The Montreal Canadiens have been dealt a devastating blow as starting goaltender Carey Price will not return for the rest of the team’s first-round NHL playoffs series against the Ottawa Senators, according to the Canadiens’ official Twitter account:
Price was injured at the end of regulation in Game 4 and limped to the locker room (h/t Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette), but did not return to the ice for overtime. Backup Peter Budaj faced just two shots before allowing a goal on Ottawa's third attempt, giving the Senators the decisive 3-1 series edge.
Budaj started 10 games for the Canadiens this year, and while he didn’t play well on Tuesday, his eight wins this season make him a viable replacement for the injured Price in Game 5 Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The home-ice advantage should make the change to the new goalie easier on the entire franchise.
Not only is this the second season with Budaj as the team’s backup—making him the perfect short-term replacement in a series this tough—but the NHL veteran has also proven his worth as both a starter and as a backup in the past.
As the former starter and backup with the Colorado Avalanche, Budaj amassed some playoff experience, so the challenge isn’t too foreign. Now that he will have time to prepare for the start in Game 5, this should be a fairer test of how good the backup really is.
During the lockout-shortened 2013 regular season, Budaj managed a 2.28 goals-against average and a save percentage of .908 with one shutout. The backup will need all of that skill and more against a Senators team playing as well as it has all year.
Despite being a viable option, though, Budaj is not Price.
Price amassed 21 wins this season with a 2.59 goals-against average and a save percentage of .905 with three shutouts.
That kind of production won’t be easy for Budaj to replicate, but with the help of increased defensive pressure of the entire Montreal team, there is a chance the Canadiens could rally around the backup and force a Game 6.