Canadiens Can Afford To Explore Goaltending Options Next Season
The Montreal Canadiens went into the 2022-23 season with a relatively questionable goaltending duo.
However, given the results from both Samuel Montembeault and Jake Allen in the last few years, most expected Allen to be the best goaltender of the two.
Here’s what I wrote prior to the start of the season.
“Over the last three years, Allen and Montembeault have put up the 36th and 57th best save percentages in the league, respectively, and while Allen displayed a positive goals saved above average (GSAA) in that time frame (+1.41), Montembeault did not (-3.1).”
Simply put, Allen seemed poised to potentially ruin the Canadiens’ tank, and with it, their chances of drafting phenom Connor Bedard.
My prediction somehow managed to become worse.
“The numbers seem to suggest Allen could be the wildcard that saves the Canadiens from yet another dreadful year in terms of goals against, but seeing as he has not played over 60 games 2016-17, it would be unreasonable to task him with the same role given to Price over the last decade and unrealistic to expect him to put up great numbers while doing so.”
Neither goaltender ended up playing 60 games, with Montembeault playing 40, whereas Allen featured in 42, but it’s safe to say that I, along with many others, got it wrong when it came to Montembeault’s potential.
Montembeault By The Numbers
One of the biggest issues that was ignored in Montembeault’s case was his nagging injury, which led to a 0.891 save percentage in 2021-22.
Once he was given the chance to heal, his numbers surged, and the 26-year-old goaltender finished the season with a very respectable .901 save percentage while playing for one of the worst teams in the league.
For reference, Allen’s save percentage was .891, the same as Montembeault’s the prior season.
Montembeault led the Canadiens in point share, and it wasn’t a particularly close race. You can easily argue he was the Canadiens’ most-valuable player, despite only playing in half of their games.
GOOD LORD SAMUEL MONTEMBEAULT pic.twitter.com/7wCz41YT0l
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 4, 2022
But before we pencil him in as the Canadiens’ saviour in nets, we need to take an honest look at his numbers.
They’re probably not as good as some may assume, seeing as Montembeault finished 35th at 5v5 in terms of goals saved above league average.
Again, we must remember how legitimately difficult it is to play behind a team amid a rebuild, not to mention a team that features roughly thirteen thousand rookies on the blue line.
When it came to his 5v5 numbers, Montembeault’s biggest weakness was his high-danger save percentage, which is often a sign the opposing teams are getting an unhealthy number of quality chances.
Overall, Montembeault was forced to make the 16th most high-danger saves per 60 among NHL starters.
The average shot distance when Montembeault was in net was 33.2 feet, among the top 10 closest average distances in the league. The average goal distance scored on Monteambeault was 18.7 feet, the 12th worst result in the NHL.
On the penalty kill Montembeault had the third worst high-danger save percentage in the league (0.663), though it should be noted he faced the seventh-most shots per 60 (62.5/60).
Going into the 2023-24 season, there’s no doubt Montembeault has earned the benefit of the doubt, which should lead to a legitimate opportunity to start the year as the team’s starter.
The Canadiens are playing with house money. Playoffs aren’t a realistic expectation.
They can easily afford to see what Montembeault can do with 55 starts or more, as to gauge his potential as a player that could end up playing a big role in the team’s rebuild.
And if Montembeault falters, it’s time to see what’s left in the tank for Jake Allen.
Or perhaps it’s an opportunity to give Cayden Primeau a legitimate chance to win the NHL with a team that has not lost half its roster to various injuries.
You could even give Jakub Dobes a taste of NHL action.
Simply put, the Canadiens are in no rush to rise to the top of the standings and Montembeault’s numbers last season were good enough to warrant an extended audition, but not solid enough to project him as the team’s starter in the foreseeable future.
At least not yet.
Another season as the Canadiens starter may solve the organizational issue, and nothing is stopping the Canadiens from offering Montembeault the opportunity.
All statistics via NaturalStatTrick.
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If Montembeault played 40 and Allen played 42 games, that’s all 82 games. Something isn’t adding up because Primeau also played at least 3 games this season that I can think of.
Its not about the physical skill sets, its also about the NHL in game execution of positioning, transitioning, recovery, development of NHL muscle memory, anticipation, knowing the opposition’s style of play and shooter’s tendencies, your own Team’s style of play and your own Defender’s tendencies and short comings, your mental capacity to fight through tough nights and still remain focused and with it, and the innate capacity to remain calm and most important have a Teflon mentality and predisposition. With the exception of the last two, which are innate, all the other variables and skills can be acquired and developed over time. Montalbeault has demonstrated his ability to acquire and develop NHL required skill sets is proven. He has also proven, he is calm, and has the Teflon personality you need to play Goal consistently at this level.