MONTREAL – Last summer, Peter Budaj traded the mountains of Colorado for the concrete landscape of Montreal, and it’s a choice he doesn’t regret.
One of only two Slovakian netminders in the NHL this season, Budaj was tapped to start in the four last games of the Canadiens’ campaign after stepping between the pipes for 13 appearances in 2011-12.
“Obviously you don’t want to go into nets when your buddy and teammate is injured,” explained Budaj who had to cover for Carey Price when the Habs’ star goalie suffered a concussion towards the end of the season. “On the other hand, I was glad that I was able to play a few games and get some starts. It felt good. Montreal is a great place to play.”
Budaj, who played 45 games during his last season with the Avalanche, may have taken a drop in ice time, but don’t look for him to be bitter about his new workload.
“Everyone wants to play a lot of games. At the beginning I thought I could play a little bit more, but it’s not my place to say,” pointed out Colorado’s second-round pick in 2001. “What’s in my control is the way I play the game, the way I support the team and my work ethic.”
The 29-year-old netminder, who inked a two-year deal with the Habs back in July of 2011, also had to get used to the media frenzy that comes with playing for the most recognized team in professional hockey.
“There’s a lot of media. I think it just shows how much tradition there is here. The fans love the Montreal Canadiens and we appreciate that. It’s the best place to play because of the tradition, the organization and the fans, but it can also be hard at times because of all the media pressure,” admitted Budaj. “But the building rocks. My buddy told me ‘If you can’t get pumped up for a game in Montreal, you can’t get pumped up for a game anywhere’. It’s definitely the best arena to play in.
“I don’t think there’s a better hockey city in the League. No other city gives you as much as Montreal can. Even if the fans knew we weren’t making the playoffs; they were still supporting us and still there cheering us on,” continued Budaj, who at the end of the 2010-11 season, became the first Slovakian-born goaltender in NHL history to reach 100 victories. “The city is supporting us and we need to get better,”
Budaj, who along with stopping 464 shots also recorded three assists, is highly positive about what the Canadiens can bring to the table at the start of their next campaign.
“Just look at our dressing room,” he concluded. “We’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of character.”
Lee Anne Vincent O'Connor is a writer for canadiens.com.
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