Last season, Samuel Montembeault put the team first. The Montreal Canadiens goaltender was claimed off waivers to be an extra body with the team uncertain about the health of Carey Price before being the team’s starting goaltender because of additional injuries to Jake Allen. He put off surgery because, frankly, the team needed a goaltender to get them through the season.
Exactly one week after the regular season ended, Montembeault underwent surgery on his injured wrist, an injury that Montembeault played with for months. One quick look at his numbers — a 3.77 goals against average and .891 save percentage — along with an 8-18-6 record led some to believe that he was not good enough for the NHL level. Between playing hurt, and the mess of a team in front of him, Montembeault was still rewarded with a two-year contract.
He is so far repaying that faith in him. He has only made three starts this season, but is 2-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .931 save percentage. Both of those numbers likely won’t stay how they are over a full season of play, but he has shown the consistency and ability to come off the bench that backup goaltenders need in the NHL.
Montembeault likely knows his place in the organization. Between the three-year contract given to Cayden Primeau and the two-year extension given to Jake Allen, he’s likely not going to be a Canadiens goaltender long-term. However, in the present, he has an important role to play, and at only 25 years old, he can keep himself in the conversation with consistent strong play. It’s what he has provided so far this season.
Against Buffalo on Thursday night, he gave the team a chance to win by holding Buffalo to one goal through 40 minutes. Over the game, he made 43 saves on 45 shots. When the team came out strong in the third period, they were still in the game, and came away with the win. It was something missing way too often from the Canadiens last season.
A 3-2 win just wasn’t possible too often last season. With a new coach on the defensive side of the ice and a very young defence, knowing that your goaltender won’t make you pay for every mistake is a huge boost. Montembeault and Allen are solid enough to allow the entire team to play freely, and not cost the team for mistakes that will happen.