History will show that Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has been on three teams that have made the third round of the NHL playoffs. History will also show that in 2010 and 2014, he played a total of 70 minutes over two games in those two previous series.
In a career that has spanned 14 seasons, that’s an anomaly at this point especially for a goaltender who is thought to be one of the best of his generation. It cannot be placed solely on him, either. The team in 2014 would have no reason to be where it was without him. The next year, he put together one of the best seasons for a goaltender in history, but couldn’t make it out of Round 2.
He’s at a point in his career where you don’t know if he’ll ever have a chance to play in another conference final. No one would have thought it would take seven years from the last one to have this chance again.
When Marc-André Fleury was in his 14th season, he was also unexpectedly in a conference semi-final. He was one of the main reasons an expansion team in Las Vegas was fighting for a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup. While Price’s legacy is having individual accolades, and most team trophies besides the one from the NHL, Fleury’s legacy was riding great teams to championships. He didn’t have the individual accolades, and there were questions as to his place among those great teams. Away from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and others, he succeeded all the same.
Both Price and Fleury were top-five draft picks. In fact, this is the first playoff matchup of such picks in NHL history. These two goaltenders took different, yet similar paths to where they are now.
It is somehow fitting that at the same point of their careers, they face a similar hurdle. Since that first season in Vegas, Fleury has solidified his Hall of Fame resume.
Price has a chance to do the same in his 14th season. He’s leading a team that was not expected to be where it is. After being the backup to a magical run in 2010, and having the chance taken away from him in 2014, this is yet another chance to take the next step. Price can be lumped in with Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist, two other future Hall of Famers who have missed out on the Stanley Cup. Both of them have more games in the Cup final than Price has in the third round.
Price, in year 14 still has 70 third-round minutes more than Shea Weber does in year 16. When people talk about a sense of urgency, that’s what they mean. It can take years and you may never make it back. In Weber’s case before this year, you may never make it at all.
Price doesn’t necessarily need this for his resume, but that’s also not the motivation pushing him. To paraphrase Gene Hackman in The Replacements, there may be no tomorrow for them, and that makes them very dangerous people.