Carey Price may be the deserving favorite to win the Hart Trophy, but his numbers in six games against the Lightning were anything but MVP-caliber.
Price went 2-4 versus Tampa Bay, allowing 16 goals on 154 shots, for a save percentage of .896.
His performance was actually quite reminiscent of the one by the last goalie to win the Hart, Montreal’s Jose Theodore in 2001-02. Also in the second round, Theodore struggled against Carolina, allowing 14 goals in his final three games combined, and the Habs went out in six.
That’s the risk a team takes when it relies heavily on its goalie. The Canadiens were not a particularly good possession team this season. They gave up more shots than they registered. They won their division largely because they had the NHL’s highest save percentage (.926).
“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series,” Price said. “I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to.”
That may sound like he’s being overly hard on himself, but what he said wasn’t untrue. His counterpart, Ben Bishop, finished the series with a .940 save percentage. The Lightning clearly won the goaltending battle. Hands up those who predicted that Bishop would outplay Price. Heck, a couple of weeks ago we were wondering if Bishop would be his team’s Achilles’ heel in Game 7 versus Detroit. You’ll recall that everyone was on the Petr Mrazek train then. What have we said all season about the unpredictability of the goaltending position?
“As a team we’ve got to understand that Carey’s the best goalie in the world but he’s also human, things are going to happen out of his control sometimes and we’ve got to respond for him,” defenseman P.K. Subban said.
With Montreal’s season over, that response now falls to GM Marc Bergevin. But his task won’t be an easy one. Unless you can think of a simple way to add an elite center. Because asking Alex Galchenyuk to be that guy next season is a pretty big ask for a 21-year-old. All we know is a team with Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais as its top two centers is going to be hard-pressed to win the Stanley Cup, even with brilliant goaltending.