Carey Price's return helping Canadiens rediscover swagger

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Naturally, the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/mon/" data-ylk="slk:Montreal Canadiens">Montreal Canadiens</a> are on a tear with No. 1 netminder <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3782/" data-ylk="slk:Carey Price">Carey Price</a> back, and healthy. (Getty)
Naturally, the Montreal Canadiens are on a tear with No. 1 netminder Carey Price back, and healthy. (Getty)

It should come as no surprise that the Montreal Canadiens are a much, dare we say, completely different team when their all-world goaltender is in between the pipes and at the top of his game instead of catching rays in the press box.

But the vast difference in the team’s overall play since the return of Carey Price just over a week ago has been nothing short of mind-blowing.

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The Habs have looked like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders the past five games — most recently throttling the Detroit Red Wings 10-1 on home ice — turning what was a steady stream of boos just days ago into overwhelming ovation and appreciation from the home fans. Though they didn’t need their star goalie to shine Saturday, the return of Price (at the top of his game) has been the driving force to the Canadiens’ recent turnaround.

Price was sputtering prior to hitting the IR, off to the worst and most worrisome start of his career after inking an eight-year contract extension this past summer. The 30-year-old posted a dismal 3-7-1 record with a .877 save percentage through his first 11 games this season, often looking clumsy, out of position, a little disoriented, and definitely not like the Price that the world was used to seeing. After being shelved with a lower-body ailment sustained in warmup of a Nov. 2 game against Minnesota — a contest which he played anyway, and allowed five goals on 26 shots — the 2017 campaign looked bleak for both Price and the struggling Canadiens.

The former MVP, however, has been spectacular since his return to the lineup on Nov. 25 when he posted a 36-save goose egg against the Sabres. Now through five starts, Price is 5-0-0, with just six goals allowed. He’s boasting a minuscule 1.20 goals against average and outrageous .962 save percentage while being sharp in his movement and positionally sound, providing the Canadiens the composure and temperament needed from their leader to get them out of the deep rut the club was trudging through.

The team lost nine of their first 13 contests with a very sub-par version of Price in the lineup, and followed up that brutal start with an inconsistent stretch in Price’s absence, consummating with an ugly four-game losing skid prior to getting their No. 1 netminder back last month.

But Montreal has found its swagger again, outscoring opponents 24-6 with Price back in the fold for a 3.6-goal average margin of victory since the glorious day when Carey came back.

As Price himself once put it, everyone needs to just “Relax, chill out,” and everything will be okay for Les Habitants.

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