The Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins have battled it out in two games during the Stanley Cup qualifying round. The series is even at one apiece and fans don’t know what to expect next. On the one hand, Pittsburgh’s defence finally looks to be making an appearance. On the other, Carey Price.
Carey Price Finds His Game
Carey Price has put on a goaltending clinic in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. A save percentage of 9.49 and a goals-against-average of 1.82 puts him amongst the top goaltenders in this year’s playoffs. Add a driven Penguin’s offense that put a total of 79 shots on goal in two games and the fact that Pittsburgh’s captain might be the best playmaker in NHL history, Price has had a lot thrown at him.
He’s taken it all in stride and performed brilliantly. In the first period of Game One, the Penguins outshot the Canadiens 16-5, and yet, Montreal ended up 1-0 at the break. Pittsburgh had a staggering seven chances to convert on the power play in Game One and only Bryan Rust managed to make it past Price and the Canadiens defence. Whether that’s a comment on the Penguin’s special teams or Price’s play is up for debate, but there is no denying the brick wall that Price has been thus far.
During Game Two, while an absolute mess for Montreal’s skaters, Price continued to make outstanding saves and keep the Penguins, for the most part, at bay. Price knows his value to the Montreal Canadiens and has played up to it. Now, the rest of his team has to, as well.
According to Carey Price himself,
“I can Sway the Odds with outstanding play, but at the end of the day, we’ll all need to play over our heads to win.”
Goaltending Bolsters a Stanley Cup Run
Whether it’s the President’s Trophy winner or the team that barely scraped its way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, goaltending matters. Arguably, more than anything else. A hot goaltender can take a team all the way. Braden Holtby did it with the Washington Capitals in 2018. Jordan Binnington took the St. Louis Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019. It’s even happened with the Canadiens before. Twice. Rookie goaltender Partick Roy went 15-5 to lead Montreal to a cup title in 1986. In 1971, Ken Dryden almost single-handedly defeated the defending champions, the Boston Bruins. He led Montreal to a Stanley Cup that year. They didn’t do it alone, but they gave their teams the confidence to play at the highest level while achieving it themselves.
Carey Price is unquestionably acting as that essential piece for the Montreal Canadiens. Every incredible stop puts the Canadiens in a better, more confident, position. Young guys like Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki score their first, much-needed playoff goals. Shea Weber and Jeff Petry take command of the blueline and play that much better in front of the net. If the Canadiens want to win, following Carey Price’s lead is a good place to start.
The consensus going into this series was that the Penguins would dominate. Some argued that if Carey Price played the game the way he did in 2014, there was room for an upset. The Penguins have a lot of work to do if they do want to control the rest of this series, including figuring out a way to get past Price.
He is doing exactly what many thought he would. Playing at the highest level and forcing Pittsburgh to work around it.