Carey Price

Habs vs. Leafs: Carey Price can steal a series

The Canadiens are now in possession of their most valuable weapon: a well-rested number 31.

In March of 2020, nearly 600 players participated in the annual NHLPA survey. And, for the second year in a row, Carey Price was crowned the top goaltender in the league by his peers. That same year, The Athletic conducted a similar poll in which players were asked this hypothetical question: 

“Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final – Aside from your own goalie, who do you want starting in goal?” 

Once again, most (33%) of the player votes went to Price.

 Fast forward to last year’s playoff bubble, and the Canadiens, who had virtually no chance of making the playoffs, being ranked 24th in the NHL at the time, pulled a major upset over a stronger Pittsburgh Penguins team. The qualifying round win earned the otherwise underwhelming Habs a first-round spot — and Price, who posted a .936 save percentage, was undoubtedly a difference-maker.

“He just played really well,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby following the loss. “We know he’s a great goalie. I don’t think it was a matter of trying to play around him, but he did what we expected him to do, and he gave his team a chance to win”.

Despite what you may think of his big contract, history of injuries and fluctuating numbers, Price has the ability to steal a game — and a series. And he’s proven it more than once. Aside from five all-star game appearances and Olympic gold, many fans are reminded of the miraculous playoff run the Habs went on in 2014. That year, the Canadiens advanced to the third round, only to be eliminated by the Rangers shortly after Price suffered an injury that took him out of the playoffs. No one foresaw the team getting so close to the finals, leaving many of us wondering what may have happened had he not gotten hurt. This was not some sort of fluke or hot streak either, as Price maintained this caliber the following season when he took home the Hart, Vezina, Ted Lindsay and William M. Jennings trophies.  

Price, now 33, is coming off a below-average season, and an injury that has sidelined him since his last start on April 19. The solid play of backup Jake Allen has softened the blow on the team a little bit, giving their starter a chance to recover. This allowed the Habs to secure the last playoff spot in their division. And as they gear up to face the heavily favoured Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 this Thursday, experts are mostly in agreement that Montreal stands almost no chance of beating their rival. But when you’re the underdog, you have nothing to lose. And with a handful of injured players set to return, the Canadiens are now in possession of their most valuable weapon, a well-rested number 31. 

Habs vs. Leafs: Carey Price can steal a series

If Price can return to form, and the team in front of him can rally together a few goals, Toronto may just find themselves on the wrong side of the handshake line. ■

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