By JD Lagrange – Ah fans and media. We are a passionate bunch, aren’t we? And because of it, we tend to look at situations from so close, that we tend to forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. A player is cold, trade him for peanuts. A player is hot, trade him before his performance goes down! A player does well in the short term, sign him to a multi-year contract!
Today, the flavour of the day is to give the starter position to Samuel Montembeault ahead of Jake Allen. That’s right. 20 games into the season, you have people building what could be perceived as a goaltending controversy. And of course, just to spice it up, let’s mix politics into the debate. In the red corner, weighing at 214 lbs, 26 year-old Becancour, Quebec native Samuel Montembeault. His opponent in the blue corner, weighing in at 195 lbs, 32 year-old Fredericton, New-Brunswick native Jake Allen.
Bad vs hot streak
Of course, in order to create that debate, one has to have been cold while the other is red-hot. And here’s where those wanting to start a debate are basing their thought process on. So far this season (prior to the game in Chicago), Montembeault’s stats are better than Allen’s.
While he started the season extremely well, Jake Allen has cooled off… a lot. In his last four games, Allen has struggled, putting up a sub-par 4.74 goals against average and .853 saves percentage. But prior to that, he was excellent.
Now, let’s dig deeper to see the quality of opponents each goaltender has had to face so far.
Allen: Toronto, Detroit (x2), Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota (x2), St-Louis, Vegas, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Buffalo.
Montembeault: Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Columbus (x2)
As we can see, Allen has been given the toughest assignments so far this season, and it’s not even close. So before trying to start a controversy, it pays off to look at the facts and circumstances. Yes, Allen is going through a tough stretch but don’t think for a second that if the roles were reversed, Monty wouldn’t either. They all do.
Here’s the reality… Neither Allen nor Montembeault are true number one starters in the NHL. Allen has made a career as a backup or at best, as a 1-B goaltender. He needs to be able to share the load with a reliable goaltender. It worked best in St-Louis when he and Jordan Bennington shared duties. And he was brought in by Marc Bergevin as Carey Price’s backup. Due to Price’s status, he has now become the number one by default.
Montembeault was picked off waivers from the Florida Panthers, when the Canadiens were desperate for a goaltender. He has a career 3.43 goals against average and a well below par saves percentage of .895. Yet, some media members and fans are suggesting reversing the roles.
Prior to the game in Chicago, Allen has started 13 of the Canadiens 20 games so far. That’s 65% of the games. Starting Montembeault for more than six games out of ten games is a huge swing… likely too much for an unproven goaltender. And yes, the Canadiens care as no, they are not trying to tank for a better pick. That’s a fans’ pipe dream.
The best case scenario, at least until Allen finds his game, might be to split the duties a bit more evenly. Or perhaps, just ride the hot hand? You have a good start, you start the next game. You poop to bed, give the start to the other guy. But reversing the starts would not be good for Montembeault.
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLE! *DING-DING-DING*