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Wabi-sabi Montembeault

Montreal’s backup, backup goaltender has an odd technical style, but it kept his team in the game last night.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, we watched an excellent first period from the Montreal Canadiens, an exciting second period ... and a dismal third. But one player’s effort which was never in doubt was that of Samuel Montembeault.

I try not to be too dogmatic in how I think about goaltending. I have strong opinions about the position that stem from my coaching and talking to a lot of great goalie minds, but I don’t think that there’s just one way to play the position.

That being said, Montembeault’s form looks ugly! Almost every time he drops, it’s an active release; he never drops straight down into the butterfly but always moves slightly to his right or left while doing so. His glove positioning is weird. It’s way too close to his body and way too high in my opinion which makes it extremely difficult to be reactionary. His set crouch is too far forward and it makes him look off-balance whenever he drops into his butterfly.

But, despite the end result, he had himself a heck of a game.

The Boston Bruins’ big shooters, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, both love to make a tiny pull before releasing the puck. With a goalie that works inside-out and relies heavily on a solid setup, that is difficult to face. But for Montembeault, who plays outside-in and never seems to be completely set in a position, this actually worked to his advantage (although he admittedly let in one goal in the third due to releasing in the wrong direction).

His awkward forward positioning directly led to that incredible save in the second during the two-on-zero because, as he was sliding across, it helped him keep his blocker forward to meet the shot.

The fact of the matter is that after a flat second period, the only reason why Montreal was in any position to take the game, let alone the lead, was the goaltending.

Despite having poor traditional stats last night, there was a total around four expected goals against while he was in net, and he let in 4. So he performed to the league average. Is that not more than you could expect from a third-string goalie?

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese tradition of embracing imperfections, and it seemed that Montembeault’s were purpose-built to play the Bruins last night. It’s a shame the rest of the team had too many to manage.

(And as for that glove positioning I mentioned before? It’s still just weird.)