Joseph Robin The Hockey Writers
The Golden Touch: Carey Price’s Excellence Since Sochi
Since the Olympic break last year, Carey Price has been the best goalie in the entire world. It’s not very hard to imagine why.
On last year’s Canadian mens Olympic hockey team there were 8 NHL captains and 7 NHL alternate captains. They had a locker room filled with experience, skill and leadership. As Price said at the time, “I can’t say enough about that team in front of me – that group of forwards and that defensive line. That was a real pleasure to play behind. There’s no question, their work ethic was second to none this whole tournament.”
He was correct in that this squad was really special. They were well-balanced, disciplined, and defensively aware. They only had 2 players who had more than 1 goal: Jamie Benn and Jeff Carter. But everyone contributed and everyone did their job in order to win games. They never trailed in a game and only surrendered 3 goals in their 6 games. Players knew their role and performed accordingly and that resulted in a Canadian powerhouse that couldn’t be stopped.
It was a really special group, one that Canadians will remember forever as perhaps one of the best teams to ever represent the country. As for Carey Price, he played his part as well. He stopped 103 of 106 shots and finished with an absurd .971 save percentage and a goals against average of a microscopic 0.59. He had shutouts in his last 2 games and went the last 164 minutes and 19 seconds of the tournament without surrendering a goal. He was tremendous under pressure and was nearly flawless for them.
Now, more than 1 calendar year since the Olympic games, Carey Price is still riding that hot streak that he started back in Sochi. He leads all goalies (with at least 30 games played) in save percentage, goals against average, and wins. He’s being put over as a lead candidate for both the Vezina Trophy (for the league’s best goalie) and the Hart Trophy (for the league’s most valuable player) and his team is tied for first in the entire NHL with 97 points.
As Ryan Szporer noted back in January, Price has had a long journey before becoming one of the league’s best. He went from being a Junior Hockey star and a highly touted prospect to having several up and down seasons with Montreal where he would show flashes of greatness one night before putting up a stinker the next.
Price was finally handed the reigns to the team when the Habs traded Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in the Summer of 2010. For the first time the Canadiens were telling Price that he was their guy. In the 3 seasons until then, Price played in 54% of the Canadiens games, never appearing in more than 52 contests in a season for the Bleu Blanc et rouge. But all that was about to change.
Price as the undisputed number 1 goalie was very good for the Canadiens. Aside from the lockout shortened 2013 NHL season (in which he finished with a .906 sv%), Price never had a save percentage under .916. In two postseasons in that stretch, Price masterfully pushed a series to 7 games against Boston in 2011 but had a forgettable, injury-shortened series with Ottawa in 2013.
Looking at Price’s numbers during his time as the clear starter for Montreal before the 2014 Olympics, you can see he was trending in the right direction. From October 7, 2010 until February 8, 2014 (the last game before the break), Price has posted some really good numbers. According to war-on-ice.com, he has a .919 save percentage in that span of time which is the 10th best in the NHL out of goalies who’ve played 70 games or more. Also on the list are other NHL greats like Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Tuukka Rask.
But then Sochi happened. And now Price is on a different planet.
The Price Is Right Post-Sochi
Between the dates of February 24, 2014 and March 19, 2015, Carey Price sits atop the league as its greatest goalie. His save percentage of .935 is head and shoulders above the competition. The next player on the list (out of players who have played at least 50 games) is Tuukka Rask who boasts a .926 save percentage, which, by the way, isn’t that bad. But for Price to be 9 points higher than the next best netminder is something that’s completely unheard of. Price has simply been that much better than everyone else.
Last year we saw Price lead his Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final before going down with an injury in game 1. He stood on his head in the previous series against Boston and had many believe he could bring the Canadiens all the way to the finals. Of course, his injury deflated the team and they ultimately fell to the Rangers in 6 games.
At this point, if Price doesn't win the Hart, Kanye West is going to have to crash the NHL awards.
— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) March 15, 2015
But this year the Habs are poised for another long playoff run and Price looks like the guy who will get it done. Whatever lessons he learned from his time in Russia with the best players in the world, he’s made the most of it and has become a model of excellence for NHL goaltenders. He learned what it takes to win 0n the biggest stage from the very best this sport has to offer. What he’s done with that experience is take a mediocre possession team (to put it lightly. I mean, Arizona has a high CF% than they do, for Pete’s sake) and drag them to the very top of the NHL standings. Can he take them even further? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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