Marc-Andre Fleury was horrible his first 2 years in the NHL and did not win a playoff series until the age of 23.
Henrik Lundqvist did not appear in one NHL game until he was 23.
Ryan Miller only became a full time starter at the age of 25 after a few years of bouncing back and forth between the AHL and the NHL.
At the age of 31, Tim Thomas saw his first bit of regular action in Boston.
People want to crown Craig Anderson one of the best goalies in the NHL? Last year was the first time he’s ever won more than 10 games – at the age of 27.
Roberto Luongo saw his first playoff action in his career at age 28
Mikka Kiprusoff was traded to Calgary and became a starter for the first time at age 27.
Nik Backstrom in Minnesota played his first game at age 28.
Evgeni Nabokov’s and Marty Turco’s rookie year was in 2000, both were 25 years old.
I won’t throw out Martin Brodeur’s numbers because he’s an anomaly and defies all statistics.
Please take note of the age mentioned in each of those short summaries. It is not a coincidence that most quality goalies in the NHL only became full time starters in their mid to late twenties. The NHL is a ridiculously fast game; filled with an abundance of skilled players and the need to process information in nanoseconds. This explains why defensemen often need seasoning in the minors before making the jump to the NHL and becoming effective players. This also explains why goalies take long to develop as well.
So do me a favor and think logically before you blame the current struggles of the Canadiens on Carey Price. I agree that he is not playing his best, but fans need to understand the circumstances before they keep targeting the young goaltender.
First, understand that he’s only 22 years old and is in fact well ahead of his development curve. How many of the current goalies in the NHL have won 50 games (Price has 49) by age 22? How many won their first playoff series at age 20? And how many of them can you say have been winners their entire careers? Is a successful career in the WHL, a world junior championship and a memorial cup not enough to give the guy a break?
Once you’ve digested that; take an objective look at the defensemen playing in front of him. Ken Dryden had the big 3 holding down the fort. Patrick Roy always had a good core of quality defensemen insulating him. Carey Price – not so much. Using the most recent game against Atlanta as an example; Spacek and Hamrlik are playing far and away the most minutes when they should be a very good second pairing. Josh Gorges is ideally your best defenseman on your third pairing or perhaps the weaker D on the second pairing. Paul Mara is a #6 at this point in his career, yet he is logging top 4 minutes. To top it all off; the bottom 2 are a rookie (Carle) who has never played in the NHL and Bergeron who should only be allowed to play against the 4th line of other teams and on the powerplay because he is that weak defensively. Last year’s defense was no better – Komisarek is playing terribly in Toronto this year. Patrice Brisebois – no comment needed. Francis Bouillon was actually the last defenseman to sign a contract on the UFA market until Bergeron. Mathieu Dandenault – playing in the AHL.
If that is still insufficient evidence that the lack of a supporting cast is contributing to the team’s struggles; consider that close to 40% (11 of 30) of the goals Carey Price has allowed have been while penalty killing. Montreal’s special teams have been atrocious, and while I have not actually verified this – I would find it very hard to believe that any goalie is giving up that many goals while his team is on the PK. The parity among teams other than the Leafs is closer than ever. This results in more games being decided by 1 goal, which increases the importance of special teams. Higher efficiency in this area will without a doubt lead to Carey Price putting up better numbers.
As soon as 6 NHL caliber defensemen are playing in front of Carey Price for an extended period of time and as soon as Montreal learns how to effectively kill off a penalty; if at that time he struggles to produce, I will retract my comments and gladly admit that my evaluation was flawed. But until then, stop pointing the finger at the goalie because it’s absurd. The people throwing him under the bus daily and the people who deem that he is the sole reason the Canadiens are a bad team and the people who feel that he is useless and should be traded right away are either malignant or misinformed.
The last time a goalie was run out of Montreal, he went on to win a cup in Colorado. Don’t make the same mistake again.
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.