Dustin Tokarski made his Montreal Canadiens debut last night, and helped guide the Habs to a shootout victory on the road over the NHL’s first place Anaheim Ducks.
With Carey Price still on the shelf due to a lower body injury, and Peter Budaj having started the past four games, and the team playing on back to back nights, it was finally time to give the Hamilton Bulldogs call-up a shot in the crease.
Tokarski was not tested early on, as the Canadiens jumped out to a 7-0 shot advantage midway through the first period. However, with P.K. Subban sitting in the box for two minutes, the Ducks finally got some rubber on net, and fired eight shots on Tokarski during the minor penalty. Dustin stopped all eight, and turned aside all 13 Ducks blasts in the opening period.
A bombardment in the second by Anaheim would finally allow them to solve the 24 year old netminder from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. The Ducks struck three time in the middle frame, including a dump in that ricocheted of the glass and fooled a stunned Tokarski as he left his crease to play the puck. It was a lucky bounce that could have fooled anyone, but Tokarski bounced back from it, enabling the Canadiens to win the game.
The teams went into the third period tied at three apiece, and Tokarski would stop all ten shots he faced in the third and overtime.
The game went to a shootout and Tokarski stopped four of the Ducks six shooters, holding on long enough for Andrei Markov to snipe the game’s winning goal.
It was Dustin Tokarski’s first NHL win in two years, but we should not have been surprised that he would come out on the winning end in a big game. He has been doing just that his whole career.
Back in the 2007-08 season Tokarski was the goaltender for a pesky Spokane Chiefs squad in the Western Hockey League. They were led in scoring by Drayson Bowman and their most recognizable name six years later may just be Jared Cowen who can’t seem to stick in the Ottawa Senators lineup.
But, Tokarski won 30 games that year and put the team on his back in the WHL playoffs. In 21 postseason games he had a phenomenal goals against average of just 1.38 and a scintillating save percentage of .944. Most importantly he won 16 of those 21 games and captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Tokarski’s most impressive feat in trampling through the WHL that year, was holding the regular season champion and highest scoring team in the league to just ten goals in a seven game series. The Tri-City Americans led the WHL with 108 points in a 72 game season, scoring 262 goals along the way. That is an average of more than 3.5 goals per game, but they scored less than 1.5 in a series against Tokarski.
Tokarski was not done with just dominating the WHL as he carried the Spokane Chiefs to a perfect 4-0 record at the Memorial Cup, winning Canada’s top Junior hockey prize. Tokarski was named top goaltender and MVP of the 2008 Memorial Cup.
Tokarski parlayed his ’08 success into another great season with Spokane in 2008-09. After being drafted in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tokarski posted the best GAA (1.97) and best SV% (.937) of any goaltender in the WHL.
He was the starting goalie for Team Canada that year at the World Junior Hockey Championship, and helped the team win a record fifth straight Gold Medal Game at the event in Ottawa.
Once he turned pro, it didn’t take long for Tokarski to keep adding to his hardware collection. With the Norfolk Admirals in the 2012 AHL playoffs, Tokarski posted a 12-2 record with a 1.45 GAA and .944 SV% to lead his team to the Calder Cup.
Tokarski was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens in a trade that sent Cedrick Desjardins to the Lightning organization last season.
When Carey Price returns from injury, Tokarski is all but certain to head back down to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. It is reassuring however, to know that there is someone with such an impressive resume waiting for his turn in the Canadiens crease.