There is no player in the NHL that has a bigger impact on the success or failure of his team than Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
When he plays, they win. When he does not play, they lose. That is why they have to be very encouraged from what they have seen from him so far in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, including his 27-save shutout performance on Saturday night in Canada’s dominating 6-0 win over the Czech Republic.
Price, of course, is coming off of an injury-shortened 2015-16 season that saw him miss all but 12 games. He did not play after Nov. 25 as the team completely crumbled down the stretch, completely erasing what had been one of the best starts in franchise history. How he comes back from that injury is going to go a long way toward determining how the Canadiens do this season.
Even before Saturday’s game Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said (via TSN) that he was happy with the way his goaltender looked in the pre-tournament tune-up games in the World Cup. He had to be positively thrilled with the way he looked on Saturday when he recorded another shutout and looked like the Price that took home the Vezina Trophy and MVP award two years ago. He also continued his dominance for Team Canada.
The key with this performance is what a healthy Price means for the Canadiens because of the impact he has on the entire team. Obviously any team is going to be better with its starting goalie in the lineup as opposed to a backup (especially when that starting goalie is as good as Price is). But with Price and the Canadiens the difference seems to be even more dramatic. In games Price has played in over the past three years the Canadiens are 88-38-11. That is a 112-point pace over 82 games. In games he has not played, that record drops to 50-50-13, an 82-point pace.
The Canadiens are still a very flawed team from top to bottom, and they really did not do themselves any favors in the offseason with pretty much any of their big moves. But Price is a game-changer, and if he is healthy and back to playing at the level he was at two years ago — or really, even anything close to that level — the Canadiens’ chances for a bounceback season are going to skyrocket.
It is still a very small sampling at this point, but so far the early returns have to be extremely encouraging for the Canadiens and their fans.