Carey Price will go yet another year without his desire of capturing a Stanley Cup championship being fulfilled.
The Montreal Canadiens only earned the right to play in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs due to a global pandemic. But it didn’t mean the team wasn’t going to give it a good old college try, and they surprised people with their upset of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in round and at certain spots in their first-round series against the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers.
However, it wasn’t to be. Despite Price’s heroics, the team fell 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of their opening-round series Friday night and are now eliminated from the playoffs.
“It's not easy to beat Price,” Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said postgame. “We beat him three times tonight. that should be enough to win a game, and it was tonight.”
It means Price, the same goaltender who acknowledged his own championship window was closing, will have to wait until next season to get another crack at Lord Stanley’s mug. The rest of us, media and fans alike, will stare nervously at Father Time and wonder how much Price has left in him and whether the current core, and whatever future alterations come with it, is good enough deliver a championship.
The 33-year-old showed us a version of himself not seen since his banner 2015 campaign that saw him take home the Hart and Vezina trophies, as he looked rested and recharged throughout the postseason. He showed the Canadiens can still rely on their franchise talisman.
Some haters will point to the fact he allowed two goals on Philadelphia’s first three shots, but it’s hard to pin too many things on a player who has gone above and beyond to keep his team afloat on so many occasions.
Price didn’t dawn on his own hockey mortality in the postmortem but instead praised his teammates for their play despite the loss.
“I thought a lot of the guys stepped up to the plate and played very well in a tough situation against two very good teams,” Price said following the defeat.
Price did his best in net throughout the series, including a stick save that could arguably be considered the best in his repertoire — and a maneuver that saved Nick Suzuki’s face from being hit by a puck. In Game 6, however, Price couldn’t save pucks that were deflected off his fellow teammates, Shea Weber and Artturi Lehkonen in particular, and into the back of the net.
“Those are the breaks that you get in a winning championship season, I see it every year,” Price said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. Those are things you can’t control.”
“You can’t imagine the confidence it brings to players and a team when you know that you have a goalie like that back in the net,” Muller said. “You play and you make a mistake, he’s going to back you up. As a player that’s a pretty good feeling to have.
“Carey has showed he’s the top goalie in this game. His passion’s there. He’s committed. If you talked to Carey, I’m sure he’ll say ‘I love what’s going on’ and ‘I love this team and this group of guys’. And if you feel that way, it’s going to show in your game. I think Carey’s a real committed guy, right, and he wants to win. And this is all just pure optimism from what we saw on his performance in these two rounds,” he said.
The Canadiens are also very committed to Price, at least until 2026 through a contract that has a $10.5 million cap hit annually. But he earned his keep this summer.
Once the final buzzer sounded, and the last postgame scrum amongst players ensued, Price joined the handshake line with his teammates. The hockey world waited to see what the conversation would be like between the Canadiens netminder and a disciple in Flyers goaltender Carter Hart.
Carter Hart and his childhood idol, Carey Price, meet in the handshake line pic.twitter.com/GqywivMX3t— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 22, 2020
“Obviously, I look up to him,” Hart said. “For him to come over and congratulate you in the handshake line. He said 'hell of a series' and he'll be watching. That's pretty special. That's something I won't forget."
Price isn’t ancient history, yet. But seeing him meet younger goaltenders who idolized him is a sure sign that he’s been in the league for quite some time. How much time do the Canadiens have left with Price playing at the near top of his game? The Habs will have to see for themselves and will need more reinforcements in front of him to help out.
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