January 23, 2012

The Price Hasn’t been right!

Carey Price has been considered the only real bright spot on a struggling Canadiens team that has been surrounded by turmoil and controversy all season. Much of the year, this would have been an understatement, as Price has kept the Habs in games they had no place being in all season long, and showed why he is considered an elite goaltender in the NHL. However, recently Price’s play hasn’t been so hot. Ever since the holidays were approaching Price just hasn’t been the same as since December 15th, in 13 starts before the Leafs game on Saturday he was only 3-9-1. Before that point he had a record of 12-8-7, which wasn’t great, but when you consider how the team was playing in front of him, it was very impressive. At 3-9-1 in the last month, the wheels have clearly fallen off in Montreal. But as bad as Price’s record has been, I can’t blame him for that, as I believe that has a lot to do with the team in front of him. So the win/loss record is forgivable. What should be giving Habs fans some thought however, is the fact that Price has allowed 3 or more goals in 8 of those 13 games. His stats over that span shows a 2.92 GAA, and an abysmal .883 save%. When you compare those to his season stats of 2.41 GAA and .914 save%. It becomes clear that his play has noticeably slipped recently. When you see how many goals Price has been letting in recently, a stat that really surprised me is that Montreal gives up the 6th least shots against per game in the league, which you would assume would help Price out. However, the stats only show so much, and there is no questioning that Price has been hung out to dry by his D-men on more than one occasion. Price’s game against Toronto on Saturday could have been a big turning point for his season, as he stopped 32 of 33 shots and led the Habs to a win in a game that was HUGE for Montreal’s dwindling playoff hopes. Whether Price could slingshot that game into a streak of sorts remains to be seen, but Habs fans everywhere are desperately hoping for it.

The one concerning stat with Price’s season in my eyes, is how he has played at home in front of the Bell Centre crowd. On the road Price has been great, going 9-9-1 on a losing team, and posting a 2.26 GAA and a .927 save%. However, when you look at his performance on home ice this season, the numbers drop significantly. Price has posted a 7-8-7 record at home, which is a far cry from his wins and losses on the road. While allowing 2.55 Goals per game, and a .899 save%!!! Carey Price and a save% under .900 is something you just don’t hear too often, so when you do hear it, you know there is something wrong. Carey Price is one of the most talented and promising goaltenders in the league, and the Bell Centre when things are going good is by far the loudest arena in the NHL. However, when things are going bad, the fans aren’t shy to voice their opinions, or boo the team, and perhaps that is what has Price playing poorly on home ice. And for those of you that think there isn’t something wrong with Price, and that he has been just fine. Consider this last concerning fact…Budaj’s last 3 starts have come against the Penguins, the Rangers and the Blackhawks. 3 of the hottest teams in the league, each littered with all-star forwards. It makes sense that the Habs played Budaj around those times, because each of those games were parts of a back-to-back. However, in each of those 3 games the Habs decided to give Price the easier start, and make Budaj face the tougher opposition. When Budaj played the Blackhawks, Price played the Jets. When the Rangers were the opponent, they started Price vs Ottawa. And instead of playing Price vs Malkin and the Penguins, they let Budaj face them. Clearly the organization has noticed what I have in Price’s play, and are trying to get him going.

I know it might seem like I am trashing Price in this article, but that really isn’t the case. There is no doubt in my mind that Price is the key to this team, and by far has been it’s brightest star this year. There is no doubt in my mind that the Habs have done a horrible job of helping out Price this year, and that the blame in no way shape or form should rest on his shoulders for the lack of success this year. However, Price isn’t playing up to his own level, and when he does get going and playing the way we know he could, the Habs will be a much tougher team to play. The win against Toronto was a good building block, perhaps this is exactly what both they and Price needed. Habs fans out there, don’t be too worried, as Price has shown in the past he could bounce back from slumps. After an incredible rookie season, he had 2 subpar years, before re-emerging last year as one of the top goalies in the NHL. He will inevitably get out of this funk and begin to dominate once again, the question is only when. And will it be too late for the Habs already slim playoff hopes.

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

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