For the Montreal Canadiens each year, the importance of starting off on the right foot is big in getting into a rhythm, and this is especially true in the preseason because the roster needs to be cut down before the start of the regular season.
For the Canadiens, the competition for goalie positions is largely wide-open behind Samuel Montembeault, with Jake Allen getting older, and regression seemingly on the horizon. This means that this season will be a huge one for Cayden Primeau to cement himself as an option as a backup in Montreal, and if not, as the starter down in the American Hockey League with the Laval Rocket, and no night will be bigger than tonight’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Many players would agree that when the Leafs come up on the calendar as the opponent for today, that little extra hatred just ramps up the adrenaline. For Primeau, there’s no question about whether he is ready or not, this is what he lives for, especially considering the added weight of his performance. A bad performance won’t likely change much for Primeau, as the ability to move past it and look forward to the next start is universal in the hockey world, but a strong outing could be just the right thing to boost his confidence ahead of the Rocket training camp, at the start of the NHL regular season.
Down in Laval, he will have Jakub Dobes to battle for starts and the importance of gaining some confidence from his first start of the preseason, could set him up for a great start. At this point, the reps are important, and he has the advantage over Dobes of having 123 regular season starts and 16 in the playoffs with the Rocket. He has struggled for the most part in the NHL, and taking a step forward, should he get the chance will be important for him and his dream of playing in the league.
The Maple Leafs will look to test him tonight, and that is something that should be expected each and every night in the NHL. Staying consistent, focused and out of the after-the-whistle shenanigans will put another feather in his hat, and put him in management’s good graces. It’s not much of a secret that the Canadiens goaltending isn’t totally a lock, and potential starters of the future have plenty of development time ahead of them, so Primeau might have a bit of a longer leash, but if he can’t prove himself as a reliable option, the Habs might have to bring in an insurance piece.
The Maple Leafs are icing a much different lineup than they will during the regular season, which should mean an advantage for Primeau, he can get some reps in without Matthews ripping pucks at him. Greasy and gritty goals are likely going to be the story of the night, so a strong night between the pipes will also show Primeau’s mental toughness. Regardless of which way you look at this game, it should be viewed as the most important to date for the 2024 season.
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