Who Should Start For Montreal With Carey Price Out?


Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Carey Price is out for at least the remainder of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers with a lower-body injury, perhaps longer.

That’s the worst possible thing fans of the Montreal Canadiens could hear this morning, yet that’s the reality now facing Le Blue, Blanc, et Rouge.

It’s also a possibility we addressed yesterday.

Price, of course, sustained his injury when Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him after firing a wristshot wide of the net, with both Brandon Prust and Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien coming out and saying Kreider did it “accidentally on purpose.” Take a look at the video again and judge for yourself.

It’s clearly worst-case scenario for Montreal, as arguably no other goaltender means as much to his team as Price means to the Canadiens. One could almost say his contributions are, ahem, Priceless.

Alas, life must go on, and Game 2 of the series is set to go Monday night. Now, it’s a question of who starts for the Canadiens, who have nowhere near a 1-1A situation in their crease.

Peter Budaj didn’t exactly instil confidence in the Canadiens fan base when he relieved Price in the third period of Game 1, conceding three goals on just eight shots. Unfortunately for Budaj, it’s not an isolated situation in the playoffs, as he’s a career 0-2 in seven games with a 5.13 goals-against average and a save percentage of .843.

Dustin Tokarski is Montreal’s third option in goal, and he’s been good in spot duty, posting a 2-0-0 record in three games with the Canadiens this season with a .943 save percentage. However, he hasn’t played in the NHL since posting a shutout on Mar. 16 against the Buffalo Sabres, and he hasn’t seen any game action since Apr. 19 with the Hamilton Bulldogs, only winning one of his last five starts as the Bulldogs missed the Calder Cup playoffs.

One thing Tokarski may have going for him is solid performances in big games, like this memorable save in the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships on American forward Colin Wilson. With Pierre McGuire between the benches for this series, it may be just what Tokarski needs.

Of note, Tokarski also backstopped the Norfolk Admirals to the 2012 Calder Cup, leading the AHL with 12 wins, a 1.46 goals-against average, and .944 save percentage. He’s also a former Memorial Cup most valuable player, having earned the honour in 2008 with the Spokane Chiefs. While the pressure of a National Hockey League playoff series is obviously different from either of those scenarios, Tokarski would at least have past experiences to draw from.

The real long shot, and perhaps one that shouldn’t even be discussed, is NHL journeyman Devan Dubnyk, who has been in three NHL organizations this season, landing in Montreal after a deal with the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline. A former first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers, Dubnyk hasn’t seen a puck since Apr. 9 in Hamilton, and he went 2-5 after joining the Bulldogs.

In a perfect world, Price would obviously be in Montreal’s net for the foreseeable future. While the Canadiens are taking the high road by saying they’re confident with whoever is in net, none of the above options are at the level of Carey Price.