Montreal Canadiens: Cayden Primeau Finally Gets Much Deserved Vote of Confidence

Dec 9, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau (30) looks to
Dec 9, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau (30) looks to / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens continue to employ the three goaltender system, but it appears they may be tweaking their approach with it.

Over the first 32 games of the season, a stretch that saw the team play far better than anticipated, Sam Montembeault and Jake Allen received the majority of starts for the Canadiens. The obvious third wheel was Cayden Primeau.

This was not ideal, as the 24 year old goaltender had no real chance to develop his game while not playing much at all. Somehow, he still managed to get better and better as the season went along.

His first game of the season came against the highly powered offense of the New Jersey Devils, and Primeau looked good for most of that game, but eventually allowed four goals on 33 shots. The Canadiens defense was not at its best that night and Primeau made some incredible saves to keep the team in the game, but it was not enough to pull off the win.

His next start was two weeks later when he shut down the Detroit Red Wings, allowing two goals on 29 shots. His third game would come a week later when he faced the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, and the Canadiens skaters forgot to show up. Primeau was incredible to keep the team in the game for forty minutes, but the Knights kept pushing and would score six times on 42 shots.

Just over a week later Primeau was back in goal and was great against the San Jose Sharks. He stopped 31 of 33 shots and led the team to a win on the road, in a place they rarely find success. His one blemish came in early December when he allowed five goals to the Florida Panthers. The game was 1-0 entering the third period, but Primeau seemed to lose his focus for 20 minutes and the Panthers lit him up.

Nine days later Primeau bounced back with a tremendous performance against the Buffalo Sabres. The division rival threw everything they could at Primeau, but the Canadiens netminder stopped 46 of 48 shots to lead the team to victory. Still, he had to wait 13 days and six games before getting back in the crease.

When the Canadiens wrapped up their 32nd game of the season, Primeau had played just six of them, meaning he played less than 20% of the team's games. He was the third stringer by any measure.

Primeau got the team's final start before their Christmas break, and was great again, allowing just two goals on 21 shots and helped the Canadiens win again. Somewhat surprisingly, not because of his play but just because of the frequency of his play, Primeau will also start tonight's game when the Canadiens return from their break.

He is sporting a 3.20 GAA and a .902 SV% on the season which are not phenomenal numbers, but aside from one tough period against the Panthers, he has been great. If you take away that one period of hockey, Primeau has a 2.77 GAA and a .915 SV% which is quite impressive especially when you consider he was never given the opportunity to get into a rhythym.

It appears that he may get that chance now, as he will start consecutive games for the team for the first time this season. Montembeault had been given that chance a couple of times, but it is a rarity for the team rotating three netminders.

It will be interesting to see how Primeau responds, but there is no question he is being given a vote of confidence from the coaching staff after being more like an afterthought for the first 32 games of the season.