Carey Price struggled at the start of last season but ended up playing at an elite level down the stretch. Will Carey be able to build off of that momentum, contend for a Vezina trophy, and propel Montreal back into the playoffs?
It was a tale of two Careys last season; one version struggled with inconsistency out of the gate whereas the other variety put up above-average numbers for the remainder of the season. Price’s play was so mediocre at one point, that fans went from calling for more starts from backup Antti Niemi.
To no one’s surprise, Price’s turnaround seemed to correlate strongly with the return of Montreal’s captain, Shea Weber. Due to the combination of Niemi’s abysmal play as the year progressed and with the Canadiens in the hunt for a playoff berth until almost the end of the season, Price played virtually every game for the last two months. Despite his valiant efforts, Price and the Canadiens missed the playoffs by a mere few points.
Regardless of the inconsistencies in Price’s play early on in the season, his status as the number one goaltender was never called into question and not just because of his salary cap hit. Nagging injuries did seem to take their toll on the netminder but wisely resting Carey instead of dressing him for practices seemed to compensate for what ended up being a gruelling schedule to finish the year. Demonstrating a maturity that he lacked very early on in his career, Carey chose to skip the All-Star Game he’d been selected for, rested up, and accepted the one-game suspension that accompanied that decision.
Last, but not least, Carey’s 35 wins were good for fifth in the league for goaltenders, and he became Montreal’s all-time leader in wins, displacing Hall of Famer Jacques Plante.
Season Stats: 66 GP, 35 W, 24 L, 6 OTL, 2.49 GAA, .918 SV%, 4 SO
5 Year Averages
With Carey’s price tag, you’d better believe that he’s pencilled in as Montreal’s starting goalie, barring any unforeseen situations. League-wide, teams are looking to have their starters better rested for the playoffs, and are relying on backups to pick up a few wins against harder competition. This likely was the rationale in acquiring Keith Kinkaid, who will be counted on to give Montreal a legitimate chance when Carey has the night off. With that in mind, look for Carey to get 5 to 10 less starts than last season. Assuming that Kinkaid fares better than Niemi last year, it’s safe to assume that Montreal won’t be starting Price in many back-to-back situations this season.
With Weber presumably healthy all year, and with the defence marginally improved through signings and internal development, there should be fewer hiccups in Carey’s game this season. Will he surpass his career-best numbers? Anything’s possible, but it’s more reasonable to expect a slight uptick over last season. Price should play less games and be better rested, and as a result, improve upon his statistical categories.
Price shouldn’t be the first goaltender selected in a fantasy league, despite the popular perception that he’s the best goalie in the world. The truth is, Carey doesn’t play for a legitimate Stanley Cup contending team, and he’s no stranger to the IR list. His talent may fare well for goals-against-average and save percentage, but he’s unlikely to be in the top 5 when it comes to wins. Depending on how your fantasy league weighs these categories, he probably belongs in the top 6 to 10 goalies selected in most leagues.