Going into game two between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, there was a lot of attention on who would start in net for the injured Carey Price. The Canadiens went with unproven 24-year-old goalie Dustin Tokarski – who had three career NHL games under his belt – over regular season back-up Peter Budaj – who had 296 games of NHL experience. One can only wonder why this decision was made. Perhaps it was Budaj’s lacklustre appearance in game one where he allowed three goals on eight shots, or perhaps the Canadiens were hoping for some kind of lighting in a bottle effect with Tokarski.
Tokarski wasn’t awful in game two, making 27 saves, but he wasn’t great either. He had the jitters early on and his weak blocker side was exposed by New York. He was also consistently caught too deep in his net, which didn’t allow him a chance on shots like the one below from Martin St-Louis.
But with all of the talk about which goaltender was and is going to get the playing time in Montreal’s net, it was the man in the Rangers net, Henrik Lundqvist, who was the talking point in game two.
King Henrik made 40 saves and withstood a number of hectic moments, where his team was overwhelmed by Montreal’s offense in their zone, including late in the game, where he made 19 third period saves. His only hiccup came in the first when Max Pacioretty skipped one by the Swede, when Lundqvist should have gloved a puck, but went for a stick poke instead. He instantly knew the mistake he made on that play; you could see it in his eyes when the television cameras panned in on him. After the tiny blip, he was flawless.
Lundqvist earned first star of the night honours from CBC and it was well-deserved, as he was the best player on the ice for either squad.
I said earlier this week that the goaltending battle would be something to watch in the series. The team with the best goaltending will march towards the Stanley Cup and so far that honour belongs to the Rangers.
If Lundqvist continues playing the way he did tonight, the Habs are in trouble, especially if they can’t figure out their own goaltending issues. The situation in Montreal’s net is even rockier than it was before game two since Tokarski didn’t pan out and Budaj may have hard feelings and lack the confidence a team needs from a goalie in the playoffs after not getting the start.
The days leading up to game three should be interesting as Montreal tries to figure out what to do without Price, but it really won’t matter if they can’t figure out Lundqvist.