The Montréal Canadiens drafted goaltender Carey Price fifth overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he’s become arguably the greatest goaltender in franchise history. He holds the Habs’ franchise mark for wins (360), and has served as the Canadiens’ primary backstop for 14 seasons. His trophy case is incredibly impressive; one Vezina Trophy, one William M. Jennings Trophy, one Hart Trophy, and one Ted Lindsay Award. As one of the most decorated goalies in NHL history, he has obviously received the lion’s share of the time in the Canadiens’ crease.
However, the Canadiens are poised to be able to give Price a legitimate, non-injury-related mental break from the blue paint for the first time in a long time, as the combination of the team’s new additions and the emergence of the young core will take the pressure off the Canadiens’ number one.
Canadiens’ Roster Now Built for Scoring
In previous seasons, the main reason for Price’s tremendous and exhaustive workload was the fact that he was the team’s primary investment. Different general managers (GMs) up until the third of Price’s tenure, Marc Bergevin, had failed to address the needs which required Price to shoulder the bulk of the team’s progress. Beginning last season, Bergevin began searching for players to improve the Canadiens’ offence – and by extension – take some of the load off Price. Signing forward Tyler Toffoli shortly before the start of the 2021 season, Bergevin got a proven scorer who ultimately led the team with 28 goals and 16 assists for 44 points.
The addition of Toffoli last season was bolstered by the signing of Mike Hoffman this offseason. He finished third in scoring for the St. Louis Blues last season, and has scored 20 or more goals in six of the past seven seasons. He and Toffoli will combine regularly with newest Canadiens’ acquisition Christian Dvorak on the man advantage to create a lethal power play and a more dangerous all-around offence. The regular increase in offensive output will take some of the pressure off of Price, as it will no longer rest on him to keep the Canadiens in games. After all, they do say that the best offence is a good defence.
Montreal’s Kids Are Alright
As any member of the Canadiens can surely tell you, Montréal is arguably the most-scrutinized hockey market in the world. Any player who puts on the bleu-blanc-rouge is subject to the most intense criticism of any professional athlete in North America. The best players will receive more, regardless of their performance. Price, as the cornerstone of the Canadiens for so many years (as he continues to be), bore the brunt of the criticism from fans and journalists. However, with the acquisition of Nick Suzuki and the arrivals of young players like Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov, the guard is changing in Montréal.
The youngsters are beginning to take over, and this signals a transition which will shift at least some of the focus off of Price in favour of these younger stars. The Canadiens in the past few seasons have become a much more well-rounded team, and this will likely result in more balanced critiques of the team, which will allow him to focus on his game and step slightly out of the spotlight for what seems like the first time in his Habs’ tenure.
Jake Allen Remains a Solid Backup
The most direct indicator that the Canadiens’ should be ending their over-reliance on Price began last season when GM Bergevin signed backup goaltender Jake Allen from the Blues. Allen proved to be exactly what the Habs needed after Price went down with injury. Allen started 27 games in 2021, finishing with a 2.68 goals against average (GAA) and a .907 save percentage (SV%). He was partly responsible for keeping the Canadiens in a position to make the playoffs, starting nearly every game after Price’s injury in March 2021.
Even as he temporarily became the main man in the crease, he had always said it was just that – temporary. His job, he says, is to ensure that Price gets enough rest that he stays sharp for when the team needs him most.
Make no mistake, Price still remains the best player on the Habs’ roster, but he won’t be the first name on everyone’s mind anymore. After nearly 20 years as “the guy” for the Canadiens, the pressure is beginning to be released.
Covering the Montréal Canadiens and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.