After the New York Rangers thrashed the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 7-2 in Saturday’s Game 1, it became clear the Habs were going to have a tough battle ahead of them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Today, the chances of advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals became even slimmer when it was announced that Carey Price would be missing the rest of the series with a right knee injury.
“Really disappointed,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien. “He’s our best player.”
Therrien wasn’t lying. Price has been outstanding in these playoffs, with a 92% save percentage and an 8-4 record. He was the main reason the Canadiens were able to beat their main nemesis in Boston in seven games, only allowing 15 goals the entire series against one of the most high-powered offenses in the game. He shut them out in Game 6 and only allowed one goal in Game 7, overcoming the odds to win the seventh game on the road. The Bruins offense looked so feeble as he stopped shots from every angle and gave his team the best chance of winning.
Even before the Rangers’ Chris Kreider collided with Price in the second period of Saturday’s game on a pretty reckless play, it was clear that New York’s speed was going to be a problem for Montreal. The Canadiens defense struggled on all four goals that Price gave up, leaving him on an island for most of his afternoon. It was abnormal considering Subban, Markov and company were on their “A” game defensively against the Bruins, clogging the holes and not giving Boston’s wingers open shots.
With Price out, Peter Budaj is in, and that’s terrible for the Canadiens. To assess the full impact of Price’s absence, let’s go to the stats. According to hockeygoalies.org and their sabermetrics, Carey Price had a 51.5 goals above replacement value (GAR) this season. That means that this year, Price prevented 52 goals that Budaj would have given up. The only goalies with a higher GAR value were Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Some sabermetric stats are pointless, but this one is useful and simply damning for Montreal. Carey Price is one of the most valuable goalies in the game and when you have to replace him with Budaj, who hasn’t won a game since April 4 and has gone 0-2 with a goals against average of 5.10 in his playoff career, you’re going to lose.
Simply put, Carey Price’s injury all but gives the Rangers a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canadiens were going to have trouble beating the speedy and efficient New York squad in the first place, let alone trying to beat them without their best player in net. Montreal is doomed and the Rangers just caught a major break.