MONTREAL - Who will be the Canadiens' starting goaltender? With the exception of the "Who shot J.R.?" mystery on the TV show "Dallas," it's likely that no question had left people scratching their heads as much as the decision that lay in the hands of head coach Bob Gainey. The mystery was finally revealed Thursday morning, when it was confirmed that Cristobal Huet was getting the nod.
Gainey informed his goaltenders of his decision during practice. Not knowing who would get the start, Huet prepared himself in the event he got the call. Now that the decision is made, the 30-year-old knows the importance of his role and is ready for the task at hand.
"It's huge. The goaltender is a big part of this and the whole team has to play well too. We'll need all 20 of us to come up big in the first game," admitted Huet, who will be making his first NHL playoff appearance. "It's the ultimate challenge here, playing for the Stanley Cup. Playing a team like Carolina in the first round, obviously it's a big challenge for our club."
A major contributor in the Canadiens' second half success, a lot of the talk about Huet has been his calm demeanor and confidence between the pipes. Spending nearly every day with him, his teammates are well aware of what their goalie brings to the table and what they need to do.
"Guys seem to take his confidence, bring it into their own game. You want to play well in front of a good guy and that's what we have right here, a guy who's hot, he's playing well for us and we're going to be ready to battle in front of him," explained Craig Rivet.
"We've come to expect a lot from 'Huey' and again he's going to be put in a pressure situation where we're the underdogs playing against one of the best teams in the league," said Sheldon Souray.
"Carolina is a great team, let's face it, and for us to have any sort of chance against them, we have to take our game up one or two levels."
Huet will be making his first start against Carolina this season with Saturday's outing and while he's seen what they can do in a pair of relief efforts, the playoffs are a whole new season. Facing the same team at minimum four times in a week means a slightly different preparation, focusing on the one team.
Despite the raised intensity in the postseason, Gainey noted that while the scales tipped in favor of Huet for the starting assignment, he's happy with either of his goalies protecting the net.
"I wouldn't have been uncomfortable if the decision had been to have David [Aebischer] start. I think they both are capable of giving us a level of play that a hockey team can win a game with."
No stranger to pulling off the upset, the Canadiens will look to the wall behind them to calm the Hurricanes' storm.
Heather Engel is the Site Assistant for canadiens.com