Montreal Canadiens: Vintage Carey Price Returns In Consecutive Wins For Habs

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 13: Carey Price (31) of the Montreal Canadiens tends net during the third period of the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens on January 13, 2020, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 13: Carey Price (31) of the Montreal Canadiens tends net during the third period of the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens on January 13, 2020, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens are not having a great season. Neither is their high-priced goaltender Carey Price. He was at his best in their last two victories.

The Montreal Canadiens went several years where any success the franchise had was completely due to their goaltender’s ability to stop pucks. Carey Price was the best goaltender in the world for a few seasons and led the Habs organization to a few division titles and a deep postseason run in 2014.

Price also got to fill up his trophy case along the way. In 2014 he won an Olympic gold medal, allowing zero goals in the semi-finals and gold medal game as Canada dominated on their way to victory. In 2014-15, Price won the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Vezina Trophy for his heroics during the NHL’s regular season.

The Habs won three playoff rounds combined in the 2014 and 2015 playoffs. They had impressive performances from other sources like Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Lars Eller and even Rene Bourque but they wouldn’t have even made the playoffs if not for Price. In 2014, the Habs went to the Eastern Conference Final after beating the Boston Bruins in a hard fought second round series. The Bruins took a 3-2 series lead, but then scored just one more goal as the Habs won Game 6 at home and Game 7 in Boston.

Price was injured in the first game of the conference final, and the Habs fell in six games to the New York Rangers. Again, they wouldn’t have come close to the third round of the playoffs without Carey Price carrying them.

Those were the good times. This season has been far from those times.

Price has started 38 games for the Habs this season, going 18-16-4 with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. It is a long way from the 1.96 GAA and .933 SV% that earned him all that hardware five seasons ago.

It can’t all be pinned on Price, but the Habs are 13th in the Eastern Conference and a long way from a playoff berth. They have many problems, they have dealt with injuries, they just aren’t a deep team. However, one of the main differences between this team and the Habs teams that were qualifying for the postseason is the play of Carey Price.

In the second year of an eight year contract that will have a cap hit of $10.5 million, Price just hasn’t been stealing games the way he did in the past. You can blame it on the defence, or the coaching, or the injured players in front of him, but it’s not like Price had that Team Canada defence in front of him when he won the Hart Trophy.

Price was able to keep pucks out of the net no matter how busy he was in goal. The year Price won all the awards, he had a solid top pairing of Markov and Subban defending for him. The second pairing was Alexei Emelin and Tom Gilbert, before Sergei Gonchar and Jeff Petry were added later in the year. Even with a spotty blue line, Price was nearly unbeatable in goal.

We have seen a glimpse back into the past in the Habs two most recent games.

On Saturday night, the Habs were playing the struggling Ottawa Senators. Montreal took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a Nick Suzuki power play goal. At one point early in the second period, Montreal was leading 12-10 on the shot clock. By the end of regulation, the Senators were leading 40-17 in shots. That means they outshot the Habs 30-5 in the final 35 or so minutes of regulation.

That’s unbelievable. What is more incredible is the fact the game went to overtime tied at one because the Senators could only muster one goal on a fortunate bounce that slid by an outstretched Price. The Habs defence basically stopped playing for two periods, but Price kept them in the game.

There were shorthanded breakaways for the Senators, blasts from the slot, one-timers that had Price going side-to-side but it didn’t matter. Ottawa could not take the lead no matter what they through at the Habs goal.

Last night, Price was at it again. The only difference was, the Habs defence only took one period off this time instead of two.

Montreal carried a 1-0 lead into the third period and were outshooting the Calgary Flames 32-16. The Flames came out flying in the third period and fired 15 shots on goal to the Habs five. The only player to find the back of the net was Ryan Poehling who gave the Habs some insurance in what turned out to be a 2-0 win.

Price wasn’t extremely busy in the first two periods, but bad turnovers gave dangerous scorers Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane chances to tie the game. Every time Price confidently cut down the angle and steered the puck out of play to help out his teammates who were a bit careless with the puck.

Price looked as calm and confident as ever in the third period, making 15 saves in a period look like a regular day at the office. It used to be a regular occurrence in Montreal. It was nice to see that version of Price once again, as he frustrated opponents and turned aside 72 of the 73 shots he faced.

Next. Habs can add picks by taking on salary. dark

With the Habs still seven points out of a playoff spot and needing to jump over five teams to get there, it will take a Herculean effort to even come close to playoff territory. If anyone can provide that type of performance for the Canadiens it would be Carey Price. He finally looked like his old self for two games, but he will have to do it every night for the rest of the year to get the Habs into the playoffs.