Colorado Avalanche Perspective: Importance of a Stellar Goalie


The Colorado Avalanche catch a lot of flak for their shot differential. The Avalanche were 28th in the NHL for allowing more shots than they took, with a differential of -433. On the flip side, the Avs were 21st in the NHL in goals differential, just -8. No, that’s not great, but look at those two statistics side by side — in 433 extra shots, opponents only scored eight more goals than the Avalanche.

For Colorado, that’s a goalie stat.

Right now, Canadians, especially in Montreal, are reeling from the fact that once again Lord Stanley’s Cup will fail to touch Canadian soil — except when individual players bring it home for their day with the Cup. The Montreal Canadiens were eliminated in six games last night by the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Insult to injury, by a warm-climate American team.)

Goal tending and Canada’s 22-year Cup drought are related because of one man — Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price.

Carey Price

Price is heralded as one of the best goalies in the NHL right now. He finished the regular season with the best win record (44), best save percentage (.933%) and best goals against average (1.96).  He is the heavy favorite for the Vezina Trophy for goal tending this year.

Career-wise, Price has amassed 223 victories with a save percentage of .919. He has always played for Montreal, a hockey city renowned for being tough on goalies. (More on that in a moment.) Price has an Olympic gold medal, but no Stanley Cups in his eight-year career.

Goal Tending

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Unfortunately, Price’s goal tending acumen hasn’t been enough to propel the Montreal Canadiens past the third round in seven tries. To be clear, it’s not all Price’s fault — like Colorado Avalanche goalies, he often doesn’t get enough support from his skaters.

In the regular season, the Montreal Canadiens were 23rd in the NHL for shot differential, -136. Yet they were sixth in goals differential with +36. That stat is both offense and goalie, but it shows how much Price has had to stand on his head to back stop the Canadiens.

Unfortunately for Price, hockey lore is right about one thing — teams can ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup Finals. Price is an excellent goalie, but he’s never been a hot one in the playoffs. After the most recent loss, Price took the blame:

"“I didn’t play well enough for us to win the series. I think that’s basically more or less what it comes down to. We lost a lot of tight games. I just needed to make that one more save in all the games that we lost, and I didn’t do that.”"

Again, Price is being too hard on himself. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. In the final game, the Canadiens managed only 19 shots on goal, while Tampa Bay got 28 on Price. Sounds like an Avalanche statistic.

Clutch Goalies

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Getting back to Montreal and goalies, remember that time Canadiens fans booed Patrick Roy out of the arena — and out of Montreal? Ok, that’s a simplification, but remember when the Montreal Canadiens organization took head coach Mario Tremblay‘s side over Roy? Patrick Roy backstopped his team to a Stanley Cup victory that year. Unfortunately for Montreal and Canada, he did so for the Colorado Avalanche. (Lucky for us, though!)

The last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was in 1993 — the year Patrick Roy back stopped an underdog Montreal team to their second Cup win with him as goalie. Because of his two Cups in Montreal and his first Cup in Colorado, Patrick Roy earned the reputation as the most clutch goalie of all time. (The fourth Cup was just icing on the cake.)

I, of course, consider Patrick Roy the best goalie of all time. Statistics-wise, that doesn’t hold up in the regular season. In 18 seasons, he recorded 551 wins with a save percentage of .912. Not bad, though Price’s save percentage is better. (We can’t look at wins because Roy played in the time of ties, not shootouts.)

Roy shined in the post-season, though. He recorded 151 playoff victories with a .916 save percentage. Carey’s not far off with a .912 save percentage.

The big difference is this: Two teams rode the hot goalie of Patrick Roy to Stanley Cup victory four times. Price has never been hot enough to even get the Canadiens to the Cup Finals.

Avalanche Hockey

So, the Colorado Avalanche no longer have Patrick Roy as their goalie. He’s their coach.

Patrick Roy also gets flak for the shots differential — usually because fans and pundits claim he’s not doing enough to bolster the defense. That is a valid argument. After all, look what happened to a stellar regular-season goalie who didn’t get enough support in the playoffs — he and his team got eliminated.

However, Patrick Roy is in a unique position to understand that Stanley Cups are won when a stellar goalie is backstopping the team. He did it himself four times. And now he’s creating that situation in Colorado.

No, the Colorado Avalanche aren’t contenders quite yet. Yes, the Avs need a little help on the blueline. They could also benefit from added depth on the bottom-six.

However, coach Roy has created a fast, offense-minded hockey team in which the defense pinches in. This often leaves the goalie vulnerable. Who’s to say that’s not what he wants, though? Who’s to say he doesn’t want to season a goalie who’s so accustomed to being peppered that, come playoffs, the added intensity is just par for the course.

Such a plan didn’t work for Montreal. However, the Canadiens no longer have the last goalie to get them a Stanley Cup in their system. We do, along with his goalie coach (Francois Allaire). Coach Roy has stated more than once that he has a plan — could just be that hardening his goalies with shots is part of that plan.

Next: 5 Avs Takeaways Lightning vs Canadiens

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