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Blaming Carey Price is the easy way out

The Canadiens lost a game they should have won, but it shouldn’t be on the goaltender.

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens can’t afford to be losing games to the last place team in the division. Technically they can, but if they’re eyeing a spot other than their current placement of fourth, they need to beat the Ottawa Senators the way they did on Thursday night.

There’s always a desire to point fingers when they don’t, and as has been the theme this season, many fingers were pointing at Carey Price.

There was only one goal last night where I felt Price was at fault. The shorthanded goal by Connor Brown could have been prevented had he not left a juicy rebound sitting just outside his crease. Had he controlled it, or sent it into the corner, it probably wouldn’t result in a goal. There is of course the argument that they shouldn’t be allowing odd-man rushes while on a power play, but it was a bad rebound for Price to give up regardless of the situation.

But that was one of six goals against. Blaming Price for the loss when there were five other goals that could easily be attributed to the actions of people not named Carey Price is just lazy. The defensive breakdowns leading up to these goals were far more glaring mistakes than Price not making a mind-bending save to cover them up.

There appears to be a general expectation that a $10.5 million AAV requires Price to walk on water, and if he doesn’t, it’s squarely his fault when he drowns. Little time is spent discussing the defensive breakdowns — they don’t matter because a $10.5 million goaltender is supposed to make the big save regardless of what happens in front of him — so we’re left with Price as the scapegoat.

That contract is an undeniably tough pill to swallow, but I’d wager anything that the coaching staff doesn’t look at these games and think that goaltending was the one thing that lost it for them. I don’t believe for a second that Dominic Ducharme watched last night’s game and thinks — like many fans and pundits apparently do — that a lack of big saves is what killed them.

The Senators had 11 opportunities accounting for 55% of high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five last night. The one goal that I personally think he was at fault for was not one of those, since it was a Senators penalty kill. So Price, as usual, was not bad at five-on-five, but the Habs were giving up too many good chances for him to keep up with.

I understand the desire to blame the highest paid player on the team. The simple fact is that this team should not be in a position to need their goaltender to steal games from the worst team in their division. They have to be better defensively.

Prime Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek wouldn’t have saved them last night, so it’s odd to expect Price to just because he makes a lot of money.