Eventually, a subpar regular season for Carey Price will end up leading into a subpar post-season. Eventually, the narratives surrounding the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender will end up correct. Time is undefeated, after all.
But as he took to the ice at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday night, as he pushed from left to right on his biggest save of the night, as the final seconds ticked down on the clock in Montreal’s 2-1 victory in Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, what did Carey Price say to Time?
The questions surrounding Price entering Thursday’s game were perhaps louder than ever before. He hadn’t played a full game since April 17, and in that game he allowed three goals and sported a .778 save percentage. For the first time since 2010, the Canadiens had a viable alternative to him in net. There was never any wavering. If Price was healthy, he would be the starter in Game 1.
He repaid that confidence throughout the game. The way you can tell Price is on his game is that he doesn’t make any of his saves look spectacular. When he’s on, he makes it look easy. Most of his 35 saves were forgettable by design. His save in the third period on Mitch Marner — minutes before Paul Byron’s short-handed game-winning goal — was the kind of save that lifts everyone on the bench.
Everyone feels a little bit taller, a bit stronger, a bit faster when you know you have a great goaltender behind you.
“That’s Carey Price for you,” Canadiens forward Josh Anderson said. “He was an absolute wall [Thursday].”
The Canadiens are only 25% of the way there. There’s still a lot of work to do, and it surely won’t be smooth sailing. It’s possible that the tables will turn, and that Price will have moments where he will struggle.
But not today.