Could Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price ruin the Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup aspirations again?
The Bruins sat atop the NHL standings with 100 points when the NHL paused it’s season thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak and the Canadiens sat ten points out of a playoff spot and 29 points shy of their bitter rivals in the standings. Asking if the hated Habs could once again break the collective hearts of the Bruins and their fans was laughable then at best but now with the new 24-team playoff format being proposed for the NHL to return to the ice and crown a 2020 Stanley Cup champion, its actually a valid question.
In fact, as Larry Brooks wrote in the New York Post Monday, with the Canadiens being the last team that would make it into this gimmicky tournament, the idea of facing Price in a best of three games play-in series has become a sticking point amongst the players who, despite his average 27-25-6, 2.79 GAA and .909 save percentage stat line, still view him as the best goalie in the NHL.
“For it is largely due to the remarkable reputation of the Montreal goaltender among his peers that much talk about the format of what appears to be a summer 24-team tournament has fixated on how unfair it would be to face Price in a best-of-three, multiple sources report,” Brooks wrote.
Not to stir bad memories for the Bruins and their fans but the last time the B’s finished atop the NHL standings, winning the President’s Trophy for the 2013-14 season with 117 points, Price, P.K. Subban, and the upstart Habs (100 points) upset the Bruins in seven games and won Game 7 on TD Garden ice. Price is 2-2 in playoff series against the Bruins. He and the Canadiens lost to the Bruins in an epic seven-game series to start the Bruins’ 2011 Cup run and then were swept on Bell Centre ice in 2009 but also won another seven-game series in 2008 with a 5-0 shutout in Game 7 at Montreal.
Not A Lock Players Say Yes
Price and the Habs catching fire in a bottle and winning their 25th Stanley Cup despite finishing 24th overall this season may be one issue the players have but there are two bigger fish to fry for this return to happen. Safety and being away from their families for potentially two to three months are the two major reasons why we shouldn’t expect the players to immediately sign off on this proposal when they receive it.
“I wouldn’t be so sure that happens, and it’s not necessarily gonna be ‘Game On’ for the players,” an NHL agent told Boston Hockey Now early Tuesday evening. “I’m not saying the return doesn’t happen – because my gut says it does – but it won’t be as easy as ‘Here’s the proposal’ and they automatically sign off on it.”
“There are plenty of players who still share serious enough concerns like safety and being away from their families for potentially two months. They’ll figure out the hockey stuff, but testing and family are huge sticking points.”
Where Will Bruins Practice For Return?
If the NHL does return, will the Bruins be able to train and practice at their practice facility Warrior Arena before they head off to a hub city to play and quarantine? The NHL was hoping players would already be in phase 2 of their return and at least working out in small groups at their respective practice rinks and now that might not even happen until June. Whether it’s before then or during the first two weeks of June, the Bruins may have to find a different location around Boston because local rinks aren’t expected to be open for another four to six weeks.
Carchidi Says Eight Is Enough
Veteran Philadelphia Inquirer hockey scribe Sam Carchidi is not only against a 24-team expanded playoff format but thinks the league should trim the Stanley Cup playoffs down to eight teams permanently going forward. Carchidi thinks eight is enough with the top four teams in each conference making the dance.