Arguably, the most important position on an NHL roster is the goaltender. It is for the Montreal Canadiens. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Montreal 7-6 in overtime, as both Carey Price and Tomas Vokoun seemed to be feeling uncomfortable in their own skin.
Despite the home loss, the Canadiens left it all on the ice, giving a spirited effort and showing grit by overcoming a 4-2 deficit. The free-wheeling Penguins, one of the few teams in the league who can make puck movement look like ballet, were without superstar center Evgeni Malkin, who was nursing a concussion. Malkin’s absence did not deter the Pens potent offense led by another superstar, Sidney Crosby, the league’s top point scorer.
Canadiens rookie Brendan Gallagher played his heart out, but in the end, it was ultimately ripped out by the shaky goaltending of Price. If there was one position which the Habs had few worries about coming into this season, it was goalie. However, Price’s recent struggles in the net have to be somewhat of a concern for the coaching staff.
It is difficult to recall one game this season where Price has been absolutely lights out unbeatable. Price has been solid, but nothing to write home about with a save percentage of .915, which ranks seventeenth on the leader boards.
Surely, there were numerous defensive breakdowns by Montreal against Pittsburgh, but a goalie like Price is supposed to neutralize such meltdowns and bail his team out on occasion. With the defense saving two sure goals and bailing Price out, the shoe was on the other foot. This is not a long-term formula for success.
For the second game this season, Price allowed six or more goals in one game at the Bell Centre. Although Price has been effective throughout the season, he is yet to reach the top of his game. He appears to be off on his positioning and his reflexes are not as sharp as he has displayed in the past. The overtime winner by the Pens Brandon Sutter had Price imitating a deer blinded by headlights.
Habs head coach Michel Therrien has named Peter Budaj to start against the Boston Bruins tonight in Beantown. With Price’s confidence (and ability) apparently on a slight decline, Therrien has no choice but to go with backup Budaj. Another dreadful game against Boston could be devastating to Price’s confidence.
As evidenced against Pittsburgh, the Canadiens success is contingent on Price returning to form and playing like one of the top five goalies in the league. If the team’s only superstar is not at the top of his game, there is little chance the Habs can make a serious run for the Stanley Cup.