Stu Cowan: Canadiens' Samuel Montembeault is 'cool as a cucumber'

Nothing seems to faze the 27-year-old and he also has a great sense of humour, which definitely helps when you’re a Habs goalie.

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Nothing seems to faze Samuel Montembeault.

That’s a very good quality to have when you’re a goalie for the Canadiens in Montreal’s very bright spotlight.

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Montembeault also has a great sense of humour — another good thing in his position.

After what he called “one of the worst goals I ever gave up in my life” during a pre-season game against New Jersey when a dump-in off the corner boards by Devils defenceman Simon Nemec took a crazy bounce and went in the net off Montembeault’s skate, the goalie said with a grin: “I’m probably going to keep my phone on off for a couple of days. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Just got to put it behind.”

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Montembeault wasn’t fazed when he was called on to replace Jake Allen 13:50 into the first period of Tuesday’s game against Tampa Bay with the Lightning leading 4-0 after scoring four goals on nine shots. Montembeault stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced as the Canadiens ended up losing 5-3.

Montembeault has a 2-2-1 record with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage this season. Cayden Primeau will start in goal Thursday night in Detroit against the Red Wings.

“He’s a chill guy,” defenceman Kaiden Guhle said about Montembeault. “Cool as a cucumber. Comes to the rink and he’s not the loudest guy — doesn’t say a whole lot — but he’s ready to go all the time.”

Added defenceman Jordan Harris: “I feel like you have to have a unique mindset to play in net, for sure. Monty has that.”

Montembeault, 27, isn’t fazed that he doesn’t have a contract beyond this season while finishing up his two-year deal with a $1 million salary-cap hit.

“I try not to think about it,” he said. “Last year was the first year I signed for two years … every other year it was always a one-year contract. I’m just trying to focus on my game and the way I’m playing and this will just take care of itself after. It’s still early in the season. We still have a lot of time. I think they started talking recently (his agent, Paul Corbeil, and GM Kent Hughes), but nothing really big so far. I’m not really worried about that.”

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Montembeault isn’t fazed by social media, either.

“I’m able to tune stuff out,” he said. “If I open social media all my friends share stuff about the team. So even if I don’t want to see it I end up seeing it.

“You just try to stay off the comments section,” he added with a chuckle.

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Montembeault even enjoys watching the sports news on TV.

“I watch a lot of RDS and TVA Sports — that’s all they talk about (the Canadiens),” he said. “I grew up here, so I know what it’s like. But I’m just happy to be here and I try to enjoy every day. Once the game is over, it’s behind us. I just try to focus on today’s a new day, go out there and have fun and try to get better.

“I love watching the highlights (on TV) … sometimes I might turn the volume down a little bit when it’s a talk show,” he added with another chuckle.

Montembeault fell in love with the goalie position when he first started playing organized hockey at age 5 in the MAHG program in his hometown of Bécancour in the Centre-du-Québec region. Each game a different kid would get a chance to play in goal and any time someone didn’t want to put on the goalie pads, Montembeault would volunteer. With a late birthday (Oct. 30), Montembeault was supposed to play an extra year at the MAHG level, but the novice B team needed a goalie.

“Ever since then I’ve been a goalie,” Montembeault said.

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While playing in MAHG, the hockey association provided the goalie equipment. But once Montembeault became a full-time goalie, it meant his parents had to pay for the equipment, which isn’t cheap.

“My parents made a lot of sacrifices,” Montembeault said. “Growing up we didn’t have the most money so we were always going to Shawinigan at Hockey Lemay and we were buying used gear there. Every year, I had different pads and gloves … they didn’t match.”

Montembeault didn’t always play on top-level teams. He played bantam Double-B and in his first year of midget didn’t even get an invitation to a triple-A tryout camp. He played midget Espoir (where he got his first set of matching equipment) and wasn’t even listed as a prospect for the 2012 QMJHL draft. The next season, he made the Trois-Rivières Estacades midget triple-A team and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada selected him in the third round (40th overall) of the 2013 QMJHL Draft.

Montembeault said the key for young goalies in minor hockey is to just have fun.

“Those are the best years,” he said. “You make friends for life playing hockey. Just go out there, have fun and work hard. Always persevere. Maybe you’ll have some rough times, but if you keep persevering and believe in your dream you can make it.”

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