Hasek , Dryden, Parent, Vachon, Roy, and Esposito all had backups, the question is who were they? Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has been out with an injury, but returned to practice Wednesday for the first time this month and there wasn’t a near panic because his backup Mike Condon has played very well in his absence.
The Canadiens are of course pleased to see their best player back on the ice with them, but they are equally relieved that they have a plan B.
It is not yet known when Price, who has missed the past eight games with a lower-body injury, will be ready to play, but it won’t be at home against the Arizona Coyotes. Head coach Michel Therrien announced that Mike Condon will start against the Coyotes.
The Canadiens will matchup Friday with the New York Islanders and Sunday, in Montreal against the Islanders.
“As I said when he was first injured, when he feels ready, not only physically but in terms of being able to perform, he’ll let us know,” Therrien said. “Right now it’s a bit too early to say.” What is significant about Therrien’s comments about Price’s return is that it does not appear to be panic stricken. Much of that has to do directly with the overall play of the team and Condon’s play in the net.
Price sustained his injury in a 4-3 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 29. He dressed as the backup to Condon at the Calgary Flames one night later and the Canadiens announced he was injured on November 1.
The Canadiens have gone 5-1-2 in the eight games since Price was injured, with Condon starting each of those games and posting a .918 save percentage. He has allowed 10 goals in going 1-1-1 in his past tree starts.
“He really allowed me to take my time and get well,” Price said of Condon. “He played very valiantly over the last two weeks. He played very well, and that was a very good sign. I’ve been saying it all along; this team isn’t just about me.”
Last season Price won the Vezina and Hart trophies as well as the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player, voted on by his NHL peers. The Canadiens were previously a subpar offensive team that was outshot regularly.
Overall Price’s absence is a blessing for the Canadiens, who have become more confident in their own abilities to win regardless of who is in net. The Canadiens are currently second in the NHL in goals per game (3.53), first in shots on goal per game (31.8), fourth in power-play percentage (23.9 percent) and have a 14-3-2 record through 19 games, with Price not starting 10 of those 19 games.
A year ago Montreal fans were expressing their displeasure with the team, its coach and the management for not acquiring more scorers. This season it is different.