The Canadiens’ horrendous 1-6-1 start was due to many factors. A chronic ability to score, untimely defensive breakdowns – with new personnel adjusting to a new system and one another – and hapless special teams play all contributed to the team’s worst start since World War II. However, the key factor was the unexpectedly poor play of Carey Price.
While it is undeniable that Price’s start has been very subpar, this pundit has read with dismay some of the press clippings over the past few weeks such as:
Contract makes Carey Price Tough to Trade
Canadiens Crease Crisis as Carey Price Mystery Deepens
Canadiens Longing for Real Carey Price as Margin for Error Narrows
With the fine recent play of Charlie Lindgren, reporters have opined that, “There is a full blown goaltending controversy in Montreal with Minnesota kid Charlie Lindgren giving Carey Price a run for his money”.
While overreactions go with the territory in Montreal, a little perspective is in order. A good place to start is a fulsome review of what the suddenly dispensable Carey Price has delivered over his career and in the past four years in particular. Price’s career numbers are outstanding for a goaltender that has played on some pretty ordinary teams (520 GP, 273W, 182L, 56T, 39SO, 2.43GAA, .919SV%). For the last four years, his performance has been nothing short of legendary (2013-14: 2.32GAA, .927SV%; 2014-15: 1.96GAA, .933SV%; 2015-16: 2.06GAA, .934SV%; 2016-17: 2.23GAA, .923SV%).
Price’s numbers are Hall of Fame calibre. For the last several years, Carey Price has not only been their best player but has been one of the only players that have separated the Canadiens from some of the most mediocre teams in the NHL. His 2015-16 injury proved just that. The knock on Price has been his failure to lead the Habs to the promised land and raise No. 25 to the rafters. Have the Canadiens been good enough to even contend for the Cup the last several years? Compare the personnel of the 1986 and 1993 teams to the Habs’ most recent rosters and the answer is clear. Of course not.
When one reads the recent headlines, it seems that Price’s ten-game slump and recent minor injury have ended his career and Lindgren is now the last best hope for the Canadiens. Lindgren is a fine prospect and has certainly filled in admirably in Price’s absence. And the Canadiens’ history includes legendary performances by young goaltenders who have come out of nowhere to lead the Habs to glory. This pundit became a lifelong Canadiens fan courtesy of Ken Dryden’s incredible Conn Smythe run in 1971. Patrick Roy’s unexpected and outstanding 1986 Conn Smythe performance is a more contemporary example. However, Lindgren is 3-2-1 in this regular season (albeit with some impressive early season games). It remains to be seen whether Charlie Lindgren is more Dryden/Roy than Steve Penney/Wayne Thomas. Meanwhile, the entire Montreal media is dismissing the best goalie in the NHL for the past five years and anointing an unproven, but promising, AHL goalie as the team’s new number one.
One cannot imagine what it must be like to play in Montreal. Or more to the point, one cannot imagine why an elite player with options would want to do so after the recent media coverage and internet commentary on Carey Price. This sort of treatment of an athlete who has long outperformed his peers by any measure is simply wrong. By doing so, Habs Nation is relegating the team to mediocrity. No one with options will want to sign in Montreal.
To borrow a phrase, everyone should just chill, give Carey some space and let him do his thing. Carey Price will be just fine. I’m not so sure about the Canadiens, however.