The Montreal Canadiens are off to a disappointing 4-8-1 start. There’s no team below them in the Eastern Conference standings, but the most concerning thing might be the play of franchise goaltender Carey Price.
Price struggled at times during the 2016-17 season before finding his game once Claude Julien took over for Michel Therrien behind the bench.
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, things have probably been worse for Price this year than any time last season, which is saying something. He’s been between the pipes for eight of Montreal’s nine losses, including Thursday’s ugly 6-3 defeat against the Minnesota Wild.
Through 11 games, the 30-year-old has allowed the opposition to score three goals or more eight times and four goals or more seven times. He currently owns a 3.77 goals-against-average and a .877 save percentage.
“I think at the end of the day, we all know that Carey [Price] is a much better goaltender than he’s showing right now,” said head coach Claude Julien after the game, per NHL.com. “The only thing he can do, and we can do, is keep working with him, and him working hard and find his groove again, because he’s definitely the key to us getting back into the race here and being a playoff contender.”
When Price is on his game, weird goals like this don’t beat him:
Don’t get it wrong, he’s not the only one to blame for Montreal’s struggles (their defensive zone coverage has been awful, too), but when GM Marc Bergevin says the solution to the Canadiens’ problems is in the locker room, he’s talking about Price. He’s the only one who can cover up their deficiencies (which isn’t fair, by the way).
Some believe he’s playing hurt, others have suggested that all the injuries he’s dealt with in the past have finally caught up to him, and some believe it’s just a confidence/mechanics issue. We don’t know what it is, but one thing is certain, the Canadiens better hope he can play himself out of this funk. They just made him the highest paid goalie in NHL history with that eight-year, $84 million he signed in July. Oh, and by the way, that contract only kicks in next season.
UPDATE: A minor lower body injury will keep Price sidelined for Saturday night’s game in Winnipeg.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.