Price's return provides hope for struggling Canadiens

Carey Price is back as net minder for Les HabitonsCarey Price is back to normal. After an uncharacteristically shaky October and a lower-body injury that kept him out for most of November, Price has returned to give the Montreal Canadiens some life. Price has allowed just two goals on 102 shots in three starts since his return, giving Montreal three straight wins in regulation for the first time this season, and the offensively challenged Canadiens will need Price at his best if they want to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Price could barely manage a win in October, allowing at least four goals in six of 10 starts. The trend continued into his first start in November, but he was then sidelined for three weeks, handing Montreal’s goaltending duties to Charlie Lindgren. While Lindgren got off to a hot start, he struggled in his last few appearances, and his struggles were amplified by the Canadiens’ lack of consistent scoring. Price returned last Saturday with a 36-save shutout before stopping 37 of 38 shots on Monday and another 27 of 28 on Wednesday, asserting his undisputed role as Montreal’s main netminder.

The Canadiens are 30th in goals per game, ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres. Offseason trade acquisition Jonathan Drouin leads the team with 17 points and Brendan Gallagher holds the team lead in goals with 10, but other forwards like Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk are lagging behind. Montreal’s power play is among the worst in the NHL despite ample opportunities, and the team’s only offensive weapon on the blue line, Shea Weber, has been out for almost two weeks with a lower-body injury.

Weber could return to the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, but he’s not on the scoring pace he set last year and none of the other Canadiens defensemen appear capable of helping much with scoring. Montreal’s next two games are against Detroit, which is winless in five and tied with the Canadiens for fourth in the Atlantic Division. Price could start both contests, which would give Montreal the best chance of sweeping the home-and-home series. The Canadiens have a lot of shortcomings on their roster, but when Price is on his game, none of that matters.