Over the last few games, Ben Scrivens has been nothing short of solid for the Montreal Canadiens, and it has brought up an interesting topic of discussion. Carey Price is looking closer and closer to returning these days, and the question is whether Scrivens is showing enough to steal the number two job away from Mike Condon.
Condon burst onto the scene this year and stole what used to be Dustin Tokarski's job. While the team was definitely not giving Condon great run support, he was the primary goaltender during most of the - let's call it a 'rough patch' - that the Canadiens went through. Could he now fall victim to the same fate as Tokarski?
Before getting into specifics, I'll offer up the stats that the two goaltenders have put up throughout this season. Take these numbers with a grain of salt, because obviously one goaltender is being evaluated through the lens of a much smaller sample size.
Statistically speaking, it is pretty neck-and-neck, but Scrivens does hold the advantage in save percentage. Again, this is over a much smaller sample, and Condon is sporting a better GAA, although we all know how little that has to do with goaltending performances.
Those schools of thought both have their merits, and when you consider the now thrice-mentioned small sample size for Scrivens, it is very tough to make a statistical argument for either goaltender. That being said, let's try to break this down in a more simple way.
One of the most common phrases you hear in hockey is "riding the hot hand." That is obviously what Michel Therrien was doing by giving Scrivens two more consecutive starts following his excellent outing against the Oilers. It worked, and now Scrivens is playing with confidence, and giving his team a good chance to win when he plays.
Yes, Scrivens can steal Condon's job, but to do that he will have to stay hot, and be a catalyst that keeps the team in the playoff race until Price can return. If he can keep his play going and become the consensus number one guy in Price's stead, he could stay as such when the reigning MVP is back between the pipes.
To say that he has already won that honour would be a knee-jerk reaction. Many Canadiens fans lost their minds when Jaroslav Halak was traded after his insane 2010 playoffs performance, but we now know in hindsight that keeping Price was the best decision. Goaltenders can be the streakiest of all players, and to place all of your eggs in one basket over a small sample of good outings is a dangerous game to play.
The Halak example goes to show exactly why you can't make long term decisions based on small goaltender sample sizes, but it doesn't mean that those small samples aren't worth something. Scrivens is playing well right now, so why not just ride the hot hand and see where it takes them?
For now, there is nothing wrong with the Canadiens doing exactly that, because they are still in desperate need of wins, and they need to ice the man that is most likely to get them. At the moment that man seems to be Ben Scrivens, so I'd not be surprised to see him continue to start until he falters, at which point Condon is turned to again.
The other option is that you let the two duke it out by splitting starts, and hope like hell that the team keeps scoring at the other end the way they have in the last three games. Then, you make a decision as to who is the backup to the MVP when he gets back on the ice.
No offense to either of the goaltenders I've spoken of, but for fans of the Canadiens, the return of said MVP simply cannot come soon enough.