LAVAL – Establishing himself as the undisputed star of the sublime Laval Rocket playoff race, Cayden Primeau has finally put a beautiful gold ribbon on a season that hasn’t always been a gift.
The first extended tenure in the National League is a pivotal moment in a player’s career. Primeau will keep a bittersweet memory. Called for a dozen games by the Canadian, he struggled to complete half of them. He came out of this grueling period with only one win and an average of 4.62 goals.
Months later, well sheltered from the storm, the 22-year-old manages to think about it with serenity. He talks about expectations, especially of him, that have not been met. Quicksand in which he has begun to get bogged down and his more or less adequate way of handling the slide.
It’s easy to forget now that he just posted stats reminiscent of Carey Price in her only American League playoff appearance, but there was a time she thought she wasn’t going to make it unscathed. That the Canadian, among the many heresies of his horrible season, had just found a way to waste his goalkeeper of the future.
If he admits he’s been through a bad quarter of an hour, Primeau assures that he never feared that the damage to his confidence would be irreversible.
“I actually talked to the team’s sports psychologist about it. We discussed the fact that even though we didn’t know exactly what he was going to get out of all of this at the time, we knew that good things would come out of it. I wish I would never have to go through such moments again, but I know it made me stronger and today I am grateful for it. “
“I’m a much better goalkeeper, he insists, than I was at the beginning of the year. “
The benefits, of course, were not immediate. In 17 American League games since his relegation in February, he has averaged 3.11 goals and a 0.907 save rate. The toughest evenings continued to be a part of his daily life, but having a more defined role in the shadow of the Montreal crowd helped him rebuild.
“Being able to find my rhythm in one place and being able to focus on getting back to basics was important to me. I think it is this stability that has helped me most to regain my confidence. “
Primeau didn’t start the series against the Syracuse Crunch, but he made 37 saves in Game 2 and never had to give up again. He led the Rocket to victory in a final appearance. His numbers: 2.17 goals against the average and a saving rate of 0.936.
“Yes, he surprised me, admits coach Jean-François Houle. And as I told him this morning, what I liked about him is that I found that he had a lot more confidence. He was more solid in front of the net than him when opposing teams came towards him to try to push him. He has held on to him a lot more than he did at the beginning of the year. I thought he controlled the game a little better with his recovery time. When we needed a whistle, he held the puck or deflected it upward. His handling of the match was much better. “
“Everyone saw, during the playoffs, how good he was, also admits Kevin Poulin, who was forced to leave him at the net at the end of the season. He was well prepared, well focused. He gave us the chance to win even on nights when we weren’t in the game. “
Another year in Laval?
Primeau’s recent exploits could easily prove to be a double-edged sword. Inevitably, we will soon begin discussing his place in the organization and the role he should be given next season.
For now, the main stakeholder is playing it safe. If a permanent place in the NHL is part of his short-term goals, he says nothing about it. “It will certainly be the biggest summer of my career, I don’t hide it. But I don’t want to make any expectations about where I will start next season. I’ll give it my all this summer, I’ll show up at the camp and hope for the best. “
The best? For Poulin, who arrived in the National League at the age of 20 but never managed to resist, there is no doubt that it means a return to minors.
“I think he needs a serious year in the American League alone. That he plays all the games, that he focuses right on the Rocket, that he doesn’t commute. Who plays his games, which he develops. “
“As a goalkeeper, at some point he is much more mental than physical,” continues the 32-year-old veteran. He gained confidence, I think, during the playoffs. If he can bring him back next year, be more confident … After that you give him a chance, but not just because there’s an injury or something. A real possibility. “
Houle does not hesitate to line up behind the expert goalkeeper.
“It’s true not just for him, but for several players. You have to be patient, you have to take your time. You have to make sure you develop the players well and this takes time sometimes. Sometimes it takes several years in the American League. Skipping steps is sometimes not too good. I think you have to be patient as an organization and I think that’s how we will be able to develop more players. “