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Eyes on the Price: Welcome Back, Carey!

Fresh from the All-Star break, Carey Price and the Habs take it to Buffalo

Montreal Canadiens v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Now that’s more like it!

Carey Price and the Canadiens shut down the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, January 31, at the Centre Bell, building up a 5-0 lead before allowing a couple of late goals in the 3rd period en route to a 5-2 victory. Captain Pacioretty’s hat trick and the slick passing of Alexander Radulov provided the offensive highlights.

Carey Price provided the defensive highlights when necessary, at least while the Sabres still thought they might have a chance.

Evander Kane (9) had Buffalo’s best scoring opportunity of the first period, but Price just manages to get the tip of his glove on Kane’s quick shot.

Midway through the 2nd period, Price maintains the Habs’ lead and gives them the chance to break the game open. It begins with a save on Ryan O’Reilly with 12:30 to go.

Rasmus Ristolainen (55) controls the puck in the deep corner to Price’s stick side. With Ristolainen below the goal line at this distance, Price stays on his skates against his right post.

Ristolainen beautifully threads a centering pass past Greg Pateryn to Ryan O’Reilly (90), who is completely uncovered in the slot. Price remains on his skates until he has rotated his shoulders toward the top of the crease, keeping his hands forward and shoulders loaded over his pads. Note his active stick position.

O’Reilly receives the puck on his right skate, and kicks it to his left shot forehand. Price is actually slightly overrotated compared to the eventual release point. He is able to compensate for his suboptimal positioning by dropping his right pad to seal the ice, while pushing slightly off of his left inside skate edge. He also rotates his stick blade so that it is square to the shot.

The puck deflects up off of the stick blade, bounces off of Price’s body, and he catches the puck in front of him.

The sequence that follows the ensuing faceoff seals the Sabres fate for the evening.

Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (15) wins the draw from Torrey Mitchell, and sends the puck back to Zach Bogosian (47) at the left point. Bogosian fakes a slap shot, allowing forward Sam Reinhart (23) time to drive the net, trailing Shea Weber along with him.

(As an aside, watch Eichel provide a brilliant example of “playing without the puck.” Following the face off, he wheels around, and uses the face-off linesman to obstruct Mitchell as he trails Reinhart and Weber toward the net. Reinhart occupies Weber, and this leaves Eichel totally free to Price’s right in the event of a rebound.)

Bogosian releases the puck as the traffic comes in front of Price. It’s a shot-pass to Reinhart, slightly off net. Weber has engaged Reinhart, but the young Sabre has a positional advantage, and attempts to deflect the puck with his stick from behind Weber.

So often on these plays, we see NHL goalies react to the initial shot and move out of the net, only to have the deflection head right back to where they started. Price, instead, maintains his position inside the crease. Note that his hands are forward of his pads, and his shoulders are canted forward. He's confidently playing the percentages here, but he’s in an active position that allows him to adjust quickly to what follows.

It appears that the puck actually deflects off of Weber’s leg, toward the net. When the puck redirects, Price tracks it toward his left pad, keeping his vision directed downward. It caroms off of the top of his left thigh rise, and toward the streaking Eichel on his right.

Price recognizes the unexpected rebound, and quickly reacts. He doesn't simply reach his arm and stick to the right, hoping to make what would have undoubtedly been a SportsCentre-highlight paddle save. Instead, he rotates his shoulders toward the threat to his right, engages his left inside skate edge, patiently loads his left leg, and pushes toward the puck as he reaches out his right hand.

Eichel is able to elevate the puck, but Price stops it square in the middle of his blocker. It’s important to note that his shoulder rotation has allowed him to properly position his blocker, which he reaches forward toward the puck to take away the vertical angle, rather than extending it back along the top of his pad.

Price’s shoulder rotation and controlled push allow him to continue to follow the puck to his right, smothering any additional scoring attempts.

On the next Canadiens possession, Pacioretty gets his second goal of the evening, and the Habs are off to the races.

When Price plays like this, with his combination of complex tracking movements, aggressive hand and edge engagement, and effortless, explosive speed, it’s almost shocking when anyone scores against him.

In other words, this is peak Carey Price.