Habs Season: It’s Over, Finally Over

8
94
The Associated Press

By Steve Farnham, AllHabs.net

MONTREAL, QC. — On Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens concluded their 2011-12 season by winning their final game at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs by the score of 4-1, a small consolation prize for what has overall been a terrible season.

Many questions remain as the team heads into the offseason, such as who will be hired as the next General Manager, who they will appoint as their next coaching staff, how they will handle contract negotiations with players such as Carey Price and P.K. Subban, and how they will reshape and mould the team, into the Stanley Cup winner Geoff Molson promised the fans of the Bleu Blanc Rouge.

Having worn the pads in my younger days, and being the fan of Carey Price that I am, he has sort of in a way been my safety net this season. I say this because no matter how bad the team appeared to be doing, I constantly felt that I could fall back on the fact Carey Price was still playing well. It wasn’t a perfect season, it wasn’t like last season that’s for sure, but it would be unfair to expect the same, on a team that parachuted down the standings to the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Of course we’re all bothered by how his season ended, and nobody likes to hear that he’s been diagnosed with a mild concussion, but all we can do is hope that he recovers quickly, that he’s ready to start the next season and that we never hear of it again. Oh and what’s to say about this possible offseason surgery on his right ankle? Make it stop!

That aside, and going back to this season, his numbers were quite remarkable on a team that ended up finishing at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, and 28th overall in the league standings. His goals against average (GAA) of 2.43 was good enough for 19th overall in the league, however when broken down, only four starting goaltenders in the Eastern Conference fall ahead of him. If we move to his save percentage (Sv%), he finished the season with a 0.916% average, ranking him 21st overall in the league, and once again, just like in the GAA category, only four starting goaltenders in the Eastern Conference have a better average than he does. Good, right? Euh, maybe not. Apparently, that’s not good enough for everyone.

It happens quite often that I will disagree with the opinion of another writer, daily really, sometimes hourly. It’s only natural that as we share our different opinions and points of view, that disagreements will happen, so I don’t normally go out of my way to name those I disagree with. This time I have to. I woke up yesterday morning (It was the afternoon really, I went to bed late) to a turmoil on twitter, over what a certain writer wrote about Carey Price. Yes, you know exactly who it is, Jack Todd strikes again.

Here’s an excerpt from his text when speaking of things he feels the next Montreal Canadiens’ general manager needs to do:

“No sacred cows – and that includes Carey Price: It’s hard to find anyone around here who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid where Price is concerned – and yet any dispassionate observer would have to conclude that so far in his career, Price has lived up to the hype only once in five seasons. That was during the 2010-11 season, when he was very good, although still well behind Tim Thomas for the season.

Sure, Price looks good in a cowboy outfit. So did Casey Tibbs. Sure, he wins the Molson Cup trophy by default every month, even during a season when he was nowhere near this team’s best player. But when you finish 28th in the league, you’re a bad team. When a goalie starts 65 games for you and wins 26, he’s part of the problem.

Let’s can the talk about how the fault was all with Price’s teammates. First of all, Price was playing behind one of the best penalty-killing units in the NHL – which does wonders for a goalie’s stats. Second, the Los Angeles Kings scored 194 goals this season, the St. Louis Blues 210, the Canadiens 212. Two of these teams are in the playoffs thanks to their goaltending. The third is not.

Maybe Price is the real deal. He was last season. He’s big, he positions himself well, he keeps his team in games – but too often, he doesn’t win those games. Before the new GM coughs up a contract for a bazillion years for this guy, he has to ask himself the question: does Carey Price have the fire to grab a game in his teeth the way Patrick Roy used to do and simply refuse to lose? This season, at least, the answer was “no.””

Holy unholy Kool-Aid cow-talk Jack! Have you still not gotten over the fact Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues? It appears not.

The Associated Press

Let’s take this one little bit at a time, all while drinking a tall glass of Kool-Aid. OH YEAH. Seriously Jack, what’s wrong with drinking Carey Price Kool-Aid, is it wrong for fans to have hope that this goaltender is the real deal and will be for years to come? Forget hope, what about those of us who see that he not only has size and positions himself well, but that he anticipates the play brilliantly, at times appearing to be one step ahead of the shooters; that he has tremendously improved his rebound control, preventing opponents from obtaining consecutive shots on goal.

Would it be better if everyone unjustiably bashed him and criticized him as you do? We saw how that worked out in his first few years.

Mr. Todd also says Carey Price has only really had one good season in his five seasons so far as a pro. Well wait here for a second. First of all, are we saying that in his first season, finishing with 24 wins and only 12 losses in 41 games, with a Sv% of 0.920% and three shutouts was a bad season? The standards have been raised and I didn’t get the memo!

If you add last season and this season, where nobody will convince me Price had anything other than a good season, well that’s three out of five so far for a goaltender that was arguably rushed too quickly into the league.

