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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
Described by former GM Bob Gainey as a thoroughbred, Carey Price has long been the Habs anointed one. Since being selected fifth overall in the first round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, fans and management have expected Price to lead the team to its 25th Stanley Cup. While still young – Price celebrates his 26th birthday this week – it’s crucial to the team’s success that the netminder live up to the expectations sooner rather than later. To do so he must display not only regular season dominance, but also postseason brilliance. What better time to do it than now? The Canadiens are looking to build on their successful 2012-2013 campaign while a ripe opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics in Sochi is Price’s for the taking.
Carey’s success last season was attributed to the team’s performance as a whole. He won a shade over half of the games he played while facing fewer shots under Therrien’s system than in seasons prior. The main criticism on Price pertained to his infrequency to steal games for his team. What Carey may lack in unfair comparisons to Patrick Roy’s desperate and emotional win-at-all cost temperament, he makes up for with consistent, technically sound, level-headed play.
When you consider that backup Peter Budaj stepped up to provide quality goaltending when called upon last season, one must question what set Price apart. Price was guilty of soft goals at inopportune times during the season. He’ll need to be better. When a knee injury aggravated in Game 4 against the Senators ended Price’s season, it became the second straight year in which he failed to finish healthy (a concussion cut Carey’s 2011-2012 season short).
Season Stats: GP: 39, W: 21, L: 13, OT: 4, SO: 3, GA: 97, SA: 1018, SV%: .905, GAA: 2.59, MIN: 2249
5 Year Averages(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13's numbers over a typical 82-game year.)
With Carey’s conditioning and work ethic under the microscope, goaltending coach Peter Groulx was relieved of his duties during the off-season. His replacement is veteran Stephane Waite, who is best known for aiding in the development of recent Chicago’s Stanley Cup netminders Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford. Waite’s pedigree is good news for Carey Price and fantasy owners alike. In his comments regarding the Montreal goaltenders, Waite said he will work to complement their style and technique training with a focus on improving their instincts. Expect Waite to run through a number of disciplined drills aimed at simulating game situations in practice to keep the Montreal netminders sharp.
Without question, Price will be the Habs number one goaltender next season. Expect him to cede way to Budaj for at least a dozen games, leaving him between 60 and 70 starts. If the team can maintain their success from last season in the reorganized Eastern Conference, Price has an opportunity to assert himself as one of the league’s top goaltenders. One of five goaltenders invited to Canadian’s Olympic orientation camp, Price has his work cut out for him. While his competition will be stark, the chance to represent Canada will be a welcomed motivation to succeed during the regular season.
Projected StatsGP: 67
Under Waite’s guidance, Price’s game should improve upon last season. It’s important to note that Carey Price’s best years are still ahead of him as he has only begun to enter his prime. His play will be that of a top ten goaltender in the league, but it’s unclear if he’ll have the support of the team in front of him to put up the numbers required for Vezina consideration in 2014. This season will be extremely important for Price, who has arrived at a crossroad in his career by which he must put the naysayers to bed and legitimize the expectations laid upon him eight years ago.
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