Carey Price may not have been at his best lately, but Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien isn’t blaming his struggling goaltender. Therrien says there’s more than enough blame to go around in the Canadiens’ dressing room. Price has allowed nine goals in the last 33 shots he has faced, including six goals on 29 shots before getting the hook in Montreal’s 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Monday. Peter Budaj will start Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s pretty simple, it’s a game of pride,” Therrien told reporters. “You’ve got to come to the rink ready to play, you’ve got to come to the rink with attention to detail and make sure you have the right attitude, and this is exactly what we’re not doing, There is no work ethic out there right now.”
Part of the problem is that two of Montreal’s more physical players – Brandon Prust and Alexei Emelin – have missed time recently. Prust is reportedly dealing with a nagging injury and was held out of the lineup but is expected to play Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Emelin is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
The Canadiens have already clinched a playoff berth, but are in a dogfight with the Boston Bruins for top spot in the Northeast Division, which would net them the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal, which leads Boston by a single point, has six games left on the schedule, while the Bruins have seven dates remaining before the playoffs.
“We have to go back to our game, start skating and start winning battles,” Tomas Plekanec told reporters. “For the biggest part of the season we were winning those battles, we were always first to the puck and always faster than the other teams.”
Plekanec is certainly right about that. The Canadiens have been a fast, tough team all season, but haven’t had the same jump over the last week and this isn’t the time the club wants to slip into a slump before the playoffs.
That said, this team isn’t going anywhere in the postseason unless Price turns it around. Before this slump, he was in the running for the Vezina Trophy. Price’s save percentage now sits at .908 – certainly a good number, but not in the same ballpark as the numbers Sergei Bobrovsky and Henrik Lundqvist are putting up. The Canadiens are wise to give Price a full night off Wednesday against Pittsburgh and roll the dice with Budaj. If Price had another bad outing right away, it might be a lot harder to pick him up down the road.