With the Montreal Canadiens struggling as of late in the W-L column, naturally the eyes of the fans and media are focused on the team's starting goaltender.
Carey Price is obviously in a bit of a slump, going 2-7-1 over his last 10 starts with a save percentage of just .870. Despite the poor numbers in the month of December, he was still the best Habs player and earned the Molson Cup segment for the third straight month in a row.
That alone shows that you can't hang the blame on the 23-year old netminder over that stretch, as the whole team fell apart. Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Thrashers was probably the only lone exception. Price knew it too, based on his frustrated feelings post-game.
"The problem starts with me," was how Price felt following Sunday's defeat. For that game, maybe. The rest of the way since December 10, not so much.
When an offense can't spew out more than two goals a game, you know there's going to be trouble. It's not to say that Price was 100% perfect leading into mid-December, but when he did make a mistake his team was there ti help him out. Since the Dec 10 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, that give and take relationship has disappeared.
It's no secret that Carey Price hates to lose, as witnessed by his bag-tossing and wall punching moments in the past, and it's maybe a message that the rest of the team that he carried into December needs to realize it and wake up.
To further back the case for Price, this post from The Bad Hab-it, further notes the lack of offense to support the Canadiens goalie.
"Over the course of Price’s last ten starts, the offense has only produced an average of 1.9 goals per game. Almost a full goal under what they were providing before this. The most interesting note in all of this is probably the fact that over the course of these games, the Canadiens have outshot the opponent in nine of ten games. Shots don’t necessarily equal scoring chances."
General fan reaction appears to have shown differently however, in the All-Star balloting. Although the extended analysis and micro stats can show Price, and the rest of the team for that matter, in another more positive light, the "what have you done for me lately?" crowd sees it in terms of wins, and lately they have been far in between.
Price fell from the top of the All-Star voting pack, as a write-in, and finished 54,000+ votes behind the Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury. If Price continued his wining way, things would be different. That or those scheming Penguins-fans/computer geeks came up with a script to run the table for MAF in the last week. Not that it's happened before, right?
Another observation was made today by CTV and Hockeybuzz's Eric Engels, who noted that a December-January skid for Price seems to be a more regular occurrence. Is it just a mid-season phase that he regularly goes through, or just coincidence?
With a day off to rest, and go shopping at Costco (really, he did!), before Tuesday's practice, the Habs netminder had some time to "chillax" as it were and get his thoughts back on the game and a month with better preparation time for him and the team.
"We all knew that there were going to be stretches over the course of the year that weren't going to be as easy for us. There are times where I might not be playing great but the rest of the team will really step up and get us a point, like in the last game," Price said after today's practice. "Other games I’ll be playing better and maybe help steal us a few points.
Price also noted the advantage of the extra practice time to work on the small details of his game.
"Often it's just a matter of a few inches. If you're down in your net six inches longer than usual, it makes the opening in the corner of the net even greater, " he said. "Small adjustments of a few inches here and there can end up making a big difference between a puck hitting you, or hit a skate and into the net. "
Engels later echoes Price's sentiments, in his CTV post , noting that Price will be the man to fall to in a tough series of January games.
"Carey Price has the next couple of days to erase the tough bounces and sub-standard performances from memory so he can get back to the level that saw him win 19 games this season. With the schedule as tough as it seems, rest assured that Price will carry the load."
The test begins Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, where Price will look to regain the form similar to his 36 save performance, against Sidney Crosby and company, back on October 9.
Where Old Habs go to... Marc-Andre Bergeron signs with the Tampa Bay Lightning. No word on dollars involved in the two-way signing, but CapGeek has it pegged at $1 million if he remains with the big club. Meanwhile the Lightning have over $6 million invested on goaltending after acquiring Dwayne Roloson fromn the New York Islanders. Ex-Habs prospect Cedrick Desjardins had a pair of decent starts for the Bolts, icluding his firsat career win coming against Montreal, but again finds himslef back in the minors.
The first of many: Abe Hefter of CJAD gives us his mid-season (less a game) report card on the Habs in 2010-11. AllHabs looks at the first 40 games in numbers and TheTeam990's Gary Whitaker gives his grades.
A less than favourable opinion of the Molson Cup from Lions in Winter