Mired in another extended slump and carrying a four-game losing streak heading into tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Montreal Canadiens are refusing to blame Carey Price for their struggles.
The Habs’ franchise player has been a shadow of his former self so far this season, carrying a 5-4-3 record with a 3.13 goals-against-average and a .888 save percentage, both well below his career averages and simply not good enough.
The Importance of Jake Allen
After giving up six goals to the Jets on Thursday, including an empty netter, Price gets the night off on Saturday and Jake Allen will look to stop the bleeding, at least for now.
Montreal’s new backup goalie has come as advertised since being acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the offseason. He has appeared in seven games and maintained a 4-2-1 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage.
Allen is calm and steady in his net which has helped instill confidence in his teammates. Plus, he handles the puck almost as well as Price. Given his performances, the 30-year-old allows the Canadiens the luxury of giving Price some time off to try and sort out his issues because their upcoming condensed schedule will require both netminders to be at the top of their game.
It’s Not Price’s Fault
Price’s teammates are adamant that he’s not to blame for their fall in the standings, instead, it’s their sloppy play and lack of execution that needs fixing. Captain Shea Weber and Tomas Tatar explain in the video below how they’ve let their star netminder down and that only a team effort is going to get them out of their hole.
It’s true that Price’s team is not playing well in front of him, especially in their own zone. Weber himself has had a rough go with partner Ben Chiarot this year and the blue line is giving up far too many high-quality scoring chances which has led Price to overthink things and get out of position because he’s over-compensating for his defensemen.
The Canadiens’ inability to get out of their funk is what ultimately cost Claude Julien his job this week and now it’s up to new bench boss Dominique Ducharme to get the train back on the tracks. The problem is he doesn’t have a lot of time and the pressure is mounting with each passing day, especially since this team is not only expected to make the playoffs but to make a deep run.
So, a rookie NHL head coach is having to teach on the fly while his no. 1 goaltender is having trouble stopping the puck and the games are coming fast and furious in this shortened season. Certainly not an enviable situation. But, Ducharme doesn’t seem at all phased. He’s shown poise in the eye of the storm and firmly believes that Price will find his mojo again along with the rest of his players too.
Can Price Still Be Great?
Price’s 353 career victories make him the winningest goaltender in the rich and storied history of the Canadiens. No small feat to say the least. There’s also the Olympic and World Junior Championship gold medals, the Calder Cup title, the Vezina, and of course the coveted Hart Trophy.
The 33-year-old is one of the most decorated goalies in NHL history so it’s likely premature and unwise to predict his demise or question his heart of a champion. While he may not be invincible anymore, he can still be great between the pipes, he just needs a little help from his friends.
After all, Price is only a few months removed from a vintage and stellar performance in last season’s postseason bubble in Toronto. He carried his 24th-ranked Habs to the second round of the playoffs thanks to an upset win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and then pushed the favored Philadelphia Flyers to six games in round two.
This week, Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin implored that all of his players need to be better and that begins with Price because regardless of outside opinion, he remains the backbone of the team and even though they refuse to make him a scapegoat, they will go as far as he will take them.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.