Let’s get one thing straight. Carey Price is not down for the count.
Still reading? Okay ... let me explain.
Some might say that Price threw his back out from carrying the rest of the team for the past few seasons. Others may have gone to the extreme and turned their backs on the goaltender altogether after he had the crappiest season of his career.
We all remember the glorious 2014-15 season when Price had his best year to date, finishing with a mind-blowing 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. And let’s not forget that happened just after he picked up a gold medal at the Olympics with Team Canada, sporting a 0.59 GAA and .972 Sv%.
It’s a huge challenge to continue at that calibre — especially when injuries strike. And the injuries struck. Big time. Every season that followed had Price facing one knee or lower-body injury after another.
But the 2017-18 season was like none we’d ever witnessed. His jaw-dropping saves were few and far between. He was letting in three or more goals on a regular basis. Losing sight of the puck, late on rebounds, and after a while he just stopped looking Price-like altogether. When a goalie as smooth as Price struggles, it looks extra awful because we’re not used to seeing it, and it became hard to watch.
His rough season started right off the bat, missing a string of games — including the season opener — with a severe case of flu. From there, it was just one thing after another. When he finally made his way back, he injured himself during warm-ups on November 2, but proceeded to play because he felt fine, only to find out the next morning that he wasn’t so fine after all.
In January, it was reported that Price was battling chronic fatigue at the start of the season and that it had prevented him from recovering well enough after practices and games. “I was always tired,” Price said. “A guy who eats well and sleeps well like me isn’t supposed to be tired like I was.”
After consulting a nutritionist and going through a few tests it was discovered that he had vitamin D and B12 deficiencies. It took a few weeks but after making the necessary changes, his energy levels started to rise.
Then what happened? During a match against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 22, he took a puck to the mask from a shot by Shayne Gostisbehere.
Two days later, it was released that he was out indefinitely with a concussion.
A month later, he returned to finish up the season. Some thought, ‘what’s the point?’, but this was actually good news, because if he was well enough to finish the season one would think he’ll be well enough to start the new one.
Are these excuses? I’m willing to bet that if you endured seven months of battling the flu, exhaustion, injuries, and topped it off with a concussion, you would have had a pretty frustrating go of it, too.
The 2017-18 season wasn’t 100% cringe-worthy though. We still had the occasional sighting of the “old” Price that made us fist-pump (admit it).
Now that the season is behind us, let’s not think it’s the way of the future. Yes, it sucked but let’s let it go (deep breath in, deep breath out). The 2018-19 season is a clean slate and there’s no reason to think that Price won’t be in tip-top goalie shape. Sure it takes athletes longer to recover after injuries as they get older, but Price is by no means a grandpa, not even in hockey years. He’s still expected to be the 27-year-old who took home the Jennings Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and Hart Trophy all in one evening. Those are pretty high expectations.
According to Stéphane Waite, Price is expected to mind the net 50-60 times this season season and believes his netminder will be up to the challenge. “I like the tone of his voice,” Waite said after speaking with Price over the summer, adding that he’s fit and his training is going well.
Price has to stay healthy this season. I mean, he has another record to beat: the opportunity to be the winningest goaltender in Montreal Canadiens history. Currently third on the list with 286 victories, he should easily pass Patrick Roy (289) and is within reach to surpass Jacques Plante (314).
We know Price can do better, and so does he.
That being said, hockey is a team sport, and Price can’t do it alone. He needs the goal-scorers to step up and the defence corps to have his back. If Price and Waite are saying he’ll be ready, there’s no reason for us to think any differently
Is believing Price will be back to wowing us next season a case of wearing rose-coloured glasses? Maybe. Is it blind loyalty? Perhaps. Do I believe it? Yes.
As the saying goes, the only place to go after hitting rock bottom ... is up.