Carey Price has earned the nickname “Mr. Saturday Night” given his propensity to play his best on Hockey Night in Canada. These days he’s known as “Playoff Price” because he continues to take his game to a new level in the postseason. He lived up to his new moniker on Thursday night in Game 1 of the first-round series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Montreal netminder stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced to propel the underdog Habs to a 2-1 win and an all-important 1-0 series lead, including a highlight-reel save on Mitch Marner that kept the game tied in the third period.
In his post-game interview, Paul Byron, who authored a spectacular, jaw-dropping goal game-winning goal while the Canadiens were shorthanded late in the final frame, singled out Price’s standout performance in Game 1 and called him the team’s best player.
Stepping up When It Matters Most
By all accounts, Price’s play during the regular season was underwhelming and he sat out for the last part of the year because of a concussion. Backup goalie Jake Allen filled in more than admirably in Price’s absence and was recognized as the team’s unsung hero for his efforts.
Allen did so well that some were even calling for him to start in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs. Clearly, they had forgotten about “Playoff Price” and how he was virtually unbeatable in the Toronto bubble last season which helped the Habs upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round. He was quick to remind them on Thursday.
While there was legitimate cause for concern heading in, those doubts have been quickly erased and replaced with hope for a team that nobody is giving much of a chance.
The Canadiens’ Key to Victory
If the Habs are going to eliminate the heavily favored Maple Leafs and make a deep run in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Price is going to have to continue to be the all-world goaltender that the entire NHL knows him to be.
When he plays lights out, he instills such confidence in his teammates and inspires them to take their game up a few notches as well. A game like last night’s low-scoring series opener happens even though Auston Matthews, the most prolific goal scorer in the league, is on the ice because the opposing team’s franchise player is the goalie. The Canadiens rely on Price the same way Toronto depends on Matthews and Marner.
“That’s Carey Price for ya. He was an absolute wall tonight. He loves playing in these big games,” Josh Anderson said.
Price leads by example. He has an insatiable desire to win and wants so badly to bring another Stanley Cup to Montreal. He can’t do it alone, but he once again seems poised to give the Habs every opportunity to succeed.
It’s only one game, but it was refreshing to see Price in vintage form, in the playoffs, against the Canadiens’ biggest rivals. But in reality, we shouldn’t have expected anything less from no. 31 this time of year.
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.