Although goaltenders have not been the dominant position in recent seasons for Stanley Cup-winning teams, netminders are still a very important position for every NHL team to win hockey’s Holy Grail. The biggest victory key for the Habs rests on their starting goaltender, but other factors are also in play.
Carey Price – 27 W, 25 L, 6 OT, 4 SO, 2.79 GAA, .909 SV%
Charlie Lindgren – 2 W, 4 L, 0 SO, 3.33 GAA, .888 SV%
Cayden Primeau – 1 W, 1 L, 0 SO, 2.52 GAA, .931 SV%
Matt Murray – 20 W, 11 L, 5 OT, 1 SO, 2.87 GAA, .899 SV%
Tristan Jarry – 20 W, 12 L, 1 OT, 3 SO, 2.43 GAA, .921 SV%
What to Watch For
Who might be in net for Pittsburgh to start the series versus Montreal? Will the Penguins lean towards Murray? He does have the proven track record in the playoffs with two exceptional runs in his first two seasons in the league that helped push Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas. However, his play suffered this season, which lead to Jarry to seize the starter’s role back in mid-November. This continued until about the last four weeks of the season when his play faltered and Murray’s improved. Afterwards, the two goalies practically split the rest of the starts, leaving no clear indication of who was number one.
With Montreal, obviously Price will start all the games unless he gets injured. This season, Carey had his ups and downs and no one will argue strongly that he was a top three goalie in the NHL this season. But this play-in series gives him a golden opportunity for redemption. There has been talk that players from opposing teams were against this format because of the risk of facing goaltenders like Price. It may just take Carey to produce a spectacular save early in the series to get the psychological edge against the Penguins shooters.
What Needs to Happen for the Habs to Win
As the team’s closest player to superstar status, Price remains one of the biggest keys to their success. For the team to have a David-like chance at defeating this Goliath, they need Price to be at his league MVP level from 2015. With this team, I expect Pittsburgh’s forwards to overwhelm the Montreal defence, especially on the power play. Strong team defence will also be a key to help Price reach the level of excellence he will need.
If Price does get injured and cannot play, the choice of his replacement would be an interesting one. Charlie Lindgren is the oldest of the three other goaltenders in the Habs system and was backing up Price to end the season. However, it’s not evident that the coaching staff has great confidence in him yet. Cayden Primeau appears to be the netminder of the future and has a strong pedigree to possibly usurp Price at some point in the future. Michael McNiven is also in the mix although having spent most of the season in the ECHL, he’s more of a longshot to serve as the backup heading into the series.