Saturday, September 8, 2007

Habs' Depth Chart Filled With Quality Goaltenders

When Cristobal Huet injured his hamstring last season Jaroslav Halak came in to the picture, and played well, yet they were still not able to get into the playoffs. Huet is now a proven first-stringer, and his absence certainly factored into why they did not make the playoffs. A healthy Huet should win his job back at training camp, unless Carey Price shows him up, but we'll get to that later. Jaroslav Halak was thrown into the fire after David Aebischer couldn't pick up the slack, and played decently, but I feel that the quality of his play was blown far out of proportion. I watched him play many times in Hamilton (and had the pleasure of meeting him) and there's no doubt he has talent, but the reality is, he did not have the league at it's mercy, he only held the fort until Huet's return the last game of the season (although some Habs fans may argue that Halak should have started that game). In the 16 games he played, he had a 2.89 GAA, and a .906 Save %. That's hardly spectacular, but considering the situation he was in, it was good enough to get the respect of Canadiens fans. He has earned the backup spot behind Huet this season, and the two should make a formidable tandem.

Carey Price. If you haven't already heard that name, get ready to hear it soon folks. This kid is the future of the Canadiens organization, and maybe even the future of the Canadian National program. He was the goalie who led Canada to gold in last year's World Junior Championships, played great for a below-average Tri-City squad of the WHL. After he was eliminated from the playoffs there, he came to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL and won the Calder Cup, picking up the MVP along the way. He's calm, cool, and has a beautiful butterfly style. He never seems to be out of position, and has excellent lateral movement. He's big, strong, and a good work ethic. What else could you ask for in a goalie? He has everything going for him, and is ready for the next step, the NHL. He played a total of 82 games last year, and proved that he can handle it, right to the last game, putting up remarkable stats along the way. Now, Price will be invited to training camp, and he will have a shot at an NHL job, whether Habs' fans like it or not. Bob Gainey has said that if Price does make the team, he will need to be the #1, he won't be backup. That is not entirely impossible. If he does make the team that would mean Huet is on his way out, somewhere, somehow. It will be an interesting situation, and all eyes will be on the Habs' camp when it begins. The other guy in the picture is Yann Danis, who is a great goalie in his own right, but doesn't really get a chance on a team with such good goaltending depth. I expected him to leave, seeing how he was a UFA this offseason, but he must've liked his situation in Hamilton, as he re-signed and will be back this season. Huet, Halak, and Price will be competing for two NHL spots this upcoming training camp, and if Price makes it, that means Huet is on his way out. If Huet makes it as the starter, it'll be a Huet/Halak tandem for the Habs, and a Price/Danis tandem for the Bulldogs.