Canadiens tab Dustin Tokarski to start in Game 3 against Rangers
Dustin Tokarski (Martin Chevalier/QMI Agency)
Rookie Dustin Tokarski obviously has the confidence of coach Michel Therrien.
As for Thomas Vanek, well, that's a different story.
With starter Carey Price out for the entire Eastern Conference final with a suspected right knee/leg ailment, Therrien confirmed Wednesday that Tokarski will get his second consecutive start when the Habs face off against the New York Rangers for Game 3 on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Making his NHL playoff debut, Tokarski stopped 27 of 30 shots in Game 2, a 3-1 Rangers victory at the Bell Centre. After that game, Therrien commented that his young goaltender had played well and should not be blamed for the loss.
In an ironic twist, backup Peter Budaj, the man the Habs are passing over in favour of Tokarski, shut out the Rangers in their 2013-14 home opener back on Oct. 28, stopping 27 New York shots en route to a 2-0 win at the refurbished world's self-proclaimed most famous arena.
As for Vanek, who has practically been invisible in this series, he was dropped down to the fourth line at practice Wednesday alongside Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust.
Vanek, who scored four times during the second round against the Boston Bruins, has zero points and only one shot through the first two games of this series. Not quite the difference maker the Habs thought they were getting when they acquired him at the trade deadline from the New York Islanders in March.
“Don’t read to much into this,” cautioned Therrien, referring to the line combinations that were used at the Habs practice facility on Wednesday.
Vanek and Briere do have a history, having played together in Buffalo during the Sabres run to the Eastern Conference final in 2006 where they finally were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes.
When that point was mentioned to Therrien, he quickly dismissed it.
“The past is the past,” Therrien said. “I know they had some chemistry (back then), but, as I said, don’t read too much into it.”
It’s hard not, considering that, in many instances during the playoffs, where there is smoke, there is fire.
But we’ll take Therrien’s word for it.
At least we do know this: Tokarski will get the call again.
And, with his team trailing 2-0 in this best-of-seven series, he’ll have to be good. Because this is pretty much a must-win game for a Canadiens team attempting to keep its seemingly-fading Stanley Cup dream alive.