“Let’s blame the new guy — he doesn’t know better anyway.”
Oh for all the times we have heard the above saying in life, the childish philosophy instated in office buildings throughout the world certainly holds no truth tonight — sorry to any hockey fan who wants the explanation for the Montreal Canadiens loss tonight to be that easy. It’s not.
Because as the home team Canadiens now venture to New York, behind two games in the Eastern Conference Final, the new guy, goalie Dustin Tokarski, should hold none of tonight’s 3-1 loss on his shoulders.
Were there saves Tokarski should have made? Absolutely. Were there moments where the netminder’s inexperience was painfully obvious? Yes. But Tokarski can’t be blamed for Canadiens coach Michel Therrien‘s decision to put him in over the more experienced Peter Budaj.
For a 5-foot-11 goalie who hasn’t played a game since April, Tokarski stood tall in net against an offensively charged New York Rangers team. If you were to replay certain shots taken at the young goalie from the Rangers players you most likely will mutter “how did that not go in” more than a few times. But then again, the same could be said for Henrik Lundqvist‘s goaltending for New York on the other end.
But Lundqvist has years of experience behind him, and tonight he had a rock solid defense in front of him. The kind that only highlighted how much Montreal’s blue line was missing. For as many “how did that not go in” shots Tokarski saved, there were equal parts “where is his defense”, as well. Shooting pucks toward New York’s net was not the problem, the Canadiens out-shot the Rangers 41-30; the coverage in front of Tokarski became Montreal’s downfall.
Prior to puck drop on Monday night, NHL commentators stated the obvious facts of the Canadiens’ current predicament. The team could either let the absence of goalie Carey Price, out due to injury suffered in Game 1 of the series, become the downfall, or Montreal could use the setback as momentum to rally around a young goalie and prove their place in this conference final is based on more than Price’s famous methods of lights out goaltending.
The Canadiens held strong in the later for the first six minutes of the game, and then fell to the former in a tailspin of play that certainly won’t do Montreal any favors through this series if it continues.
While Tokarski’s inexperience wasn’t doing the Canadiens any favors either, the 24-year-old goaltender simply didn’t know how to be any better than he was; this was, after all, his first NHL playoff game. But every member of this Montreal team knows how to be better in his respective offensive/defensive steeds. And tonight more was needed from every single one of them.
A week ago, the Canadiens were being hailed as the odds on favorite for the Stanley Cup, returning glory back to the home of this great sport. Tonight, they have no one to blame for such a miserable loss but themselves. This team knows how to win without Price, but someone might need to remind them of the fact before it’s too late.