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Eyes on the Price: Al Montoya Steps Up

Montreal’s backup goalie proves his value once again

Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Game 2 of the Canadiens’ Super Bowl matinee weekend saw Al Montoya take the crease on Sunday, and will Montreal to a standings point against the Edmonton Oilers, allowing only a single skills competition goal by Leon Draisaitl. Unfortunately, that was all the Oilers and Cam Talbot needed, as the Habs dropped the 1-0 shootout loss.

Defensively, this was a game of survival for the Habs against the Oilers top line of Connor McDavid (97), Draisaitl (29), and Patrick Maroon (19).

The Oilers trio, along with contributions from defensemen like Oscar Klefbom (77), certainly kept Montoya on his toes.

Montoya was up to the task right through the overtime period, when he somehow managed to squeeze the puck between his left pad and the ice on this game-saver against McDavid.

Arguably, the Oilers best regulation scoring chance came with under a minute to go in the opening period.

Shea Weber recovers an Edmonton dump-in deep in the left defensive corner, with support from Torrey Mitchell and Alexei Emelin.

Mitchell sets up behind the net to Weber’s forehand, and Emelin along the wall to Weber’s backhand.

Weber, looking at Mitchell behind the net, sees McDavid moving in to intercept the outlet, so he attempts to reverse the puck off his backhand to Emelin. Patrick Maroon, however, is pressuring Weber from behind, and clearly anticipates the reversal. When Weber hits the brakes and switches the puck to his backhand, Maroon extends his stick into the passing lane along the boards.

Montoya has remained on his skates against the post, easily maintaining visual attachment to the puck, so he sees that Weber has lost possession. He may even see McDavid out of the corner of his eye.

What Montoya does next is a confident, professional goalie move. Watch his head. As McDavid takes possession behind the net, coming hard to his left, Montoya scans out in front of the net to assess for any potential pass threat, then refocuses on McDavid.

Interestingly, Montoya doesn’t choose to drop his post pad to the ice into a glove side reverse V-H (post pad horizontal, left shoulder up against the post). Instead, he stays on his skates, rotating his stick blade from a pass-deflection position to a traditional save position. When McDavid reaches out across the crease, Montoya drops his right pad into half butterfly, sealing the ice, and tracking the puck with his stick.

Digressing for a second, some goalie watchers will absolutely love that Montoya stays on his skates initially rather than utilize RVH and take the risk of a jam sneaking between the post and his left skate. However, there’s always a vulnerability. Had McDavid tucked the puck toward the net just as he turns the corner, it’s possible that it would have snuck under Montoya’s right pad before he could drop it to the ice.

Anyway... McDavid aggressively drives across the crease on his forehand, looking to use his long reach to beat Montoya to his right, or open up a space between his pads. Montoya stays balanced and active, maintaining an aggressive stick position that cuts off any 5-hole attempt and forces McDavid to continue to carry the puck.

McDavid, because he is McDavid, is able to control the puck all the way across to the right of the crease. Montoya does his best to stay with him as long as he can, eventually ending up in a prone desperation position with Weber crashing across him.

Importantly, Montoya is able to get his right pad extended beyond the right post, which takes away any path McDavid has to put the puck in along the ice. McDavid’s lone attempt from atop the mass of TriColore-clad humanity is wide of the net, and deflects off of the boot section of Montoya’s right pad.

The remarkable McDavid is able to regain possession of the puck from his knees, but Jacob DeLaRose wisely jumps in to defend the post. Although Maroon ultimately regains possession below the goal line, the threat has passed.

Because McDavid never actually gets a shot on net, this likely won’t even register as a save on the scoresheet.

This sequence, though, shows exactly what the Habs have been able to rely on from Al Montoya.

Skill, experience, and a whole lot of fight.