At some point during the first period when the Detroit Red Wings had the Montreal Canadiens sealed tight in their own zone for what seemed like about a minute, maybe even more, I chuckled to myself as Price effortlessly made a save and froze the puck while the rest of the team skated around like chickens with their heads cut off.
You see, this is what these Habs do. I knew, like this deep, unquantifiable knowing, that Montreal was going to win this game, and it would be hilarious.
Sure enough, the Red Wings attacked in wave upon wave, completely outplaying the Habs to a tune of 58.89% of shot attempts at even strength, but they just couldn't beat Carey Price. They had their chances, including a couple powerplays, but as has been the case for essentially this entire season, Price will stop everything, even if he can't see it. At one point on Monday night, Price somehow anticipated a tipped shot from less than 5 feet out from the net, and out shot his left leg for a toe save that not only saved a goal, but put the puck into a safe area by the boards.
Price is at a level right now that I'm not sure this league has seen since the heyday of Dominic Hasek, and even then, I would put what Price is doing up against that any day of the week. In his last 30 starts, Price has a .950 save percentage, which is ridiculous enough, but he just keeps getting better somehow. In his last 10 starts, Price has put up a .963 save percentage with a 9-1-0 record. That shouldn't even be possible.
After stopping everything for 57 and a half minutes, a quick rush up the ice by Max Pacioretty changed the dynamic completely, with Jimmy Howard making the initial save, Dale Weise chased down the loose puck along the left-side boards, and as he flipped a pass to open space near the blueline, Pavel Datsyuk lost his footing, creating a huge space for Tomas Plekanec to come up off the bench, grab the loose puck, and wire a bullet of a slap shot of the left post and in.
With the Red Wings' net empty, P.K. Subban controlled a loose puck and let Plekanec take it to rim it around the boards, and with Pacioretty taking notice, and streaking out of the zone, it was an easy empty netter to seal the win. Both Plekanec and Subban notched their 40th points of the season on the play.
Is it possible to have two MVPs?
Let's talk about Subban for a moment. Lost in the brilliance of Carey Price has been the immense contributions of Subban this season. For whatever reason, no Canadiens player has received more criticism this season than P.K. Subban. A big reason for the criticism is Subban's new cap hit of $9M, even if he's only making $7M this season, and players like Shea Weber are making $14M while contributing less on the ice. Having that $9M marker above his head, there are definitely greater expectations for Subban, not to mention wearing the 'A' for half the seasons' games.
Here's the problem with the criticism though, it's unfounded. Subban remains one of the best play drivers in the entire NHL, and has taken that to another level over the last three weeks. While Subban has been on the ice over the last 12 games, the Habs have controlled a whopping 59% of shot attempts, while taking more defensive zone draws than any player on the team (104), and just 47.3% of his total faceoffs in the offensive zone. Subban is doing this while facing the top players on the opposing team every night, often insulating weak possession players like Weise.
Without Subban on the ice, the Canadiens have been horrid, controlling just 46.7% of shot attempts, which would place them between New Jersey and Columbus for 25th in the NHL. It's always true that teams without their best skater are going to be a lot weaker, but the extent to which the Canadiens drop off is incredible.
Yet every day on various broadcasts there's non-stop criticism of Subban, scrutinizing every mistake. It's one thing to be extra critical of a player making so much money, but this scrutiny existed before he made the cash. For two years, Subban was paid like a third pairing journeyman at $2.875M, less than what Bryan Allen is making in the AHL. Over those two years, he won a Norris Trophy, led all defensemen in the NHL in points, and had the best all-situations scoring chance differential relative to his team in the entire league.
So unless you want to couch your criticism of the $9M player with the fact that he played like a $9M player for two years while earning less than 30% of that, you should probably be quiet.