Yes, this Canadiens’ hockey club has a good coach. Yes, this team has some solid forwards and yes, the Canadiens have some talented defensemen.
With that said, however, there is only one reason why the Canadiens have had success this year. That reason is 27-year-old masked man Carey Price.
When Price was taken in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft as the fifth-overall pick, Canadiens’ fans and media alike were anointing him as the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden.
Things certainly did not start out great for Price as he faltered several times and lost his position to Jaroslav Halak during the 2009-10 season. Coincidentally, when Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues after his terrific postseason performance in leading the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals, Price regained his confidence and took over the starting netminding position for good.
Now it can be said that Price has been everything and more to the Canadiens. He has helped his club get into the postseason, getting them to the Eastern Conference Finals last season year before getting hurt in Game 1 against the New York Rangers.
This season, however, Price has raised his game to another level that does not exist for many players in the NHL. Price has 38 wins (first in the league), a 1.93 goals-against average (first in the league), a .935 save percentage (first in the league) and seven shutouts (third in the league).
When looking at the numbers above, it is easy to see that Price is at or near the top of every major goaltending category. That should be good enough to earn him his first Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender as well as a shot at the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Does this remind anyone of any other goaltender? It should because this is exactly what Dominik Hasek did with the Buffalo Sabres. According to Hockey-Reference.com as referenced in a New York Times article, Hasek is the only goaltender to play at the standard that Price is currently playing at with at least 50 appearances.
There are several reasons why Price has had so much success this season. For starters, he’s been just about perfect when it comes to the technical part of the game.
Very rarely will one see Price out of position as he constantly stays square to the shooter for first and second shots, puts rebounds either in the corners or gobbles them up, and he keeps his movements compact. He may make flashy glove saves, but when it comes to his positioning between the pipes, his movements are nice and easy.
One NHL analyst who noticed that Price plays a well-controlled game is former netminder Marc Denis of RDS. Because Price is not overly flashy, his game-management skills are underrated and something that Danis told New York Times sports scribe Ben Shpigel is very impressive.
“There’s a level of managing the game that comes with experience that cannot be achieved otherwise,” said Denis, an analyst for the Canadian French-language sports network RDS. “He’s gone to that level this season.”
Price also has the confidence and trust of his teammates. Not only do his teammates expect him to stop the first shot, but they also know that he will be able to stop second and third shots as well.
“He wouldn’t say anything,” said Briere, who now plays for Colorado, “but it was almost like he was challenging us: ‘Guys, look, I got your back, go get me a goal.’ We felt it.”
Price is also having success this season because he knows he needs to be the team’s best player in order to help them win. Without his play this season, there is a chance that the Canadiens would not even be a playoff team.
Because Price knows he needs to be the main man for Montreal, he steps up his game and plays just like a most valuable player would play. He makes the big saves when he needs to do, he helps his team win hockey games that they have no business of being in and more importantly, he trusts his play when in goal.
With the playoffs around the corner, do not be surprised if Price raises his game yet another level. Should he do so, teams that face him could be in big trouble.