Rabid Habs

The Forum: Can Carey Price Save the Habs Season?

Carey Price made his return to the Montreal Canadiens crease on Saturday night, making 36 saves against the Buffalo Sabres en route to earning his 40th career shutout. So we had to ask our contributors; can Carey Price’s return save the Habs’ season?

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – By “save the season,” we mean “squeeze into a playoff spot”, right? If that’s the criteria, then sure, he can save the season. I don’t think Price at his best can get the Habs into the “division title” conversation as they’re too far behind, and Tampa is too good. The Leafs may be too good (let that sink in!) for the Habs to grab 2nd place.

Regardless, I think we need to ask questions. Why is sneaking in the new bar? Why has this team slid to the point where Tampa and Toronto have passed the Habs? The erosion of the Habs has been totally self-inflicted and Bergy needs to answer for that. Or at least be questioned for it.

But yes, to answer the original question: yes a healthy Price makes this team a playoff contender.

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – If Carey Price can get 36-save shutouts for the rest of the season, I think Montreal has a half-way decent shot of making the playoffs.

Realistically, what we’ve heard since the Habs started sliding is that Montreal needs to trade Price because he makes it impossible for them to tank. When you consider what a generational goalie can do for a team in a division like the Atlantic, you’d be silly to think the Habs are out of the playoff race this early in the year. As bad as the Canadiens have been, the Atlantic being the worst division in hockey gives them a chance to compete for the third divisional spot, and if the Leafs falter, maybe even the second spot. Carey Price, if he plays like vintage Carey Price, can drag the Canadiens kicking and screaming into a first round playoff series against Toronto or Tampa Bay.

To me, the real question is whether or not I want to see that happen. Let’s face it; when Bergevin thinks he’s got a shot at a deep playoff run, he isn’t afraid of the big deadline move. We’ve already seen him acquire two top trade deadline targets in Thomas Vanek and Jeff Petry during his tenure, and with some nice expiring pieces available, I’m not sure he’ll be able to help himself if Montreal finds a way back into the playoff mix. Montreal notoriously doesn’t have much when it comes to futures, so there’s a really good chance Bergevin would be dealing from an area of weakness to address a momentary need.

But taking things one day at a time, it feels good to have Price back in the net, and it feels like he’s his regular self again. Montreal could almost certainly climb back into the weakest division in the NHL, and I’ll leave the desire to do so to the guys in charge of the roster.

Sean O’Neill (@TheONeillFactor) – It’s become abundantly clear, if it wasn’t already, that the Canadiens are a one-man team, probably more so than any other squad in the NHL. When Carey Price is CAREY PRICE, they are borderline Cup contenders. When he’s good but not great, they’re a playoff bubble team, and when he’s injured or struggling, they’re one of the five worst teams in the NHL.

I won’t get into a rant here about how it should have been incumbent upon Marc Bergevin to build a decent team around his franchise cornerstone, but the question of whether #31 can save the season or not rests on two points (both already expertly covered by Kyle and Ian).

First, the Habs slow start has left no margin for error – I’m relatively confident that the Carey Price we will see over the final five months of the season will be closer to the Vezina-candidate calibre Carey of old than the imposter we saw earlier this year. That being said, the Habs have dug themselves into a mighty big hole and it may be a case of too little, too late, even with 58 games remaining.

Second, even assuming Carey does single-handedly drag this team into the postseason…to what end? As I mentioned, this is a one-man team and I can’t remember the last time a red-hot goalie carried his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Cam Ward? JS Figure? The worry is that, once again, Carey will be just spectacular enough to paper over this team’s fatal flaws and trick us into thinking we’re alot closer to Cup #25 than we really are.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – I’m not even sure The Real Carey Price is enough to lift these Montreal Canadiens back into a playoff spot. Assuming 94-95 points is the playoff entry point, and considering the Habs have 21 points through 24 games, they’ll need to go something like 33-17-8 over the course of their final 58 games, which is about a .630 points% (currently at 0.438 P%) if they hope to sneak in.

So maybe a Vezina Trophy-level Carey Price could potentially push this team into playoff contention yet again, but as everyone else has pointed out above, what’s that worth?

Your Montreal Canadiens handily routed the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-0 defeat. Carey Price was the best player in the game, posting a 36-save shutout. The Carey Price we saw tonight was the Price that we know and love. The .877 goalie we saw prior to his unfortunate injury will no longer be seen. This was the performance Carey Price needed to upend the monkey on his back.

That being said, with Carey Price on his game, anything is possible.

Robert Brown (@TheStandardBob) – When Carey Price plays well, the team has confidence in their game and in the man between the pipes. They know when they make an error in their defensive zone, Price will rise to the occasion.

Montreal’s transition from the defensive zone to the neutral/offensive zone has been a problem since the beginning of the season, but when Carey Price is playing at his best, he even helps with that aspect of their game. He can trap the puck along the boards, ending any sort of forecheck the opposition has attempted to establish. His puckhandling proficiency was key to a number of Habs breakouts against the Sabres.

When Carey Price was out, Charlie Lindgren performed admirably in his absence. However, Lindgren doesn’t have Price’s puck handling expertise. That’s no fault of Charlie Lindgren, it’s just that Price is one of the best – if not the best – puck handling goalies in the NHL.

This is the perfect time for Price to elevate his game. The Montreal Canadiens play 8 of their next 9 games at home, including a few against division rivals, Detroit (x2) and Ottawa. The Habs currently boast a 5-1-1 record against teams in the Atlantic Division this season, so anything is possible.

Follow Robert on Twitter @TheStandardBob, and follow @RabidHabs for more updates!

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