The Montreal Canadiens fell apart last season when Carey Price was out with injury. Though it was a much shorter term, Al Montoya ensured they didn’t get off to a slow start this season with Price on the shelf.
The Montreal Canadiens are off to a great start to the 2016-17 season. The Habs had to deal with the loss of Carey Price for the first three games with the flu. The team was awful without Price last season, but thanks to Al Montoya, they are yet to lose in regulation.
Montoya was signed to a modest one-year $950,000 contract on July 1. Though he is not a big name, the American goaltender has proven to be a solid backup. He has made stops with the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers.
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Montoya was drafted sixth overall by the New York Rangers in 2004. He had an excellent showing at the World Junior Championship in 2004, leading the American team to a gold medal. He led the tournament in all statistics and won the top goaltender award.
Montoya never quite lived up to the lofty expectations placed on a sixth overall pick. He has bounced around the league and the Canadiens are his fifth stop. Never was he entrusted the role of a starting netminder in the NHL.
However, with 139 games of NHL experience, Montoya has shown he is an excellent stopgap option. He has posted a solid 2.56 goals-against average with a .911 save percentage.
The Chicago, Illinois native really proved his worth over a three game stretch to start this season. With Price out unexpectedly with the flu, Montoya was thrust into the starter’s role to begin the season.
In the season opener against the Buffalo Sabres, the Habs played inconsistently in front of Montoya. They came away with a 4-1 victory, but Buffalo had many scoring chances throughout the game. Montoya faced 31 shots, turned away 30 of them and led the team to their opening night victory.
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Game two was two nights later against the Ottawa Senators. Once again on the road, the Canadiens played well for parts of the game, but not others. Luckily, Montoya was great again for the Habs. He stopped 38 shots through 65 minutes, but the teams were tied at 3 after overtime.
Montoya allowed three goals, but also made several excellent saves, especially in overtime. The Canadiens ultimately lost in a shootout, but got a point out of it thanks to Montoya’s performance.
Montoya’s best game so far was his third straight start. He faced the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Montreal once again scored four times, but also allowed 36 shots against.
Montoya was up to the task, and stopped every one of the shots he faced. This improved his record with the Habs to 2-0-1. His GAA stands at 1.30 and his SV% is .962.
It’s only a short sample, but three excellent games from Montoya allowed the Canadiens to be in great shape when Price returned from injury in time for game four.
The Canadiens now find themselves first in their division and though it is early, panic can set in quickly in Montreal. After the disastrous season a year ago, fans of the Canadiens would be up in arms if the team were 0-3-1 instead of 3-0-1.
Thanks to Al Montoya, we don’t have to worry about that.