The Montreal Canadiens have had some of the best goaltenders ever to tend the crease. Whether it be Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, or even the short run of brilliance from Jose Theodore, the Canadiens have had a plethora of incredible netminders.
But the best to wear the bleu, blanc, et rouge could be the guy currently tending the net, Carey Price.
His NHL career didn’t start off as well as some fans would have hoped. The fifth overall pick from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Price went on to win a Calder Cup with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and World Junior gold with Team Canada before making the jump to the Habs.
And then everything went downhill.
By 2010, Price’s time looked to be done in Montreal. Jaroslav Halak was the saving grace in the playoffs that year, almost single-handedly defeating the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two rounds before eventually getting traded to the St. Louis Blues.
Many fans thought the Habs made the wrong choice. But after winning the Vezina, Hart, Jennings, and Lindsay Awards in 2015, there’s no question that Price is one of the best goalies the NHL has seen in some time.
But how does he match up with Dominik Hasek, considered by many to be the dominant goaltender of all-time?
That’s a question that will swirl around Price’s career for as long as he continues to be an elite puck stopper. Sure, he may be the greatest of this generation of NHLers, but hockey has changed a lot in the past 20 years. Can he keep up with Hasek?
Let’s dive in.
Hasek’s career year came in 1998-99, when he posted an incredible .937 save percentage. Byron Dafoe finished second that year, posting a save percentage of .926.
What makes Hasek’s numbers even more impressive is the team he played with, a Sabres team void of much talent.
For a six-year period during the 1990s, Hasek led the NHL in save percentage, perhaps the best stat at judging goalies ability to keep the puck out of the net, while never falling below .920. His tremendous 1998-99 season at the age of 34 was a big reason why the Buffalo Sabres made it within a game of winning the Stanley Cup.
Hasek was simply amazing.
No goalie was as dominant as Hasek was, especially during his time with the Sabres. Hasek finished with six Vezina Trophies, getting only outmatched by Jacques Plante (who played against a lot fewer teams during his time).
Internationally, Hasek was no slouch either. At the 1998 Olympics, a tournament that the Czech’s probably shouldn’t have won, Hasek put on one of the greatest Olympic performances of all-time when he recorded a 0.97 GAA and .961 SV% to bring his nation to the championship.
He was an innovator on the ice, using his never-say-die attitude to create some of the most outlandish, most creative saves ever seen in the NHL. While his floppy dance moves on the ice aren’t replicated by any other goalie in the league today, it was a style that went against the growing trend of the butterfly, yet proved to be so successful.
In Price’s best season in 2014-15, he led the league with a .933 save percentage, beating out Devan Dubnyk by just .004. The worst goaltender (minimum 25 games) was Jonas Hiller, finishing with a dreadful .879 save percentage.
Following an injury-plague season last year, Price is at the top of his game once again.
After a stellar performance against the Boston Bruins on Monday evening, Price now sits with a 16-3-2 record on the season, with a 1.80 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. With a flawed team like the Canadiens, no goalie today is doing as much as Price to keep his team in championship-winning position.
At 29-year-old, Price is in his prime. Given that Hasek was a late bloomer, not posting eye-popping numbers until the age of 28, Price is on pace to leave Hasek in his dust, provided he can keep it up.
Just like Hasek, Price is regarded by many as one of the best players in the NHL, regardless of position. Just like Hasek, Price has an Olympic gold medal. And just like Hasek, Price makes an otherwise non-playoff team into an elite team on a nightly basis.
Comparing the two eras
The goaltending position has evolved over time. That’s why comparing Price’s incredible .938 save percentage in 2014-15 when the league average was .915, doesn’t have as much significance as Hasek’s .937 in 1998-1999 when the league average was .908.
Still lots of time to decide
— StockJocks (@stockjocks) December 9, 2016
Like Hasek before him, Price is the backbone of his team.
But who is the most dominant goalie of all-time? Right now, that distinction goes to Hasek.
At least, for now.
Hasek was able to achieve his strong play consistently through multiple seasons, something Price has yet to fully show off.
To be in the conversation with Hasek, Price will have to put together at least another four seasons (including this one), with a save percentage above .930. That’s a tall ask, but not something that is out of the realm of possibility.
Hasek had five Vezina Trophies and one Hart Trophy during his six-year run of invisibility. Price already has one of each in the bag, but there’s still work to be done.
But for now, Price will have to settle for being just one of the greatest goalies to ever tend a crease. How terrible, right?