Which Price Will Carey Montreal?

 

If anyone deserves credit for Montreal’s ascent to second place in the Eastern Conference, it is goaltender Carey Price. The (soon-to-be) 26 year old was rightfully in the Vezina talk for the first two months of the season post lockout. Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the postseason.

Thanks to Price’s below two goals-against and .925 save percentage through January and February, the low scoring Canadiens surprised the league by overtaking the favorite Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Northeast Division. The Canadiens justification for keeping Price over former playoff hero Jaroslav Halak finally looked to be the correct choice.

Jaroslav Halak

Halak was traded to St. Louis after he backstopped the eighth-seeded Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010.(Icon SMI)

Price’s numbers took a downturn in March when his save percentage fell to .903 and his goals-against ballooned to 2.81, over a goal more than the first two months of the shortened season. The good news for Montreal is they were not stuck in any prolonged losing streaks so Price’s struggles were not glaring.

As the playoffs loomed, Price picked the worst time to play his worst hockey. As the Canadiens continued to struggle putting the puck in the net, their opponents had an easier time scoring on Price. The netminder’s numbers took a nasty nosedive to the tune of an .876 save percentage and a nearly three and a half goals-against. Thankfully for the Canadiens and Price, the Bruins also struggled to find consistency and Montreal won the division and the second seed. Price’s struggles carried over into round one against the Ottawa Senators, which led to a five game loss and questions about the British Columbia native. Price finished with an .894 goals-against while allowing an average of over three goals in the four games he started. Price was injured for game five and back-up Peter Budaj started the final game.

Too many goals doomed Carey Price in round one.(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Ottawa seemed to score at ease in round one.(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Carey Price played in 39 of Montreal’s 48 games. Stretched out to a full 82-game schedule, that is approaching the 65-70 game plateau. Was it a case of Price being fatigued in April and May? Corey Crawford of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks played in nine fewer games and only saw one month of inconsistent play. In January, February and April, Crawford had a goals-against of under two and a save percentage of over .930. When he struggled in March, reliable back-up Ray Emery spelled Crawford and while he struggled himself, he did help keep Crawford ready for the final stretch in April and the team’s eventual run to a championship. Price played in 12 of his team’s 15 games and played in another 11 in April. Did head coach Michel Therrien not have faith in Budaj to play him more often or was he trying to fight off the Bruins or maybe a case of both?

If it is a case of not having trust in Budaj, why would General Manager Marc Bergevin reward him with two years and pay him over $1 million dollars? In order to keep Price fresh for a Cup run, Budaj is going to have to play more than a handful of games during the 82-game season and he’s going to have to show why Bergevin showed faith.

The Canadiens did face numerous injuries before the playoffs started. An underrated injury that really hurt the team was that of their hardest hitting, defensive defenseman Alexei Emelin. The loss of Emelin on the blueline depleted the team’s veteran presence and opponents no longer had to worry about Emelin shutting down their entrance into the offensive zone. Emelin was paired with Andrei Markov and played over 20 minutes a night, losing that steady pairing forced younger players into increased ice time and opposing offenses were able to take advantage.

Alexei Emelin Canadiens

Emelin’s return will be a welcome addition.(Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

 

As long as the Canadiens continue to maintain their low scoring approach, they are going to have to rely on defense and goaltending. If the team is going to build on last season’s success, they are going to need the early season Carey Price, not the Carey Price that became the team’s weak link. Otherwise, it will be a long season for both Price, but the entire city of Montreal.

 

The NHL regular season schedule was released on Friday. Check out our partners at TiqIQ for the best deals on Montreal Canadiens tickets for all 2013-14 games.

Aaron Rieber

Aaron Rieber

Montreal Canadiens Contributing Writer
Proud USN veteran. Pittsburgh native. Terrible comedian. Sports lover. Accepted in more places than MasterCard. Fan of the number 63. On Twitter @iamsixtythree
Aaron Rieber

5 Comments

  1. Emelin’s injury acutally happened in the beginning of april, what explains Price’s fall during march?

  2. It seems to me that many of Price’s problems came from a weaker than usual penalty killing unit. Price’s save percentage at even strength was still above average while struggling a man short. It seems to me that many times, the Canadiens centre lost the first faceoff following a penalty and shortly thereafter, the power play goal was scored as the PK unit never got possession of the puck, whether it be by blocking a shot or out-muscling the forward in front of the net . If these problems can be corrected, then magically Price will have a much better season regardless of how many games that he plays. Even so, Budaj should start 20-25 games especially if he and the team plays as well as it did in his starts last season.

  3. Thanks for reading! You are correct about Montreal’s goal scoring ability. Low scoring was the wrong phrase. I should have referred to them as “under the radar” since they don’t have that real “superstar” forward.

  4. Your comments on Budaj are spot on, but… since when are the Canadiens a low scoring team? Last season only the Blackhawks and Penguins scored more goals then them. They were an extremely high scoring, team that was deep on the offence, but lacked depth on defence. (Things fell apart without Emelin, and I feel Diaz’s stats were padded by his PP time with Markov, AKA the Komisarek effect)

    • Carey Price is going to have to stand on his head for a majority of next season for the Canadians to replicate the kind of season they had last year. I just don’t see their offense as being one that is going to put up the numbers they did last year. We have seen it happen where a goalie can carry a team but the playoffs are a whole different beast. I think history shows that an overworked goalie will falter in the playoffs. The age of goalies playing 60 or more games just doesn’t really happen anymore. You need a solid backup who accepts his role as a backup. The Canadians had an awesome regular season last year but Carey Price’s health is going to be a question down the stretch. I would project them as probably finishing second in their division and getting a 4th or 5th seed.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required Email Address * Name Email Format html text mobile