The 2014 Winter Olympics are well underway and Team Canada begins their Men’s Hockey schedule on Thursday. We are yet to find out if Carey Price will be between the pipes, or how many games he will end up playing.
As great as it would be to see Price put the team on his back and carry them to gold, I have to wonder if it would be better for the Montreal Canadiens if Price were to be the backup to Roberto Luongo.
Due to the NHL schedule being sandwiched around the Olympic break, Montreal is already playing a condensed calendar. They have leaned heavily on Price for wins already, and it may be best for the goaltender to just get some rest over the next few weeks.
He has certainly earned it.
Price has started 48 games, as many as anyone in the NHL this season. If he grabs the number one job with Canada, he would likely play another six pressure packed contests in ten days. Factor in that he is nine time zones away from his Montreal home, and has not had much time to adjust to the travel. The Habs could be dealing with a weary goalie when they face the Detroit Red Wings on February 26th.
Let’s face it, the Canadiens can’t afford to be dealing with a goalie who is not as sharp as he can be. The Canadiens arguably lean on Price heavier than any team in the league counts on their goaltender.
Price has played 2,807:32 minutes this season, about a period less than Mike Smith who leads the NHL in ice time. He has faced 1459 shots already this season, second most in the league (again to Smith in Phoenix) and is in danger of being worn out before the stretch drive of the NHL season.
Price is currently on pace to play 68 games this season in the NHL alone, which would be the second heaviest workload of his career. Add in six more starts at an Olympic pace and Carey could look a lot like the goalie at the end of last season who was perplexed as pucks kept flying past him.
The Olympics are also played on a bigger ice surface and that creates different angles for goaltenders to be dealing with. It may not sound like much, but it is just another adjustment for goaltenders to make, that Price would have to get used to, and then try to re-adjust to the NHL ice when he suits up with the Habs once again.
Though the ice size could make a goaltender uncomfortable, a big worry for a Habs netminder is he could get too comfortable behind such a great defense. Look at it this way, P.K. Subban is by far Price’s best defenseman in Montreal. With Team Canada, there is no guarantee that Subban will even dress.
If Price plays a few weeks with the likes of Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Alex Pietrangelo in front of him, will he be able to quickly re-adjust to the comparable chaos of having Douglas Murray and rookie Nathan Beaulieu defending for him?
It would be fantastic for Habs fans bragging rights to see Price carry his team to gold with Canada. However, in a purely selfish Montreal Canadiens perspective, it may be best for the Habs if their goaltender can just catch his breath in Russia and be recharged for the playoff chase when he returns.