeled him 10-0 on November 4th.

Prior to that devastating beat down, Montoya had done well spelling Price and will likely continue to keep the Habs in games as the season grinds on. However, it is worth mentioning that the team’s record is significantly better with Price, which is to be expected with an elite goalie.

But, this bolsters the point that the Habs could go deep in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, and look unbeatable with Price. Without Price, they are not unbeatable.