In just his third game as a Montreal Canadien, Al Montoya has his first shutout, a 36-save performance in the Canadiens home opener, in his first game as a Hab in front of the Bell Centre faithful.
The Canadiens have something in their first three games of this season that they missed for most of last year: stability in goal. That was to be expected with the return of Carey Price, except Price hasn’t returned just yet, suffering from something akin to the flu but requiring antibiotics.
While Price recovers, Habs fans have been treated to Montoya’s incredible play. It’s taken just 3 games for the off-season acquisition to break the 100 save mark, adding 36 more in Tuesday’s shutout.
More impressive than the quantity, or even the quality of Montoya’s saves, has been his demeanour while making them. Despite the heavy workload, the veteran backup has made several difficult stops look easy.
The one-sided final score of last night’s 4-0 victory understates just how pivotal Montoya’s play was in securing the win. Sure, Max Pacioretty opened the scoring less than 30 seconds into the match, but without Montoya’s 17 first period saves, many of them on dangerous chances, the game could have been very different.
Paul Campbell breaks down Montoya’s confident play against the Penguins:
This is a great chance, Montoya goes down facing expected shot, puck goes past, little push, save on actual shot. No panicked reaching. pic.twitter.com/RLrZNoeDqV
— Pall Cannibal (@WayToGoPaul) October 19, 2016
With two Pens bearing down on him, Montoya stands his ground, controls the rebound and neutralizes the chance.
In the next tweet, Campbell points out Montoya’s “Small, efficient motion”. Again, the imposing netminder is in control, staying in a high percentage position and controlling rebounds in traffic.
Shortly after, similar play. Great pass to front, Montoya follows, seals, keep rebound. Small, efficient motion. PIT isn’t picking spots tho pic.twitter.com/OVFoeu68NS
— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 19, 2016
Montoya set the tone early, coming up with a highlight reel save in his first period as a Hab, stopping Evander Kane on a breakaway.
Montoya plays this Kane breakaway to perfection. Everything is down and forward as he eases back slowly, and he never moves off the puck. pic.twitter.com/2C26DA6gYP
— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 13, 2016
Here again Montoya simply makes himself big as he challenges Kane to beat him with a perfect shot. When Kane goes blocker side, Montoya is already in position to make the stop.
Although the Habs have been outshot 105-80 in their first three games, they sport a healthy 2-0-1 record, outscoring opponents 11-4 in regulation and overtime.
It’s no secret the Canadiens will need to rely on goaltending to keep pace with their competition in the East; Al Montoya has shown that if the Habs get the type of goaltending they normally expect with Carey Price between the pipes, they will be a tough team to play against all season long.