Habs’ Hopes of Hoisting Cup Hinge on Price’s Knee

The NHL’s first quarter is in the books, and the story lines are aplenty, but none is as intriguing to me as that of the Montreal Canadiens. There are many opinions about the season that the storied franchise is having, and I will add mine here. I think this is a solid team that has a better-than-average chance to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada this season.

(My colleague at The Hockey Writers, Ryan Skilton posted a quality “first quarter report card” on the Habs last week).

But, with the latest injury news, the question now is: “Will Carey Price’s knee cost the Habs the Cup?” The Bleacher report had several updates on Price Saturday morningAccording to TSN, Francois Gagnon of RDS reported that Price could be out a month with the knee injury. However, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun posted a tweet earlier Saturday morning that indicated Price will be consulting with the Habs’ team doctor on Saturday and are waiting to speculate on a timeline for his return until after that exam.

It seems somewhat odd that an injury that happened Wednesday is just now getting looked at by the team physician on Saturday. The team was on the road when the injury happened Wednesday against the New York Rangers and then they played Friday against the New Jersey Devils, so apparently Price stayed with the team and they just returned to Montreal. The Habs beat the Devils 3-2 Friday night in a shootout, and face them again Saturday night at home in Centre Bell.

Whatever is the outcome of Price’s meetings with team doctors, his knee is a big deal for the Canadiens’ hopes of bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Canada next June. Price has been at or near the top of everyone’s “best goalie in the NHL” list going back to last season. With a lot of season still to go, and the team looking virtually assured a spot in the playoffs, it is almost a given that the Habs’ hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup hinge emphatically on Price’s knee.

No Slouch

The good news for Montreal is that Price’s backup is no slouch. Mike Condon has stepped between the pipes for Price already this year because of the injured knee, and he has been stout.

Condon has appeared in 13 games this season and is 8-2-2 with a .917 save percentage and goals against average of 2.14, 10th in the NHL.  Price is currently 3rd among NHL goalies with a .934 save percentage and 7th in goals against averaging 2.06. Condon is in his first NHL season, with a huge spotlight shining on him as he tries to fill Price’s enormous skates. In a comment for the NY Daily News, Condon said he is staying grounded.

“Once you start feeling good about yourself is when the game (bites) you in the butt and reminds you how small you really are.”

So far the only butt being bitten is that of opposing teams, as Condon is proving so far that he is up to the task of filling in for Price. With the length of Price’s absence still an unknown, the Habs are pleased with Condon’s play.

But, even with Condon’s solid play, the stark reality is that Montreal needs a healthy Price for the long haul. For a team that is hitting on all cylinders elsewhere, their hopes of hoisting the Cup may really hinge on Price’s knee.

Mark Shiver is a staff writer for The Hockey Writers  credentialed with the Carolina Hurricanes. You can follow him on Twitter @markshiver