Call Of The Wilde: The return of Carey Price

282 days had passed since Carey Price was in the net for the Montreal Canadiens — that last night in Tampa Bay in the 2021 Stanley Cup finals.

The team needed to see its most important goalie of this century in action. Price needed to see himself in action. He was strong, but the Canadiens fell 3-0 to the New York Islanders.

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What struck fans most about Carey Price in the net for his first game this year was that nothing struck at all. He was the same as ever. In fact, Price making it look easy has always been a curious aspect of his game.

In the first period, Price faced eight shots and looked in complete control. There was only one high quality shot from Anders Lee and, yes, Price made the stop look easy.

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In the second period the Canadiens’ dominated. It was some of their best hockey of the season. The shots were 30-12. Price didn’t have a difficult stop in the entire frame. A shutout was in the offing, with a little good fortune, in the third period. That would be a fairy tale return for Price.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde – Blue Jackets drop Canadiens

But it was not to be. Price was scored on early in the third period on a 3-on-0. He was abandoned by his defence. The Islanders capitalized.

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Still, the fans were in fine form with a standing ovation for him before the first puck drop that went well beyond turning off the lights — the not so subtle indicator from the Bell Centre that the evening needs to proceed to the television broadcast.

As far as his health, it’s the day after that will tell Price and the organization what they can expect next season. The club has a lot of money still wrapped up in this goalie, and if he could keep going at a .920 clip, he could make a huge difference to their fortunes.

Let’s hope Price is healthy — not just as fans of the Canadiens, but as human beings with compassion for his struggles. He has given so much to this game that all we can hope for is he will be able to leave it on his own terms.

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When he has had enough, it’s ours to honour that. The Canadiens would have had no recent success without him. They would never have made it to the Stanley Cup finals last season. Nor would they have made it to the final four a decade before without his stellar work.

The franchise owes a lot to Carey Price. May he always feel the warmth of the ovation that he received on Friday night.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde – Habs doubled by Jets

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The Canadiens did not play badly. In fact, the first two periods they were very much the better team, but they could not beat Ilya Sorokin. This is hockey. Sometimes you get ‘goalied’.

The coaching staff should not feel badly. There was a lot to love, but they need to tighten up mistakes. At 0-0, someone has to sense danger so there is no chance for three forwards to charge down the ice without a Canadien in sight to defend.

However, flip the coin, and it was another night of good hockey from Montreal without compromising their draft position. It’s not optimal, but consider the alternative of being horrific and boring. Being good, but drafting high is not a horrible mix overall.

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While the Canadiens will miss the playoffs, the Laval Rocket could be embarking on a long and successful post-season. They’re one of the hottest teams in the American Hockey League with only one regulation time loss in their last 10 games.

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The Rocket seem as if they are destined to finish second in the North Division behind only the Utica Comets.

Laval has seven games left in the regular season.  They’ll likely face the Syracuse Crunch who have the third place lead. However, it might just be the Toronto Marlies, which is a great AHL rivalry.

Because of COVID-19 difficulties in Canada this winter, some clubs have only two games left in the final two weeks. Some clubs have eight. The standings could change a lot, but the winning percentages say Syracuse or Toronto will face the Rocket. It should be a full house at Place Bell in Laval this May.

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