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Sports

Lots of hockey. Lots of golf. Other sports too. 

1-Play Goalie Analysis: Carey Price

Minivan Dad

On March 21, 2015, I was in the building along with the family when the Montreal Canadiens hosted the San Jose Sharks at Le Centre Bell. (Yes, Mike Babcock is right by the way. Get the smoked meat at Schwartz's!) 

It was a tight game, in which both Carey Price and the Sharks' Antti Niemi were outstanding, making save after spectacular save. Then, with the Canadiens clinging to 1-0 lead and less than 1 minute left in the game, Carey Price did this: 

Uhhh... so about that Hart-Vezina-Lindsay-Jennings Award thing? Yeah... This is exactly why Carey Price won the Hart Trophy as the NHL Most Valuable Player. 

With Niemi heading to his bench, Joe Thornton makes a touch pass to Joe Pavelski at the offensive right blue line. Pavelski finds himself with a step advantage on Canadiens Alexei Emelin and Lars Eller. Defenseman Jeff Petry covers from the middle high slot, sliding across and into Pavelski's shooting/passing lane, so the Sharks forward continues past him to the bottom of the face-off circle. He has the option to take a low angle shot on goal, but instead threads a beautiful cross ice pass to where both Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture are driving the net, trailed by Dale Weise and Emelin. Couture hits a hard forehand one-timer from outside the opposite side of the crease. It's practically a perfect shot, just inside the near post, taken without delay at full speed with enough height to clear an 11-inch NHL legal goalie pad. It has to tie the game. Except... Carey Price saves it with the butt end of his goal stick. And although it looks lucky, it ain't.

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Price begins by pushing about a full stride out of his crease to challenge Pavelski.

As Pavelski drives lower, past Petry's slide, Price begins to retreat toward his post...

...and angles his retreat so that his left skate and pad end up just outside the left post.

Price then cuts off the low angle shot with a traditional V-H, but it isn't a passive move. He has loaded his left skate while he drops his right pad into a horizontal seal. His glove is active, and his stick covers his 5-hole.

This is some really classy goaltending. Essentially facing a developing 3-on-0, Price challenges the initial play high. He retreats into a blocking V-H and cuts off the low angle shot, but remains fully loaded on his left inside edge in anticipation of a cross-crease pass. Pavelski has nothing to shoot at, which we know because we can't even see him, let alone the puck, from the center in-goal camera. Price is positioned that perfectly.

Price maintains a signficant forward lean from his hips, which allows him flexibility in how he uses his stick in addition to taking away some of the vertical angle from the driving forwards. 

When Pavelski makes his pass, Price pushes across the goal line, just far enough out to allow his right pad to overlap the right post. This next image is a little blurred, but it shows that Price also attempts to deflect Pavelski's pass simultaneously as he drives across the goal line. He is so perfectly balanced that he doesn't lose any momentum from his push while reaching out with his stick.

When he realizes that the pass is going to Couture at his far right, rather than Marleau coming up the middle, he further extends his right pad out and behind him, to overlap the far post.

The kicker here to me is to watch Price's stick and blocker hand. He doesn't extend his stick blade toward the puck as Couture is shooting. Instead, he rotates his blocker hand so that the stick shaft drives down toward the top of his right pad, giving him the extra 2 to 3 inches of vertical coverage he needs to stop Couture from scoring. Just remarkable.

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This save preserved Montreal's 1-0 lead late in the 3rd period at home. The Canadiens scored an empty net goal just a few plays later, sealing Price's 40th win of the season.

Usually, commentators describe Price with the usual announcer standbys- "calm, cool, confident, solid." They're all accurate, but words like that don't capture Carey's brilliant underlying technical base, his anticipation, and the explosive athleticism with which he plays the position. Here he tracks the initial threat, effectively eliminates a shooting option, and gives himself the opportunity to stop either of the potential scorers that are driving the net.

So... Carey Price, all wrapped up in one play. Amazing save? Check. Vital time of the game? Check. Totally bailing out a poorly timed defensive breakdown? Check! Carey Price won the Hart Trophy this year because for him, this is business as usual.