It’s getting hard to discuss anything about the Bruins that doesn’t relate to their absurd injury problems.
Every attempt at analysis inevitably boils down to some version of “What else do you expect when half the roster is out,” and every bit of news has to do with some player missing some amount of time and some other player being called up from Providence to take his place. Just yesterday, we again held our heads in our hands as the team announced that Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork would not travel with the team to Anaheim, their roster spots taken by Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik. It’s getting to be a bit much.
And yet, there is reason for positivity. A glimmer of a silver lining from the north:
MON claims Niemi— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) November 14, 2017
They really did it. The Montreal Canadiens claimed the league’s worst goaltender, Antti Niemi, off waivers.
You can smile at this. Seriously, just enjoy it for a minute.
If you haven’t stayed up to date on The Bruins’ primary rival, let’s catch you up: The Habs got off to a dreadful start to the season, losing eight of their first ten games. They scored more than two goals just three times in that stretch. They have since leveled off and currently sit fifth in the Atlantic division at 17 points (Boston has 16 points, but two games in hand) with a pretty bad -15 goal differential.
To the matter at hand: The Canadiens’ goaltending situation is a huge mess. Carey Price, fresh off signing an eight-year $84 million contract extension, was putrid, starting the year 3-7-1 , with a save percentage of .877. He hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury on November 2nd. Backup Al Montoya wasn’t any better, posting a an .864 save percentage in four games. He then took a Dustin Byfuglien slapper to the face:
Caution: you may feel this impact from your living room.— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) November 5, 2017
Montoya gets hammered in the face by this heavy Byfuglien drive. pic.twitter.com/vSGokFiYVU
That impact caused a concussion, and Montoya is currently out indefinitely. (Serious note: That’s terrible news, and we don’t mean to make light of it. We hope Montoya feels better very soon.)
The upshot of all this is that the Habs have started 23 year-old Charlie Lindgren in four games and called up 22 year-old Zach Fucale to back him up. Lindgren has been stellar thus far, going 3-1 with a .964 save percentage. But he’s only played in three career NHL games prior to this season, and nobody expects him to keep up that pace.
And so the Canadiens have gone and added what they call “depth” by claiming the veteran Niemi off waivers from the Florida Panthers, making Montreal his third home in this young season. He was discarded by Dallas this offseason after two miserable years, posting a combined save percentage of .897, comfortably the league’s worst showing of goalies who played at least 40 games. This year, he was quickly dumped by Pittsburgh after three losses and a .797 save percentage, then the Panthers after allowing five goals on 39 shots.
You can call adding that kind of player a depth move or, as GM Marc Bergevin put it, a “safety net” for the Habs’ young goalies if you want. But how safe is a net with holes the size Niemi has shown? Not even Vegas, an expansion team down to its fourth goaltender, has seen fit to have a sniff at him. Maybe Bergevin is assuming Niemi will never have to actually play for his team, but what if he does? And why claim him if you’d rather see other goalies in net if Lindgren gets hurt or falls off?
So breathe easy, Bruins fans. You’re not the only ones dealing with some ridiculous roster issues. And at least your team isn’t run by a management group willing to spend money and a waiver claim on the worst goalie around.