Speculation remains about who will replace Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who is out for the rest of this series against the New York Rangers. Price did not play the third period following a collision with Rangers forward Chris Kreider early in the second and coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Price will miss the rest of the Eastern Conference final with a right knee injury. This is a devastating blow to Les Habitants who are now missing their gold-medal winning goalie, who Therrien described as their “best player,” and must now overcome a 1-0 series deficit.
Game one did not start out exactly as the Canadiens had planned. Opening the series at home in the Bell Centre, they allowed the Rangers to storm out to a two-goal lead in the first, and it was early in the second when Kreider crashed into Price. Montreal pulled a goal back, but the Rangers managed to pot a couple more in the last 61 seconds of the period, and it was after that Michel Therrien decided to keep Price on the bench to protect him. The Rangers continued their rout of the Habs in the third as a frustrated and undisciplined Montreal continued their march to the penalty box, allowing three unanswered power play goals before Montreal were able to beat Lundqvist short-handed in the shocking 7-2 loss.
No one, not even the Rangers, expected the game to unfold as it did, and with Canadiens goalie Price out for the rest of the series, Montreal will have to ensure that they play a more disciplined defensive game to give themselves a chance of winning the Eastern Conference. Therrien has not yet named who would replace Price in net, but after Peter Budaj – who has a 0.843 save percentage and an 0-2 record as a playoff starter – gave up three goals in the third, it may be tempting to throw Dustin Tokarski, of the Hamilton Bulldogs, into the ring.
If it is indeed Tokarski who gets the nod, he will certainly try to outdo Anaheim Ducks rookie John Gibson, who shone in his first start against the Kings in the second round of the West but was ultimately chased from the net in Game 7. However, with guys like Patrick Roy, Bill Durnan and Ken Dryden, who had not even played enough games in the 1970-71 season to be considered a rookie, the Canadiens have a deep history of rookie goalies leading them to the Stanley Cup. Tokarski has won the Calder Cup in the minors, and both Memorial Cup and World Junior Championship in the juniors, and so Therrien may believe that he has enough big game experience to deserve the chance to start.
As for the collision with Price, Therrien believes that Kreider was being “reckless,” and many in Montreal will point to Kreiders interference with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the last round as being indicative of his attitude towards net-minders. The key for the Habs will be to avoid unnecessary penalties taken in retribution for the hit, and continue their explosive breakout game, taking the play to the Rangers while providing whoever does start with the defensive support they couldn’t give Price in the opener. With their all-star goalie Price on the bench, that may be a tall order for the rest of the series, but the Canadiens have been a resilient team all year, and this will be their biggest test to see how deep that resilience runs.
by Bryan A. Jones