Price was a finalist for the 2017 Vezina Trophy despite experiencing an uncustomary swoon in midseason ratios, having posted a 2.93 GAA, .898 save percentage over a particularly rough 27-game stretch. The brawny backstop jumped to 62 games last year (up from 12 in an injury-plagued 2015-16), leading his team to a 21-point increase in the standings as well as a playoff berth. However, the Habs’ skaters let him down in the conference quarterfinals against the Rangers, producing a mere 11 goals in six games while Price beasted his way to a 1.86 GAA and .933 save rate. As yet another reminder of how important Price is to Montreal’s success, general manager Marc Bergevin lavished an eight-year, $84 million contract extension on the British Columbian. He’s the face of the franchise and assuredly will be one of the first goalies off draft boards in the fall.
Price was limited to just 12 games in 2015-16, but what a dozen games they were. The reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy holder was 10-2-0 with a 2.06 GAA and .934 save percentage. The Canadiens were the toast of hockey at the time Price went down Nov. 25 with a knee injury that eventually cost him the entire season. The Habs were not forthcoming about the injury until revealing in April that he suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in the right knee. The goaltending position being what it is – goalies bend and flex and contort their bodies in all sorts of ways – the knee didn’t respond to the point where the team felt Price could perform. However, his extended recovery period has Price 100 percent healthy and planning to participate in the World Cup of Hockey in September. The 400-pound gorilla in the room is why the Habs would let Price play in a heated competition like the World Cup instead of having him slowly acclimate in the low-pressure environment of preseason play. When healthy, Price is one of the most valuable players in the league, an elite goalie capable of stealing wins for a Habs team that doesn’t score much.
Price took his game to an entirely new level last year, setting career bests in wins (44), save percentage (.933), GAA (1.96), and shutouts (nine), and he took home a wealth of hardware as a reward, identifying him as not just the league's best goaltender, but also both its most valuable and most outstanding player. Now he'll try to deliver an encore. Although it's quite the challenge to replicate that performance, the Canadiens will return most of last year's team, including several young players who are only getting better. With all those trophies on his mantle, Price will be the top goalie off the board in this year's drafts, but it's reasonable to expect a bit of regression from last year's otherworldly numbers. That is to say, the gap between Price and the other guys in the top echelon of goalies is probably not as wide as it looked last season.
Price rebounded from a subpar lockout season to post a .927 save percentage over 59 games in 2013-14. It certainly wasn't easy for Price, as the Canadiens defense allowed a ton of shots. And it would have been more had the defense not led the NHL in blocked shots. A deep run in the playoffs coupled with a stint on Canada's gold-medal winning team in the Sochi Olympics made for a long season for Price. The goalie’s biggest concern heading into 2014-15 is the state of his knee. He was injured and knocked out of the playoffs in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. The knee did not require surgery, and he’s started working out in preparation for September’s camp. Changes on the blue line -- Montreal let Josh Gorges go and will be assimilating at least one youngster -- shouldn't impact Price, who finished fourth in the Vezina race last year.
Price appeared to be having a typical season, which is to say brilliant, until a bad stretch that lingered from March to April before he hurt his knee in the first-round playoff loss to Ottawa. The Price Wasn't Right when he allowed 66 goals with an .891 save percentage in 23 games over the final two months of the season. The fact that the Canadiens survived, and prospered, despite Price's underwhelming finish says much about the team around him. Two years ago, Price had to be magnificent every night. Now, while the Canadiens aren't an elite offensive team, there's a more potent lineup around and it's not all on him every night. He'll return as Montreal's No. 1 goalie.
After sorting out the organization's leadership, the Canadiens were quick to extend Price a six-year contract. Along with P.K. Subban and Max Paciioretty, Price is part of the young core around which the franchise is building. The British Columbia native posted good numbers in 65 games last season with a 26-28-11 record and decent peripheral stats; given Montreal's anemic offense, Price really needed to be dominant every night, as his 11 losses in overtime or a shootout indicate. His record and stats are not necessarily an indictment of Price's ability, but more a barometer of the talent in front of him. This same formula could repeat itself this coming season, as the Canadiens' offense isn't going to steal many games, so Price will need to be good each and every start.
We certainly have no quarrel with Tim Thomas winning the Vezina Trophy over other deserving finalists Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo – all had great seasons. But to leave Price out of that mix is a shame. He certainly was the Canadiens' most valuable player and was stellar in Montreal’s playoff series against Boston. It behooves Montreal coach Jacques Martin to give Price a bit more rest, so don’t look for him to start 70 games this coming season. And if Montreal’s offense improves – a return to form by several key players, a full season of Max Pacioretty and the free-agent signing of Erik Cole should help that cause – Price’s win total should remain as high in fewer games.
Price was very inconsistent in 2009-10 and played in only 41 games. He finished the year 15-20-5 with a 2.77 GAA and .912 save percentage. Price is currently a restricted free agent and talks with the Habs are going very slowly. In the process, the Habs added Alex Auld and are rumored to be interested in recently released ex-Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi. The recent signing and the rumors to Niemi could be a smoke-screen in the Price negotiations, but if the roster stays as is, Price should get the bulk of the chances behind goal for the Habs in 2010-11.
Even though Price was inconsistent last season, we still think the youngster will be the man between the pipes for Montreal in 2009-10. Especially given the fact that Montreal went with him down the stretch and in the playoffs last season when backup Jaroslav Halak started to hit his stride. 2008-09 was a far cry from his rookie season, but he still put up some respectable numbers with a GAA of 2.83 and a 23-16-10 record in 52 games played. He showed just how brilliant he can be during a twelve-game stretch from November 20 to January 20 going 8-0-4. It should be interesting to see if Price can return to his rookie season form and prove that last season was just a sophomore slump.
The Habs' franchise goalie just turned 21 last month. Keep that in mind when analyzing Price's playoff demise at the hands of Philadelphia. This kid is just getting started. Coming off a 24-12-3 season with a solid 2.56 GAA and very impressive .920 SV%, Price is poised for his first full year as the No. 1. Defensively, the Habs have a solid group of veterans in Markov, Hamrlik, Mike Komisarek and Francois Bouillon. The continued development of youngsters Josh Gorges and Ryan O'Byrne is also expected. Up front the team is loaded with scoring talent. Price should make for an excellent No. 2 roto goalie this year.
Price had another fantastic season with Tri-City of the WHL and he also led Team Canada to a third straight gold medal at the World Junior Championship. An argument can be made that Price is the top goalie prospect in the entire NHL and the Canadiens would be better off if they got him to the NHL quickly. However, a full season in Hamilton of the AHL may be more prudent for his development. Management is undecided entering training camp but he will likely have to outplay Halak to win the backup job behind Huet.
Price is a big (6'2"), technically sound netminder who moves well, is agile and plays well under pressure. His stand-up style bucks the current trend toward butterfly goalies. He has the potential to become a strong number one netminder in the NHL.