Imagine you have two really nice new cars. Let's say one's a Cadillac Escalade and the other is a slick little BMW convertible. You want to drive them both, but of course you can only run one at a time. What would you do? If it was me, I'd alternate them. The Caddy in bad weather, the Beamer when it's nice out. Or maybe the convertible during the day and the SUV at night. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be leaving one of them to seize up in the garage.
You see where I'm going with this, right? Carey Price and Jaro Halak are like those new cars. They're both young, talented goalies who want to be in the net every night. The problem is, only one can go at a time and the organization has decided it will treat one of them like a Cadillac and the other like Jughead's jalopy.
When you compare the two, you often hear Price has "more talent" and that he's a "thoroughbred." But when you compare their numbers, there's not a lot of difference between them. Both goalies have posted some very nice, high-save performances this season and both of them have stolen games. Both have also allowed some stinkers. When you look at their history with the team, Price has had some ups and downs in terms of his consistency. Halak has never really had a sustained down period, but he also doesn't get enough starts to have one unless the other goalie is hurt.
I think it all comes down to draft position. The Canadiens invested their best pick in a long, long time in Price and they really need him to be worth it. You can't have a chance to choose a potential franchise player and blow it without setting your team back a decade. That's why Price gets the kid-glove treatment and chance after chance to play while Halak warms the bench. On the other end of the bench, the fact that Halak's played in the NHL at all is a minor miracle, considering his ninth-round draft selection. The fact that he has respectable numbers and finds a way to win games is just a bonus for the Habs. The future and reputation of the franchise doesn't ride on how well a ninth-rounder develops, so Halak isn't as important as Price.
That's such a foolish way to handle the goalie situation in Montreal, though. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having two talented goalies, both under 25 and both capable of winning games for the team. In fact, there are several strong arguments to be made for a more balanced tandem in nets. The fatigue factor is one of them. We see goalies like Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur put up great regular seasons playing seventy-plus games, then fade in the playoffs. Risk of injury is another. Butterfly goalies are prone to injuries of the joints, as we saw with Price last season. Less playing time helps keep both goalies healthier. Keeping both keepers sharp with a balanced playing schedule also means they're at the top of their games if the other guy gets hurt or starts really struggling. Consistency isn't the strong suit of most young goalies, so having both ready to go is an advantage for the team.
Halak has told Bob Gainey he wants to play more. I don't blame him. He's proven several times in the last four years that he deserves at least the chance to get more ice. It won't hurt the team to give him a few extra starts. I can understand the temptation to keep Price in net when he's on a hot streak, but Price hasn't been super hot for the last several games, and still Halak sat until Saturday. Trading Halak won't bring the team more than he's worth to it right now, and still leaves the problem of filling the spot behind Price. I'd even argue that the Canadiens need a guy like Halak who's capable of stepping into the starter's role because Price himself isn't established as a number-one goalie yet. It's in the team's best interest to keep Halak happy, and the way to do that is to give him more work.
I'm glad to see Saturday's shutout rewarded with another start for Halak tonight. He's earned it. But what if he plays extremely well again? That's when the problems start. If Price had shut out the Islanders and played well against Atlanta, there'd be no question of continuing with him. If Halak does well, though, we're suddenly looking at a "goalie controversy." This is when Habs fans start dividing into "Price" and "Halak" camps and dumping on the other goalie. Sure, they say, Halak got a shutout, but it was only against the Islanders. Or, Price would have been sure to allow a blooper goal like he does every game. To me, that's akin to saying the beamer corners really well, but it'll never have the power of the caddy.
You can have two cool cars without disliking one for not being the other. You can also have two good young goalies to help each other and push each other to be better. It's not being disloyal to Price if you admit Halak's good too and deserves a few more starts. It's not dumping on Halak to say Price is really talented and can get the job done on any given night. I'm rooting for both of them because the Canadiens need to win games. They need to use every advantage available to them to rack up as many points as possible, and I think having two strong young goalies is an advantage.
Now, if only Gainey and Martin would see it that way before Halak hits the open road out of Montreal and leaves Price alone to drive the team into the future.