Carey Price and his Strong Back
The Habs need to win, and they need to win within the next 2-3 years. If they don't, they could be lost for 10 to 15 years. Heres why:
As much as the Montreal Canadiens organization likes to say there's no one person on their team that carries the weight. If you're a fan of hockey then you know the “weight” 99% of the time falls upon one man, Carey Price.
In 2005 Carey Price was taken 5th overall in the NHL Entry Draft. Only four other players were drafter before him. Sid the Kid Crosby was taken first overall....Obviously and if you don't know who that is, please stop reading this article. Bobby Ryan was taken second who has had ups and downs with his career, a good pick for Anaheim at the time. Jack Johnson was selected third overall.... thinking about that now, you're probably saying Jack Johnson was a third overall pick? Yes...Yes he was. Then you have Benoit Pouliot taken fourth, by Minnesota, and I'm sure it looms in the heads of the General Managers of Anaheim, Carolina, and Minnesota that they all could have had Mr. Price.
However To delve back into the Habs, Price broke into the league in 2007, Where he played in 41 games had 24 wins and 12 losses. Not a bad start for a rookie goaltender, I mean he's got nothing on Martin Jones' rookie season, But that story is for another article. In 2008 and 2009 Price struggled a little compared to his rookie season looking to be like every other goaltender in the league. Although in 2010 Price played in a whopping 72 games with 38 wins and 28 losses his GAA was the lowest of his career and the same goes for his SV% the lowest its been yet in the NHL.
Price started looking like someone the Habs could rely on. They made the playoffs that year and were eliminated in the Confrence Finals by the Philadelphia Flyers. Each playoff game they won, was because of Carey Price. Price's first ever playoff game he wins 3-2 in Overtime. The Habs then went on to lose three straight giving the Caps a 3-1 lead in the playoffs. Things looked bleak until The Montreal Canadiens stud goaltender went on to win the final three games of the series 2-1, 4-1, and finally 2-1. Facing the Penguins in the 2nd round seemed sure to be a hard fought battle, and it was for the Habs, they were down 3-2 against the Pens where they then came back to win the series 4-3. Some of the games that they lost in this series were a 2-1 loss and a 2-0 loss, the Habs had trouble scoring. Montreal ended up losing to Philadelphia in the conference finals. Now remember the team in front of price wasn't the best in the league. Tomas Plekanec led the team with 70 points and Scott Gomez with 59. They didn't have anyone over 30 goals and neither anyone with over 50 assists. So when it came to backing price up with some scoring that's where the team lacked. That's been a large issue for the Habs since Carey Price joined the team.
Lets jump forward a couple years,
In the 2013-2014 season Carey Price looked to be the greatest goalie of all time, with an insane 44 wins and 16 losses, he was a no brainer for the Vezna Trophy having a 1.96 GAA and a 9.33 SV% truly achieving his full potential as a dominant goalie in the league. Habs fans were going crazy calling for the cup as if it was theirs already. And then, the unthinkable happened. Montreal in the first round of the playoffs: In 2004 in the 2nd round Montreal played the Tampa Bay Lightning and got swept by them. This year 10 years later they play them again for the first time in the playoffs since. Sweeping the Lightning four games to none. Montreal in the second round of the playoffs: One of the best rivalries of the time period, The Habs vs. The Bruins. The First game of the series won by Montreal in double overtime, what a way to start a series. The two teams went on to bounce back and forth wins until game seven where if the pattern continued the Bruins should have won, But price made 29 saves to propel the Habs past the Bruins and win the series. Montreal in the third round of the playoffs: This series if someone were to make a movie about Carey Price's career, this series would be the climax. Up against the New York Rangers, Game one of this series in the 2nd period, Chris Kreider poked the puck past a defender leading to a short breakaway, where he collided hard into Prices's right leg. Price played out the rest of the period, but then was forced to leave the game. Price didn't return for the rest of the series, and the Habs were eliminated by the Rangers. The team just wasn't the same with Price not in the lineup. This injury really took hold of Carey, forcing him out of the majority of the following 2015-2016 season where he only played 12 games winning 10 and losing 2. Montreal placed 22nd in the league realizing they can't lean so hard on their goaltending if Price isn't in the net. Coming back the following year in the 2016 season, Price didn't look the same. He played above average but it seemed the whole season like he was shaking off the rust having barely played the year before.
Today, Price looks to be working his way back to the great goalie he used to be, and the Habs are winning. General Manager Marc Bergevin woke up over the past few years and made some moves. The Three players that lead the team in points are Max Domi Acquired this year in a trade, leads the team with 44 points in 51 games. Followed by Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin both acquisitions as well. The team can finally score, but will it last or will this spark of youth run its course. The Habs are 28-18-5 this season by the all star break, they don't have the best scoring in the league or the best skaters, but it seems like for the first time since 2013 the team could go somewhere. But what they have right now is not enough. The team is young and that's good, with the newly drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi things are looking up. However drafting well won't ever be the only thing that leads teams to Stanley Cups unless your the Blackhawks, and even they acquired players to accentuate the good ones they already had.
That is exactly what the Habs need to do to finally win the cup with the studs they have. Carey price cannot retire without a Stanley Cup, and If Bergevin can do the little things to make the team a little bit better the Habs can beat any team in the league, if Price can stay healthy.
Let me know your thoughts below.
All stats from Hockeydb.com nhl.com
image by https://pixabay.com/en/hockey-mask-sports-face-equipment-149683/