This article was written prior to the Canadiens defeat of the Rangers in NYC on Thursday night, which evened the Conference final at a game apiece.
Dustin Tokarski still has chance to join Habs goaltending lore
Tokarski has been pressed into action in the Eastern Conference final after an injury to Carey Price.
Put him in, coach. Again.–By Tim Wharnsby, cbc.ca
Even though the Montreal Canadiens dropped a 3-1 decision in goalie Dustin Tokarski’s Stanley Cup playoff debut on Monday, his coach Michel Therrien should play the 24-year-old netminder from Watson,, Sask., once again.
Because backup goalie Peter Budaj’s record in the NHL post-season isn’t any better. He has no wins in seven appearances.
And because Tokarski could not be faulted for Montreal’s Game 2 loss in its first game without the injured Carey Price.
Sure, the goal by the Rangers’ Rick Nash late in the first period could have been stopped and it deflated the Canadiens after they dominated the first period, but they could only score once on a spot-on Henrik Lundqvist.
But Therrien can’t ignore Tokarski’s big-game history: a 2005-06 Canadian national midget title with the Prince Albert Mintos, a 2007-08 Memorial Cup championship with the Spokane Chiefs, a 2009 world junior gold with Canada, and a 2011-12 AHL Calder Cup crown with the Norfolk Admirals.
Therrien also can’t ignore the past successes of young, unproven netminders in the Canadiens’ playoff history.
In January 1953, a 24-year-old Plante was promoted from the Montreal Royals because Canadiens starter Gerry McNeill suffered a broken jaw.
Plante saw action in three games before McNeill returned in time for the playoffs. But after a shaky outing from McNeill in the first round, Plante found himself back in goal. He won the final two games against the Chicago Blackhawks and was victorious in the opener of the Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins. But Plante found himself back on the bench after he lost in Game 2 and watched McNeill help the Habs win another championship.
After only six games late in the 1970-71 regular season, Dryden found himself in goal when the playoffs began. He got off to a rough start. In fact, just like Tokarski, Dryden suffered a 3-1 loss in his debut.
But it didn’t get much better in Game 2, when Dryden and the Canadiens fell behind 5-1 before Jean Beliveau got hot to lead Montreal to a spirited 7-5 come-from-behind victory.
A few weeks later, the 23-year-old rookie named Dryden was a Stanley Cup champion.
Roy, at age 20, also became a Stanley Cup champion in his rookie season. But unlike Dryden, he earned No. 1 status in 1985-86 before his first foray into the NHL post-season.
All Roy did was win 15 of his 20 starts for his first of four Stanley Cup celebrations.
Pre-Roy and post-Dryden, there was Steve Penney. His unexpected playoff heroics did not result in a league championship for the Canadiens in 1984, but his story certainly is similar to Tokarski’s.
Penney was promoted from the AHL Nova Scotia Voyageurs late in the regular season because Rick Wamsley and Richard Sevigny had struggled.
But Penney, who was the backup with the Voyageurs behind Mark Holden, didn’t play much better. He lost all four of his starts with the Canadiens, including a 7-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
Yet, when Wamsley suffered a late-season injury, Montreal head coach Jacques Lemaire decided to go with the unheralded 22-year-old Penney.
All the native of Ste-Foy, Que., did was sweep the Bruins in the first round and take care of the rival Quebec Nordiques in the second round. The defending Stanley Cup champion Islanders beat the Canadiens in the Prince of Wales conference final, but Penney became a favourite with the Montreal faithful.
Tokarski could do the same with a couple of wins in Manhattan to push the Canadiens back into the series.
In the meantime, Tokarski became only the seventh goaltender since 1975 to make his Stanley Cup playoff debut in a conference or Stanley Cup final. The others were:
Dominic Roussel in 1995 with Philadelphia.
Brent Johnson in 2001 with St. Louis.
Ty Conklin* in 2006 with Edmonton.
Corey Crawford in 2009 with Chicago.
Mike Smith in 2011 with Tampa Bay
Jonathan Bernier in 2013 with Los Angeles.
*Only one of the group to make his playoff debut in the Cup final.
–By Tim Wharnsby, cbc.ca
Coming to you from New York City. Go Canadiens. Have a ticket for tomorrow’s evening’s game; shouldn’t be too hard to find stuff to stay busy til then. It’s New York for fuck sakes.
A short clip from the road to NYC, produced on Saturday, 25th May 2014.