The Montreal Canadiens were at their lowest point. They were down 3-1 in their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and were coming off of a shutout loss in Game 4. It seemed like it was just a matter of time before they packed up their stuff and went home for the summer.
Carey Price was playing very well, but it seemed like another early playoff exit for his team. Despite his strong play, the team was unable to get goals and that’s not a recipe for success.
The team had four goals through their first four games. After the game, he was asked whether he was frustrated.
“I’m not frustrated at all, to be honest,” he said. “These guys are talented guys. I see their shots in practice every day. I have no doubt that they have the ability to score goals. They’re trying out there, I know they are. It’s going to come. They’re playing some pretty solid defence on their side, but we’re going to find a way through that.”
At the time, the answer seemed out of character for Price. He chooses his words carefully and sparingly. He wanted to send a message, and it wasn’t to the media, but to his team.
Price’s play got better as well, not that it needed to. He was as stingy as ever and the team went on an unbelievable stretch winning 11 of 13 games from that point on. In those 13 games, Price has a .938 save percentage and a 1.85 goals against average. If his words didn’t allow them to believe, his play gave them the confidence in themselves. He wasn’t necessarily asked to steal entire games (with the possible exception of Game 3 against Vegas), but he was almost always able to make the big save when he needed to.
It became a snowball effect where the team was able to play their best hockey in front of a goalie who was also playing his best hockey.
“We wouldn’t be here right now if we didn’t believe,” Price said after the team’s win in Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights. “We’ve always stuck with it and haven’t doubted ourselves.”
Price may have dragged them into the fight back on May 25, but over the last month, the rest of the team caught up to him. The result is a team that took one more small step towards their goal. There is still one giant leap to go.