Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price’s 3.13 GAA the Number of the Day After Rough Stretch

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 14: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 14: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 14, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

3.13. The number of the day for the Montreal Canadiens.

Originally, I had no intentions of writing a piece like this, instead wanting to focus on a historical piece reflecting on former Hab Jaroslav Halak’s near unstoppable 2009-10 playoff performance (to be finished shortly). I was about halfway through the piece at around 6:30, when I decided to catch a bit of the Canadiens first regular season matchup against the Winnipeg Jets.

Claude Julien and Kirk Muller’s dismissal from their head and assistant coaching positions respectively, has been the news of the week in Montreal, with former assistant coach and QMJHL bench boss Dominique Ducharme being named interim head coach, with former Laval Rocket assistant and NHL player Alexandre Burrows taking over for Muller. The Canadiens had been going through a rough stretch heading into the game, with a 0-1-2 record over their last three games, though there was hope that a new head coach could breathe some life back into the team.

The first line of Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher and Philip Danault was reunited, and Tyler Toffoli was placed back on the third line where he started the season. It seemed as though, in returning to what worked originally, the Canadiens could get back some of what made them so successful early in the season. That was until, 3.13. Carey Price is a player I have yet to really focus a piece entirely on, merely mentioning him on and off in some of my other works and the occasional Roundtable. His name is basically intertwined with the modern-day Canadiens, being the most recognizable member of the team even to non-hockey fans.

A fifth overall pick of the Canadiens in the 2005 NHL entry draft, Price has battled through ups and downs over the course of his career to put together some truly exemplary seasons, including a award-studded 2014-15 season, posting a 44-16-6 record with a 1.96 GAA and 9 shutouts, earning the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, and Jennings Trophy in the process. While it was expected that that was just the beginning of Price’s time as a truly elite goaltender in the NHL, things haven’t quite gone that way since. While there have been moments, like a dominant run towards the end of the 2018-19 season and a solid 2016-17 season, recent trends have been less than encouraging, and 2020-21 is no different.

Carey Price’s 3.13 GAA is the number of the day for the Montreal Canadiens, as the team looks for answers following a tough four game stretch.

As Thursday’s game got underway, encouraging early signs that led to 2-0 and 3-1 leads respectively soon completely, totally, and utterly collapsed. In spite of a new head coach, and new line combinations, Montreal looked as flat and as lifeless as ever, being objectively ventilated by the Jets 6-3, with Price allowing 5 goals on 29 shots. Having already come into the game with a less than impressive 2.87 GAA, Friday’s “performance”, leaves Price with a thoroughly bloated GAA of 3.13. With this, Price now sits 42nd amongst NHL goalies in GAA, and 52nd in Save Percentage, being tied with last place Ottawa Senators starter Matt Murray with .888. In spite of some impressive saves over the last four games, Price has failed to stop the easy shots, allowing multiple soft goals that a goalie of his calibre simply has to stop. Former Hab Nate Thompson’s 4-3 dagger in Thursday’s nights game was, in my opinion, the biggest offender, with a wrist shot down low going right through Price’s five-hole.

Typically, in my work, I like to have an air of calmness and rationality in regard to discussing a specific player, and I understand the pressure and stress that come with, and the immense skill, talent, and work ethic required to be an NHL player. Price has shown in the past he can be the best goalie in the NHL and was the primary reason the Habs went on their Eastern Conference Finals run in 2013-14. There’s a reason the Habs thought highly enough of Price to commit to an eight-year deal worth $84 million, with an average annual value of $10.5 million, and there’s a reason Price has long been seen as one of, if the not the best professional hockey goaltender in the world. Whether you like to admit it or not, he is absolutely critical to Montreal’s success, and that’s a situation they’ve put themselves in.

Jake Allen has been fantastic this year in a backup role and has finally given Price the relief that the Antti Niemi’s, Keith Kinkaid’s and Charlie Lindgren’s of the past couldn’t. His 4-2-1 record with a 2.14 GAA seems otherworldly in comparison to Price’s struggles, and in my opinion, he’s deserving of more starts and a chance to prove himself. Cayden Primeau has taken the reigns of the Laval Rocket’s net, with the former seventh round pick fitting in nicely in Joel Bouchard’s team first system and has the potential to be an NHL starter in the future. An 0-2-2 record over their last four games is something no hockey fan wants to see, let alone a Canadiens fan, and its obvious that something needs to be done to get back to the goal scoring barrage the Habs were putting up in the early part of this season.

Admittedly there are a lot of players who need to answer the call offensively, with Danault having yet to score this season with 8 assists over 19 games. Joel Armia’s two goals last night was a positive sign from a player who has been frustratingly inconsistent. Even Tatar and Gallagher could be doing more offensively to help the team, as new additions like Toffoli and Josh Anderson have been doing in spades, and Price, above all else, needs to sort out his game and be the backbone of this Canadiens team.

No matter whose up front, ever since the departure of Halak and Cristobal Huet, Price has been, and will be, the make-or-break player for this Canadiens team. He’s the last resort, and the guy everyone else falls back on to bring his A-game every single night, and if these numbers are anything to go by, he simply hasn’t done that thus far his season. It would be great to see Price sort out his issues and become an elite goalie once more, but it seems as though that simply isn’t going to happen without a prolonged rest that I don’t know if he’s willing to take.

Next. The Danault Dilemma. dark

At the end of the day, there’s still a very high chance that the Canadiens can sort out their issues and bring back the high-flying play that characterized their start to 2020-21, but as long as 3.13 rings out loud and clear through the stats sheet and the dressing room, that simply isn’t going to happen.