The Playoffs are coming. The Playoffs are coming.
The Canadiens clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night, treating the joyous faithful at Le Centre Bell to a dominant 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Three first-period goals put the game essentially out of reach against a Panthers team playing without Alexander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. Panthers Captain Derek MacKenzie (17) tried to make the game interesting on a shorthanded breakaway attempt early in the second period. He was unsuccessful.
Reilly Smith (18) did manage to get the Panthers on the board against Carey Price a few minutes later.
Smith initiates the rush just over the Panthers’ blue line with a cross-ice pass across the red line to Jussi Jokinen (36).
Jokinen receives the puck in the left neutral zone and carries it across the Montreal blue line.
Mark Pysyk (13) drives the center lane, occupying Brandon Davidson, while Andrew Shaw pressures Jokinen. Smith delays his entry on the right.
Jokinen makes a diagonal pass back across the zone, which eludes Shaw as well as Artturi Lehkonen. Smith catches the puck just at the top of the right face off circle.
Smith gathers the puck as Jeff Petry turns from the slot to attempt to block his shot. Pysyk continues toward the net, engaged with Davidson.
Price begins the sequence outside the top right of his crease, following Jokinen.
He retreats into the crease as Jokinen drives the wing, and pushes across to his left as he tracks the cross ice pass. His shoulders are angled toward Smith as he moves across.
He appears to establish initial position in the left side of the crease, shoulders square to Smith. He doesn't completely set his feet, but his motion is out toward the shot threat, on angle.
When Smith releases his shot, it is hard and low, and just eludes Petry’s left skate and stick. Price appears to drop his right pad before his left.
The shot doesn't seem to deflect off of Petry, nor does it appear that Price is screened by Pysyk or Davidson as the puck reaches him.
Price continues to drop his right pad, into an incomplete half butterfly. He leans slightly to his right, and his stick blade lifts entirely off of the ice. The puck passes under Price’s raised stick, under his left pad, and caroms in off the inside of the left post behind him.
Seen from overhead, Price has significantly rotated his left shoulder backwards. It also shows that there isn’t any contact between Pysyk’s hip and the butt end of Price’s stick that might have caused his stick blade to rise up.
Looking back over the season, there’s really only one similar goal on which Price loses his stick discipline to this degree.
Even if Reilly Smith’s parents were in the crowd on Thursday night, it’s unlikely that Price would just let him score. In looking for some other explanation, then, Price’s body action suggests that he was anticipating contact from his right that never actually happened.
Imagine pushing through a door that someone pulls open from the other side. When the impact that Price is bracing himself for from Davidson and Pysyk never comes, his shoulders overrotate and his balance shifts too far over his right knee, preventing him from driving his left knee down. His brief, uncontrolled right shoulder and arm movement causes Price to commit the cardinal goaltending sin of allowing his stick blade to raise completely off the ice as the shot approaches.
So, in summary, Price isn’t screened, Smith’s shot isn’t deflected, and the puck passes under his stick blade as he raises it off the ice. For the record, this is not a good goaltending play.
This was a fully irrelevant goal on a great night for the Habs.
Carey Price is in the net, and playoff hockey is coming to Montreal this spring.
What a difference a year makes.