BROSSARD, QC. — A slight tremor of panic was felt throughout the Montreal Canadiens fandom Thursday night, when it appeared Carey Price tweaked his groin in the shoot-out portion of the intra-squad game that had been opened to the public. From the moment he appeared to feel discomfort, not much movement could be seen from his part as he simply stood tall to each shooter. His absence from the next practice added to the sense of panic.
It felt catastrophic that there was a possibility that Price could be injured for the start of the season.
As someone who played at the goaltender position for 20+ years, I can tell you that I’ve experienced three different types of what I would consider groin injuries.
- The Kansas Groin Injury: You feel a tweak, a pull or sometimes even a pop. In the many cases that I’ve experienced, the feeling goes away quite rapidly and it’s like it never had been there to begin with. It disappears like dust in the wind…
- The Dandelion Groin Injury: In this case, the feeling doesn’t go away and a strained feeling remains in the groin area. Like the dandelion, it’s there, you’d rather it not be there, but ultimately, it doesn’t really bother you or prevent you from doing anything.
- The Mother-In-Law Groin Injury: This is the worst case scenario. You’re really bothered by the injury. It won’t go away. Just when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, it comes back. In these cases, you are unable to play as you feel you would be putting your team at a disadvantage.
In Price’s case, I have to assume that he was anywhere between Kansas and the Dandelion, but it certainly didn’t appear that his groin was bothering him Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Carey Price, or any other goaltender for that matter, in their very first game of an abbreviated season, with a shortened training camp. In Carey Price’s case, he hadn’t really played any competitive hockey since the end of the 2011-12 regular season calendar other than “la tournée des joueurs.”
If we look around the league, some goalies had a very difficult first outing Saturday night.
- Jonathan Quick give up five goals on only 22 shot attempts, a game which the Los Angeles Kings lost 5-2 to the Anaheim Ducks.
- For the Washington Capitals, Braden Holtby gave up six goals on 34 shots, in game which the Caps lost 6-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- Cam Ward gave up four goals on only 12 shots and was pulled in a game which the Carolina Hurricanes ended up losing 5-1 to the Florida Panthers. (Dan Ellis came into the game to replace Ward, and only gave up 1 goal on 13 shot attempts)
- Jimmy Howard gave up five goals on 28 shots before being pulled by the Detroit Red Wings in a game which they lost 6-0 to the St. Louis Blues.
- Finally, Vancouver Canucks’ goaltender Cory Schneider gave up five goals on 14 shots, while his compadre Roberto Luongo gave up two goals on 12 shots, as the Anaheim Ducks picked up the ‘W’ in a 7-3 win.
You never quite know what to expect as not every goaltender picks up their timing and coordination as rapidly as the other. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a goaltender who was “awful” in their first game, will be in their second, just like it doesn’t mean a goaltender who was “great” in their first game will be in their second. The same also applies at any point in the season and I’m pretty much only stating the obvious here.
What’s different during the season is that trends develop and it can actually become easier to predict performances on a game-by-game basis, but we’ll save this discussion for another time.
Even though the Canadiens had a difficult night overall, I really liked what I saw from Carey Price.
Carey Price has developed the reputation of being a slow starter, especially during training camp. He’s been accused of having an approach that’s at times seen as a little too laid back, or nonchalant. There was none of this in Price’s demeanour Saturday night.
To get his two goals against out of the way:
- On the first goal, we saw a Habs penalty-killing unit that was much too passive, allowed Dion Phaneuf to carry the puck across the ice, dump the puck into the Canadiens zone, and the Leafs were then able to settle the puck into the offensive zone. Nobody on the Habs defensive unit picked up Nazem Kadri who was cutting into the slot, and for Carey Price, it turned out to be a puck going from right to left, which then quickly went back towards his right. He can hardly be blamed for committing to the initial pass across.
- On the second goal, a shot from the top of the crease appeared to deflect off of a player in front of the net, the puck instantly fell onto Tyler Bozak‘s stick who had all but an empty net to shoot at. This goal was also scored on the power play for the Leafs.
Goals aside, Price was constantly on the edge of the blue paint challenging shooters. Early in the second period, he redirected a shot from James Van Riemsdyk which unfortunately for Price bounced back in front of the net. Price remained in position and was able to make the subsequent save on Leo Komarov who was barging through the crease. Early in the third, he also stood tall to Phil Kessel, who broke through two defenders before having Price redirect his shot into the corner.
He was standing big in his net, tracking pucks aggressively through traffic and really not giving much for the Maple Leaf players to shoot at. He never abandoned on any play in some cases, had to fight to prevent pucks from crossing the goal line, while only inches away.
Those who still weren’t convinced that there’s nothing to worry about in regards to Carey Price’s groin got a scare in the second period, when a pass from Clarke MacArthur was redirected towards the net by Erik Cole‘s stick, and Price had to stick out his pad while making the splits in order to prevent the puck from crossing the red line.
For a goaltender in their first game of the season, all I like to see are positive things. In Price’s case, that’s all I saw. A goalie who stood tall, confident, aggressive, challenged shooters, tracked pucks through traffic and showed no signs of a lingering injury. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but I would bet that it’s a good sign of things to come for him this season.
He finished the night with 24 saves on 26 shots giving him a save percentage of 0.923 per cent, and he was a perfect 21 for 21 at even strength.
Also, If you missed the game, here are the game highlights from nhl.com:
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