If the Montreal Canadiens are going to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years, they’re going to do it without goalie Carey Price.
Coach Michel Therrien revealed on Monday that Price is out for the remainder of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, after suffering an injury to his knee in their Game 1 loss.
"Carey Price will not be available tonight, nor for the rest of that series,” said Therrien. "We've lost our best player, but we've faced adversity this year already."
The injury occurred on what has now become one of the most controversial moments of the 2014 playoffs: Rangers forward Chris Kreider barreling in on Price in Game 1, falling into him after a shot attempt:
Price left the 7-2 Game 1 loss after two periods, replaced by Peter Budaj. The Canadiens downplayed the injury, but concerns grew after Price missed Monday’s skate with Montreal. Price had previously struggled through right knee ailments after the Sochi Olympics, missing eight games after helping Canada to gold.
“Looking at the incident, it’s a reckless play. That’s the truth,” Therrien said. “And Kreider, this is not the first time he’s going at goalies. So, we end up losing our best player, but our group faced a lot of adversity throughout the course of the season and we responded and we’ve got the attitude to respond really well. And this is what I’m expecting starting tonight.”
Kreider didn’t speak about the incident after Game 1, but his Rangers teammates stood up for him. Said Brad Richards, via Rangers Rants:
“It was 2-0. I’ve never seen a hockey player that can score an important goal on a breakaway and would rather run into a goalie or figure out a way to hit a goalie. I mean, he’s trying to score a goal. If you’ve watched him, he’s a pretty fast, big player. When he gets going, it’s hard to stop sometimes. It’s a split-second thing that happened. We’re trying to score goals and get ahead 3-0, not manufacture something like that. They can say that. They can think that. That’s their right, but we know how Chris plays, and it’s a fast game out there, a lot of things can happen.”
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Intent to injure? No way. “Accidentally on purpose” crashing the net, as Brandon Prust called it? Without question. But that’s why Kreider has been a huge reason why the Rangers finally woke up in the postseason, after he returned to the lineup – they’re 4-1 with him.
Price has a 2.35 GAA and .919 save percentage in 12 playoff games. He’s run hot and cold: Giving up three or more goals in six games, and two or fewer in six games. But he’s a heart-and-soul player for the Habs, -- one of their MVPs for the season and the backbone of their upset of the Boston Bruins.
Replacing him, for the moment, is Peter Budaj, who entered Game 1 in the third period and gave up three goals on eight shots. Budaj has seven career playoff appearances, including a start last postseason against Ottawa when Price tweaked his knee. He was 0-2 in that series. Dustin Tokarski is the likely backup
Ironically, the Canadiens eased through Round 1 when Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop was injured before the playoffs, feasting on their backups in a four-game sweep.
Will it be open season on Henrik Lundqvist now that Kreider knocked Price from the series? Brandon Prust of the Habs, a former Ranger, said they wouldn’t run Lundqvist "just because they ran ours.”
That said, we wouldn’t want to be Chris Kreider in Game 2 …