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Road to 315: Carey Price joins the 300 Club

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A trip to the desert leaves the Canadiens goalie in elite company.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Recently, Carey Price won his 313th regular season game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. This is Part 8 of a 10-part series looking back at Price’s career through the lens of various milestone victories he’s recorded. Each iteration will be posted the day after one of the final 10 victories it takes him to pass Jacques Plante as the winningest goalie in Canadiens history.

Check out Part 7 here.

Win #300: December 20, 2018

Montreal Canadiens 2, Arizona Coyotes 1

A goalie winning 300 games for a single franchise is a pretty rare occurrence.

It’s happened only 14 times in NHL history. For context, entering the 2018-19 season, there were more forwards who had registered 1,500 career points than there were goalies who’d hit 300 wins with a single team.

The names that make up that list are an elite group that mix together talent, durability, and luck. In order to pull off such a feat, you need to stay healthy and on your game. You need to keep your numbers in the right place and your head right, too, so the coach keeps on sending you out there and the GM won’t hear about moving you. The guys have your back in the room and on the ice, and the other goalies in the depth chart don’t start nipping at your heels too hard.

You need to become a god of sorts in a religion whose priests are the members of your organization, whose believers are the team’s supporters, their collective faiths in your ability to win the next game, and the next game, and the next game after that the motor that keeps everything running.

Not for one month, or two, or six, or 12. For a decade. Maybe more.

It’s not surprising, then, that the list of goalies who qualify is a pretty short one. It looks like this: Brodeur, Lundqvist, Esposito, Fleury, Sawchuk, Rinne, Ward, Osgood, Plante, Broda, Richter, Kolzig, and Quick.

In the waning days of 2018, at the conclusion of an otherwise unmemorable home game against one of the worst teams in the league, after turning in yet another Carey Price-ian effort, coolly stopping 36 of 37 shots for a 2-1 win, the Montreal Canadiens’ franchise goalie joined that select club. Three hundred wins. All with the same team, the one that took him fifth overall in 2005.

After a Shea Weber blast from the point finally cracked open the scoring on the power play in the opening minute of the second period and the ‘Yotes replied with a man-advantage goal of their own ten minutes later, the two teams were deadlocked at a goal apiece until early in the third period when Paul Byron tapped a loose puck past Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper from Brendan Gallagher’s crease-front office.

Former Coyote Max Domi whiffed on a solid empty net opportunity in the dying moments of his first game against the team that selected him 12th overall in the 2013 draft, but Price was able to hold the fort until the buzzer to help the Canadiens escape from the desert with the victory.

Win No. 300 came three weeks or so after newly crowned captain Shea Weber’s late-November season debut, and just over two weeks into a hot streak that would last through the entire month of January as Price went 12-5-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage, and two shutouts from December 4 until the All-Star break.

Apart from being eight uninterrupted weeks of vintage 2014-15 Carey Price, it was a streak that wrenched his season numbers from bottom of the pack to comfortably above average, inching slowly but steadily toward the Vezina conversation. Every successive week it seemed more and more possible to say it out loud: The old Carey’s back.

That seemed to bode well for the Habs’ chances down the stretch, but for once, a team win actually did feel like more than just the two points in the bank. Asked about the meaning of the milestone win after the game, Price had this to say:

”I’m very proud. It’s been a long road to this point. And it’s not over yet, you know what I mean? I’m not going to say anything, but you know what I mean?”

That quote is the entirety of Price’s 6’3” frame packed down into a single walnut shell. He’s a man of few words at the best of times, and he’s definitely not interested in holding forth about his ambitions, no matter what kind of journalistic post-game prodding he receives.

He’s never going on the record saying he wants to win 400 games, or 500 games, or more. To utter anything so brazenly concrete would probably, in his mind, jinx the whole situation. So we get: “I’m not going to say anything.”

But we also get this part: “It’s not over yet.”

In those four words you get a little taste of Price’s deep inner reserves of self-confidence. Bragging is anathema to him; he’s allergic to talking about his own success, to putting himself before the team. But in that instant, he couldn’t help but admit how badly he wants there to be more, how badly he wants to keep winning, how badly he wants to be the best — and how confident he is that he can keep doing it.

Carey Price Wins Tracker

Current win total: 313
Earliest Price could tie Plante: March 2 (vs. Pittsburgh Penguins)
Earliest Price could pass Plante: March 5 (@ Los Angeles Kings)