‘Dikembe’ Montembeault seizing huge alternative with Canadiens

This was the place for Samuel Montembeault to land, and never simply because it’s the place he grew up.

The 25-year-old Becancour, Que., native couldn’t have identified it when the Montreal Canadiens claimed him on waivers from the Florida Panthers again on Oct. 2. Naturally, he was excited to be again in his residence province and becoming a member of the crew he pulled for as a child, to nonetheless be within the NHL as a result of Carey Value was away within the NHL/NHLPA gamers help program and the group needed goaltender-of-the-future Cayden Primeau taking part in video games within the American Hockey League as a substitute of watching video games at this stage from the bench.

Montembeault most likely thought he would possibly get some spot obligation, enabling him to bump his replenish a bit earlier than Value would finally return and push him again to the waiver wire, and he possible believed that may be greater than he would possibly get elsewhere.

This wasn’t the chance he was dreaming of when he was drafted 77th general in 2015 by the Panthers, but it surely was going to be higher than the one he was getting in Florida, with Sergei Bobrovsky locked in and younger phenom Spencer Knight rising.

A 12 months in the past, it couldn’t have been a lot worse, with Bobrovsky, Knight and Chris Driedger forward of Montembeault on the Panthers’ depth chart. He made a mixed 25 appearances with their crew over the 2 seasons prior, however none over the course of the 2020-21 season.

So, in case you had instructed Montembeault on the day he landed with the Canadiens that he’d nonetheless be with this crew and have 16 appearances below his belt earlier than the midway level of the season, he’d have certainly thought of that an surprising improvement.

“I most likely wouldn’t have believed you,” Montembeault stated after Thursday’s 4-3 time beyond regulation loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. “However I’m actually pleased with the scenario proper now.”

How might he not be? Not solely is he taking part in typically, he’s taking part in behind a last-place crew that forces him to be at his greatest each time he steps in entrance of the online. And Montembeault is rising to that problem regardless of having solely two wins to his identify.

He deserved a 3rd on Thursday after notching the second with a 49-save efficiency towards the Dallas Begins Tuesday. He made one other 49 saves towards Vegas — none of them higher than the William Karlsson backhand-forehand time beyond regulation breakaway try he turned apart seconds earlier than Shea Theodore made a world-class transfer on Christian Dvorak and ended the sport.

“I’d have favored to have gained to get the crew’s first successful streak of the season,” Montembeault stated.

However hey, on Thursday he turned the primary Canadiens goaltender of their 112-year historical past to face greater than 50 pictures in consecutive video games. And in turning as lots of them as he did apart, he’s revived his NHL profession and turned some heads within the course of.

“He’s been so good for us,” stated Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot. “Very glad for him. He’s younger, making an attempt to show himself within the league, and he’s had some unbelievable performances for us.

“He’s actually quiet, simply goes about his enterprise. He’s only a younger, baby-faced child, however you wouldn’t comprehend it by the way in which he’s taking part in. He seems to be like a seasoned vet within the web, and I really feel like as he goes right here he’s solely getting higher for us.”

Because the Canadiens go, Montembeault goes to be seeing much more of that web.

Value, who hasn’t performed a recreation this season, continues to recuperate from summer season knee surgical procedure and, since final we checked, hasn’t been on the ice since mid-December. And Canadiens backup Jake Allen, who took on most begins in October and December, will now be sidelined one other eight weeks after struggling a lower-body damage towards the Boston Bruins on Jan. 12.

It gained’t be straightforward, however Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme believes Montembeault will proceed to rise to the event.

“I do know him for some time now,” stated Ducharme. “He was in junior, and we had him too at Hockey Canada. He’s matured so much as a participant. What I like with him is the way in which he reveals up on daily basis. He’s working actually arduous with (Canadiens goaltending coach) Eric (Raymond) on daily basis, engaged on his recreation, and I believe you may see it’s paying off. He comes into the sport with a plan and I believe he’s getting increasingly more comfy inside that plan. It brings him success. With the information we bought in the present day with Jake, (and with) Carey being out, it’s an amazing alternative for him.”

You’ll be able to see it. This surprising time within the highlight is giving Montembeault a lot to smile about, regardless of the outcomes not being there for the Canadiens.

After Thursday’s recreation, he got here to his Zoom convention laughing after having simply been knowledgeable a number of members of the media have dubbed him ‘Dikembe’ — a most becoming nickname after Dikembe Mutombo, who was a legendary shot blocker within the NBA.

“He loves it,” stated Canadiens VP of communications Chantal Machabee. “He cracked up laughing and made (Mutumbo’s patented) finger-waving signal.”

This younger goaltender has earned the eye.

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