Greetings, denizens of Eyes On The Prize. I’ve missed you. It has been a good while since I last discussed the Montreal Canadiens with this community. A great many things have changed in this world since then, but some things are as they have always been.
For example: Carey Price is still one of, if not the best goaltender on the planet.
He had a slow start to the year, but the past few months have been reminiscent of his Vezina season. Friday night was yet another example of that. He made a number of impressive saves throughout the game, securing an incredibly valuable two points toward the playoff chase.
The game was much closer than you’d expect, considering that the New York Rangers are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, and the Canadiens are fighting to stay in it. It wasn’t nearly the stinker they put up against the New Jersey Devils earlier in the week, but a better start was certainly expected from the Habs against a non-playoff team.
It didn’t matter, though, as whenever the Rangers pressed, Price was equal to the task. They opened the scoring thanks to a fortuitous deflection, but Price shut the door on anything that he got a good look at. And he did it in the same calm, collected way that almost looks easy for him.
Price can be as brilliant as he wants, but he still needs run support to get the win. Enter Joel Armia.
Outside of Brendan Gallagher, Armia was the only goal-scorer for the Habs on Friday. He gave his team the lead, scored the game-winning goal, and added some insurance as the second Habs player to score a hat trick in as many games.
To be fair, he cashed in on a crazy stanchion bounce to give the Habs that initial lead, and also scored that insurance marker into an empty net to get the hat trick. But he was arguably the best skater on the Habs’ roster last night, and sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time to score three goals in a single game.
That being said, his second goal was a thing of beauty. It was a masterclass of puck protection on the rush, finished off by a heavy shot. If there were a hockey school where all they taught was puck protection and stealing pucks from opposing players, Armia would be that school’s Dumbledore.
It was far from the worst game of the Habs’ season, but it was somewhat of a lacklustre effort. Thankfully for them, Price and Armia made sure they went home with two crucial points in the playoff push.
And on a personal note, it feels damn good to be back!