Carey Price. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
The last person one would expect to be blamed for Montreal’s playoff exit is Carey Price, but the netminder took it upon himself to say he should have been better. P.K. Subban thinks differently and he’s right in saying it’s the rest of the team that let Price down.
After a season in which Carey Price was the best goaltender in the entire world, led his team to the post-season, came up big when necessary and did everything in his power to help the Canadiens win, he still blamed himself for the team’s failure to win the Stanley Cup.
Following Montreal’s Game 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Price was the one to shoulder the blame for the Canadiens’ early exit.
"I didn't play well enough for us to win the series," Price told reporters following Montreal’s 4-1 loss Tuesday. "I think that's basically more or less what it comes down to." Too bad for Price that no one, including teammate P.K. Subban, is buying it.
In his post-game interview, Subban told reporters that he wasn’t on board with Price’s sentiments, and he didn’t mince words when trying to get his message across.
"As a team we've got to understand that Carey's the best goalie in the world but he's also human, things are going to happen out of his control sometimes and we've got to respond for him," Subban said. "Listen, Carey will always say the right things, I'm sure he's frustrated, but we need to be better around him. I don't care what Carey says, we need to be better around him and support him more. I think too many times this year he's bailed us out and that's got to change moving forward if we want to be a successful team in the regular season and the post-season.”
Subban is right about two things: first, of course Price gave all the right answers and took the blame where he felt necessary and second, the Canadiens do need to get better around Price and provide him with some goal support, some support on defense and give him a better chance to win them games, because if things are going to continue as they have for all of 2014-15, there’s not going to be many deep playoff runs in Montreal.
During the regular season, only two Eastern Conference playoff teams allowed more shots against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play than the Canadiens, and those were the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators. The difference, though, is that while the Rangers and Senators ranked in the top 20 for shots for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, Montreal was all the way down in 24th place. And those are just the shots that actually reached the net.
Outside of Calgary, which was statistically one of the weakest teams in the league let alone the playoffs, no post-season team had a worse shot attempts for percentage at 5-on-5 than Montreal. If it weren’t for Price, who posted the second best 5-on-5 SP of any goaltender in the league to play at least 1,000 minutes, it could have very well been a much earlier summer for the Canadiens.
When it comes to the post-season, some will argue that the Canadiens increased shot attempts for percentage and improved defense means that, at the end of the season, it really was Price who let the Canadiens down. But the fact of the matter is that of goaltenders to play at least 300 minutes in the playoffs, Price’s .942 5-on-5 SP is the third best mark. He faced the third most shots. At 5-on-5, his goals-against average was a stellar 1.58.
Though the Montreal offense clicked to the tune of 11 goals at even strength over the six-game series against Tampa Bay, it was the offense’s time to help out Price. The power play struggled with the Canadiens mustering just one goal with the extra man, while the Lightning made good on seven of their opportunities. Montreal gave Tampa Bay the man advantage seven more times than the Lightning put the Canadiens up a man. There’s nothing Price could have done about that except for buckle in and do his best to turn aside repeated blasts while on the penalty kill.
Max Pacioretty was the Habs' leading goal scorer with five tallies, and he was coming off of a concussion mere days before the regular season ended. Subban led the team in point with eight from the backend, only one of which was a goal. Alex Galchenyuk only managed one goal and four points and, after a 26-goal, 60-point regular season, Tomas Plekanec had one goal and four points in 12 post-season outings.
There are going to be a lot of questions going forward for the Canadiens – they’ll need to find scoring and they have to improve defensively – and giving coach Michel Therrien the axe seems highly unlikely. No matter what changes in Montreal or where the blame falls, it’s certain that no one should be pointing the finger at the goaltender. And that includes Price.