In the aftermath of Monday’s 3-1 loss in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final, Habs head coach Michel Therrien was non-committal about his starting goalie for Game 3, refusing to say if Dustin Tokarski would be back in net on Thursday.
Tokarski, who made his NHL postseason debut tonight, did about as well as could be expected given the circumstances. He was hardly at fault for the loss — Montreal provided him with just a single goal of offense — but looked a little slow and a step behind the pace of the game, understandable given he had just 10 previous NHL starts and hadn’t played since Apr. 19 (with AHL Hamilton).
But since Therrien wouldn’t commit to Tokarski beyond Game 2, there could be other options at play.
Specifically, backup netminder Peter Budaj. The 31-year-old Slovak has a boatload of experience — nearly 300 games over nine years in the NHL — and has played seven postseason games, including a relief appearance of Carey Price in a Game 1 loss to the Rangers.
There are issues with Budaj, though. Once is that he’s clearly a backup — a trusty, veteran guy meant to provide spot duty during an 82-game grind. There’s also the trust issue — if the Habs didn’t have enough to turn to Budaj in Game 2, why would they for Game 3? One would also have to wonder about Budaj’s mindset after being passed over in favor of Tokarski. Budaj has been with the organization for a while, serving as Carey Price’s trusty backup for the last three years.
“We did talk to Peter this morning, and he really reacted as a pro, and he’s a good teammate to understand our decision,” Therrien said. “We let him know the reason why [we started Tokarski].”
The other option, the longest of the longshots, is to give ex-Edmonton No. 1 Devan Dubnyk a whirl. Problem there is that Dubnyk was buried behind Tokarski with the Bulldogs and had an awful year in the NHL, both with the Oilers and Predators. He’s a virtual non-factor but warrants a mention here, if only to illustrate how bleak Montreal’s goaltending situation is.
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