Perry Lefko

I hope the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup this year or at some point with goalie Carey Price because he deserves it to underline what a great player he has been in hockey history.

Price has not won a Stanley Cup, the only thing missing from what has been a brilliant career and what will lead to him being a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer.

In 2015, he won a Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender, adding to the Hart Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable Player, one of few goalies to be selected for that honor. He also has won a gold medal in the World Junior tournament, Canada Cup and Winter Olympics. If Price wins a Cup, it will put him in rare company in terms of winning all four tournaments.

The Canadiens will have to prevail over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup semi-finals to get to the final this year. If this were any other year but a season in which all the Canadian teams were grouped together, this would be a Stanley Cup final with Vegas representing the Western Conference and the Habs representing the Eastern Conference. The fact Vegas prevailed over the Colorado Avalanche, which was the pick of many people to win the Cup, is a surprise. That the Canadiens are in it this far is even more of a surprise. If you had pegged the Canadiens to take out the Leafs and then the Winnipeg Jets on route to making it this far, you are either a Montreal fan or took a flyer and it’s worked out that way.

The common denominator is that Price proved to be a big difference in both series. He had not been playing well this season and some may have thought he had exceeded his best-before expiry date, but as they say at the racetrack you can never underestimate back class. In other words, if greatness has been flashed before, there is no reason it can’t be repeated.

Price is the highest-paid goalie in the NHL at $10.5 million per season, after signing an eight-year deal that commenced in the 2018-19 season. Since the playoffs, he has been playing to the value of his contract. What triggered this turnaround? Who knows? Maybe it’s a simple case of the Canadiens catching fire with a new coach and a bunch of new players, including Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield, who weren’t even in the starting lineup when the playoffs began. They added some offence and let the team defence settle everything else.

Price has been brilliant since joining Montreal in 2007-08 after the Habs selected him fifth overall in 2005. Whether or not he wins that elusive Cup this year, next year or fails to do it all, it will not in any way take away from the body of his great career. Price has turned back the clock, and anyone who believes in a fairy-tale finish will be rooting for him to finish off this season with a Stanley Cup.

The Canadiens have won more Cups than any other NHL franchise and they have had a litany of great goaltenders: Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, Bunny Larocque, Jose Theodore and Rogie Vachon, to name a few. There are more going further back than the 60s, but I didn’t see them because it was before my time. But once you become a great goaltender in Montreal, you are remembered forever.

Price may end up becoming the greatest goaltender in Habs’ history, though I’m sure many will say no one can ever supplant Roy. And as I’ve written before, winning a Stanley Cup does not define a player’s career, even the greatest in the game, because it’s a team game and sometimes it just comes down to being on the right one at the right time.

June 23, 2021 — marko vuruna

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