It's not a huge surprise since Halak was good enough to actually win a game Tuesday night, and since Carey Price wasn't in his four previous starts. But it's a surprise nonetheless, at least to me, because if Price is truly the No. 1 goalie on this team he deserves this cream puff start.
Price hasn't been the same goalie since being shelled for seven goals in front of family and friends at GM Place in Vancouver. Because of that, he was rightfully benched Tuesday night in favour of Halak, who delivered the goods.
But now that Halak has gotten the nod twice in a row, would it not be fair for Price to wonder whether or not he is indeed this team's No. 1 goalie, as Martin surely told him he was when he flew out to Calgary this summer just to see him?
What if Halak pitches a shutout tonight, who starts Saturday against the Rangers? What if it's Price who gets the call Saturday and he stinks it up? What then? Back to Halak against the Isles on Monday? Then, what if Halak wins again on Monday night? Do you keep him in until he loses?
There are very few backup goalies in this league who would get two starts in a row, because goalies who do that are not backups. They are starters. There's no reason why Price wouldn't get the start tonight under normal circumstances, if indeed he was the unchallenged No. 1 goalie for the Canadiens.
Now, this decision could have something to do with a team showing interest in Halak and wanting to see him play (The Blackhawks had a scout at Tuesday's game against the Thrashers again, but the Habs play them next week). I doubt that, because there's nothing a team will see in one game that would trump everything else Halak has done to this point in his career. If he lets in six goals tonight, does that force another team to pull the plug on a deal? Do they instantly forget everything Halak has done that got them interested to begin with?
No, this was a hockey decision, and in that sense could be the starting point of a season-long debate over who deserves the starting job in Montreal. Based on pedigree, based on the draft, based on potential, based on what the GM said last spring, the deserving starter is Price. Based on performance, at least over the past nine months, the deserving starter is Halak.
Call it whatever you want, accuse me of over-blowing things, but going with Halak tonight has opened up a potential can of worms the organization won't want to deal with: a goalie controversy. While allowing Halak to play as long as he performs is the fair way to do things, when your supposed franchise player has serious confidence issues to deal with, I'm not sure if fair is the way to go right now.