Samuel Montembeault has always been generous in interviews. We emphasize this because goalkeepers are often special cases, managed with the greatest care by the teams. Talking to a keeper on game morning? In many markets, this is out of the question, even for the auxiliary. With Montembeault, this is rarely a problem.
All that to say that he has not changed his habits, even out of season. Sunday evening, in Tampere, Finland, he helped Canada triumph over Germany in the final of the World Championship. At 2:45 a.m., the bus picked up the players at the hotel, in preparation for a 6:40 a.m. flight. A connection in Frankfurt later, it flew to Montreal, from where it then had to drive to at his home in Trois-Rivières.
What did he do when he arrived on Monday? Two telephone interviews, a media tour that he continued Tuesday morning by responding to the message from La Presse.
“We didn’t sleep long, we didn’t have much time to celebrate either!” “, he admits.
Collectively, the triumph was exciting for a Team Canada that did not have its usual share of stars. Gone are the years when Mark Stone, Taylor Hall and Mark Scheifele were conscripts. Former Canadian Tyler Toffoli was the biggest name in the group.
Individually, Montembeault had things to prove. In six years as a pro, he still hasn’t made the playoffs. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled them in 2020 and 2021 in the American League, then he found himself in a Canadian team in tatters in the fall of 2021, then under reconstruction.
His latest series? In the spring of 2017 with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, in the QMJHL, when he lost in the President’s Cup final. His last tournament won? “The Dodge Cup in Midget AAA!” “, he launches.
“By going there, I wanted to show that I was capable of winning, that I could perform well in one-night stands,” he explained. Which he accomplished, judging by his 6-1-0 record.
He also had to adapt to a different pace of work. Since his arrival at the Canadiens, he has been one of the most sought-after goaltenders in the NHL. He averages 34.6 shots per 60 minutes; only John Gibson and Karel Vejmelka have been bombarded more than him since October 2021.
At the World Championship, he received just 23.1 shots per hour of play, an obviously different challenge.
“I had less than 30 shots in all games,” he notes. Some games, I received more in the first period and it slowed down. It’s harder to stay focused in that time. »
“We didn’t have the most explosive attack, but when we took the lead, we played really well,” added the Quebecer.
Before leaving for Europe, Montembeault offered himself a few sessions on the ice with Éric Raymond, coach of the Canadiens’ goalkeepers.
On May 2, during the last session, he even had the right to a visit from Carey Price, who was training that day.
Montembeault hasn’t necessarily had time to develop a great relationship with Price, as the latter has only been healthy for a month since the Bécancourois joined the Canadiens.
“We didn’t talk much, but he’s super nice, he was encouraging me, he was slapping me on the leg after practice when we passed each other,” he says.
He obviously developed a closer relationship with Jake Allen. Montembeault and Justin Barron represented the Canadian on the Canadian team, and Allen – virtually – invited himself into the celebrations after the final.
“Jake texted me after the tournament. We really have a good relationship. I have often said it, but it is quite a teammate, recalls Montembeault. After the game, I was sitting with Barron on the bus, and Jake was texting both of us at the same time, so we were sending him pictures of us. »
Number 35 now intends to take a few weeks off before embarking on his summer training. Starting July 1, he will have the right to negotiate a contract extension, one year before his current deal expires.
“I haven’t heard from them, but I know they have a lot of work to do this summer,” he said. I talked to my agent about it. Jake [Allen] signed his extension at the end of camp last year. If we can talk to each other at camp, that would be perfect. »