Sunday, February 17, 2008

Here We Go Again

Carey Price has been given another start tonight in goal, his third straight. He has played very well in his past two games and has set the Habs straight. His 1.000 and .972 save percentages over the past 2 games have been his best two all year and it finally seems like he may be ready for full-time NHL duty. The only problem is that we have thought this 3 times already this season - and each time it backfired.

The club seems hellbent on playing Price and as long as the media darling continues to post wins I am sure he will play. That is of course bad news for Huet and Halak, both of whom have superior numbers to Price at both levels. Both Huet and Halak, however, have something under their belt that Price does not; they have both proven themselves down the stretch at the NHL level. Price on the other hand has not yet done that, but it now looks that for a fourth straight season we will ride a different goalie towards the playoffs.

All this hope that the Habs are now placing on Price's shoulders makes me kind of nervous. To date he has done two great things in his career; he was born Canadian and was the best available teenager in his given year, he also did have a great run with Hamilton last year. So, it looks to me like we are basing the entire future on Price's 2 month run. Let's not forget that most goalies at some point have been great for 2 consecutive months and even more impressive than doing it in the AHL, almost all have done it in the NHL. Conklin, Lalime, Hedberg, Raycroft, Emery etc. have all been hot before, but you would be hard pressed to find a team that would bank their future on them.

Price's numbers so far this year in the NHL are average at best. Including his past two starts he has a .913 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA with 1 shutout (yesterday). He has played in 23 games and has won almost half of them - 11 wins. He has only accheived a save percentage over .900 in 13 of those 23 games and above .940 a measily 5 times. These numbers are fine, but considering they are nowehere near as good as Huet's I am left here wondering why we continue to snub the Frenchman.

As for Huet he is a great goalie. Apart from having the best save percentage of any goalie since the lockout he has also been reliable for his 3 seasons with the Habs. I don't know how often one of Huet's 'bad' games still results in a win as he rarely lets in 4 or more even on his off nights. He is unrestricted after this year and could walk, but I think that would be a bad move. Without Huet our goalie situation goes from being deep to being unproven. Instead of thinking about who or what we could get for the French netminder we should be thinking of locking him up on a mid-term contract. He has been a valuable player for the Habs over the past few seasons and has many more good years ahead of him in the NHL.

Jaroslav Halak just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With his numbers and experience he should be a starter in the NHL, not in the AHL. Unfortunately it looks like the Habs have no plans for the Slovak which was quite evident during his month-long call-up in which he got 0 starts. It seems that the best case scenario for Halak is to be a back-up to Price, a job that he will likely be unwilling to take. Of course if he and Huet both leave then so much for our depth - it will leave us with one, un-proven 20 year old. Halak seems to be the odd man out which is a shame because he may just be the pick of the litter.

Waiting for a loss is not the time that we should be making goaltending switches. We should be sensible enough to not believe the hype of each new goalie that we see, and realize that a team should have a plan not a dream.

The bottom line is I want the team to win and if Price is the man so be it. I just want people to be aware that we have other options at our disposal and we shouldn't necessarily put all our eggs in one basket. With games on back-to-back nights there is no need to play the same goalie twice as it rarely ends well. I am just as upset that we aren't giving Cristo a start this weekend as I was when Halak couldn't see action in a similar situation last month. Huet is our #1, has been for over 2 years and he is a big reason we are on the verge of 1st in the East. I am not against playing Price, just against neglecting Huet. It seems like the team, media and fans have been looking for a Patrick Roy since 1995 and still 13 years later we are still looking. We have had a Vezina/Hart winner, an all-star and numerous other suitable candidates, but, despite all that, people are still looking. Is Price really the next one? Or is he just the next Hackett, Aebischer or Huet?

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