When Marc Bergevin handed the former Stanley Cup champions from St. Louis a third-round pick for their 1B goaltender, it may have surprised a few people. Months earlier, the same organization had convinced a KHL starting goalie to pack his bags and travel across the ocean on a cheap contract. These cheap contracts for backup goaltenders had become a staple in how Bergevin and his team operate and from a value standpoint, you could argue that they become sensible as a counterweight to Carey Price’s high-paying contracts.
Even if there could have been reasons to get excited about Vasili Demchenko, it would be another shot in the dark. Still, this guy had more than 200 KHL starts over the last six seasons with an average save percentage of .925. This sounded promising in comparison to the recent years of Al Montoya, Dustin Tokarski, Mike Condon, Antti Niemi, and Keith Kinkaid.
When the Canadiens proved capable of competing against the Pennsylvania teams in the summer playoffs, something changed with Bergevin’s attitude. Instead of wishing for a grand awakening in either Demchenko or Charlie Lindgren, he took advantage of a flat cap and swooped over to Missouri to hand them two of his, at the time, 14 draft picks for 2020.
What he hoped to get in return was someone the coaching staff, the team, and most importantly Price himself could rely enough upon to not overwork themselves in search of a playoff run.
Price is no spring chicken anymore. He has dealt with significant injuries in the past and it is anyone’s guess if he has rushed back from them once or twice to help his team out of precarious situations.
Saturday night’s game against Calgary was not a pleasant one if you’re a fan of the home team. Jacob Markstrom grew bigger and bigger in the Flames’ net as the game wore on and it just felt like one of those nights when the puck would not find its way past the towering goalie in the opposing net.
However, there is almost always a silver lining in these situations. After conceding the early power-play goal to Johnny Gaudreau, Allen shut the door on his opponents as well. What we got to witness was a game with few high-quality scoring chances and two netminders who had their eyes focused on stopping every puck coming their way.
It doesn’t matter at this point whether it was the whole team that picked up their defensive effort after a rough start. What matters is that with Allen as a goaltender the Canadiens aren’t automatically set for a rocky night. Allen wasn’t acquired to be Price in disguise and win his team games on his own. He was acquired to give the Canadiens a fair chance to win during the games where Price gets a rest.
Nobody will ever know how this team would have fared with Demchenko or Lindgren as the backup from the start of the season. Perhaps one of them would have evolved into something of quality. But instead of taking yet another leap of faith, Bergevin went for a proven commodity — and so far it has paid off.
Paying $15 million for a goalie tandem may not be great value elsewhere, but for a Montreal fanbase still remembering the budget disappointments of Christmas past, it should be considered music to one's ear.