Road to 315: Carey Price scorches his way to his 200th win

He hit the milestone in one of the greatest seasons by a goaltender.

Recently, Carey Price won his 310th regular season game as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. This is Part 5 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 4 here.

Win #200: January 2, 2015

Montreal Canadiens 4, New Jersey Devils 2

After securing his 100th career win in his 206th NHL game against the Philadelphia Flyers in the fall of 2012, Carey Price had this to say about the milestone: “I hope the next 100 don’t take as long.”

His hopes were prescient — he was able to cut off almost a full calendar year off his time, going from taking four years, 17 days to win his first 100 down to just three years and 68 days (185 games) to win his next 100.

At the end of the 2014-15 season, a few months after his 200th victory, Price won the Hart, Pearson, Vezina and Jennings trophies, becoming the first goalie to win all four awards in the same season.

While the Hart rarely goes to a goaltender — just eight times in its 92-year history — it was his Vezina win that was perhaps the most impressive. With 144 voting points, he became the highest Vezina-vote point-getter in the history of the award, a mark that stands to this day. (Miikka Kiprusoff in 2005-06 and Braden Holtby in 2015-16, with 140 points apiece, are the only other goalies to hit the 140-point mark in the award’s 37-year voting history.)

Those 144 voting points — 27 first-place votes and three second-place votes, meaning 30 of the league’s 31 GMs put him among the top two goalies on the season — function as a pretty accurate representation of the dominant performance that he put on.

Not only was 2014-15 the year in which he became the goalie that Habs fans and management had been hoping to see for the first seven years of his career, he was also far and away the best goalie in the league.

In particular, between December 9 and March 21, Price went 25-7-3 with six shutouts, a 1.53 goals-against average, and a .948 save percentage. No longer was he a young goalie with great potential and some international success but lots of questions marks. As 2015 progressed, it became hard to describe him as anything else but the best puckstopper in the world.

The consistency with which he dominated opponents was remarkable, also. Over that particular 31-game stretch, only six times did he post a single-game save percentage below .913 — as many times as he posted a shutout. To put that into context, 22 of the 53 goalies to play more than 1,000 minutes that year finished with a .912 save percentage or lower on the season. Price’s very worst off-nights were average marks for about 40% of the league.

It was in the midst of this world-beating streak that Price hit career win number 200, locking it down at the end of a game that began with another, slightly more dubious honour — his 400th career NHL game.

Winning 200 games was something only four other Canadiens goalies had ever done, but they were all able to accomplish the feat in fewer games than Price, and the alignment of the two big round numbers gave Price’s doubters ammunition to criticize his achievement.

With 200 wins in 400 games, Price was no better than a coin flip, essentially. Was this really the franchise goalie everyone was getting so worked up about? (To say nothing of the freebie wins Price had gotten in shootout contests that would have finished as ties for goalies in earlier eras.)

The comparative weakness of the teams Price had backstopped versus the teams that Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, and Jacques Plante had backstopped notwithstanding, winning his 200th game at the age of just 27 was no mean feat. Roy also notched his not long after his 27th birthday; Dryden hit the mark at the age of 30, and Plante was just two months shy of turning 31.

Like almost every other night that season, Price was on his game. Though stopping just 22 of 24 shots for a .917 save percentage actually made it one of his weaker performances on the season, the Devils’ goals (both scored by former Canadiens — Michael Ryder and Mike Cammalleri) came in the third period.

By that point, the Canadiens had already established a 3-0 lead over their opponents — once a bête noire for the bleu-blanc-rouge during the height of the Martin Brodeur era — thanks to a pair of goals by Michael Bournival and a power-play marker from Max Pacioretty.

After the game, Price was quick to credit his teammates, saying, “It’s a long season, everybody needs to chip in every once in a while. It seems like everybody is doing their part at the right time of each individual game and we’re finding ways to win hockey games.”

”I’m very blessed to be put in a position to do what I love to do,” he added. “There have been ups and downs there’s no doubt, but right now it’s just fun to come to the rink and hang out with the boys every day.”

That season — at least until the Canadiens’ eventual ouster at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round — coming to the rink every day must have been fun indeed.

Carey Price Wins Tracker

Current win total: 310
Earliest Price could tie Plante: February 26 (@ Detroit Red Wings)
Earliest Price could pass Plante: March 1 (@ New York Rangers)

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