This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
Remember how the Canadiens rolled to a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division and were considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for much of last season? The one guy who earned much of the credit for that success was Carey Price, the Habs' all-world goalie. He was suitably rewarded for a remarkable season when he collected four major NHL awards, including the Vezina and Hart trophies.
It's worth noting that the Hart is awarded annually "to the player judged most valuable to his team." Well, the Canadiens have found out just how valuable Carey Price is to their team this season. Price has appeared in only 12 of their first 43 games, posting a 10-2 record. Without him in their net, the Habs have produced a 13-15-3 record – numbers befitting the league's bottom-feeders.
As it stands, the club is still holding onto a playoff spot, but there are four non-playoff clubs within four points of Montreal's total.
We're seeing a pretty clear picture of what the Canadiens are without their star goalie. They have only four skaters who have even reached the 10-goal plateau; one of them, Dale Weise, is truly a bottom-six forward who has regressed to career norms, notching only two goals in his last 15 games. That underscores the perception coming into this season that these Habs do not generate much offense and can only compete when Price is in top form.
The sad reality in Montreal is that Price is just now starting