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Canadiens vs Rangers

Canadiens must choose between Budaj, Tokarski

By Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

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Canadiens must choose between Budaj, Tokarski
Who should the Montreal Canadiens start in goal in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final? Their choices are veteran Peter Budaj, and a rookie with a big-game pedigree but no NHL experience in Dustin Tokarski.

Ramsay: Habs must rally behind goalie

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, NHL.com has enlisted the help of former NHL coach Craig Ramsay to break down the action. Ramsay will be checking in throughout the series.
 
Ramsay played in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres before going on to coach the Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he led the Flyers to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Final. Ramsay was most recently an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.
 
The Montreal Canadiens might be stung by the news that goalie Carey Price will not play again in the Eastern Conference Final, but longtime NHL coach and player Craig Ramsay said all they have to do is look back at their own history to find examples of goalies stepping up and shining in the big moment when no one was expecting them to.
 
"It's a difficult situation, but certainly there's precedent in the past where a backup or a young goalie has been thrown into the breach and has stepped up and gotten the job done," Ramsay told NHL.com. "The Montreal Canadiens won a Stanley Cup a long time ago when they put a young guy named Ken Dryden in there and he suddenly did a great job [1971]. Rogie Vachon went in and played brilliantly to give them a chance [in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final]. Patrick Roy was a kid when he won the Stanley Cup [in 1986]."
 
Ramsay is not attempting to compare Dryden, Vachon and Roy to Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski, the goalies Montreal coach Michel Therrien will choose from for Game 2 on Monday at Bell Centre (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). He's simply saying it's not out of the question for the Canadiens to come back in the series without Price.
 
"I don't know the goalies well enough, but crazy things happen sometimes," Ramsay said. "Montreal has to remember that they worked really hard to get to where they are. Nobody gave it to them. They beat good hockey teams and played hard as a team. While Carey Price is a hell of a goalie and a huge factor on that team, he isn't the whole team. No one is.
 
"This is the opportunity for other people to step up and shine, do a little bit extra," he continued. "Based on the way they played the other night, they have to recognize that it wasn't good enough, and this is just another reason to step up the pace and pick up their overall effort and their team effort. You never want to rely on one person, and this is an opportunity for other people to show how important they are to the Montreal Canadiens and how good they are as a group."
 
"This is something that Montreal can use to dig down and rally as a group."

-- Dan Rosen

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens have been in this situation before, except the stakes were not nearly as high.

Carey Price returned from representing Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with a gold medal around his neck as well as a lower-body injury.

The Canadiens said at the time that Price aggravated a previous injury at the Olympics and that his absence would not last very long.

It wound up being two weeks.

In Price's absence, Peter Budaj was called upon to carry the load during a very difficult stretch of eight games; six of the opponents qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

Budaj started seven of those eight games and won two, neither in regulation, and put up a 3.51 goals-against average and .868 save percentage.

Price's injury led the Canadiens to call up Dustin Tokarski from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, and he got one start in that stretch, making 39 saves in regulation and overtime and stopping four of six attempts in the shootout in a 4-3 Canadiens win on the road against the Anaheim Ducks.

Price returned from his injury at home against the Ottawa Senators on March 15, when the Canadiens erased a 4-1 deficit in the final 3:22 of regulation to win 5-4 in overtime. Montreal had a game a day later on the road against the Buffalo Sabres and coach Michel Therrien decided to leave Price at home to recover.

Instead of going with Budaj, Therrien chose to start Tokarski and was rewarded with a 29-save shutout in a 2-0 win, the first NHL shutout of Tokarski's career.

Fast-forward two months and Therrien was faced with the same decision for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Bell Centre on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) with the New York Rangers leading the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Granted, this is nowhere near the same situation as a late-season game in Buffalo, but perhaps Therrien's call March 16 was an indicator of what was to come Monday.

According to multiple reports, Therrien has chosen to go with Tokarski.

With Price lost for at least the duration of the series, the decision facing Therrien ahead of Game 2 was not an enviable one.

Budaj has been Price's backup all season, and one might have guessed that would put him in the driver's seat to start Game 2. However, his playoff history is quite weak.

In seven career playoff games with the Colorado Avalanche and the Canadiens, Budaj is 0-2 with a 5.13 GAA and .843 save percentage. He has allowed 10 goals on 39 shots (.744 save percentage) in three playoff games with the Canadiens.

Then there's Tokarski, who never has played in an NHL playoff game and has 10 regular-season starts under his belt. But he has a solid history as a big-game goalie.

Tokarski was the MVP of the 2008 Memorial Cup when he helped lead the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League to the championship, making 53 saves in a hostile environment in the final to defeat the host Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Tokarski was the starting goaltender for Canada the following season at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship and helped that team win the gold medal, stopping 39 of 40 shots in a 5-1 win against Sweden in the championship game.

Tokarski also has 20 games of AHL playoff experience, including 14 in 2012 to help lead the Norfolk Admirals to the Calder Cup. In those 14 games, he went 12-2 with a 1.46 GAA and .944 save percentage.

Therrien has apparently decided to go with the big-game pedigree of Tokarski over the veteran poise of Budaj.

It has come to this for the Canadiens.

PETER BUDAJ DUSTIN TOKARSKI

Age: 31

NHL experience: 296 regular-season games in nine seasons; 124-107-36, 2.76 GAA, .903 save percentage

This season: 24 games, 10-8-3, 2.51 GAA, .909 save percentage, one shutout

Stanley Cup Playoff experience: 7 games, 0-2, 5.13 GAA, .843 save percentage

Why he should start: An experienced veteran, Budaj should be poised to handle the enormous pressure facing him and the Canadiens in the series. He's a very popular player in the Canadiens dressing room and the team likely would rally around him.

Age: 24

NHL experience: 10 regular-season games in three seasons; 3-3-1, 2.93 GAA, .902 save percentage

This season: Three games, 2-0-0, 1.84 GAA, .946 save percentage, one shutout

Stanley Cup Playoff experience: no games

Why he should start: With a sparkling championship pedigree, what Tokarski lacks in NHL experience he compensates for with a solid track record of winning. He also would be an unknown commodity to the Rangers, a serious curveball at this stage of the playoffs.



Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness