Unless Kent Hughes pulls a rabbit out of his hat, the Montreal Canadiens are poised to start the upcoming season with three or four rookies on their defensive list.
But that’s not what worries the guy who has to clean up his mess.
“I’m not worried about that,” said goaltender Jake Allen after perfecting against 18 shots in 29:17 on his first appearance at the Bell Center on Monday night.
“You need experience to grow and if it takes these guys to become better players and better people then so be it,” he added.
Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris did well in the Habs’ 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Justin Barron had a few mistakes to the right of Mike Matheson but also made some good plays. It was a tougher night for the pairing Gianni Fairbrother and Mattias Norlinder.
“We have to be careful and not form an opinion too quickly,” said head coach Martin St-Louis. “The sample is still very small. One day one player is better than the other and the next day it can be the other way around.
“We will collect the information and make the best decision for the team and the player.”
Allen, who is 32 and heading into his 10th NHL season, said he was impressed with the development of some of the young defensemen.
He noticed the maturity in her game, despite her young age.
“You can see that when they get the puck they don’t panic. They don’t force the game. They handle the puck with confidence and keep their heads up,” he said. “They act like they belong here.”
Allen also noted that the young Tricolore defenders may try to do too much during camp to impress management.
So far, however, he has not seen that.
“I think the guys understand that if they’re not ready, the organization won’t put them at a disadvantage,” Allen said. “This is a long-term project. They also recognize that it is an opportunity that is available to them and they want to take it.”
It was clear to St. Louis after the game that Allen obviously belongs with the Habs. He then admitted that a battle for the second goalie spot was possible between Cayden Primeau and Samuel Montembeault.
Although Allen hasn’t played 50 games in a season since the 2017-18 season, he should be called upon to carry the load this season. He is aware of this and rises to the challenge night after night.
“My job will be to stabilize the situation, be a leader and help my teammates on and off the ice,” he recalled.
The few veterans on the team will share some of the same responsibilities.
Matheson was used for almost 26 minutes against the Devils on Monday. He and David Savard will have to get used to the workload.
“Honestly, I’m feeling better than I expected,” said Matheson, who was traded to the Penguins for Jeff Petry. “I worked hard in the off-season to prepare for it.”
St. Louis was pleased with the 28-year-old Montrealer’s performance.
“He has an elite skating style. He was very engaging and directing traffic. He was a leader on the ice,” he said.
The Habs took a day off on Tuesday. They will be back in action on Wednesday with a warm-up game against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Winnipeg Jets will then visit the Bell Center on Thursday.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published in French on September 27, 2022.