Montreal Canadiens: Why Carey Price Is Key to Habs' Success in 2013

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 11:  Carey Price #31 and Chris Campoli #17 of the Montreal Canadiens wait for an incoming shot while dealing with Darryl Boyce #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game on February 11, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Leafs 5-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Dead last in the Eastern Conference.

The Montreal Canadiens have not won a Stanley Cup since 1993, and it's been a long time since they dominated hockey.

Still, a last-place finish is not where the Canadiens should have found themselves last year. They were better than that, and when the season finally begins, they have a chance to make a much better showing this year.

They have some legitimately talented players in Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Lars Eller up front.

There are many issues on the defensive end, but P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Francis Bouillon provide the jumping-off point. That should be a workable unit.

But the one thing the Canadiens should not have to worry about is Carey Price in goal.

He should be their rock, and he is going to have to be if the Canadiens are going to bounce back and become a playoff team like they were in 2010-11.

You remember their epic first-round matchup with the Boston Bruins? Boston would eventually go on to win the Stanley Cup, but the Canadiens extended them to overtime of the seventh game. Had Nathan Horton's deflected slap shot not eluded Price, perhaps it would have been the Canadiens who went on an extended run in the postseason and not the Bruins.

Price is capable of lifting his team and carrying them. The 25-year-old goaltender has been an All-Star three times in his career, and he should be a regular in that game for years to come.

Price signed a six-year, $39 million contract in the offseason, and the Canadiens gave it to him because they believe he can follow in the giant footsteps of Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy.

Price has lightning reflexes and a glove hand that is capable of tracking and catching the hardest slap shots in the game.

Despite the Canadiens' awful showing last year, Price had a 2.43 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and four shutouts. The year before, he had a 2.38 GAA, a .928 save percentage and eight shutouts.

Given just a bit of support from his teammates with some strong early-season performances, Price could lift the team and help them get to the playoffs.

He is almost certainly the most talented performer on the roster, and he carries the Canadiens' dreams for success on his shoulders.

That's a heavy burden, but he has the talent to absorb it and thrive.