By definition, for the most part hockey’s backup goaltenders are for the most part the netminding version of the ‘healthy scratch’. Even the busiest of goaltenders need periodic rest and coaches agonize over when to put their backups into games. Usually they wind up getting work in soft spots in the schedule and even then the coach has his fingers crossed.
In general terms that may be true, but not in Montreal there is no hesitation to us the Carey Price’s backup in tough situations .
Friday night, Peter Budaj goes back in against Alex Ovechkin and company for the second time in eight days. He was a 3-2 winner there last Friday.
It will be Budaj’s sixth start of the season, all of them on the road. His season record is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 goals against average and .942 save percentage. And if you think of his road record is something of a career anomaly, take it back to last season when, after losing his first road start in Ottawa and his second in a Buffalo shootout, Budaj put together wins in eight straight starts, five of them on the road.
Add it up, Budaj in his last nine starts on the road has an 8-1-0 record; the only loss coming in Colorado three and a half weeks ago. He also picked up a win in relief of Price in that 6-5 shootout game against Boston March 27th of last season.
Budaj has started only three home games since Michel Therrien took over the team at the beginning of the lockout season. He recorded back to back wins over Philadelphia and Carolina in mid-February when Carey Price came down with a bout of stomach flu and, as an act of kindness, with Budaj’s father, uncle and brother in town from Slovakia, Therrien started him at the Bell Centre against Winnipeg April 4th. He was a winner that night allowing one goal on 34 shots.
It is a hockey axiom that the true character of a player surfaces in road games. Hard to question eight wins his last nine road starts, a .931 save percentage and a 1.65 goals against average. And the opposition weren’t all patsies. Included are victories in Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington , the New York Rangers and Toronto. You can add to that two home ice wins against Philadelphia bringing his combined two-season record to 11-2-1.
Carey Price remains king in Montreal. Consider Budaj the Secretary of State.