In reality, it’s the player most valuable to his team as long as that team is good and since Montreal is a near-lock for the playoffs already, the Habs qualify. But the Canadiens have just one player among the top-60 scorers in the NHL and that’s Max Pacioretty, who ranks 34th right now with 38 points in 46 games.
The power play – one of the few aspects of the game Price has no effect on – is bottom-10 in the league, clicking at just 17.1 percent.
Price has a compelling case. He’s third behind Brian Elliott (.944) and Michael Hutchinson (.942) in even-strength save percentage, coming in at .939. That’s with having faced the fourth-most shots at 5-on-5 (914). He’s 25-10-2 overall with a 2.15 GAA.
But we all know how this Hart Trophy thing works, right?
First, it’s that voters feel like the NHL already has a goalie MVP award called the Vezina, so goalies are like pitchers placed in the Cy Young ghetto in baseball. Seven times a goalie has won the Hart; Jose Theodore’s dramatic turnaround of the 2002 Montreal Canadiens and Dominik Hasek’s one-man show for the Buffalo Sabres from 1996-98 are the only post-expansion examples.
You can be the best skater on an elite team and win the Hart – Wayne Gretzky collected nine of them for those plucky underdogs from Edmonton – but the only way a goalie can win is if he qualifies for the Jack Adams Award One Guy Turned Crap Into Champions status.
Look at Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers, a player that’s had my Hart Trophy support for most of the season. They’re scoring 2.36 goals per game. Their power play (14.5 percent) is No. 27 in the League. And at last check, they’re the Florida Panthers. And yet he’s the sole reason they have a sniff of the playoffs, seven points in back of Boston and Washington.
Pekka Rinne has been mentioned as a potential Hart candidate from the Nashville Predators, at least before his injury. But again: The Predators were expected to be hot dog poop, so Rinne gets enormous credit even as the team has three others probable awards finalists.
Price’s problem is that people think the Canadiens are a good hockey team because they made the postseason last year and have 63 points so far this season. And so the only way Price gets Hart love is if the Canadiens are reconsidered as a mediocre team propped up by its goalie.
And to that end, Price has a compelling case.
Their 2.63 goals per game is actually ahead of last year’s pace but still bottom 10 in the league. Their power play is in the same neighborhood. They give up 30.7 shots per game, and yet Price has them fifth in the League in winning percentage when being outshot (.600).
From a possession standpoint, they’ve been atrocious: 25th in the NHL in Corsi-percentage (48.4).
So the argument can be made that the Canadiens are being carried by Carey this season. The question then becomes whether voters will feel they’re be that worse without him, or if his accomplishment is so unparalleled this season that it trumps anything a skater accomplished.
Which, judging from the field, it could this season. There's no breakout favorite, and a lot of those top scorers might not make the postseason cut. This could be the season for a goalie to take the Hart.