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FTB: Maple Leafs have the book on Carey Price

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“The ability to just score goals is what superstar talent gets you.”

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 7: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs smiles after scoring on Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens during the first period at the Air Canada Centre on April 7, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

Finally, the Toronto Maple Leafs get to play their first playoff game of the season. They, along with the Montreal Canadiens, are the last teams to start their series. I still have no idea why we had to wait for the Canucks but we’re here now.

With the series looming, a lot of people have been asking how the Leafs are going to navigate against the Canadiens and beat them. Personally, I’m trying to figure out where the Habs are going to find their goals. For one, they’re not going to have Jesperi Kotkaniemi shoot 36% again, and the Leafs have developed one of the better defenses in the league.

But to answer the question, the Leafs are probably going to navigate the Canadiens by scoring goals, which they have a pretty good track record of doing, especially against one guy in particular.

Carey Price vs. the Leafs

Turns out, Price has actually been an achilles heel for the Canadiens. Not only has he been a below-average goalie in the NHL the past three-plus seasons, but he’s been worse against the Leafs than other teams. Over the past four seasons, Price (aged 29-33) has given up one goal more per game against the Leafs than he has against the League on average.

I wasn’t able to isolate Price’s expected results against the Leafs in order to figure out if the Habs just gave up more chances to the Leafs than other team (I expect some of it is), but I can say on the whole Price gives up more real goals than a league average goalie would be expected to. Now, Price is probably not as washed as some numbers would indicate, but he’s a far cry from the top-tier goalie he was in the mid-2010s.

Not only has Price fallen off in recent years, the Leafs have had the book on him.

Carey Price Save Percentage by Season

Season vs. League vs. Leafs
Season vs. League vs. Leafs
2020-21 0.901 0.868
2019-20 0.909 0.912
2018-19 0.918 0.882
2017-18 0.900 0.846
Average 0.909 0.880

The Book

Auston Matthews

Rocket Richard winner Auston Matthews has without a doubt been a Habs killer since he joined the league, particularly against their top goalie. In 17 career games, Matthews has 12 goals against Price (a 57-goal pace in 82 games for context). He also has seven goals in seven games against non-Price Habs goalies. This season skewed the results a bit, but only one team has seen Matthews light the lamp against them more in his career and that’s the Ottawa Senators.

Matthews just knows how to beat Price, and he can do it seemingly at will. Whether it’s a rebound in front of the net or a perfect shot to the top corner, the ability to just score goals is what superstar talent gets you. The Habs don’t have that, and looking at this season, not even their best defensive players can stop him from out-scoring them.

Surprisingly, William Nylander

This is of lesser impact, but William Nylander is a dark horse killer against the Habs. Nylander six goals in 12 career games against Price, as well as four goals in nine games against non-Price Habs goalies. He’s second on the team in goals against the Canadiens since entering the league, and notably higher than Tavares.

Nylander has been underwhelming in the playoffs in his career. Part of it because he kept being told to play centre on the third line, but he’s also struggled to create chances. This will be his chance against an opponent he loves to beat up on from the second line. He’ll have John Tavares as his centre and Nick Foligno to his left to start, he needs to put up some goals.

Bobby McMann

The Habs should be counting their lucky stars that Bobby McMann is only on an AHL contract and not eligible for the playoffs, otherwise they might actually give up some power play goals to the Leafs.

Can I just say that it’s so refreshing to finally have a player that is basically a joker card? We have arguably the generation’s goal scorer, meaning it’s not on us to find a way past the Canadiens, but instead it’s on them to find a way past Matthews.

Let’s win this series, Go Leafs Go!


Various Leafs and Branches

Toronto Maple Leafs playoff history vs Montreal Canadiens | by: Seldo

Maple Leafs sign goalie Erik Källgren to an ELC | by: Katya

The Leafs have learned lessons ahead of this season’s playoffs | by: Montreal Gazette

Martin Marincin is here, and don’t you ever forget it.

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