A surprisingly successful 2013 season for the Montreal Canadiens came to an ugly ending for the Eastern Conference’s no. 2 seed. After going from worst in the East to one of the top clubs, they sputtered there at the end and eventually crashed and burned in an ugly fashion in the postseason.
Part of the reason for their scuffle in the second half of the season, and their struggles in the playoffs, was the inconsistent play of Carey Price. The goaltender was a large reason for their success early on, but he eventually began to fade before being injured in the postseason.
Price’s final numbers during the regular season weren’t completely awful, but could stand to improve quite a bit. He had a 2.59 GAA and .905 save percentage. Not awful for an average goaltender, but Price isn’t expected to be average. He’s a name that should be in there with the elite.
He was pulled multiple times in the final month of the regular season, including one start in which he allowed three goals on four shots. That final month seemed to carry over into the playoffs, as his performance was nothing short of atrocious. In four games prior to suffering a lower body injury, he had an .894 save percentage and a 3.26 GAA. Ugly.
Nonetheless, Habs management has already put out word that they support him and he’s their guy for the future. It’s a ringing endorsement from the right people, but that doesn’t excuse Price’s inconsistency. He was far from the only reason they were eliminated from the postseason, but he was a factor.
Then there’s the matter of his struggles during the regular season. This Habs team was among the best in the league defensively. There aren’t too many excuses for a goaltender that is the caliber, and carries the contract, of Price.
If the Habs are going to build on their success from 2013, and improve, then Carey Price simply has to be better. He’s been prone to streaks of inconsistency over the past couple of years, but these can’t be acceptable any more. He has to be better. If he is, and the front office makes the moves they need to make, this club will make even more noise than they did this season.