GREENFIELD PARK, QC. — The Montreal Canadiens have been doing a lot of things right so far this season and I’m pleasantly surprised with the majority of the work that Michel Therrien has been doing behind their bench, however Therrien got his goalies backwards in the past two games.
Tonight, Peter Budaj was handed his first start of the season for the Canadiens and his opponent at the other end of the rink was red-hot Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson. Anderson was 4-0-1 with a GAA of 0.98 and a Sv% of .967 per cent before tonight’s matchup. Some might believe this would be an ideal scenario for Budaj’s first start of the season, against a team playing its second game in two nights, but the problem is that the Montreal Canadiens were also playing their second game in two nights.
Perhaps Therrien anticipated that the loss of Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar might have more of a negative impact on the Senators, but like we’ve often seen in the past, teams with depth rise up when some of their better players are out of the lineup, and the Senators did exactly that tonight.
It’s not that Budaj was bad in this 5-1 loss, he was actually pretty good for a goaltender whose statistics start off the season with a kick-save in the face, it’s that I feel he deserved to get his first start of the season in a more ideal scenario, at least one where his teammates haven’t played within the past 24 hours.
If Therrien absolutely wanted to give Budaj one of the two games this week, it should have been against the Winnipeg Jets, and not only because his teammates would have had fresh legs in this game. The problem isn’t really that Budaj played tonight, it’s that Carey Price didn’t.
The Winnipeg Jets are in the SouthEast Division while the Ottawa Senators are in NorthEast Division, which happens to be the same division that the Montreal Canadiens play in. The divisional matchup has more importance, therefore the team’s number one goaltender should have been between the pipes.
There has been so much talk in the past week on how Craig Anderson has been the best goaltender in the NHL so far this season. This appears to be true as he currently stands tall with a 5-0-1 record, a GAA still below one goal per game (0.99), a Sv% soaring at .967 per cent and one shutout. Goaltenders crave match-ups against Craig Andersons, when they’re hot like he is. You want to be the guy that’s behind the team that beat the guy everyone’s talking about.
Also, it’s not like Carey Price was too tired to play back-to-back games. With five games played in eleven days following an ageless lockout, just like Paul MacLean did with Anderson, Therrien could have easily played Price for a second game in a row. I’d like to think your number one goaltender would give you a better chance of winning if your team’s energy tank runs low.
That brings us to an interesting question, the Canadiens now have three days off before they play yet another back-to-back against the Buffalo Sabres and what do you know, the Ottawa Senators this Saturday and Sunday, so what exactly is Michel Therrien going to do? Will Price play both games since he will have been fully rested and after-all they are two divisional games? Will Therrien decide to split the weekend between both goalies? My worst-case scenario would be for him to give the chance to go back into the net against the Senators Sunday, that should be Price’s game and nobody else’s.
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