There is an argument, buoyed by the opinion of many NHL players, that Carey Price is still the best goaltender on the planet. Though the opinion is certainly more contested than it was a few years ago, it is hard to argue against when he is playing at his absolute best.
On Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers, he was in rare form. Generally, you don’t need your goaltender to turn in an epic performance when you put up five goals at the other end. But the Montreal Canadiens took control of the game early, and an offensively gifted Oilers squad got their fair share of scoring chances as the Habs defended their lead.
To quote Connor McDavid after the game: “They got the jump on us & then Price did what he always does. He was solid all over.” Solid enough to make 34 saves and earn his first win of the season.
He didn’t have to make wild, desperation saves, but rather turned in the quintessential Price performance that is defined by positioning and calm, efficient movement in his crease. How about staring down the aforementioned McDavid on a breakaway, and barely having to move to make the save?
Carey Price denies McDavid on the breakaway! pic.twitter.com/wR375Hca2P— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 17, 2021
Or making a quality save only to find himself forced to get to the other side and make yet another stop.
After making the initial save, the puck goes around the net for an eventual one-timer by Leon Draisaitl. The tracking by Price here is spot on, and he’s square to Draisaitl’s shooting lane well before the release. Textbook positioning and angle, with which he makes a great save look easy.
The Canadiens dominated the first period, but once they opened up a larger lead in the second, the Oilers controlled most of the scoring chances from there. Price made sure that didn’t matter, and shut down every opportunity for them to get back into the game once the Habs had a good lead.
Much of the hype in Montreal right now deservedly surrounds how good the team has been up front, but their most important player is still Carey Price. He was good against Toronto, and other worldly against the Oilers. If he can continue to provide goaltending like that on a regular basis, the Habs are going to be a very difficult team to beat.
With Jake Allen as a backup, the expectation is that Price will have the best relief he has ever had in Montreal. With more rest, the assumption is that we can expect more of these performances from Price. If last season’s playoffs were any indication, a rested Price can take this team to new heights,
We may finally get to see what Allen brings on Monday night, but if not, it stands to reason he’ll get one of the back-to-back games against Vancouver this week. If he does well, it’s big news for the Habs as they’ll be able to save Price for the more pivotal contests moving forwards.
And if that performance against the Oilers is Price’s bar for the season, watching him try to top it will bode well for this team’s 2021 playoff hopes.