His main argument seems to be that if your goaltender only wins you 26 games during the season, they have to undoubtedly be part of the problem. He goes on to back this up with absolutely nothing.

Instead of backing his argument, he actually does a better job at attempting to joke about Price’s cowboy attire, and makes it quite evident that he’s a little sad for his favourite players who didn’t win the Molson Cup as often as he feels they should have.

It’s true that Price did only win 26 games this season and that comes with finishing at the bottom of the standings, however if we examine his season, it’s difficult to put the blame on him for the outcome that it was.

39 losses went to the record of Price this season. Out of those 39 losses, only 13 times did he give up 4 or more goals, and never more than 5 in any of those losses. That means that for 26 of his losses this season, he only gave up 3 goals or less, and didn’t get the goal support necessary from his teammates to come out with a win. It should also be noted that not once was he pulled from a game this season, which is a testament to the level of consistency he was able to show throughout the season. It’s also important to note that in more than half of those 39 losses, Carey Price had to face 30 or more shots.

But who cares right, Jack?

Now to his point about how Carey Price only really looks good because he plays behind a team that’s good on the penalty kill. Maybe this actually does make a little sense, does it? Let’s examine. The Montreal Canadiens finished the season with a combined penalty killing percentage of 88.6%, good enough for second in the league behind only the New Jersey Devils. Is the penalty kill really only the work of the four players in front of Carey Price, as Mr. Todd is indicating?

With 521:26 minutes of penalty time this season, the Montreal Canadiens are the team that had to kill off the most penalty time, and that being said, they only gave up 347 shots during that time, to put them 7th in the league, meaning only 6 other teams gave up less shots. That would support the claim that Carey Price receives great support on the penalty kill, however anyone who watches the Canadiens’ play, also understands the contribution of Carey Price to the penalty kill, which is quite similar to Martin Brodeur’s contribution in New Jersey. What they bring is that puck-playing ability that prevents teams from ringing the puck around the boards and setting up the power-play. More often than not, Price cuts off these dump-ins, and either sets up his defenceman for the breakout, or at times will clear the puck out of the zone himself. This is not to diminish the work on the penalty kill that other players bring, such as Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges to name a couple, but it’s a fact that often gets overshadowed.

He then goes on to appear to want to make a point about how the Los Angeles Kings and St Louis Blues are both in the playoffs, teams that have similar goals for as the Habs do, and says that they are in the playoffs thanks to their goaltending.

I have to agree with the Kings, as Jonathan Quick is my hands down Vezina trophy winner if I had a vote to cast, and is the reason the Kings are in the playoffs, but the St Louis Blues, Jack? Here’s a team that finished first in what is arguably the toughest division (Central) in the National Hockey League, finishing ahead of teams having tremendous seasons such as the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. (All had over 100 points this season) With the Blues, we have a team that has been relatively injury-free all season long compared to the Habs, and whose success this season is no huge surprise to those who’ve seen their progress over the last few seasons. There is simply no way to compare the Blues to the Canadiens this season, and it would take a whole other column to make that point. Just very quickly, on the statistical side, the Blues gave up three less shots per game this season than the Habs, which adds up to a whole lot of shots if you multiply it by the 82 game calendar. The Blues actually were first in the league, giving up the least amount of shots out of any team in the league. As for Montreal, the fact that Josh Gorges and the Montreal Canadiens lead the league in blocked shots, is a clear indication that the Canadiens spend more time in their own zone then they’d like.

Therefore the argument that Carey Price should have lead the Canadiens to the playoffs, because Jonathan Quick was able to do so, and because the St Louis Blues are in, two teams who have similar goals for as the Habs do, is invalid. You simply can’t take that and that alone into consideration.

Finally, Mr. Todd closes his argument by saying Price just doesn’t win games like Patrick Roy used to do. This comment comes only a year after Price obtained more wins than Patrick Roy ever did as a Montreal Canadien, and also matching Roy’s career high. In Roy’s case, if you look past the wins and into the stats, you notice that for the most part, Roy didn’t have the greatest stats, whether GAA or Sv% throughout his career, but was able to win games, because he not only was a great goaltender, but played on great teams for the most part, which helped him gather those wins. After all, it is a team sport.

Does Mr. Todd have a point when saying Carey Price is part of the problem? I don’t believe he does one bit, and if anything, I believe people like Jack Todd are part of the problem.

Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

8 COMMENTS

  1. Well said, for some reason people believe that it is up to the goalie to win you championships; truth is, you need to have a good team, not just a good goalie, to win the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens have not had a solid overall team for years, yet fans are so quick to point out the goalie’s issues vs. the teams inability to dominate opponents. When was the last time a somewhat talented team won the Stanley Cup?

  2. The Blues have been relatively injury-free all year? That takes validity from this article. They have had many key injuries ALL year until now. Check your facts. Price had ok year. He didn’t win Montreal any games. And, how about the shootout???

  3. The one thing I would point out, when you say Price is 5th among starters in the East for GAA and SV%, is that this makes perfectly logical sense considering the team was 5th in the East in GA.

