BROSSARD, Que. — There are big, ugly numbers next to Carey Price‘s name this season but the Montreal Canadiens goaltender isn’t sweating over it.
"I’ve never been a statistics guy — I said that even when my stats were the best in the league," Price said Wednesday. "It’s pretty irrelevant to me.
"I don’t feel that statistics mean much going into any game in particular. It’s all about the way you feel and how you prepare for each game."
Price, who many consider the best goaltender in hockey, has not been anything close to his top form in his first 10 starts. His 3.64 goals-against average hovers over his career 2.42 average, while his .883 save percentage is well off his usual .919.
Those numbers pale in comparison from the 1.96 average and .933 save percentage he put up while winning the Hart and Vezina trophies in 2015.
He will look to improve his numbers when he gets the start Thursday night in Minnesota, the second stop in a stretch of four straight road games that began with an 8-3 win in Ottawa on Monday night with backup Al Montoya in the net.
It has been an odd year for the entire Canadiens team and for the NHL, where goals scored per game are up more than half a goal from the same time last season. So far, 18 teams are averaging three or more goals per game, led by Tampa Bay with a whopping 4.08, while only seven scored three or better last season.
Price is not the only star goalie struggling. Henrik Lundqvist, Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask are among others with unflattering numbers so far.
Some of it may be coming from the NHL’s crackdown on slashes to the hands, which has made it more difficult for defenders to prevent top snipers from getting off quality shots.
"It’s probably the rules — you can’t really touch anyone out there any more," said Price, before adding with a grin "so that’s my theory.
"I just think it’s harder for a guy that’s out of position to get even with your stick, which happens a lot out there because guys are looking for that. You see the skilled, quality guys, guys that think the game, are seeing that and it’s hard to defend it when you can’t touch anybody."
Jeff Petry said it forces defencemen like himself to move their feet more to gain position on opposing forwards because they can’t put them off with a tap to their hands or stick.
"There’s definitely been more power plays because of that," said Petry. "You’re not seeing as many of the face-off calls, but the slashing calls are up.
"As soon as you touch anywhere around his hands you’re going to get called, so I think it is a bit tougher."
Perhaps it took Montreal longer than others to catch on. The Canadiens (4-7-1) scored only 12 times in their first eight games, but have pumped in 18 in the last four. The goals actually came in three games because they were shut out 4-0 by Los Angeles in the midst of that run.
Coach Claude Julien said the puck was bound to start going in sooner or later, but also remarked that the Canadiens have been generating better scoring chances of late. The power play has also stepped up with five goals in the last five games.
Confidence is also up. Against Ottawa, youngsters Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen each got their first two goals of the campaign, while Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher continued their revival.
The defence also looks to be adjusting, particularly since the second and third pairs were recently switched, with Petry now skating with Brandon Davidson while a much-improved Jordie Benn plays with off-season signing Karl Alzner.
Forward Andrew Shaw missed practice with a flu but was expected to play in Minnesota. The Canadiens play Saturday in Winnipeg and Sunday in Chicago before returning for a six-game homestand.