The superstar goaltender is having a pedestrian season by his lofty standards, but he’s not getting a lot of help. Will the future be any different in Montreal?
For those familiar with The Bible, Montreal Canadiens superstar Carey Price may resemble Job – the man who took on all the hardships that were thrown at him, but still remained faithful. For fans of Arrested Development, the fact that Price signed an eight-year contract extension this summer with the flailing franchise may bring to mind Gob – as in, “I’ve made a huge mistake…”
Price, of course, does not see it that way. To be sure, his Habs appear to be playing out the string in what is already a lost season, but the all-world netminder is keeping an even keel when it comes to his own responsibilities in the crease.
“For me, regardless of your position in the standings, I’ve always tried to take one day at a time,” Price said. “Obviously it’s a cliché, but you can only earn two points in one game, so I’ve tried to keep that in mind and prepare for each game individually.”
Price’s most recent outing was a strong victory over the similarly redundant Ottawa Senators, in which he stopped 25 of 26 shots. Historically, that would be a typical day at the office for Price, but this season has been far from typical. Price is not amongst the league-leaders in stats, nor is he a Vezina threat this season. He only has one shutout to his name so far and that was against Buffalo.
But nothing has gone right in Montreal this year. The team is bottom-10 in goals-for and goals-against, while that elusive No. 1 center is nowhere to be found in the organization or the pipeline.
And yet, Price has faith. He believes the Canadiens are on the right path in terms of how GM Marc Bargevin has built the team and how coach Claude Julien deploys the troops.
“We’re a team built on speed, we just need to find the consistency in our game,” Price said. “We need to use that speed to our advantage more often. When we’re playing well, we’re hard on the forecheck, using our speed and not allowing teams to have any room. When we’re doing that, we’re playing with the puck more.”
And to be fair, the Canadiens aren’t a bad possession team – they just don’t do anything with the chances they have and give up too many goals when they don’t have the puck.
Structurally, whether Price would ever admit it, they are broken. But he’s in it for the long-haul thanks to that new deal that kicks in next fall. Interestingly enough, his loyalty is on par with New York Rangers franchise face Henrik Lundqvist – what is it with star goalies that makes them fall so hard for an organization, even during the bad times? Price’s new cap hit is a hefty $10.5 million and he will have to earn it if the Habs want to return to the post-season next year. Doing so will be a battle. The Atlantic Division is morbidly unbalanced right now, with two of the NHL’s best teams (Tampa Bay and Boston), another pretty good team (Toronto) and a pile of ash otherwise.
Looking ahead, the Lightning and Bruins will most likely be very good again next year and Toronto might be slightly better. While Florida always appears to be better on paper than the Panthers end up being on the ice, they are worth considering as a rival for that final playoff spot – assuming a fifth Metropolitan squad doesn’t snag the second wild card, which is definitely happening this year.
Which is a long way of saying that the Habs need a great amount of improvement over the summer if they want to compete again. Price will be 31 when the campaign begins and thankfully for him, goalies tend not to age the way skaters do. But it will take real work from the organization, not faith, to get Price’s squad back to the post-season.