There has been no shortage of storylines when it comes to goalies this year in the National Hockey League. Right now, the Montreal Canadiens desperately need one of their puckstoppers to start penning a positive tale.
When this season started, there was a clear hierarchy in the Montreal crease: 21-year-old Carey Price was the No. 1 man and Jaroslav Halak, though two years his senior, was the backup capable of providing quality spot starts. All that is out the window now. Price has been hurt and his play when healthy has still hurt his team. Halak has been good in stretches, but not consistently enough to show he’s ready to become an everyday starter.
The Habs are officially mired in a playoff dogfight and desperately need one of their goalies to assert himself over the final 22 games of the season.
Not that it’s all up to the masked men. Montreal also needs to clamp down defensively because giving up nearly 31 shots per game, as the Canadiens do, does very little in the way of providing support to a goalie.
Halak, in his past four starts, has seen an average of just more than 42 shots. It’s unrealistic to expect any goalie to thrive under those conditions.
Montreal isn’t the only team that’s endured more goaltending tribulations than it hoped for. Goalies are a volatile bunch at the best of times, but there’s been an exceptional amount of surprises and disappointments around the league this season, not to mention injuries. The Canucks visit Montreal Tuesday with Roberto Luongo still trying to find his game after missing significant time with a groin injury. Martin Brodeur has been out since November with an injured elbow and his backup, Scott Clemmensen, has stepped in and done a marvellous job in leading New Jersey to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Goaltending isn’t always about how many saves you make in a game, but rather when you make them. The Canadiens haven’t received top-notch puckstopping for most of the season, but if one of their youngsters can put it together at this crucial juncture of the season, all will be forgiven.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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