Nova Scotia's Mike McPhee sees similarities in Habs goaltending from his playing days

Greg McNeil
Published on May 29, 2014
Mike McPhee shows his Stanley Cup ring that he won in 1986 while playing with the Montreal Canadians. TINA COMEAU PHOTO


Mike McPhee was a first-year pro in 1984 when little-known Steve Penney jumped in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and promptly led the team to an unexpected run through three playoff rounds.

Two years later, he was a teammate of rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, who was a key part of the Canadiens' equally surprising run to a Stanley Cup title.

He's just a fan this time out as the Canadiens again rely on an unheralded goaltender in Dustin Tokarski, who went from third-stringer to starter when he took over for an injured Cary Price in Game 2 of the Canadiens' best-of-seven playoff series against the New York Rangers.

His play since then has given Montreal fans reason to believe in another surprising run.

"They haven't started chanting his name yet. They'll have to come up with a nickname or something," McPhee said Wednesday after a press conference in Sydney for the Because You Care road hockey tournament.

"It just so happens that Montreal finds those goaltenders. He's 24 years old and going into Montreal in the third round and replacing Price, who is one of the best goaltenders in the world, and (Tokarski) doesn't seem to flinch."

The decision to start Tokarski was a surprise because many expected Price's longtime backup Peter Budaj to get the nod.

"I think the coach (Michel Therrien) went to some of the players, the assistant coach and captain, and asked them first and they all vouched for this decision to play Tokarski over Budaj. He got some flak for it at the beginning, but it seems to have worked out pretty good, so far anyway."

Recalling his time moving through the playoffs with both Penney and Roy in goal, the former winger said the young goaltenders won the support of their teammates with their play.

That seems to be the case with Tokarski, too.

"It helps the team, for sure. If you have a goaltender that you know is going to stop the first shot anyway, it gives you that extra confidence than if you were waiting for a bad goal to go in."

McPhee said he played with both good and bad goaltenders during his 744-game NHL career, so he knows what good goaltending can do for a team's confidence.

"If you can keep the puck out of the net, it gives you a chance to win and these types of goaltenders give their teams a chance to win every night."

How the rest of the Tokarski story plays out remains to be seen, but McPhee will remain tuned in to the playoff run of his favourite hockey team.

He watched Game 5 in River Bourgeois on Tuesday with his dad when Tokarski was in goal for the Canadiens' 7-4 victory.

Though they still trail New York Rangers in the series three games to two, McPhee remains hopeful for a comeback.

"I was up for a couple of games earlier in the year. I saw one playoff game — unfortunately, it was a loss for Montreal. I'm hoping they make it to the final so I can go up for the final as well."

Game 6 of the series goes tonight in New York.