Montembeault's brilliant play at Worlds proves he's ready to be Canadiens' starter

May 26 2023, 5:01 pm

Samuel Montembeault has come a long way.

When the Montreal Canadiens claimed the former Florida Panthers goalie off waivers in 2021, many wondered where the Quebec-born netminder would fit within the lineup. But as details regarding Carey Price’s prolonged absence were revealed, it became clear that Montembeault’s services would be needed — as a backup.

That role evolved this season, though, with Montembeault and Jake Allen splitting the crease down the middle. The Becancour, Quebec, native finished the season with slightly better numbers all around.

But another promotion may be in store for the 26-year-old this fall. And his stellar play at the ongoing IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship may have something to do with it.

Earlier this month, Montembeault answered the call to represent Canada at the tournament in Scandinavia. As the starter on a roster without superstars, no one knew exactly how he would hold up between the pipes.

As fate would have it, he has already stolen the show — on multiple occasions.

The first of Montembeault’s standout starts occurred on May 15 in a tight game against Slovakia.

After making 23 saves through regulation and overtime, Montembeault stopped six out of eight attempts in the shootout to help Canada come out on top. He was named earned Player of the Game for his performance.

He earned that honour again, making 24 saves in Canada’s 4-1 win over Finland in the quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday. “He was our best player tonight,” said Canada’s head coach, AndrĂ© Tourigny, after the game. “And when your goalie is playing that well, it is a good recipe for winning games.”

So far, the Canadiens goalie has allowed only six goals on 118 shots in his five international starts. His 1.19 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage put him among the top three netminders in the tournament.

If he carries that confidence into training camp this summer, Montreal may have a new No. 1 going forward.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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