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Carey Price was unquestionably Montreal's most valuable player last season, playing in the vast majority of games and recording career-best numbers. With Montreal's roster largely unchanged, the pressure is on Carey to repeat or improve upon his performance from last year. Will he take the next step and entrench himself as one of the league's elite, or will he fall back to earth?
With Alex Auld as his backup, Price was forced to play a franchise-record 72 games. He certainly made the most of his starts, going 38-28-6 over that span and carrying the injury-plagued Canadiens into the playoffs. In his 4th NHL season, Price recorded career-best numbers for games played, wins, save percentage and shutouts. Carey's 38 wins were good for 1st in the NHL, tying with Vancouver's Roberto Luongo.
Season Stats: 72 GP, 38-28-6, 2.35 GAA, .923 SV%, 8 Shutouts.
Barring any injuries or epic collapses, Price will start and end the season as Montreal's starting goaltender. Although Peter Budaj represents an upgrade as Carey Price's backup, Montreal fans can expect to see Price to start the majority of games yet again. That being said, Budaj's abilities will likely see Carey start a few less games, and perhaps face easier competition on some nights, should Budaj earn Jacques Martin's trust. If Carey shows sustained improvement, it isn't out of the question that Price could earn consideration for the Vezina trophy.
Even with playing less games, Price still stands a chance to improve upon last year's numbers. If Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges remain healthy, and if P.K. Subban continues to improve consistently, Price's peripheral numbers may very well improve. Martin's system should insulate Carey from increased scoring chances, and should the Canadiens improve all-around, Price's win total may creep over 40.