Over the summer, I wrote about Carey Price, and the subtle nature of his technical brilliance. I hadn't planned to revisit Price in this series until I had gone through at least another few goalies. Then the Canadiens hosted the Rangers on Thursday October 15, and Carey Price dueled Henrik Lundqvist in what felt like a playoff game. (Paul Campbell of InGoal Magazine chronicles the game here, including the moment when Price let Chris Kreider know what his life is going to be like around the Montreal net from now until eternity.) With Montreal leading 1-0, and just coming off a penalty kill, this happened:
The play develops fairly quickly from the Rangers’ defensive zone. Kevin Hayes receives a pass in the left neutral zone and flies past the Canadiens’ defense down the offensive left boards. Nash drives wide on the right, behind three Habs, who are watching Hayes. Price sets up square to Hayes as he drives to the net on Carey's blocker side. Hayes makes a perfect low-high pass across the slot to the driving Nash, who one-times it from the opposite faceoff dot toward the top left corner of the net.
Nash's shot is actually a little bit of a knuckler, which can throw off the timing of a hard cross crease drive. Price is able to adjust to the offspeed trajectory, and he blocks the puck with his catching glove moving back toward his head.
At first glance, this is an amazing cross-crease push by Price to rob Rick Nash of the game-tying goal. On closer evaluation, though, it's much more. Price turns what most goaltenders would see as a desperation play into a save in which he ends up able to attack a back side one-timer with enough control to adjust to the speed and trajectory of the shot.
How does he do this, exactly?
When Hayes makes his pass, Price drops his left pad and engages his right inside edge into a butterfly push.
Here, though, he doesn’t actually explode across the crease. Instead, he performs a short push from his right skate, drops his right knee to the ice, gathers his pad under him while keeping his core fairly upright, then pushes again with his right knee.
This second push is usually something that I see goalies utilize in one of two situations- either they realize their first push isn’t strong enough and push again from their knee, or the goalie has enough time to re-engage their drive edge and perform a second butterfly push.
Price isn't doing either. He reads the play correctly, and is fully aware of what he is facing as he tracks the puck across the slot. He deliberately performs his short butterfly push to re-establish center-net position and reset his angle to the coming shot, then gathers and pushes off from his right knee. It's important to realize that his pads are completely sealed to the ice as he moves across. Nash isn't driving one under his leg pads, and Carey doesn't have to do anything else to gain leverage for what he does next. (Apologies for the goal cam. Apparently it's amazed by Price too.)
There is nothing desperate or lucky about this save. Price is not only square to the shot path when Nash releases the puck, but he is able to raise his torso to eliminate the vertical shooting angle as well. And, because he is in total control when he does this, he is able to move his glove inward to prevent the knuckling puck from floating over his left shoulder between his catcher and his head.
I love watching Carey Price because of subtle details like this 2-step push. Game awareness, skating skill, confidence, strength, instinct, reflex - they're all on display in this one difficult, effortlessly executed move. This is more than just another example of a technically brilliant goaltender making the spectacular look routine. It's proof that Carey Price is a supreme athlete performing at the peak of his abilities right now, and it's thrilling.