Price Should Sit Until Fully Recovered

The Price is Right in Montreal. The team sits third in its division with a secure five-point lead over the fourth place Maple Leafs, and the team’s playoff berth is all but imminent. A first round meeting with new Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos and the Lightning seems to be the writing on the wall for the Habs, which would set the stage for a great first round clash. Despite the team’s .500 record over the last ten games (5-5), fans still seem to be content heading into the playoffs.

One uncertainty that has surfaced since the Olympic break is the status of star goaltender Carey Price. Since winning gold in Sochi, Price has been dealing with what is called a “lower-body injury”. He was initially kept out for eight games, but has played since originally being sidelined. But even though he has played, Price is not fully out of the woods with his injury. Price admitted in an interview to The Canadian Press that “it’s still a work in progress” and that it’s “all about timing and getting a feel for the game”. Not the kind of answer Habs’ fans were hoping for.

But even with the Olympic Gold medalist sidelined, the Canadiens have been doing OK. They are secure in the playoff race, and have got respectable goaltending from Peter Budaj (21 GP, 2.50 GAA, .907 SV%) and third-string goalie Dustin Tokarski (3 GP, 1.84 GAA, .946 SV%). The team’s offense has also had a boost since the acquisition of Thomas Vanek, who has scored five points (4 goals, 1 assist) since arriving on the scene in Montreal.

The team seems to be locked into finishing either second or third in the Atlantic division, barring a meltdown in the final ten contests that would see them drop into the wildcard. So with virtually no where to go, why risk re-injuring the back bone of the franchise? Price is the cornerstone of the entire team; it has been well documented. The Canadiens will go as far as Price can take them, but he can’t take them anywhere from sitting on injured reserve. This becomes especially true if the Habs do in fact play the Lightning in round one.

Tampa Bay net-minder Ben Bishop (55 GP, 2.17 GAA, .927 SV%) has been a Vezina Trophy favorite all season long with his spectacular play, as he currently sits second in both wins (34) and shutouts (5) in the NHL. With the standings shaping up, the chances of a Canadiens/Lightning first round match-up are growing. If that is the case, the Canadiens will need Carey Price like never before to match the play of Bishop.

Aside from that, Price will need to be there to halt the surging Steven Stamkos. Since returning from injury earlier this month, Stamkos has picked up right where he left off (7 points in last 4 games). Overall, Stamkos has 32 points this season with 26 games played, having scored a mind-boggling 20 goals in that time. Montreal will need all they can get to halt the scoring prowess of the former Rocket Richard Trophy winner.

For now, Michel Therrien must bite the bullet and sit Price until fully healthy. If that means riding Budaj and Tokarski the rest of the regular season then so be it. But Montreal can not afford to have Price sitting on the sidelines during the playoffs like last year. Carey Price needs to be 100% in round one for the Canadiens to have a chance, if not it may result in another first round exit for the Habs.

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