Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price just defied the odds to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. He technically defied the odds just coming back to end the 2021-22 season too, though. Should anyone really be surprised?
It’s almost business as usual for a goalie who’s made a career of proving naysayers wrong, with one more award to show for his efforts. When you think about it though, even if the Masterton almost epitomizes that all-encompassing aspect of his career, it probably doesn’t even rank on a list of his top accomplishments. Here is that list, as proof:
5. 700 Career Starts
Obviously, the Masterton is nothing at which to scoff, especially the nature of this win specifically. And, to Price’s credit, he said all the right things talking to the media after the victory was announced.
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“This one is definitely special. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the players who previously won this award and I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received throughout the season, because, without that, there’s no way I’d be here today talking to you,” he said, referencing his participation in the NHL’s player assistance program and numerous setbacks to the rehabilitation of his knee.
Even so, asked which accomplishment ranks highest to him personally, he went off the board a little bit: “A lot of those things are near and dear to me, but I think the one I feel very proud of is games played with the Canadiens logo on my chest. I’ve been very fortunate to play with a lot of teams, and I feel like being a Montreal Canadien has been a part of my identity.”
With that in mind, Price winning his 700th career start to end last season (and potentially his career) is a pretty good story. However, put that stat in perspective. Overall, Price has played 712 games. The leader is Martin Brodeur with 1,266, which is really far away. In fact, Price ranks No. 27. Ahead of him are ex-Habs Andy Moog (713), Rogie Vachon (795), Jacques Plante (837), Gump Worsley (860), Tony Esposito (886) and of course Patrick Roy (1,029).
Nevertheless, Price is the runaway leader in terms of games played with the Habs. Plante trails far behind in the No. 2 spot with 556. That’s got to be worth something especially if you take Price at his word. It’s still not the record that must mean the most, objectively speaking.
4. Most Wins in Canadiens Franchise History
Price likely wouldn’t win in a debate as to the identity of the greatest goalie in Canadiens history, but, by having won the most games as a Hab (361 as of the end of the 2021-22 season), he’s entered the conversation.
Obviously, wins are probably the go-to metric of success, but they’re also a function of time. So, all Price’s proponents can say with total certainty is he has staying power, with wins simply being more of a key performance indicator than games played in that regard.
Of course, the Canadiens wouldn’t have kept giving him the net if he wasn’t winning with some impressive level of regularity. His .507 win percentage (not points percentage, to be clear) speaks to a generally decent level of efficiency, with Plante having earned one of .564 with the Habs. Roy falls somewhere in between with one of .524. Ken Dryden, though? .650. Clearly, one of these things is not like the others.
3. Stanley Cup Final Appearance
Obviously, the thing that separates Dryden from the pack is his tenure with the great Habs teams of the 1970s. Granted, Plante was part of Canadiens dynasty that won a record five straight Stanley Cups himself, but Dryden’s Habs were arguably more dominant.
For example, the 1976-77 edition, widely considered one of the best of all time, featured the likes of Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard, Steve Shutt, etc. Especially if you add in Dryden’s mastery in net, it’s no shock he was able to rack up the wins with a team like that playing in front of him, which is a luxury Price simply does not and cannot have in a now-32 team NHL (with a salary cap to boot).
As a result, even if Price wasn’t able to win it all, simply appearing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final is an accomplishment that cannot or at least should not be minimized. Considering the letdown of having come so far only to fall significantly short against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Price may feel differently himself after the 4-1 defeat. However, the fact of the matter is, up until that final round, Price had been putting together a Conn Smythe Trophy-caliber performance, recementing his legacy in the process.
A lack of playoff success, and more specifically a lack of a single win in Round 3 up to that point in his career, was the one thing holding him back from reaching that upper echelon of goalies in the eyes of non-Habs fans. Even though he didn’t win it all, he should have at least won the respect of his harshest critics by now.
2. Olympic Gold Medal
Some may cling to the argument Price still hasn’t won the Cup as twisted proof he can’t get it done. They can’t take his first-place finish at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi away from him, though. Oh, they’ll try. They’ll inevitably say he had an incredible team in front of him and Canada winning gold in hockey is a given. They’re 100% wrong.
For starters, see Point 3 immediately above. Dryden also had a great team in front of him, to put it mildly. No one diminishes his accomplishments. Secondly, Canada has had its share of hockey-tournament disappointments at the Olympics, like in Nagano in 1998 and Turin in 2006.
In the end, Price, much like he did at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship (which just missed this list), delivered a brilliant standout performance in Sochi, which also served as a coming-out party for him. It’s somewhat revisionist history to suggest Price was all-world at that point in his career, even if he had comfortably established himself as the Canadiens’ No. 1 goalie. The fact is he suffered from consistency issues for the first half of his career and he was by no means a sure thing to get named to Team Canada, let alone earn the starter’s role. He obviously did, entering a different stratosphere while there and upon his return.
Maybe the Olympics helped boost his confidence or maybe it was simply the natural course of events in his development as he hit his prime. Regardless, the gold he won served as a significant milestone in his career. Pre he was just okay. Post he was the best goalie in the world for a few seasons at least.
1. Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophy Wins+
These days, Price is consistently regarded by his peers as one of the best goalies in the NHL, even after he’s undeniably exited his prime. The Stanley Cup Final run is justification to that effect, but he’s nevertheless long since peaked. That can’t be denied, even if it’s just because there’s only one way to go once you win both the Vezina and Hart Memorial trophies in one season (2014-15). Just ask Jose Theodore.
The biggest difference between the two is Price has held onto his elite status. In sharp contrast, Theodore’s stats fell sharply following his career 2001-02 season. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche a few seasons later. He still had a few decent years here and there left, but bounced around more than a tennis ball at Wimbledon the rest of the way. As evidenced by Points 1 and 2, Price has staying power (and an admittedly untradeable contract).
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Price also accomplished something Theodore didn’t, by also winning the William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award that 2014-15 season. In doing so, Price became the only goalie to turn the trick the same season… and only the second Hab after Guy Lafleur to capture four awards in a single season, which is rarified air to say the least.
Admittedly, hockey’s ultimate prize has eluded him, but the four awards he won that season are proof positive at least for a short period of time he was at the very top of his field (and world). The fifth, in the form of the 2022 Masterton, just goes to show his longevity (and resilience) are just as undeniable. If this is the end, what a way to go out. If it isn’t, here’s to it being yet one more, but certainly not the last NHL honor in a long and storied career.
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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 also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.