Montreal Canadiens: Is Cayden Primeau Going to Start for Laval Rocket in Playoffs?

Feb 10, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 10, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens 2021-22 season will end without playoff games being played, but the Laval Rocket have made it to the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs.

This represents the first time in franchise history that the Rocket have qualified for the postseason. It is only their fifth ever season, and there were no playoffs for Canadian AHL teams last season, but still, it’s a big milestone.

The Canadiens haven’t seen their AHL teams do much in recent AHL playoffs. Since making a run to the third round in 2011, the Habs top affiliate has not won a single playoff series, only making the postseason once, and winning just a single game in that series.

So, 2022 represents the Canadiens organization its first chance to see some top young players develop in a pressure packed playoff atmosphere at the minor league level in over a decade. It should be a good experience for young players like Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Jesse Ylonen and Joel Teasdale.

But, will Cayden Primeau be in goal for the Rocket?

The Canadiens young goalie prospect has been battling with Kevin Poulin for starts much of the season. The veteran Poulin started the year in the ECHL but was excellent and got called up to the AHL where he continued to perform well. The 32 year old might give the Rocket its best chance at winning a couple of playoff series, but he isn’t a budding goaltender of the future for the Canadiens.

Minor league teams often have to juggle between winning and development. Veteran players often give a better chance of immediate success, but thrusting a young player into a big role on an AHL team allows them to develop quicker and help the NHL club more down the road.

There is not bigger representation of that on the Rocket than in goal.

On the season, Primeau has been steady, posting a 2.91 GAA and a .910 SV% in 28 games. The 22 year old has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, but a bit of inconsistency as well.

Poulin on the other hand has been reliable all season for the Rocket. He has a 2.29 GAA and a .923 SV% on the season in 32 games played. He is also ten years older than Primeau, is unlikely to ever a play for the parent club, and could leave as a free agent at the end of the season.

Primeau has not done well lately to prove he should get the call in goal when the playoffs begin. In his past 11 starts, he has allowed three goals or more in nine of them.

In that same time period, Poulin has played 17 games, and allowed 36 goals for a GAA just above 2.00 and a .926 SV%.

The Rocket have three regular season games left before the postseason begins. With Carey Price injured, Primeau has been recalled to the NHL to serve as Sam Montembeault’s backup. So, instead of making a last minute case to be the Rocket’s starter in the playoffs, he is sitting on the bench watching the Canadiens play out the string up close.

The Canadiens AHL club hasn’t won a series in over a decade, so they are likely to play whoever gives them the best chance of winning, regardless of long term development.

That’s bad news for Primeau who has had a solid season, but isn’t closing it out at the top of his game, and is stuck watching at the NHL level right now.

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