We’re just about a quarter of the way through the 2018-19 NHL campaign and the Montreal Canadiens currently occupy a playoff spot. It’s a surprising scenario considering the low expectations that surrounded this team coming out of training camp – made all the more surprising considering the subpar play of franchise goalie Carey Price.
The 31-year-old is coming off the worst statistical season of his NHL career and is only in the first year of the monster eight-year, $84-million contract extension he signed in 2017 before his on-ice struggles really began. It’s concerning for Canadiens fans, and retired NHL goalie-turned-analyst Jean-Sebastien Giguere doesn’t like what he’s seen from the 2015 Hart and Vezina recipient either.
“I loved him so much. When I first started working on TV I was his biggest fan. I loved the way he played and stuff like that but for the last year-and-a-half, I don’t know, he’s given me a sour taste a little bit,” the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy winner told Good Show Friday afternoon. “I don’t like the way he competes out there. I don’t like his body language. He’s supposed to be the leader of that team. A leader should show a good image and that’s not what you get sometimes from Carey.”
Price is one of 30 netminders to appear in at least 10 games this season and out of those 30 goalies, Price’s 2.99 goals-against average ranks 23rd and his .899 save percentage ranks 24th.
“The good news this year for the Montreal Canadiens is Carey doesn’t even have to be exceptional. He just has to be good,” Giguere said. “He just has to be what Carey Price can be. He doesn’t have to steal games all the time, but so far it’s been a difficult year for him and hopefully he’ll find a way to get his game back.”
Price is known for his calm demeanour both on and off the ice, but could that be part of the problem?
“I’m sure he’s a tough competitor but I want to see that on the ice. I want to feel that,” Giguere continued. “Too often in the last year or so when things have been tough in a game you don’t feel like he’s competing at his highest level. At the end of the day, this guy has so much talent if you compete at some point you’re going to have success. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Price said earlier this month following a 6-5 loss to the Sabres that his issues were “all upstairs” suggesting there’s a mental hurdle he has to overcome. However, Giguere had a different take.
“He makes too many mistakes technically,” Giguere explained. “You can be as good as you want but if you’re technique is not good, on a tough night you’re going to have an even tougher night. Your technique and your foundation can really get you out of a jam sometimes. You don’t want to be just a brick wall. You want to leave some creativity out there but I think too often he makes mistakes that are easily avoidable.”
Giguere wondered if Price had perhaps picked up some bad habits in practice over the years and added that he doesn’t think Price’s struggles have to do with the fact that the Olympic gold medallist is now in his 30s and likely in the back half of his NHL career.
For Giguere, though, it’s more about the fundamentals.
“Too often he’s moving on his knees, even if the puck is 30-40 feet away from the net he’s already moving across on his knees and he can’t recover if there’s a second pass. … You gotta stay on your feet, you have to be able to react to a second pass and a third pass. The longer you stay on your feet, the more you’re able to change direction. When you’re on your knees it just makes it a little bit harder.”
Price snapped a three-game losing streak Thursday by stopping 43 of 45 shots against the Calgary Flames. His next chance to pick up a win will be Saturday against the Canucks in his home province of B.C.