Make no mistake, Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price still has a long way to go before he catches Jacques Plante for the most wins on the team’s all-time list. But passing Patrick Roy for No. 2 is a fine start.
Price Bounces Back
In a lot of ways, the 3-0 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday was a fine start for Price in his bid to get back to being considered elite. Granted, he technically allowed a Ryan Donato goal, which got called back due to a missed offside and a coach’s challenge by Claude Julien. Either way, there’s little denying that Price was largely on point in what was his first shutout of the season.
All of a sudden, Price’s stat line is impressive again. Prior to stopping 33 shots in the Bruins victory, Price’s save percentage had been a mediocre .906. Now it’s about where one would expect (.922) based on his body of work over the last five years or so.
It’s obviously still early in the season and stats can fluctuate a great deal from game to game, meaning one bad game in the coming week can bring them right back down to Earth. However, overall, Price has looked good so far this season, which really hadn’t been reflected in his stats up to the point before the victory over the Bruins.
Price vs. Roy vs. Plante
There had been little doubt Price would eventually pass Roy. The eight-year, $84 million deal Price signed two summers ago pretty much guaranteed he’d be a Hab long enough to accomplish the feat. He’s also within realistic striking distance of Plante, just 24 wins behind his record 314 with the Canadiens.
Let’s be clear, though: The record isn’t important. Price already holds several with the Canadiens. In addition to his one for the most wins in a season (44 in 2014-15), he’s also the all-time leader in games and minutes played (565, 33,331) and shots against (16,737). There’s a reason there was only a significant degree of fanfare for the first of those, though. It is the only one that isn’t predicated on staying power but skill instead. Another Habs record Price owns? Most career losses with 202.
So, ultimately, the all-time wins mark will be a nice-to-have for Price, but once he reaches that milestone, potentially by the end of the season if everything goes according to plan, no one will be able to make a bulletproof argument he’s the best Habs goalie of all-time. Oh, a case will definitely be able to be made, but, based on the respective playoff pedigrees of Roy and Plante, it would end up being quickly dismissed.
The Ultimate Goal
Ask Price himself and he will most likely tell you something similar to the effect that the record is great and all, but he would gladly trade it for a Stanley Cup. Even if he wouldn’t mean it, it’s what he would be conditioned to say under the circumstances as it’s what fans would expect as a suitable response. It’s not about being the best in team history but the best in the league in a given season.
That’s in large part why Price’s shutout is so encouraging. After a season to forget last year, which he finished with a save percentage of .900 and a goals-against average above 3.00, Price has been showing he’s far from done.
Logically speaking, the days of him vying for a Hart Memorial Trophy are done instead, as Price has already reached his peak. But he can still steal the show every once in a while. Based on how well the Habs have been playing (from ‘Analyze This: Canadiens among NHL’s best at controlling shots, Montreal Gazette – 25/10/18), largely keeping the play in opponents’ zones, they theoretically won’t need him to do it more often than he’s capable.
That’s a true sign of a team… and goalie that can go on to win it all. And that’s the true statement to take away from his most-recent shutout victory. Maybe not this specific team this season, but again it’s a start.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.