    Price needs to be better in the shootout, but otherwise I think the team needs to look at scoring more goals and preventing third period collapses (we allowed something around 20 more goals in the 3rd than in the 1st or 2nd)

  4. I don’t have the exact stat with me, but in many of Price’s loses, Habs scored only one goal, or none at all. No matter what Carey does, with no goal support, he won’t win games.

    Well done, Steve.

  5. Stefano, we’d probably have to go back to 2005-06 when the Canes won the cup.

    Kevin: For GAA, I agree there is a direct corolation, for the Sv% however, it would have been possible for him to allow the same number of goals, but on a lesser amount of shots which would have given a different result. My point was mostly the fact that when you look at the numbers, he didn’t have a bad season at all, especially when you compare to his competition.

    As for the shootout, I’m not sure if he just got off to a bad start of whether he really does need to improve. I will say this however, his record of 5-8 is not much worse than Jonathan Quick’s 6-8, so I guess they can’t all be great in every category all the time.

    As for goals per period, you are correct, they gave up about 20 more goals in the third vs the first and second periods. (60,67,83) Combine this with the fact that the third period happens to be the period that the Habs scored the least amount of goals (66,74,65) and it’s a great recipe for disaster.

    Chantal, quick check tells me that he allowed 1 goal once, and 2 goals 12 times in his losses this season.

    Thank you all for reading and commenting!

  6. Jen, I apologize as it appears I overlooked your comment the first time around. Perhaps “Injury-free” wasn’t the right word to use however their situation was nothing like that of the Canadiens this season, not even close.

    When we look at man games lost, the Canadiens are ahead of the Blues by what’s approximately an entire calendar season.

    The injuries, or ongoing injuries to players like Ryan White, Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Travis Moen outweight those suffered by Perron, McDonald and Steen both in total games and overall impact, at least in my opinion.

    As for the shootout, i mentioned it in my last comment.

    Thanks

  7. Stevo – C’mon, you can’t say that injuries to Gomez, White and Moen had more impact than the Blues having injuries to Steen (their top scorer), Crombeen, D’Agostini, Oshie, McDonald … Yes, Markov was a big loss, but the Canadiens had lived without him for two years. I was watching one of the last Blues broadcasts of the season, and the announcers said Hitchcock was still playing all his starters after clinching because it was pretty much the first time all year they were all playing together (back from injuries)!

    As for Price, I don’t think he sucks. I just don’t think he has lived up to his potential – He was picked at #5, after all. He should be able to carry a team at times if the scoring isn’t there. He didn’t do that this year. He was ok, not great. And, early in the year, he didn’t give the Canadiens much chance to win a shootout because he couldn’t stop a shot.

    I think part of the problem with Price is that management has handled him terribly. He should not be playing the number of games he’s played the last couple of years. They are wearing him out. Budai was a fine backup and capable of playing more games. It was unfair to Budai being critiqued for his play when he played once a month … And, if management doesn’t like Budai, then sign a REAL back-up goalie.

    • Jen – You have the advantage of having seen them play much more than I have, I can only rely on the #s I was able to scrounge up when it comes to the Blues.

      The more we discuss this, the more I believe it was maybe a question of depth more than anything. I still believe the injuries hurt Montreal much more than the Blues, but it appears to me that although the Blues were hit hard with injuries themselves, as you’ve convinced me they have, they appeared to have much better depth to rely on than the Canadiens did with players like Palushaj as an example.

      As for Price, the way I see it is as follows:
      – He was rushed too quickly into the league, and I say this even though I was one of the ones pushing for it at the time. Upon reflection, I think an extra year in the AHL would have benefited his development.
      – Last season: One of the top 5 goalies in the league IMO, and he really broke out of his shell.
      – This season was the big test, whether he would follow up on last season or go back to being that goalie that divided the city. I think he did great personally, under the circumstances. If I had to rank him on a scale of 1 to 10 this season, I’d say he was a 6 for a short period to start the season, turned into a 7 and stayed there until the holidays, and after the holidays, or between the holidays and the all star period, he turned into an 8 and stayed there until the end. I’m not saying he was perfect, he’s still young and improving, but I think that with everything that’s happened with this team this season, he’s the last person that people should look to put the finger at for what happened.

      As for the number of games played, it comes with their position in the standings. All season long, they were on the outside looking in, which made it appear like every game was a must-win (and in a way they were), which imo explains why Price got so many starts again. I’m not quite sure why they got rid of Alex Auld to be honest, who was a great backup last season, but with Budaj and another season to go on his contract, unless they get rid of him, I don’t see him playing that much more next season. Then again, new management, new coach, who knows.

      Also wanted to add that I think the player’s vote this season, where Price was voted as one of the 5 toughest goalies to score on, speaks a whole lot about what the players in the league think of Price, and for me that speaks volumes.

      That’s my view on it :)

Comments are closed.