Samuel Montembeault would win the cup this year

Samuel Montembeault would win the cup this year
Samuel Montembeault would win the cup this year

The more things go on, the more we realize that goalies who have enough talent to be drafted in the NHL and who have nerves of steel can take a team to the Stanley Cup.

The cases have become too numerous to stop believing that the cup is mainly won in front of the net.

-In 2005-2006, in 28 games, Cam Ward had a 3.68 GAA as a reserve with the Hurricanes. His save percentage was .882. He was the third-worst reserve goaltender in the NHL for those who played more than 25 games. And all this, with a dominant team, especially defensively. In short, it was terrible.

You know the rest. Ward replaced Swiss Martin Gerber in the playoffs. He was the hero of the Hurricanes who lifted the cup. Ward won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

-In 2012, Matt Murray was a pretty bad goaltender in the Ontario Junior League. His average: 4.08 in 36 matches. The Penguins still drafted him in the third round.

After two more seasons in junior and two in the American League, Murray joined Pittsburgh and got his chance in the playoffs. He won the cup. And this despite 13 games of regular season experience in the NHL.

-For 8 years, Adin Hill has been making a living in professional hockey. This allowed him to visit the bucolic towns of Springfield, Rapid City, Tucson, Glendale, San Jose, Henderson and finally Las Vegas.

Before arriving in the city of vice, he had played 74 games in the NHL in 7 years. He had his chance last year and won the cup.

-Then aged 32, Darcy Kuemper had been a starting goaltender for only one year in 12 years in professional hockey when he landed with the Avalanche. He too had been able to visit the United States from top to bottom since 2009: Houston, Ontario (California), Orlando, Minnesota, Des Moines, Los Angeles, Glendale and Tucson.

Kuemper lifted the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche.

-Undrafted and solid in the Finnish league, Antti Niemi signed a contract with the Blackhawks in 2008 to add some depth behind Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet.

Correct without more in the American League, he is called as reinforcement in the NHL where he impresses no one. The following year, Khabibulin leaves. Huet takes the pole. But Niemi suddenly starts to be better. And it is he who will be the number one goalie for the Blackhawks’ conquest of the Stanley Cup the same year.

-In 2019, Jordan Binnington, who had one game of NHL experience before taking the net for the Blues, propelled them not only to the playoffs, but to the Cup victory.

-And obviously, there is the Arthur Silovs case. Average in Canadian junior hockey, he struggled in the American League the following year (2021-2022). He ended up with the Trois-Rivières Lions. Then he started cutting his teeth in the American League last year and this year. But boom, here he is in the playoffs with a save percentage above .900 against Connor McDavid.

Hardness of mind

Think about it, it’s nonsense that Silovs is better than Stuart Skinner in the playoffs. The latter has two excellent seasons in the NHL under his belt. But in the playoffs, his statistics plummet. This is the opposite of all the goalkeepers I listed above.

No choice to think of Marc Messier or Bob in The Boys. It’s all mental hardness. That’s where it happens.

All the goalkeepers are so good. More than before. This mental hardness thus takes up much more space.

It wasn’t good luck for Cam Ward, Jordan Binnington or Adin Hill. These guys were obviously talented, but like many others. They had their chance and they jumped at it with all the confidence in the world, with nerves of steel.

There are some who are in a class of their own and who have everything, like Igor Shesterkin or Andrei Vasilevskiy in form.

But otherwise, it seems obvious that teams are analyzing this mental toughness more than ever when recruiting their goalkeepers. And also, that you should not underestimate a goalkeeper who seems less talented, but with a lot of courage, when it is time to build a team. It’s often cheaper, too. This avoids paying $10.5 million to a goalkeeper, for example.

With his temperament as calm as a frozen lake, it seems to me that Samuel Montembeault has the profile of the goalkeepers mentioned above. I think the Oilers, for example, would be tough to beat with him in net. I even think he would win the cup. However, if the CH had never given him a chance, he would perhaps survive from league to league.

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