Montreal Canadiens: Cayden Primeau Dominating AHL Playoffs With Ridiculous Numbers

LAVAL, QC - MAY 12: Goaltender Cayden Primeau #31 of the Laval Rocket. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - MAY 12: Goaltender Cayden Primeau #31 of the Laval Rocket. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens dealt with an incredible number of injuries and illnesses in the 2021-22 season. Due to that, they had to call up many different players from the Laval Rocket through the season.

One of those players was Cayden Primeau, who maybe wasn’t quite ready for the NHL role. With Carey Price out for most of the season, Jake Allen dealing with a few of his own injuries and Samuel Montembeault playing up and down hockey, Primeau played a few more games than was ideal.

The 7th round pick from the 2017 NHL Draft looked like a terrific prospect after two excellent college seasons for Northeastern. He has been a little inconsistent at times in his three AHL seasons, but showed flashes of brilliance each year.

Still, he wasn’t quite ready for an NHL call up and that wasn’t the plan heading into this season. He played two games with the Habs in November, allowing eight goals. He was back in December, and played great in one game against Philadelphia. He was forced to appear in six games in the latter half of January and struggled.

He was pulled in consecutive games, allowed seven goals to the New Jersey Devils in another, then pulled again in a loss to the Washington Capitals. He was finally retuned to the Laval Rocket when the Habs picked up Andrew Hammond.

The 22 year old still has plenty of time to develop into an NHL caliber goaltender. He is proving just that with a spectacular performance for the Rocket in their postseason run.

Kevin Poulin was the team’s starting goaltender in their first playoff game. A quick glance at the numbers will show you he outplayed Primeau in the regular season and deserved the start. But he wasn’t great in that first game so the Rocket turned to Primeau.

There was no goaltending controversy to speak of because Primeau has been the best player in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs ever since.

The divisional portion of the postseason, the first two rounds, are Best-of-5. So the Rocket were almost in must-win territory when Primeau entered the series. He was excellent in that game, stopping 37 of 39 shots, shutting down a potent Syracuse Crunch attack and evening the series.

The series then shifted to Laval where Primeau would stop 22 of 23 shots in a win, but he allowed three goals on 37 shots in Game 4 which Syracuse won to force a deciding Game 5 on the road for Laval. Primeau was steely in that contest, holding the fort after falling behind 2-0 and allowing the Rocket offence to tie the game.

Laval would win in overtime and advance to the division final on a goal by Gabriel Bourque. Primeau was solid again, stopping 32 of 24 shots to lead the way for the Rocket.

This put them up against the high powered offence of the Rochester Americans. They scored 16 goals in five games against the Utica Comets, with Peyton Krebs, JJ Peterka and Arttu Ruotsalainen leading the way by averaging well over a point per game each.

But, they have been shut down by Primeau in two games this round. In each game, Primeau faced 32 shots and allowed just a single goal. The Rocket dominated Game 1 with a 6-1 victory and followed it up with a 3-1 win in Game 2.

Now, the Rocket are on the verge of heading into the AHL’s final four. With this series being a Best-of-5, Laval need to win just one of the next three games against Rochester to move on to the league semi-final.

With Primeau leading the way with a 1.65 goals against average and a ridiculous .949 save percentage in his six playoff games, they have a great chance to advance. Game 3 is tonight in Rochester, with Game 4 scheduled for Friday night. If the Americans win both, a deciding Game 5 will take place in Laval on Sunday.

Primeau’s stock certainly dropped after his rough outings at the NHL level this season. However, he has shown each year in the AHL that consistently playing as the team’s starting goaltender is where he shines. When he plays every other day, he plays his best. When he sits for a week and comes in cold, he isn’t as sharp.

The 22 year old is showing that again in his first taste of playoff hockey. He has been excellent every night for the Rocket, and is proving yet again that he could be the goaltender of the future for the Montreal Canadiens.

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