There are times in a players’ career when they go through some tough times. It can be caused by personal issues, it can be due to nagging injuries the player is battling through, or it can simply be a slump, a loss of confidence, a state of mind. While it can happen, rarely are those tough times, particularly for top athletes, based on trying to prove a point to their coaches or trainers.
Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender who won every piece of hardware available to him two seasons ago, who is said to be the best in the world, has suffered an season-ending injury after only a few games last season. He has worked hard to come back this season on time for the World Cup of hockey, where he led Team Canada to a Gold Medal.
Price’s success didn’t stop there. He started this season on fire, playing at the level where he had left off two seasons ago and the Canadiens were by far the best team in the NHL, at the surprised of many “experts” who had predicted them to be out of the playoffs when the 2016-2017 season would end in April.
Then came mid-December and that’s when things unravelled for the Habs’ keeper. For some odd and unknown reasons, he has lost his Mojo. He used to get into his opponent’s head, making it even tougher for them to beat him but that is definitely gone. As a matter of fact, Price has allowed four goals or more in eight of his last 17 games. His lateral movements are slower. While he used to be a hybrid-type goaltender, standing up tall when the shots were high and using the butterfly style when he was screened or on low shots, he now finds himself on his knees more often than not, making him vulnerable to high shots, where he’s getting beat most of the time.
After a few games, most of us, Price’s and Canadiens’ fans, were not too concerned. But it has now been since mid-December that his play has not only dropped a bit, but is below the respectable levels. Yet, it’s Carey Price that we’re talking about, not Mike Condon or Peter Budaj… He still has Stephane Waite in his corner, he who was praised for changing Price to a more aggressive style, giving him the mind set to battle for every puck.
Have a look at these numbers:
As you can see, up until December 12th (or 17th), Carey Price was Carey Price. Like every other player in this league, he had a few stinkers but his play was generally where you would expect it to be, particularly on a team which was much improved defensively, predominantly by replacing high-risk P.K. Subban by one of the NHL’s best shutdown defenseman in Shea Weber.
Since then however, Price seems to have been himself only four times in his last 19 games, including 10 games where those performances are not even NHL calibre worthy. Like many, I am left puzzled by the Canadiens’ netminder’s play and for the first time since his early days, when he was more focused on the party scene than on his on-ice performances, I find myself concerned about Price. As a matter of fact, now that I look at the chart above, I am very concerned.
With Price playing the way he has for this long, I am even starting to question if it’s worth for GM Marc Bergevin to go all-in and give away some of the team’s future in order to get a Matt Duchene if Carey Price isn’t himself? Bergevin has committed a lot for short term gain when getting Weber but his All-Star goaltender’s play was far from being on his mind back then. Perhaps it is on his mind a bit more today?