After losing to the Maple Leafs in their first game of the season, the Montreal Canadiens made one lineup change going into their second game against the Blackhawks. That change was Sam Montembeault, who was given start instead of Jake Allen. Despite facing hottest name in the NHL right now in Connor Bedard, the Canadiens walked away with a 3-2 victory, their first of the season. Montembeault has a big season ahead of him to prove he can be a core piece for the Canadiens, but looking back on his journey, it just seems like it’s only a matter of time.
Let’s start with the opening weekend’s events, where the Canadiens won their home opener 3-2 against a fierce and much-anticipated Blackhawks lineup. While Canadiens old guards Tanner Pearson and Sean Monahan racked up Montreal’s points in the second half of the game, Montembeault held the fort by making 28 saves. On the other side of the ice, Petr Mrazek worked harder to repel 33 shots from Canadiens’ offense, but Montreal still won out over Chicago when the buzzer sounded out.
The game re-energized the Canadiens after their loss to the Maple Leafs in their first game of the 2023-24 season and sent them on a little hot streak. After their strong start, the Maple Leafs are becoming popular with the hockey betting crowd, while both the Canadiens and the Blackhawks have entrenched, diehard fanbases who are fully committed to their respective rebuilds. For the Blackhawks, much of that hope lies in Bedard, but he and the Blackhawks offence was stopped by Montembeault in a close-shave showdown. Needless to say, Habs fans are enjoying the morale boost after salvaging their shaky start to the season.
Montembeault with the Panthers
The Quebec native was a third-round pick of the Florida Panthers and attended his first training camp back in 2017, but then he was reassigned to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds. What followed was a punishing season, where the Thunderbirds fell short of playoffs at just 13 wins against 41 games.
After a recall by the Panthers, Montembeault’s NHL debut wouldn’t come until March 2019, when the Panthers welcomed the Carolina Hurricanes to their home turf. The Hurricanes left them in the dust with a 4-3 win, with Montembeault having made 22 saves. When the Panthers had to make cuts, they couldn’t afford to keep the young goalie on their roster and placed him on waivers; where the Canadiens quickly plucked him up After two years with the Panthers, Montembeault had taken a total of 638 shots against with a save percentage of .894 and .890 for each year.
Montembeault with the Montreal Canadiens
Just by looking at the numbers, it’s clear that Montembeault was never a good fit with the Panthers. In his first-ever season with the Montreal Canadiens in 2021-22, the goaltender took more shots against than his entire Panthers tenure at 1,124. This pressure proved beneficial for Montembeault, whose save percentage increased ever so slightly to .901 for the 2022-23 season.
Montembeault’s performances last season helped the Canadiens win 31 games, a notable improvement ovr the 2021-2022 season where they were only able to scrape 22 victories to their name. For Habs fans, his addition to the team coincided with some new momentum as the Canadiens attempted to keep pace with their divisional rivals.
The Canadiens have a busy season ahead of them, but after the weekend’s performance, they’re sure to rely on Montembeault for future dustups in tight games. With veteran Jake Allen around to mentor him, Montembeault will continue to be a beneficial addition to the team and could be a major player for the club moving forward.