The pressure is always on in the NHL, especially if you happen to be a goalie. The pressure is exponentially higher if you’re a starting goaltender, more so if you happen to you play for an Original Six team. So in all likelihood, one can’t fathom the amount of pressure that Carey Price will face this season, given the fervour in hockey-mad Montreal and the newly-signed contract extension that will see him paid more than 99% of the league. Will the unflappable Price continue his calm and collected play, or will he finally crack under the weight of expectations?
Unless you were living under a rock last season, you know that Price played the vast majority of the games for the Canadiens. This was a welcome sight after he had missed most of the 2015-16 season with an injury, and his individual statistics were what fans have come to expect from the elite netminder. Carey’s numbers would have likely been more impressive, but the entire team struggled for weeks until Michel Therrien was fired, which hurt his overall performance. Once Claude Julien took over, it didn’t take too long for Price to regain his dominating play. For instance, Carey only allowed four or more goals on one occasion under Julien’s tenure, while he was in net for 13 such occasions with the Therrien-coached Habs. Despite that, Price was still in the top-10 for goals-against average, save percentage and wins, in addition to being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Season Stats: 62 GP, 37W-20L-5OTL, 2.23 GAA, .923 SV%, 3 SO.
(Due to the lockout-shortened season, 2012-13’s numbers were prorated over a typical 82-game year. However, this was not done with Carey’s injury-shortened season in 2015-16.)
Barring any significant injury, look for Carey to be in net for roughly 75-80% of the games. Although Al Montoya has demonstrated that he can be a capable backup goaltender, Price will likely only surrender starts to him against non-divisional rivals or in the case of back-to-back games. If Charlie Lindgren continues to develop well in Laval, he might surpass Montoya on the depth chart and steal a few more starts from Carey.
A full year with Claude Julien behind the bench should stabilize Montreal’s defence and consequently improve Carey’s individual statistics to Vezina-calibre levels. However, without significant improvements being made to improve scoring, Carey will likely be saddled with some low-scoring losses due to a lack of goal support.