The Habs undeniably owe much of their regular-season success to Carey Price, but, amazingly, the opposite is pretty much true following the team’s first-round victory over the Lightning.
In Game 1, Price admittedly got better as the game got older, but that didn’t stop him from allowing three goals. While he wasn’t bad in the strictest sense of the word, he didn’t make the big saves when the Habs needed him to, specifically the two times the Habs went up by one goal in the third period. Tampa twice tied it up, setting the stage for Dale Weise’s overtime winner.
Game 2 was arguably Price’s best of the series, as he allowed just one goal, losing the shutout bid with just two minutes to go in the third period. However, he faced just 27 shots in what was by all accounts a full-team effort.
Price faced 29 shots in Game 3 and played very well again, but allowed two goals—three if you believe Ryan Callahan's disallowed one should have counted—including Matt Carle’s very stoppable shot in the third period. That goal made the 3-2 game a lot closer than it should have been.
Finally, while Price was able to help his team hold on for the Game 4 victory, he was in net for two very stoppable, fluky goals. That’s not including Tyler Johnson’s game-tying 3-3 marker in the third period that nearly led to a Game 5, a goal on which Price again failed to come up big.
This is a player who posted the second-best save percentage in the league (.927) during the regular season. During these playoffs, he has one of .904, which, in spite of his well-documented struggles in the postseason, is actually worse than his career average (.905).
That admittedly may hint at more problems come the second round, but, assuming it is against Boston, Habs fans can rest easy. Not only is Price clearly capable of more, he’s enjoyed the greatest postseason success of his career against the Bruins.
In 2010-11, Price almost led the Habs to a first-round upset of Boston, posting a 2.11 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in seven games against the eventual Stanley Cup champions. And, entering this season, Price’s only playoff series victory came against Boston in his rookie season in 2007-08.
That he has just added to that series victory total points to progress at the very least and potentially another one this postseason. Even if they get eliminated next round, it also points to the Habs being set in net for many years to come.