Is Samuel Montembeault a viable starting goaltender?
It feels like we’ve been waiting some time for him to come down to earth, but is it possible he’s simply found a new level?
On paper, the Montreal Canadiens had no business being in a tie game with the Boston Bruins late into the third period on Tuesday night. Two goals from Kirby Dach, combined with some surprising overall play against the top team in the Eastern Conference found them in that position anyways, and they came closer than anyone would have thought to getting to bonus hockey.
While their play overall was surprisingly better than expected, they also owed a huge debt of gratitude to Samuel Montembeault for making this possible.
The Habs played their best overall hockey in the third period, and they needed help to get there without digging themselves a hole. Saves like this absolute gem on David Pastrnak went a long way to making sure they got to the third period tied.
Samuel Montembeault with the larceny on David Pastrnak pic.twitter.com/zkRmAYFdcY— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 25, 2023
The goals the Bruins did get were virtually unstoppable. Everything that he was square to, or had a good line of sight on, he stopped. He even made some Carey Price-esque stops where the level of difficulty was far greater than how he made them look.
Samuel Montembeault with excellent lateral movement to make this save. pic.twitter.com/kv0q2UlLcK— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) January 25, 2023
For some time, the question surrounding Montembeault was if and when he’d regress. There have been moments this season where it seems like he’s doing so, and then he stonewalls whoever he’s playing on his next night out. It has to make you wonder if the real question should be whether or not he’s developing into a legitimate starting NHL goaltender.
Let’s face it, the goaltending position is easily the weirdest to evaluate. While not exactly common, it isn’t unheard of for a goaltender in their mid-to-late twenties to find their stride. Just ask the Bruins how they managed to win a cup with Tim Thomas, who didn’t even debut in the NHL until the age of 28. If nothing else, it is worth finding out whether Montembeault can have a similar trajectory.
Even when Jake Allen has been healthy this season, Montembeault has arguably been the better option. When Allen returns, the best course of action would likely be to split the games as evenly as possible, and look to evaluate who is the more viable option moving forward.
If Montembeault continues to show what he has been, they may need to seriously consider giving him a shot as their number one next season.
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