After a solid full team performance that saw the Canadiens defeat the highly improved Islanders from New York, the team prepares to take a short hiatus from the Bell Center, and hit the road for Long Island.
They are half way through the week that could net them a good number of points - especially if they continue playing as they did last night. With contributions from all 4 lines, and some outstanding defense - specifically from PK Subban - the Habs managed to secure their third straight win and solidify themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference, alongside Tampa Bay.
Carey Price had another good night, stopping 18 of 21 shots, in what can only be considered a slower night, even though the pace was fast. Don't let the SOG totals fool you though. Unlike some of the previous games this season, where Carey has faced a deluge of shots, the Islanders picked their snipes at the net very carefully. Almost every shot they took counted, so despite the fact that there was not a massive barrage, Price had to make some big stops.
So why then go with Alex Auld for tomorrow nights action against the same team, especially when the match will be played on their home ice. There is no doubt that the Islanders will be looking to exact revenge for the loss in Montreal. Not to mention that the game will be fresh in their minds - weaknesses, go to plays, corrections of their own mistakes. Is this really the time and place to make the switch?
We all knew that it was coming this week. With back to back games on Friday and Saturday night, there was only one option for Martin, and that was to utilize both gaoltenders for these two frames. But let's consider a few points here.
Price has started all nine games so far this season, going 6-2-1-1 with a Goals Against Average of 2.32 and a .913% Save Percentage. He's tracking the puck well, playing with confidence, and has clearly found a rhythm with the players that are out in front of him. I've even noticed a particular bond that seems to be occurring between Price and Plekanec, as can be seen by their pre and post-game on ice antics.
Auld on the other hand, hasn't seen regular season action since playing for the New York Rangers last season, on April 6, 2010. Facing Buffalo that night, he saw 14 shots, giving up 2 goals with a total ice time of 34:43 in that match.
I like Alex Auld. And I think he makes a perfect backup keeper for Price this season. He knew coming in that he wasn't going to get a lot of work, and that makes Price's job easier to boot. Price hasn't had to look over his shoulder to see when he was going to lose the next start - which has allowed him to concentrate more fully on his job. But I don't know that the timing of this switch is right.
The Canadiens come back home to the Bell Center for Saturday night against a flailing Florida Panthers team. Granted, Vokoun will be in net and is a strong keeper in his own right, but the Florida offense has faltered in the seven games that they've played thus far. They have posted 18 goals and given up 15, amassed a total of 206 shots (averaging 29.4 SOG/game), and many of the players producing those shots are not finding the back of the net. Compare that to the 251 shots amounting to 29 goals for the Islanders.
I know it looks like I'm stat hunting here, and maybe even being a little bit nit-picky. But that's part of the gig. Don't tell me that the team statisticians haven't looked at these numbers too. Stat geeks are everywhere, and often that's what assists a coaching staff in making a decision.
But even if I leave all the numbers aside, I still like giving Price the nod for tomorrow against New York. I say, let him keep feeding off the tremendous start that he's had. Let the momentum carry him one more game. Then give him the rest day that he so well deserves.
Besides, if you were Alex Auld, wouldn't you rather get your "sea legs" back under you on home ice, where the atmosphere won't be as hostile, and facing a team that isn't fairing as well as the Islanders?
I know I would.