The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Arizona Coyotes last night and now find themselves alone atop the Eastern Conference standings with 90 points. Montreal holds a slight edge over the Tampa Bay Lightning, who trail by just two points in the Atlantic Division standings.
The Canadiens earned their win thanks to a goal from Lars Eller and an added insurance marker when Brendan Gallagher added an empty netter in the final seconds. However, it was Carey Price who once again led the team to victory, earning his 7th shutout of the season by stopping all 28 shots fired his way.
It was just another ordinary outing for Price, in what is becoming anything but an ordinary season for the goaltender.
I guess the question is, will Price be adding the Hart to the Vezina he's already won?
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 8, 2015
Price is the last goaltender to be selected in the top ten of the NHL Draft when he went 5th overall to the Habs in 2005. In fact, no goaltenders have been taken in the first round of the past two drafts as the consensus is, it is impossible to predict how an 18 year old goaltender will develop. Bob Gainey was the general manager at the time, and stuck with Price after his NHL career got off to a rocky start.
Decorated Pre-NHL Career Led To Early Promotion
Price won a Calder Cup and AHL playoff MVP Trophy in 2007 to kickstart his professional career, not to mention his stellar World Junior Hockey Championship performance that led to a gold medal for Canada the same year. He had a solid rookie NHL regular season in 2007-08, posting a 24-12-3 record with a 2.56 GAA and .920 SV%.
Price played so well to begin his career, Gainey elected to trade starting goaltender Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline for a 2nd round pick, handing the number one job to a 20 year old rookie. Things did not go so well in the postseason, with the number 1 seeded Canadiens squeezing by the 8th seed Boston Bruins in seven games, before being easily discarded by the Philadelphia Flyers in five games.
Price’s play deteriorated during the next two seasons as he was unable to match his solid rookie regular season numbers. Price was shellacked in a four game sweep at the hands of the Bruins in the 2009 postseason, which was the Centennial season for the Habs. Even worse, a year later he sat on the bench as Jaroslav Halak carried the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final.
Halak vs. Price Debate
Much to the chagrin of most of the Habs fan base, Gainey decided to trade Halak that offseason for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz to pave the way for Price to take over the starter’s duties once again. It was a debate that raged on for years as Halak posted solid numbers with the defensively responsible St. Louis Blues, but Gainey has ultimately been proven correct as Price continues his climb up the all-time ranking of Habs goaltenders.
Without Carey Price Montreal would be a 500 team and fighting for a playoff spot. Good on them for making that decision instead of Halak
— LotteryPick (@loc8ingoil) March 6, 2015
Price is now second in the NHL in shutouts. Trailing only Marc Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins who leads the league with nine. Price also leads the goaltending fraternity in wins this season with 37, has the league’s best goals against average (1.89) and save percentage (.936).
— Steve (@stevofarnham) March 8, 2015
These numbers have Price head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in the race for the Vezina Trophy this season, and also speak loudly for his Hart Trophy nomination as the Most Valuable Player in the NHL. What may be more impressive though, is how high Price has climbed up the list of great goaltenders in the history of the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens are more than a hundred years old and have a lengthy history of greatness, especially when it comes to the men who stand between the pipes. Seven former Habs netminders have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Carey Price appears to be on his way to passing them on all the franchise’s leaderboard.
His shutout last night was the 32nd of his career, which is fifth most in the Habs history. Three more and he will pass Bill Durnan and will find himself only trailing George Hainsworth (75), Jacques Plante (58) and Ken Dryden (46). Price now has 216 wins as a Hab, and with 99 more will find himself the winningest goaltender in the history of the team. He is 42 wins away from tying Dryden for third on the list, and 74 more victories from knocking the great Roy out of second. Jacques Plante still leads the way with 314, a number that Price could possibly reach with three more healthy seasons.
At just 27 years of age, it is just a matter of time before Price takes over top spot on the wins list, and though shutouts are trickier to predict and harder to come by, it is not out of the question he could catch Hainsworth who earned most of his clean sheets in an era when passing the puck forward was illegal.
Price Needs to Add To Playoff Resume To Be Best Habs Goalie
Where Price still lags behind his counterparts in the Canadiens crease is in the postseason. Before leading the Habs to the Eastern Conference Final last season, his career playoff record of 9-17 was nowhere near the heroics of Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy in the postseason. He had a great series against the Bruins in 2011, but ultimately lost in overtime of Game 7, but he was not great against the Ottawa Senators in 2012 before being injured in Game 4.
Last season however, after helping Canada win gold at the Olympics, he posted a 2.35 GAA and .919 SV% to go with an 8-4 record before once again being injured to end his season. There is no telling what would have happened if Price were able to play the series, and not been knocked out in Game 1 courtesy of a Chris Kreider crease crashing.
Including 3 games for Canada in Olympics & Game 6 vs Boston, Carey Price is 4-0, allowing just 1 goal & making 96 saves in elimination games
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) May 14, 2014
However, his 17 career playoff wins do rank 6th on the Habs list, but he has a long way to go before he catches Dryden (80) or Roy (70). Dryden helped lead the Habs to six Stanley Cup victories in the 1970’s, and Roy was the Conn Smythe winner in 1986 and 1993 for his heroics in leading the Habs to championships. Plante won an incredible five straight Stanley Cups from 1956-60. Gump Worsely won three Cups as the Habs number one, George Hainsworth, Georges Vezina and Bill Durnan each won a pair of Cups as the Habs goaltender and Gerry McNeil and Rogie Vachon have backstopped the Habs to the ultimate prize.
Carey Price is well on his way to having the most impressive regular season resume in the illustrious history of the Montreal Canadiens. However, with the past playoff heroics of Habs goaltenders, Price is going to have to win his fair share of Stanley Cups before he joins the conversation of best goaltenders in the history of the Habs franchise.