As a goaltender, you can easily get down on yourself, especially when you’re undrafted after backstopping a Sidney Crosby-led Rimouski Oceanic team to the brink of a Memorial Cup. And even though Cedrick Desjardins felt redemption the following year in leading the Quebec Remparts to a Memorial Cup title – where he was named goaltender of the tournament – he still wasn’t on an NHL depth chart.
But why would Desjardins get down on himself? There’s always free agency, right?
“It was an honor for me,” Desjardins said of being signed by the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2006, weeks after his championship season. “My family is always cheering for me like diehards. I grew up not too far from Montreal, so it’s an honor. The first time I played in the Bell Centre, you get that little feeling. Even looking at what’s going on in the playoffs right now, it’s unbelievable to be a part of that organization.”
Desjardins had an incredible career record in the Quebec League, going 58-17-4 his final two seasons of junior, but still had holes in his game that made NHL scouts leery.
“He would win by battling,” said Hamilton assistant coach Daniel Lacroix. “Technically, he wasn’t a sound goaltender. The knock on him in junior was that you just didn’t know what to expect from him from game to game. He was not sound enough to back up his game at the competitive level.”
But after Desjardins’ Memorial Cup season, the Montreal Canadiens felt he was worth the risk and signed the 20-year-old in July of 2006. Desjardins spent most of his first two professional seasons with Montreal’s ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones, where he excelled by compiling a 40-23-3 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He was named MVP of the 2008 Kelly Cup playoffs after leading Cincinnati to the title.
Desjardins graduated to the American League and continued his hot streak; he hasn’t had a losing season in the two years he’s spent in the AHL. He posted identical .919 save percentages in the 2008-09 and ’09-10 seasons and kept his GAA to a miniscule 2.00 mark this season.
“He’s been really good this year,” said Lacroix. “He was in a situation where he came in with a veteran goalie and sharing the net during the season. When (starting goalie Curtis) Sanford (had to leave), Cedrick was out there backstopping us and stopping everything for us.
“We were going through difficult times, not playing with many players. We gave up a few more shots later in the season and with the battles being so tight with teams trying to make the playoffs, he was there. He played hard, he competed hard and he liked the challenge. I thought the progression was really good this year, he got better as the year went along.”
With Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak in front of him on the Canadiens depth chart, Desjardins knows there is much work to be done if he wants to don the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
“There’s a fine line between guys that make it and guys that don’t,” Desjardins said. “I just have to be my best and every little detail is going to get better. And as soon as I get my chance, I have to be ready. When that time is going to happen, you just want to enjoy it and be ready for the next challenge. Every time I have a chance to go on the ice, I just have to practice and be ready for that moment.”
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