In a devastating blow to the Montreal Canadiens, goaltender Carey Price will miss time after injuring his left knee. He had previously missed time earlier this season after slipping on a puck during warmup per Elliotte Friedman, and it appears he reaggravated the injury. The Canadiens announced Price will miss six weeks, but will not require surgery.
Medical update: Carey Price will be out for a minimum of six weeks (lower body injury) – will not require surgery.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) November 30, 2015
The reigning Hart and Vezina trophy winner had been excellent when he’s seen action this season, with a 10-2 record, a 2.06 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He’s also been unsurprisingly great at even strength, with a .939 save percentage while facing 30.66 shots per sixty minutes. Price is simply the best goalie in the NHL and is the most valuable player on the Canadiens squad that leads the NHL with 39 points.
Price was out for a three-week stretch and the Canadiens surprisingly stayed afloat during his absence, and that’s largely thanks to backup Mike Condon.
Condon was a virtual non-commodity before the start of the season. After four years at Princeton University between 2009-13, the undrafted Condon made his pro debut in 2012-13, playing in a handful of games split between the ECHL’s Ontario Reign and AHL’s Houston Aeros. He signed a contract with the Canadiens and started for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL in 2013-14, where he was dynamite with a 23-12-4 record, 2.18 GAA and a .931 save percentage. The 25-year-old had an excellent 2014-15 in his first full season in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs, starting 48 games with a 23-19-6 record to go with a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage. He delivered at every level he’s played at. He started from the bottom, now he’s here.
Condon has continued his ascent at the NHL level. He surprisingly beat Dustin Tokarski for the backup spot and has run with the opportunity. In 14 games (13 starts) he’s posted an 8-2-2 record with a 2.19 GAA and a .916 save percentage. His numbers at even strength have rivaled Price’s, as his .938 even strength save percentage is just a tick below the starters.
Now, he’s been great for the Canadiens, but it’s still quite a small sample size and isn’t predictive Condon can continue his great run. After a blazing start out of the gates, in his last seven starts, his numbers have tapered off as he sports a .913 even strength save percentage. He’s been great collectively this season, but with his immediate success, it’s easy to forget he’s still a rookie and will go through the ups-and-downs while learning the NHL ropes.
The Canadiens have benefited from the third best PDO (102.1) in the league – a number which will always be higher due to the dominance of Price – but it’s still due to drop, especially with the netminder out for an extended period of time. Montreal ranks eighth with an 8.28 even strength shooting percentage, and that’s unlikely to be sustained over a full season. With Condon between the pipes, the Canadiens seem unlikely to continue their luck in that regard.
That’s not to say the Canadiens are doomed.
Condon has proved to be a reliable spot-starter at the NHL level, and even with the high PDO, Montreal is still a very good team. They’ve outscored their opponents handily at even strength (+0.76) and have top-flight special teams. Price’s injury should be more of a bump in the road than a sinkhole, and as long as Condon can hold the fort adequately, the team should be in fine shape. Even if they end up below .500 during the next six weeks, they’ve already banked enough to wins to stay in contention.
Losing Price sucks, but Montreal should stay afloat.