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!

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Behind the Scene of Carey Price’s Journey – Hal Gill Remembers the Booing

It’s March 31, 2010. The Montreal Canadiens just lost a 2-1 decision and Carey Price made 25 saves. When announced to the crowd at the Bell Centre as the game’s third star, a few fans started booing him. That’s the year when Price isn’t winning often and Jaroslav Halak was becoming the second coming of Jesus Christ in Montreal at the end of the season, carrying the team all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

After that game, then Canadiens’ defensemen Hal Gill was furious when meeting with reporters: “It’s about time people understand that they are not helping him. They are not helping the team.”

That’s until June 17, 2010, when Pierre Gauthier shocks almost everyone when trading Halak to the St. Louis Blues. The Canadiens had made their decision: Carey Price was the future of the organization. The follow pre-season, Price allows four goals on in shots against the Boston Bruins. Fans at the Bell Centre were just waiting to show their displeasure and poured their frustration on the young 23 year-old and it’s the next day that Price came out with his now famous “Chill out” quote.

Carey Price and Hal Gill

Habs’ defenseman Hal Gill came to Price’s rescue. As he had done the previous season, Gill, now analyst for the Nashville Predators’ games, was visibly upset.

“When Carey arrived in Montreal, he was very young. I went out with him. Whether it was him or P.K. Subban, everyone was buying them drinks, everyone was ‘taking care of them’ in town. Everyone knew him. And the next day, after buying him drinks all night, they criticized him for drinking. I found that to be unfair. He was a young man who had to grow through this.”

“Carey spent the summer working out more than ever. He completely quit drinking. He made huge sacrifices in order to become better. Then when he allowed a few goals, people started booing him. I lost it. I was furious towards the fans.”

“This young man had worked so hard to improve, everyone knew that in the dressing room. As soon as I spoke against the fans, I thought that I’d get booed and get traded. But it went well. I think that many respected the fact that I was defending a teammate.”

According to Gill, the two had since developed a tighter bond. They went out together after that famous pre-season game. Price admitted that he found the situation frustrating. The former Habs’ defender thinks that this event changed Price.

“Through it wall, he learned to be himself. Now more than ever, that’s what he’s doing. No matter the positive on negative comments, he can’t change who he is. He must do his own things. I have learned a lot about myself through that experience, and him as well, I think. He’s a good person, he does things his way, and the team respects that. I wish everyone in Montreal respect him for it too.”

Gill recalls the first time he saw Price, he was surprised by his imposing stature. Then, by his relaxed attitude.

“I thought that it was fascinating that such a ferocious competitor could be so calm at the same time. Being one of his defensemen was a privilege. He was calm and always in control. When he told you something, you knew that he was serious, but he didn’t have to yell. He was losing control from time to time by breaking his stick, but never towards his teammates.”

Finally, Gill knew all he had to know about Price when Halak took over the job of number one during the playoffs. Their post-season conversation is well known: Gill asked Price if he was looking forward to leaving. Price told him that he wanted to stay, that he wanted to be successful in Montreal.

“He went through a rough patch when Halak took over the job in the playoffs. You cannot be a better teammate than he was. He accepted his fate. He was excellent. It was a huge test for him. I loved seeing him get back up from it and I have the utmost respect for him.”

Price has now tied the great Jacques Plante with his all-time team leading 314th career win in a Habs’ uniform. With his next win, he will lead all goaltenders who have worn the Canadiens’ jersey. Eight years later, it’s impossible to doubt it, Price kept his word.

Translated from an amazing article in French by JF Tremblay in lapresse.ca, with their permission.