It is something that will inevitably be asked when the Montreal Canadiens are eliminated from the playoffs. Yes I said it. When the Habs cannot seem to find a way, it will be how it is. Carey Price is an all-world goaltender and there is zero dispute to that. However, this is the tough part. What happens when you have a team overly reliant basically on one player is eventually there is a regression not because of skill level but because of mental and/or physical fatigue.
There will be countless mind numbing debates on this because Montreal radio loves a story. At this rate, Price’s goals against average might rise above 2.00. It is getting close at 1.95.
What Could Be Eating Price?
There are lots of things. The burden of carrying a team the whole season like this weighs on players. The first time Dominik Hasek did it resulted in a bit of a slump late in the season. Blips like this happen and then a transition or regression occurs the next year typically.
Can Price string together the seasons despite a roster that has several fatal flaws? He could, but right now is a more crucial time than people think.
He has given up 13 goals in his last four starts and to be fair, Tampa Bay is a tough opponent despite their recent health struggles. However, it was noticed on Thursday night that Price was playing deeper in his crease. The reality is in the last couple weeks is that he has been playing deeper.
— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) April 3, 2015
Some will viably argue that there is a good bit more to the team than Price and that is true. That is not what we are saying here at all. There is a trend that goalies cannot play the work loads that they used to though. The days of goalies playing 70+ games are a thing of the past. Everything is micro-managed. If you want to know why scoring is down among individuals but relatively even? The answer is simple. Micro management. There are meetings upon meetings and videos upon videos. Technology evolves and so do the players and teams.
So again, the reasons why the Habs are winning stem from the old adage….be good down the middle and have a strong power forward.
— THW Hockey (@HockeyLinks) April 3, 2015
All that being said, what does this game come down to especially in the playoffs? Goaltending! Who is the last line of defense? Goaltending!
Bubble And Struggle
Montreal would be a bubble team without Price. His RBS (really bad start) went up by one because of Thursday night and he does have a tendency to get flustered by Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin has one of the nastiest one timers in the game, period.
Prices’ goals saved above average is at a level that is the highest of elite. Yet, it might not take much for the bad thoughts that used to plague Price to come flooding back.
That is the struggle. When fatigue turns into bad habits and mental lapses. It was seen with the Price minor last night. That was more concerning than the goals given up and ultimately the loss in the shootout. The final week of the regular season does find Montreal in a race to win the division. The number one seed is probably the New York Rangers‘ to lose and something tells me they will not blow that. Seeding is important for Montreal as to who they will draw in Round 1. Could it be Boston or Detroit or Washington? Washington and Boston are probably more scary match-ups for Price.
The vital thing is to get Price mentally ready for the playoffs. It is a different animal but one Price has conquered. If not for that injury last year, who knows what might have happened. Basically the goalie knows what he has to do. It is just a question of how to get the fatigue and bad habits to shake out.
Everyone knows that this is the time of year where the switch flips. I do not put much stock in slumps and surges but how the team itself is playing. The last few games of the season will tell us a bit more into how Montreal is playing but if Price has solved some of his minor problems.
The playoffs await…..and our question will be answered.