Montréal Canadiens: Goaltending Proving to be a Problem

The Montréal Canadiens are 23rd in the National Hockey League in goalie save percentage.

The Montréal Canadiens have issues in other areas (their power play ranks 29th in the league with a 14.89% success rate), but their goaltending isn’t helping matters. They have used two goalies so far this year, and neither have done enough to help their team.

Antti Niemi hasn’t had a lot of playing time, but he hasn’t inspired much confidence. After seven games in net, Niemi as a 4-2-1 record, .893 SV% and 3.61 GAA. Those numbers aren’t good at all. He may be the backup, but he needs to play well enough for the team to feel positive about starting him more often to give Carey Price a rest. Oddly enough, Price isn’t setting the world on fire either.

The 31-year old net-minder is in the first year of his eight-year, $84 million contract. His contract carries the fourth largest AAV in the NHL ($10.5 million per year). The problem is he has not looked strong so far. After 20 games in net, he is 8-8-4 with a rough 3.05 GAA and a less than stellar .898 SV%. Price just isn’t playing like a $10.5 million goalie, and the Habs are suffering for it.

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Both goalies haven’t faced too many shots. Price has faced 596 shots (29.8 shots against per game). On the flip side, Niemi has had a more difficult time (243 shots, 34.7 shots against per game). The Habs are trying to lessen the workload on their men between the pipes, but they just aren’t getting any results in net.

The Habs have had 19 games where they have allowed 3 or more goals, and are 5-9-5, with 10 of those games being decided by one goal. That’s several games that could have been won if they could get decent play in net. Those couple of wins would have the Habs in a playoff spot right now.

Who Would Have Thought

At the start of the season, you would have been hard pressed to find someone who thought goaltending would be detrimental to the Montréal Canadiens this season. Most would have pointed to their aging defense or their offense lacking experience. If goaltending was a concern in Montreal, you would have thought that Price was banged up. Instead, Price and Niemi have been this team’s achilles heel so far. The goalie tandem in Montréal is going to have to find a higher gear as we move into December. With rough play in net, the Habs will not be able to contend for a playoff spot, especially in a stacked Atlantic Division.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

Author: Hunter Eitel