It was a pretty normal night in the Bell Centre. The Montreal Canadiens were being visited by arguably the best team in the league. The one key difference from earlier this season? I was excited to watch the game, and it didn't disappoint.
These are Martin St Louis’s Montreal Canadiens. They never quit. It doesn’t matter that by the end of the second period they were down by a goal and being outshot 30-21. Pulling the goalie with almost five minutes left in the game is a pretty decent indication of the sticktoitiveness of this team.
A lot has been said about how St. Louis “let’s the team play..” There’s a clear philosophy here: You’ve done something right to get to the NHL, now keep doing it.
I’m certain that in the off-season after the implementation of an analytics department and some potential further changes to the coaching/player group there will be more structure introduced. But, as far as this year is concerned, a lot of responsibility is being put on the individual. In essence, that makes it a true development year.
One individual that took a lot of responsibility last night was Jake Allen. If the philosophy is to let the players play, then the goalies are no different. Games with 40-plus shots against were not uncommon in the Ducharme era, but now they feel more like part of the plan.
Previously, if a goalie let in two goals, the game was out of reach. This clearly took a huge mental toll on Montreal’s netminders. If it’s important that the players feel like they won’t be benched after one mistake, it’s important for a goalie to feel like the game isn’t out of reach after one puck enters his net. Cumulative pressure like that can have dire consequences on a goalie’s psyche and make it impossible to reset after getting scored on.
The ability to reset after a goal is arguably the most important mental skill a goalie can have. It’s why you see a lot of netminders spray their water bottle in the air after a goal. The simple act of watching the droplets fly through the air and hit the ice puts you back in the “moment.”
If this team were ramping up for the playoffs, then I would consider 40 shots against regularly a huge issue. But the fact is, the goalies need to have fun too. And let's be honest, on some of those 10-bell saves, it looked like Jake was having fun.