May 19, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski (35) before the game two against New York Rangers of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Who is Dustin Tokarski?

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He won the 2008 Memorial Cup, being granted top goalie and MVP honours, too. He led Canada to a gold medal a few months later at the 2009 World Juniors (and won over Pierre McGuire with “the save of the year”). He would also go on to win the 2012 Calder Cup with Norfolk. But after being drafted 122th overall in 2008 to the Tampa Bay, Saskatchewan product Dustin Tokarski didn’t even play 10 games in a Lightning jersey; he was dealt to Montreal in 2013.

His stats prior to the Canadiens do not prove much – heck, neither do his stats for Montreal, but that’s all we have to work with.

In 2010, he had two stints in two games, one of which he allowed three goals on 11 shots. In 2011-2012, he only won one of his appearances in five games.

Enter 2014 with the Canadians, with Carey Price yet again injured after Olympic play; he won two (including a shutout), and lost one inbetween replacing Peter Budaj in the middle of the matchup. Even after those two wins, Budaj went back into the crease until Price was healthy.

On May 17 when Chris Kreider ran into Carey Price in game one, injuring his knee, Habs’ coach Michel Therrien put Budaj in for the third period; Budaj has yet to win a playoff game and has a .843 in post-season contests. He allowed three goals on eight shots.

Therrien referred to Tokarski as “a winner”. Which he is – when it matters. At the World Juniors, Tokarski struggled during the round robin, but against the U.S., Russia, and Sweden, he stood on his head. Though he jumped around Norfolk, Syracuse and Hamilton in the AHL, he did go on to win the finals in 2012. With 60 goalies in the AHL and NHL each, maybe the 24-year-old was just patiently waiting to show what he could do. He is calm on and off-the-ice.

May 19, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) misses a chance to score a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski (35) as defenseman Josh Gorges (26) defends during the second period in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

At one point, Tokarski was asked by media how he would have responded if someone had told him a week ago that he would be starting for Montreal in the playoffs, given he was third-string. Tokarski responded he would have thought that person had too much to drink.

Montreal can’t replace Carey Price, and they can’t award Dustin Tokarski the Conn Smythe just yet – but he’s doing a fine job. Though 1-2 in the playoffs, this is largely due to the lack of the players in front of him. He’s made 27, 36, and 26 saves through the series, earning a .917 save percentage (Carey Price left the playoffs at .919).

In the one game Tokarski did manage to win, Daniel Briere spoke to his teammates before heading out to overtime, that the Habs needed to end it early. The Rangers should follow this mantra too, as of the games he’s played, Tokarski has allowed half of his goals in the first period alone.

Price likely won’t return for this round, and who’s to say Montreal will make it to the next. For New York to capitalize on Tokarski, it won’t be the rookie’s lack of experience. He’s excelled at every other level before the NHL, the guy is as cool as a cucumber. The Rangers need to take advantage of Tokarski’s sad 5’11 frame, and get more shots on net with screens; that, or send Marty St. Louis to attack his glove side with snipes.

The kid is good, really good, at a very opportune time. But remember: King Henrik is standing at a 1.98 goals against average, and a .931 save percentage. New York can polish off Montreal in game five on May 27 at the Bell Centre.

 

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Tags: Carey Price Dustin Tokarski Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers