The last time the Rangers played in Montreal--on November 16th--Cam Talbot not only started in goal for the visitors, but he backstopped the team's first win at the Bell Centre since the 2008-09 season, snapping an eight-game winless skid (0-7-1) with his first NHL shutout.
Tonight Talbot will be right back between the pipes as the Rangers play their regular season finale against the Canadiens in Montreal, and he claims not to remember too much from his first start in this city.
"I only remember bits and pieces of that game right now," said Talbot after the morning skate at the Bell Centre on Saturday. "It was a long time ago, and I've come a longs way since then. It was obviously big for me at the time, but so much has happened since then. It's a pretty historic building and it's always hard to come in here, so to do what we were able to do last time was a big game for us."
Talbot enters his final start of the regular season as one of the biggest, and most pleasant surprises, on the Rangers roster this year. After beginning the season in Hartford, Talbot was called up to replace the retiring Martin Biron in October and has gone on to post a splendid 12-6-0 record, 1.67 goals against average, .940 save percentage, and three shutouts in 20 appearances. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 15 of his 18 starts so far in his rookie season.
"I didn't really have expectations coming into the year because I thought I was going to be in Hartford," said a smiling Talbot. "I'm pretty happy with how this season has gone, so far, and being able to contribute to the team; but we still have one more game left and then the playoffs so my contributions are not done yet."
After playing quite a bit in the first half of the season, Talbot has seen his playing time dwindle in the second half, especially as of late where Henrik Lundqvist has started 19 of the previous 21 games in goal. Talbot, though, understands his role as Lundqvist's back-up, and that the Henrik's increased playing time has had more to do with Lundqvist playing to top form and carrying the club to the post-season and less to do with Talbot's performance--which has been exemplary all year long.
"I've been in this situation before," explained Talbot. "In Hartford a couple years ago I sat (behind Chad Johnson). You just have to go back to what you learned during that time and do the same thing. There was a point in Hartford I don't think I played for four weeks. I don't think I got a start the whole month of February my first year. I have had that mindset all along (this year) that Hank is going to go on those long stretches, and it works out best for everybody. I just need to be ready and work hard all the time."
Talbot posted a shutout in his last start, a 5-0 win in Edmonton on March 30th. Since the Olympic break Talbot has started only three games--a win over the Chicago Blackhawks on February 27th, a 2-1 loss in Minnesota on March 13th, and the shutout win over the Oilers his last time out.
And of course he's got that other start in Montreal back in mid-November, one in which he made 22 saves in a tense 1-0 victory over the Canadiens.
"Every time you come in to this building, it's a challenge," shared Talbot. "This can be a tough building, but we will give it our best effort."