Return of Carey Price |  Nothing like a real match to find your bearings

Return of Carey Price | Nothing like a real match to find your bearings

Will come back ? Won’t come back? Home ? Abroad ? Right now ? Next week ? When ? WHEN ? The national psychodrama surrounding Carey Price’s return to play may well be coming to an end.

Posted at 10:49 a.m.
Updated at 5:44 p.m.

Simon Olivier Lorange

Simon Olivier Lorange
The Press

The goaltender traveled with the team over the past week, a first for him this season. And judging by his pace in training, he looks like a cerberus ready to face enemy fire.

Presumably this week will be the week Price will finally play his first game of 2021-22, ten months after his last, in the Stanley Cup Finals, and nine months after undergoing knee surgery. We now know his story by heart: his postoperative rehabilitation took much longer than expected, first due to a stint in the NHL Player Assistance Program for substance abuse, then following of two regressions in his attempts to regain form.

Barring a last-minute change, this time seems to be the right one. He has gone through all the stages and is more than ever on target. The choice of his return date is in his hands, head coach Martin St-Louis confirmed over the weekend.

The situation got a bit cloudy on Sunday morning when the Canadiens recalled Cayden Primeau from the Laval Rocket. Jake Allen sustained a “lower body” injury in the first period of Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, setting the stage for a Carey Price/Samuel Montembeault duo for Monday night’s matchup against the Jets from Winnipeg to the Bell Centre. Did we repatriate Primeau because Price is not quite ready or are we making it a simple insurance policy? We will know more on Monday morning.


PHOTO FRANK GUNN, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jake Allen was injured in the first period on Saturday night.

What is certain is that the encouraging signs are not lacking. In the latest episode of the podcast Area exitthe result of a collaboration between The Press and 98.5 FM, Stéphane Waite, Price’s specialist coach from 2013 to 2021 with the Habs, felt that his ex-protégé was in his “final phase of preparation”, when he was recently entrusted with the net for ” 75 to 80% of training”.

reflexes

So go for the end of guesswork…for now. If we seem to be set on the date of his return, all assumptions are allowed as to his performance in a match situation.

Training and getting in shape is one thing. But finding all your bearings in the heat of the moment is another.

According to Amey Doyle, goaltending coach with the McGill University Martlets, the main challenge facing a goalkeeper after a long absence is to follow the puck with his eyes – the puck-tracking, in English. The traffic in front of the net, the defenders who become screens, the battles for the puck and the intensity of a game are difficult elements to recreate faithfully in practice.

“It’s not the same thing to control the returns when there are two or three players who throw themselves furiously at you, she illustrates. We always tell our goalies that they have to see the puck very big. When things aren’t going well for them or it’s been a long time since they’ve played, she seems very small and harder to follow. Consequently, it is more difficult to attack the front of the blue semi-circle with aggression.

Generally speaking, the stress of doing things right and physical conditioning can also come into play; in the specific case of Carey Price, “he’s so strong mentally, I don’t think that will be a factor,” adds the specialist coach.

Stephane Waite had a ringside seat when Price rebounded from his 2015-16 season, in which he was limited to 12 games by a knee injury. During the summer, they worked together preparing not only for the CH season, but also for the World Cup. The two men were then members of the Canadian team, crowned champion.

At the time, once his injury had healed, “we went back to basics, from all points of view, technically,” explains the Quebecer over the phone.

The two also did a lot of video work to reinforce “the reasons he was successful.” A goalkeeper who finds the action, “it’s like a blank slate, he has no bad habits,” says Waite.

For him, technique and automation are the keys to success. In addition, as his colleague points out, timing to find in the game.

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Rare are the recent cases where goalkeepers of this caliber have been absent for such a long period. Jonathan Quick missed the majority of the 2016-17 season due to a “lower body” injury. That same year, Semyon Varlamov was limited to 24 games and Jimmy Howard to 26 due to hip surgery and medial collateral ligament injury, respectively.

In 2015-2016, injured in the abdomen, Mike Smith played only 32 games and, in 2013-2014, Pekka Rinne saw action only 24 times after battling an infection resulting from heart surgery. hip.

In fact, if we exclude goalkeepers who have had to skip an entire season, such as Ben Bishop (knee) and Henrik Lundvist (heart), the number 1 goalkeeper who has played the fewest games in a only season for medical reasons is… Carey Price in 2015-2016.

All of the goalkeepers listed above, including that of CH, have come back strong after a campaign truncated by a long convalescence. Rinne, in particular, finished among the finalists for the Vézina Trophy. All of them, moreover, were established veterans. Of the group, Price and Varlamov were the youngest at 29, behind Quick and Rinne (31), Howard (33) and Smith (34).

Will Carey Price be able to bounce back a second time? It remains to be seen, but the signs are encouraging. As the Canadiens are one of the NHL’s most shot allowing teams, the real tests should come soon enough.

It seems that the suspense is over. At last.

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