Listen, I know that Jacques Martin knows a helluva lot more about hockey than I do. And I confess, I am not in Montreal covering the Canadiens-Capitals series in person, so I don't have my usual inside feel of what is going on around both teams.
But I think Martin is making a big mistake, and showing signs of true panic, in starting Carey Price in goal tonight instead of Jaroslav Halak in the critical Game 4 versus Washington.
I am more than aware that Halak was strafed for six goals, including the overtime winner, in Washington's frenetic 6-5 comeback in Game 2, and followed up by allowing three goals in a four-shot sequence in a 5-1 loss in Game 3 before being pulled in favor of Price. That Halak was pulled in the third game was the correct move for Martin to make in trying to stem the Caps' momentum.
Halak, though, is your No. 1 goalie. You pull him, fine. But you put him right back in there tonight. Without his stellar play, especially after cementing himself as the clear-cut No. 1 over Price the final two months of the season, the Habs probably are not even in the playoffs.
This is no knock on Price, the 22 year-old who has not won a game since right out of the Olympic break. He hung in there in relief on Monday, allowing two goals on 23 shots. But he should be wearing the baseball hat tonight, not shouldering the fortunes of his team.
The move reeks of desperation on the part of Martin. And even though players on both sides praised Price to the sky following the morning skates at the Bell Centre today, I'd be shocked if a majority of any kind privately supported Martin's decision in the home team's locker room.
Yes, Price gives the Caps a different look in goal. He's much bigger, takes up much more of the net, and is a better puckhandler than Halak. But Halak is the better goalie, having the better season, and is the Habs true No. 1.
As I stated yesterday, this is not Bruce Boudreau yanking Jose Theodore, Washington's No. 1 by default this season due to the injuries that sidelined young Semyon Varlamov. Washington's situation is a 1a replacing a 1 in goal. In Montreal that is not the case. Halak clearly beat Price out for the job, has had a terrific season, and should be allowed to prove his mental toughness in bouncing back with a strong start against the Caps tonight.
Martin should be more concerned with his club's Ole!-style defense which has repeatedly stepped aside to allow Washington's high-powered offense a plethora of prime scoring chances.