Sizing Carey Price up against past Habs goaltenders

Carey Price joined an exclusive club Thursday night, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 4-0.

The win was Price's 30th of the season, making him just the eighth goaltender in the franchise's history to reach that mark in a season. Bill Durnan was the first, when he finished the 1943-44 season with 38 wins, and had last was Jose Theodore (33) in 2003-04. The 30-win plateau has been reached 28 times in the Canadiens history, with Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden accomplishing it seven tmes each.

The single season record for wins by a Habs goalie is 42, set and equalled by Plante (1956 and 1962) and Dryden (1976). Both of these Hall of Fame goaltenders reached the 40+ win plateau one other time in their careers, and are the only two goaltenders to have done so in Canadiens colors.

With 17 games left in the 2010-11 season, there is still a strong chance that Price could join these two in the 40-win club if he continues his current pace. A target certainly within reach is 35-36 wins, the best two Montreal win totals for Patrick Roy (1992, 1994).

This of course does not immediately put Price on the same level as the previously mentioned Hall of Famers, but shows the doubters from the last two years what this 23-year-old is capable of doing. Eric Engels examined this earlier in the week, noting the change in maturity of the Canadiens goaltender.

It's always been hard to debate who the best Habs goalie was, let alon copare a current one to one from the past. Different teams, different era, etc. often make that comparison a debated topic.

While Engels used Dryden and Roy as his age comparisons in his post, I came across another Habs netmider with some similar numbers to compare to.

At the age of 21, Rogatien "Rogie" Vachon, felt by many to he deserving of the HHOF, found himself as a rookie goaltender with the Canadiens. As the 1966-67 season wound down, injuries saw Vachon called up to the big club . An 11-3-4 run earned him the starting job through most of the playoffs, where he got the Habs to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Vachon split the next two seasons sharing the Habs goal with Gump Worsley, earning two Cups and a Vezina Trophy (then given for the best  team GAA) in those two years.

Worsley was eventually traded a half dozen games into the 1969-70 season, and Vachon played 64 games, winning 31 (his first and only 30-win season in Montreal). Despite his 2.63 GAA, the Canadiens found themselves out of the playoffs due to some then controversial league tie breakers.

Taking Team performances aside, Vachon took over the starting roll by the end of his rookie season, split the next two with another goalie, then played the bulk of the games by season four. Sounding familiar?

By the end of the 1970-71 season however, Dryden burst onto the scene and Vachon would no longer be the top goalie in Montreal.

When Vachon was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, he left Montreal with a regular season record of 110-56, with 30 ties. He had 13 shutouts and a GAA of 2.65 in 206 games played. Through this season, Carey Price has played 191 games and is 90-69-24. 2.61 and has 11 shutouts.

In terms of all-time numbers, Price is slowly creaping up the list for Habs goalies. He is now two wins back of Worsely for 12th in regular season wins, and could slip past Vachon for 12th in games played if he played 16 of the last 17 this season. His GAA is 10th for Habs goalies with 100+ games played, and is tied for 14th in shutouts.

He still has a  way to go, but if this season is any indication, it may not be long until he becomes a top-10 fixture in several Habs goaltending categories.

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