Carey Price: Scapegoat For a Soft Team

Chris JennerCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2010

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 24: Carey Price #31 and Hal Gill #75 of the Montreal Canadiens defend on a shot by Adam Mair #22 of  the Buffalo Sabres  at HSBC Arena on March 24, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Carey Price has been the target of much undeserved criticism this season for the Montreal Canadiens.

  A typical example is the  Montreal Gazette's headline that read: "Price Blows it", after a late Buffalo Sabres comeback that saw the Habs lose 3-2 in a shootout after holding a late 2-0 lead.  With a defensive meltdown and poor coaching, the Habs managed to give up 2 goals in the final 2 minutes, one in a 6 on 4 situation, the other a 6 on 5.  Price could hardly be blamed for either of the goals, and yet as has often been the case this season, the Montreal media starts casting stones in his direction.

  Price, who is only 22, has already accumulated 60 wins at the NHL level, and despite his 13-19-5 record this season, still holds a winning record for his career.  The fact that his counterpart Jaroslav Halak has had such a great statistical season, has only added fuel to the fire.  But out of Halak's 24 wins, only 7 wins have come against teams that would currently be in the playoffs.  The Habs also score more goals against non playoff teams, translating to more wins for Halak.  Price has often been the victim of losses created by poor performances by his team this season.  The recent 40 save effort in the loss to Buffalo certainly not being the only example. 

The 3-2 loss in San Jose, where Price was named 2nd star, was a spectacular effort, with San Jose having multiple breakaways, 2 on 1's, power play chances down low, and even a penalty shot during the course of the game.  As has often been the case since Jacques Martin took over coaching duties, the Habs sat back late in the 3rd period with a 1 goal lead, and collapsed defensively, giving up 2 late goals that could not be blamed on Price.  Then there was his 53 save performance in a 2-0 loss in Nashville earlier this season.  The Habs were out shot 55-22, and Price was the only thing that kept this scoreline from being a total embarrassment.  His 53 saves were a Montreal Canadiens record.  Not too shabby for a team with some of the all time greats as former members.

  The fact is, Montreal is statistically one of the worst 5 on 5 teams in the league, and the fact that Price plays against most of the top teams has led to his poor record.  He has had some bad games, but one must remember that nobody at his age has more wins.  His 60 wins are more than Martin Brodeur, currently the standard of elite goaltending, had at the same age.  By the time Brodeur was 23, he had 48 wins.  In the season of Brodeur's 22nd year,  the numbers are startlingly similar, other than the Wins and Losses.  In 40 games, Brodeur was 19-11-6, with a 2.44 GAA, and a .902 save %.  Price after 40 games, is 13-19-5, with a GAA of 2.79, and a save % of .912.  Take into account that Brodeur faced almost 10 shots less per game, in the era of the trap, and Price matches up.  Who doesn't is his team.  The Habs have not given their young goalie the support he needs.  The Habs score an abysmal 2.4 goals a game for Price, compared to 2.97 when Halak is in goal.

Here's something else to consider.  Price at the age of 22, has 60 wins.  Ryan Miller, arguably the best goalie in the NHL this season, had the same amount of wins at the age of 22 as Price does.  Wait, a second, scratch that.  Remove the zero.  That's right, Ryan Miller had 6 wins at the age of 22. Scotty Bowman, perhaps the greatest coach of all time said it best after Montreal's loss to the Sabres, despite Price's stellar performance.  What did Scotty say?      "Don't trade Carey Price."  Some words of wisdom, for general manager Pierre Gauthier when he decides what to do about his goaltending situation this summer.