If you are following the NHL playoffs you will know that the Montreal Canadiens have lost the services of their best player and team leader, goaltender Carey Price. Whether the incident in the first game of the series against the New York Rangers was accidental or intentional, or even a little of both, is water under the Brooklyn Bridge now.
In the second game of the series Montreal coach Michel Therrien decided to gamble. Instead of going with his back-up goaltender Peter Budaj, he started Dustin Tokarski, a rookie called up from the team’s minor league affiliate in Hamilton. Yep, he overstepped the usual second goalie in favour of a player with no NHL playoff experience.
Would Tokarski stand on his ear and make some incredible stops en route to backstopping the Habs to a series tying victory making the coach look like a genius? I’m afraid not; he let in three goals, at least two of which, by all accounts, he should have stopped.
Oh well, you win some gambles, you lose others. The series now moves to New York with the Canadiens down two games to nil. Coach Therrien’s gamble didn’t work out, so no doubt he’ll go with back-up Budaj in game three tonight in an attempt to cut his loses. Well, actually, no … he’s going to start Tokarski yet again. Is he being reckless or wise? Is he playing loose and fast with the team’s playoff hopes?
If the young replacement comes through and gets a couple of wins in New York and the team ties the series, Therrien will look like a hockey wizard. If he continues to be merely average the coach will forever be questioned and second guessed for not starting his main back-up in game three. What’s at stake here is more than just a playoff series: is it fair to put this young player in this position? Is this going to send a clear message to Peter Budaj that he doesn’t have what it takes? As a Habs fan I hope this all works out but there’s a little voice in the back of my mind that says Therrien is making a mistake. But believe me, I will be very happy to eat those words!