Three Keepers: One Net

The year: 2005. As a lockout cancelled the games of the 2004–05 NHL season, the draft order was determined by lottery on July 22, 2005. One by one, teams were eliminated and we were down to five teams still in the hunt to get the grand prize: the number one overall pick, franchise player Sidney Crosby. When NHL assistant-commissioner Bill Daly pulled out the next card, the disappointment of Habs’ fans could be felt around the world.

That year, Canadiens’ General Manager Bob Gainey took the hockey world by surprise by picking, at number five overall, goaltender Carey Price. Many were hoping that they would pick Anze Kopitar and others wanted… Gilbert Brule. But why pick a goaltender at number five when you had, in your net, Jose Theodore, only a couple of years removed from a Hart Memorial and Vezina Trophy? The hockey world was baffled. Not so much today with perhaps the exception of Theodore himself, who seems to carry (no pun intended) a grudge against the organization to this day, but that’s a whole different story.

Jump ahead to today and with Price entering the second of an eight-year, $84 million contract, there seems to be a line-up of quality prospect goaltenders within the Canadiens’ organization trying to make a name for themselves in hope to, one day, take over from the winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL’s most successful franchise.

Log jam in Laval

With the Habs signing veteran backup Keith Kinkaid, the oldest prospect of this group, Charlie Lindgren, will have an uphill batter if he wishes to pierce the Canadiens’ opening day roster. While Kinkaid had a lackluster season with the NHL’s 28th overall New Jersey Devils last season with a 3.36 goals against average and a .891 saves percentage, the 30 year-old veteran is only a year removed from a couple of good seasons as a backup. It is highly unlikely to see the Canadiens go with three goaltenders at the NHL level, which means that Lindgren would have to clear waivers in order to report to the Laval Rockets in the AHL.

Charlie Lindgren’s days with the Habs are likely counted.

However, the Rockets already have two young, promising prospects in Michael McNiven and newly signed NCAA star Cayden Primeau. The problem? Players need to play in order to develop, and that applies to goaltenders as well. But there’s only one net on any given night. The AHL season consists of 76 games so sharing the duties with two prospects will result in each one starting about 38 games. Add one more goalie and you’re down to around 25 starts each, which is far from enough for any given prospect goaltender to properly develop.

We’re only in mid-August but the Canadiens’ rookie camp will be starting in a few weeks, followed by the team’s main training camp with the first pre-season game scheduled for September 16th against Kinkaid’s former team, the New Jersey Devils. A lot can happen until then and Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin isn’t afraid to go against tradition in making trades in the Fall, even major ones, as we saw a year ago when Max Pacioretty was sent packing to Vegas. Could Lindgren find a new team by training camp? It’s entirely possible. Would he clear waivers if sent down? At 25 years old and with the statistics that he has had, one would think that he would. But the net in Hamilton must belong to McNiven and Primeau. There’s simply no room for Lindgren who should be the odd-man out. Go Habs Go!

Advertisements

Carey Price And The Shea Weber Effect

Injuries are part of the game and it’s a cliché to say that one should not use them as an excuse to justify sub-par performances and that, whether it’s for a player specifically or for an entire team. But while few people want to hear clichés, it doesn’t change the fact that they are clichés for a reason. As as matter of fact, American author Diana Gabaldon was once quoted saying: “The most irritating thing about clichés, I decided, was how frequently they were true.”

No one knows the impact of a key injury more than the Montreal Canadiens and their fans as they have gone through not one, but two examples of its devastating impact in just a few short years. First, it was Carey Price who, coming out of a MVP season where he racked up all of the hardware possible, only appeared in 12 games in 2015-2016 before being shut down for the season. We know the rest. The Canadiens finished 28th overall and got to select third in the following NHL Draft.

Just last year, the Habs suffered another huge blow when stud defenseman Shea Weber injured himself in the very first game of the season, breaking his foot. True competitor, it was impossible to shut him down until he did more damage by continuing to play injured until he was forced to call it a season after only 26 games. Once again, the Canadiens finished 28th overall without their number one defenseman.

Weber’s impact on Price

Both Weber and Price are two of the undisputed leaders of the Montreal Canadiens. Both born in British Columbia, they have been friends on and off the ice for several years prior to Weber joining the Habs, as both make the Okanagan Valley their summer home, in Kelowna, BC and playing together for Team Canada internationally. When it’s time to hit the ice in August, they do so together alongside other NHLers, most times by renting the ice at Prospera Place in Kelowna, I’m told.

Shea Weber and Carey Price on Team Canada

Just watching the games, it was apparent that the Canadiens’ defense was suffering without their stud defenseman and no one suffered more of his absence than his good friend Price. But how much did Weber’s injury affect the Canadiens’ netminder? I’ve compiled some numbers to see if the eye test matched the statistics and here’s what I found.

Weber started the 2017-2018 season against the Buffalo Sabres and we were told later on that season that he had broken his foot in that game. He managed to play another 25 games on one leg that season and here are Price’s numbers with the one nicknamed Man Mountain in the lineup, even on one leg:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
219-10-259623564.9052.991

Those number are not earth shattering by any means, as you can attest. But let’s now have a look at the goaltender’s numbers without Weber in the lineup, after he was shut down:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
287-16-589864775.8973.190

As we all know, Weber didn’t start the 2018-2019 season with his teammates, still rehabilitating from his surgeries and while the Canadiens did pretty well to start this season without their newly named captain, they did it somewhat in spite of Price’s worrisome performances. Here are Price’s numbers prior to Weber returning to the lineup this season:

GPRECORDGA
SASVSV%GAASO
177-6-454523469.8983.171

Finally, the much anticipated return of Weber happened on November 27th against the Carolina Hurricanes. With the elite defenseman back in the lineup, Price’s numbers skyrocketed and the goaltender returned to his old form. Some will say that it’s all on Price but everyone else knows that Weber’s return played a huge role, as with the captain in the lineup this season, the goaltender posted elite numbers once again:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
4928-19-210714291322.9252.253

In total for the past two seasons, here are Price’s numbers…

Without Weber in the lineup:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
4514-22-914313871244.8973.181

With Weber in the lineup:

GPRECORDGASASVSV%GAASO
7037-29-416620521886.9192.474

To put things into perspective, let’s now look at where Price ranks amongst his peers, shall we? Amongst goaltenders appearing in a minimum 35 games this season, Price is:

  • 2nd in most games played
  • 5th in most wins
  • 3rd in most shots against
  • 3rd in most saves
  • 9th in best saves percentage
  • 10th in best goals against average
  • 9th in most shutouts

Now where would he be had Weber started the season with the team? Probably in the running for another Vezina Trophy. Yes, that’s the impact a Shea Weber has on a team and on a goaltender folks. The eye test showed it and the numbers are also backing it up. Go Habs Go!