While NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has been hopelessly hunting for Coyotes’ fans in Arizona, Montreal Canadiens Goalie Carey Price was busy hunting coyotes quite a few miles to the north in British Columbia during the NHL lockout. Several weeks ago, Price posted a photo on Twitter posing with a dead coyote and his hunting partner. For the Habs’ playoff hopes this season not to meet the same fate as the coyote in Price’s photo, Price will have to carry the team on his back during the shortened season.
By all indications, Price should not have much trouble handling a compressed 48 game season, since he has averaged 70 games per season in goal for the past two seasons. Although Price’s durability during a regular 82 game season is not a question, how he handles a shortened season with limited training camp preparation may be a factor.
Few people expect the Canadiens to be a high powered offensive unit this season. In 2011-12, the Habs only had two players, LW Max Pacioretty and LW Erik Cole, score over 30 goals. No other player on the roster managed to score over 20 goals. The lack of offensive production was a major reason Montreal missed qualifying for the playoffs last season.
No doubt, Price will have to be at the top of his game to keep the team competitive and in the playoff hunt. At age 25, and in his prime, there is no reason to believe that Price will not be his usual stellar self. But since he has never played a season under such extenuating and demanding circumstances, Price’s performance is certainly to be watched closely by the coaching staff.
Backing up Price in net is 30 year old G Peter Budaj, who played only 17 games for the Habs last season. If Price unexpectedly falters or is injured (he missed the final three games with a concussion last season), chances are it will be unlikely for Budaj to step in and save the season, which will be a sprint compared to the regular 82 game marathon.
The playoff hunt for the Canadiens begins at home on Saturday January 19 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Habs and their fans are hoping it will be just as successful as Price’s coyote hunt.
As for Bettman, his hunt for Phoenix Coyotes hockey fans should have been called of a very long time ago. In fact, it should have never begun in the first place. But that is another story all together.