Montreal Canadiens: Anti-Antti

Photo: Stan Szeto, USA TODAY Sports


This season has exceeded everyone’s expectations for all the right reasons. With the young core buzzing, the new systems being perfected and the veterans holding down the fort; it’s easy to find a lot of good coming out of this 2018-2019 season.

Except for one position, and frankly a pretty important position.. Goaltending. Specifically the backup, yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about Antti Niemi. The Finnish netminder seems to play his worst when the team plays their best. When you look at the bigger losses this year so far, there seems to be a common denominator and that’s #37 in between the pipes for the bleu, blanc et rouge.

I’ll give him this, he started off hot winning four of five, including big wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Golden Knights. However and unfortunately, it’s been downhill from there. So far this year, he’s resting at an 8-6-2 record while posting an abysmal 0.887 save percentage and a staggering 3.78 goals against average. Not only have his numbers been sub-par this year but it’s the games that he’s losing that are starting to aggravate everyone.

Let us start with the Tampa Bay game. The Habs are competing with the most stacked team in the NHL and have the opportunity to pull off a huge win in the Sunshine State. Then, with just over a minute left in the game, Niemi slides off the short side post and lets one fly over his shoulder, giving the Lightning the late game-winner. It was baffling at first, but losing to that team was almost inevitable, yet there was an opportunity for it to end differently. It was beyond frustrating that this team had so much momentum and were playing great hockey, only to be let down by the aging backup.

Just two weeks before that game with the Lightning, was the dumpster fire in Minnesota. Giving up 7 goals on 23 shots is just tragic for anyone’s standard, especially in this league. He genuinely looked like a beer leaguer that was just thrown in for laughs. The second week of February the team had a brief taste of Niemi against the Panthers…but was pulled after 13 minutes. It only took Florida nine shots to bang in three goals and get Niemi yanked from the game.

After his latest flunk in San Jose, I think it’s clear to see that the Canadiens cannot keep him around. Thankfully his contract is up at the end of the year and HOPEFULLY, they move on and do not bring this aging goaltender back into the fold ever again. The Habs have one of the best goalie pipelines in the NHL and I think I speak on behalf of most, if not all Habs fans when I say I am more than okay with bringing up a young goalie to try and fill in 30 or so games, allowing Carey Price to groom him to be a future starter.

Leading the charge for the young talent in goal are two college studs; Charlie Lindgren and Cayden Primeau. Lindgren being the older of the two has given him the opportunity to develop in the system for the past four years. He’s now getting a solid amount of starts in the AHL, however, his numbers haven’t been the best this year; with a 10-14-1 record, a 0.883 save percentage and 2.93 goals against. No fault to him as Montreal’s affiliate has been worse than subpar this year.

Cayden Primeau has been nothing short of stellar in college this season with a 20-9-1 record, a 0.929 save percentage and 2.19 goals against. He’s been incredible for his Northeastern Huskies as they have gone on to win the Beanpot Tournament. Primeau shined in the annual tournament at TD Garden, winning his second consecutive Eberle Award for the most outstanding goaltender as well as winning the MVP this year. All of this on top of his excellent World Junior performance in which he put up an impressive 1.61 goals against average and a solid 0.936 save percentage.

Although Lindgren has played in Montreal in his brief showing, I’d look for Primeau to take the reigns of the organization once his development settles in.


Hopefully, the Canadiens management agrees with me and we see that plan come into play come this offseason.

For All About The Habs,

Drew Hardiman

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