The last time we saw Carey Price, the goaltender was coming off the worst opening month of his career. Price ended October with an .883 save percentage, then gave up five goals on Nov. 2 before being sidelined until Saturday with a lower-body injury.
In that time, the Canadiens faltered as they lost five straight games heading into this weekend. While backup Charlie Lindgren held down the fort in goal for a few games, his hot start evened out as the Canadiens entered a rough patch in mid-November.
Questions swirled before Saturday night’s game about Price’s headspace coming into his first game back. Price’s wife, Angela, had to make a statement earlier in the week stating that the pair were not getting divorced nor did they want out of the city, all because the Montreal media circus got rowdy again.
If you had no idea that Price’s absence due to a “minor injury” caused such a stir, you wouldn’t have seen it on the ice on Saturday. Seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and Price put up a 36-save shutout in a dandy of a return to Montreal ice. The Canadiens bested their Atlantic Division rivals in the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Saturday, and Price’s return to form was the main reason Montreal came away with the victory.
The win wasn’t easy for Price, either. The Canadiens got the goals they needed, but were credited with 23 total giveaways over the course of the game. Price was needed to be ready and alert for almost anything that was thrown at him, and he stood tall through every test. This heat map from Natural Stat Trick really tells the story as to how instrumental Price was as the Sabres tossed shots on net all game.
“I felt prepared, more than anything. I spent a lot of time thinking about today and I’m just glad it all turned out well,” Price told reporters after Saturday’s game in Montreal. “A lot of preparation went into tonight. Injuries aren’t vacations, so it took a lot to get ready for tonight and I’ve gotta move to the next one.”
Thanks to Saturday’s show-stopping performance, the rumors of dissent and trades will likely calm down — at least for now. Yes, there were rumors floating around that due to the mysteriousness of Price’s injury, the Canadiens and Price were actually having a falling out that could have resulted in a trade. There were no big name sources corroborating the report, but the fact that Price’s name was coming up in these talks wasn’t a good sign.
Even if the Canadiens wanted to walk away from Price, the netminder has a full no-move clause in his contract as a part of his new eight-year extension that would cause complications in a clean break.
There is a lot the Canadiens can build upon with the win Price gave them. There’s no doubt Price will need to keep this momentum going to avoid falling into the pitfalls that ailed him during the first month of the season, but a game like Saturday is an incredible pick-me-up for a struggling Canadiens team as they look toward a playoff push.