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Price believes 'I can play better than that' for Canadiens

Goalie makes adjustments coming off worst NHL season

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

SUMMERLAND, British Columbia -- Carey Price has a blueprint to bounce back quickly from the worst season of his 11-year NHL career, but the Montreal Canadiens goaltender knows he can't do it alone.

"At the end of the day, I know how I feel about my game and I know I could have played better," Price said Monday. "I always feel like that regardless, but I know I can play better than that and I know my teammates will be looking to perform better this season as well. 

"It's all intertwined, it's all connected and when you can iron out those details, it's all about chemistry."

Price was 16-26-7 in 49 games last season with a 3.11 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, well below a .918 save percentage for his NHL career and his .928 over the previous four seasons. 

The Canadiens (29-40-13) missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three seasons, 26 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

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In an interview with RDS this offseason, Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite said the key for Price to bounce back was knowing the root of the problem and addressing it. He believes he and Price have solutions.

Price talked about parts of the solution at the fourth annual Day with Price camp put on by Eli Wilson Goaltending. Price spent the day working with 18 children.

"I was talking to Eli about this earlier too and I found I was getting too spread out, like getting your feet too far apart from each other," Price said. "You are pretty much committed to the shot essentially when you do that, so that's something we'll be continuing to work on, keeping more of a neutral position and that will allow me to move better in any situation."

Smooth movement has long been a staple in Price's standing as one of the NHL's best goalies. Getting too wide reduces the power that fuels those pushes for goalies, usually forcing them into more lateral sliding on the knees rather than approaching side-to-side plays on the skates.

A return to a more balanced foundation should help Price get back to his form from 2014-15, when he won the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy with a 1.96 GAA and .933 save percentage.


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Price also knows he will need help from his teammates. The Canadiens were hurt by inconsistent play and injuries last season, especially to defenseman Shea Weber, who is expected to be out until mid-December after having knee surgery June 19. Montreal gave up 258 goals last season, seventh most in the NHL.

Goaltending rarely exists in a vacuum; performance is often tied to environment and defensive structure. That helps explain why, when asked about the offseason moves the Canadiens made, Price first discussed the hiring of former NHL defenseman Luke Richardson as an assistant. Richardson was an assistant for the New York Islanders last season.

"It felt almost like we were trying to overcorrect for things," Price said, stopping to make it clear he included himself in that statement. "You start to try too hard and do things you shouldn't because you feel like you are helping, but at the end of the day you are hurting yourself. Sometimes less is more."

For a goaltender who felt he was committing early to reads and shots last season by getting lower and wider in his stance sooner than he'd ideally like, it's a dangerous combination when the structure in front of him disappears.

"It's all intertwined," said Price, who turned 31 on Aug. 16 and begins an eight-year contract this season. "That's something we'll have to work on at camp and just be like, 'This is the rule, there is no gray area, this is how we are going to do it.' We have some new coaching staff this year, and a new defensive coach in Luke Richardson, so we'll have to sit down at the start of training camp and iron out what we want to do."

For Price, the changes aren't extreme. Can a little stance adjustment, among other things, make a big difference?

"It could be," he said, smiling. "We'll see."

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