When you’ve got the best goalie in the world, you can afford to get outshot the odd time, or even more often than not.
But the Montreal Canadiens are really pushing that theory lately. Last night, they were outshot 43-23 by the Bruins, and of course Montreal won the game, 3-2. The aforementioned best goalie in the world, Carey Price, improved to 8-0-0 on the season, with a .953 save percentage.
The Bruins game was practically a carbon copy of Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Flyers, who outshot the Habs, 38-17.
And the Flyers game was practically a carbon copy of last week’s 3-0 shutout over the Canucks, who finished with 42 shots to Montreal’s 21.
Price was in goal for both of those, too.
So, despite his team’s 11-1-1 record, is head coach Michel Therrien concerned?
You bet he is.
“We’re getting into trouble lately with the quality of our play with the puck,” Therrien told reporters last night. “We need to win battles for the puck and protect the puck, and that’s what we’re having trouble with right now.”
As we saw in 2014-15, Price is fully capable of carrying his team to a playoff spot. He won 44 games for the Habs that season, for which he was awarded the Hart Trophy.
But the postseason did not go so well. The Habs took care of Ottawa in the first round, but ran into a red-hot Ben Bishop in the second round. Price, for whatever reason, struggled against Tampa Bay, allowing 16 goals on 154 shots, for a save percentage of .896.
It was eerily reminiscent of 2001-02, when another Montreal goalie, Jose Theodore, won the Hart. The Habs got to the second round, but that’s as far as their goalie could take them.
The fact is, most teams that make the playoffs have a pretty good goalie. And teams that go on a deep run usually have a goalie who’s in excellent form, like Bishop was. And because of that, the advantage of having a goalie like Price is lessened.
Even in 2006 when Carolina won the Stanley Cup and Cam Ward‘s brilliance earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Hurricanes still finished the playoffs with a positive shot differential (+1.8).
Ditto for the Kings in 2012 (+3.6), when Jonathan Quick was the MVP.
And while Tim Thomas and the Bruins had a negative shot differential in the 2011 postseason, it wasn’t wildly negative (-2.9). Thomas was the MVP, no doubt about that, but Boston was a reasonably good puck-possession team, and right now you can’t say that about Montreal.
“I know we’re winning but we can’t give them 43 shots on net,” Alexander Radulov said, per the Montreal Gazette. “Carey is good but we have to do more on offense. There are a lot of games left and we have to be better.”