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New York Islander Kyle Okposo (from left) takes a shot in front of Montreal Canadiens Raphael Diaz and Carey Price.
Many might argue that Price would be the most important component of any hypothetically long playoff run…that these past few weeks during which the Habs have been routed time and again serve as proof that the Habs need Price. Not true. The Habs have needed Price to just be able to make a save.
Price has been incredibly inconsistent this year, starting off on fire, cooling off, getting hot again and then turning ice cold to the point of being pulled in two straight starts against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers.
He may have 20 wins this year, but that’s more an indication of the team playing in front of him, just as his being pulled recently has a lot to do with Montreal trying to figure out how to play defense again. Apparently, it’s not like riding a bike.
While the recent run of futility isn’t all on Price, when the Habs have needed him to step up and steal a game or two, he hasn’t, plain and simple.
If you truly believe him leading the league in victories at various points this season should figure into the discussion as to whether or not he has been an elite goalie, consider this: Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets has 21 wins, and no one’s rushing to give him Vezina consideration.
Know what else Price and Pavelec have in common? At least after Saturday night, a mediocre .905 save percentage that just barely places in the top 50 in the league, a league of just 30 starting goalies (give or take).
All that being said, there’s little denying that goaltending is key during the playoffs. Look to the Stanley Cup-favorite Pittsburgh Penguins last year as proof, when the black and white contrast between the puck and ice was just a tad too complicated of a concept for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (4.63 goals-against average, .834 save percentage) to wrap his head around.
So, yes, to slightly contradict an earlier point, Montreal needs Price to a certain degree in the playoffs. However, while scoring wins games in the regular season and it’s goaltending that gets the best teams far in the playoffs, it’s not necessarily what wins championships.