Montembeault Continues to Shine in Lost Season

Sam Montembeault, goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens
Sam Montembeault, goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens may be heading toward another high-end draft pick in 2024, but Samuel Montembeault is doing his best to ensure the future isn't so bleak. Montembeault surrendered the opening goal against the Colorado Avalanche 43 seconds into the first period but shut the door for the remainder of the game and stopped 27 of 28 shots.

Showcasing his ability to stay in the game and challenge some of the best shooters on the Avalanche, Montembeault is proving to the Canadiens and the league that he can be a number-one goaltender in the NHL. Earning the second star of the game for his performance, Montembeault shut the door on a red-hot Avalanche team, snapping their nine-game winning streak and leaving Nathan MacKinnon and company frustrated beyond belief.

Exceeding expectations thus far, Montembeault has steadily taken over the crease following the departure of Jake Allen to the New Jersey Devils. Vacating the clutter between the pipes has allowed security for Montembeault to do his thing, and his .906 save percentage ranks close to the top 20 goaltenders in that category. Considering his statistics are exceeding expectations and closing in on career bests, Canadiens' fans should be excited for Montembeault's future with a team that will only improve.

One of the most impressive things to watch from Montembeault's game is the confidence he exudes before hitting the ice for warm-ups. That kind of mentality can rub off on a team, and in turn, it helps Montembeault perform to his best abilities. The Canadiens have developed a more efficient defensive game, collapsing down low on the opposition and forcing them to the outside while limiting high-danger scoring chances. When the opposition does get them, Montembeault is there to challenge the shooter and take away angles.

Even when allowing a goal, Montembeault doesn't show disappointment in his body language. Like water off a duck's back, the Quebec native skates it off and prepares for the next opportunity to stop the opposition. He never second-guesses himself and always keeps his head up, which are contributing factors for a 27-year-old goaltender leading one of the most storied franchises in all sports. That kind of pressure is notorious for breaking the strongest of spirits, but Montembeault is in a fortunate spot where expectations are low, and he's performing at a monumental level.

Montembeault's extension doesn't kick in until next season when he graduates from his $1 million salary to a three-year, $3.15 million AAV. The flexibility in the crease also allows Cayden Primeau to get some opportunity to earn starts and gain valuable experience, while management can allow Jacob Fowler to slow cook and develop into a promising NHL starter once he arrives. Despite the team's lack of success, Montembeault's performances have inspired many to believe he'll be solidified as the true number-one goaltender for the next couple of seasons while the team figures out how to continue to build a contender as the likes of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield reach their prime.

The belief in the NHL remains that to build a strong contender, you must start from the crease and work your way out. The Canadiens have a bright future with a defensive squad that combines high-octane offense with two-way defenders that can shut down the defensive zone while supplementing their partners on offense. Montembeault can be their pillar between the pipes, and at just 27 years of age, he has plenty of time to settle in and shine. The idea of a native Quebecer fulfilling the dreams of any hometown goaltender is one made for the movies, and one Montembeault continues to live out.

There will come a time when Montembeault nears the end of his contract as he reaches his 30s. Primeau will be looking for more playing time, and Fowler will be on the cusp of challenging for the main spot on the roster. While the times may feel down as the Habs crawl to another top-five selection at the NHL Entry Draft, their potential between the pipes has looked more promising than one would have expected after the departure of Carey Price. It may take another year or two before the Canadiens begin to think about competing, but for now, they'll take the small wins wherever they can, and Montembeault is near the top of that list.