Fantasy Hockey: Carey Price Elite, But His Penalty Killers May Not Be

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price
May 7 2013 Ottawa ON CAN Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price 41 makes a save in the third period in game four of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place The Senators defeated the Canadiens 3 2 in overtime Marc DesRosiers USA TODAY Sports

Carey Price was the last goaltender chosen in the top five in an NHL Entry Draft, back in 2005. He’s put up a couple of solid NHL seasons—he posted a .920 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA in his rookie year and was one of the top goalies of the 2010-2011 season, tying the league-lead for wins with 38, ninth in GAA at 2.35 and tied for fifth among goalies who started 40-plus games with a .923 save percentage. He’s made five playoff appearances in six seasons, won the Calder Cup (the AHL’s league trophy) in 2006 and is widely considered a front-runner for a spot on Team Canada’s roster for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Even with all that evidence I was not convinced Carey Price was an elite goaltender in the NHL.

Price makes for an interesting case study. He’s been in the NHL and has been his team’s regular starter for the bulk of his six seasons. He’s played on good teams (this lockout shortened season), bad teams (it was a miracle they made the playoffs in 2009-2010), teams that overachieved and then overachieved some more (See: 2010) and teams that overachieved and then underachieved (2008 is a pretty good example). He’s been the backbone of playoff runs – the Canadiens were one goal away from eliminating the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in 2011 – and been the bane of their playoff pushes – they were trounced in four straight games in 2009 with Price allowing 15 goals on 123 shots, a .878 save percentage.

The Numbers

For the regular season, Price sports a career .915 save percentage, which ranks pretty similar to guys like Ryan Miller (.917) and Niklas Backstrom (.915) since the 2007-2008 season. Here’s the thing: A .915 save percentage isn’t a very elite mark. In each of the last two full seasons (2010-2011 and 2011-2012), a .915 mark would rank outside the top-20 among qualified goalies. In the lockout-shortened season, it would have been tied for 20th.

In other words, he has not been consistently elite. At least not on the surface.

Just stating his career save percentage is not elite doesn’t really do us much good. As we have seen, Price has had a couple of elite seasons and he’s also had a couple of sub-par seasons. The nice thing with having six seasons is that it’s easily divisible, so here are the aggregates of Price’s two best and two worst seasons:



Goals Against

Overall Save Percentage

ES Save Percentage

2007-2008 103 (2413 minutes) .920 (1282 Shots) .929 (957 shots)
2010-2011 165 (4206 minutes) .923 (2147 shots) .931 (1683 shots)
Total 268 (6419 minutes) 2.43 GAA .922 (3429 shots) .930 (2640 shots)


These are very solid totals. That .930 even-strength save percentage would be good for top-10 among goalies that start half their team’s games and would usually put him around sixth to eighth in a full season. The .922 save percentage overall is solid as well, another typically-top-ten mark. The goals against is less stellar and would typically just be fringe top-15 for goalies that play half of their games. If you include his 62 wins in 113 games from those two years, it averages out to a win expectancy of 38 wins in a 70 start season, which would be a top-five mark most years (although he did tie for the lead in the NHL with 38 in 2010-2011).

But you look at this and start to piece it together: the aggregate of his two best seasons produce, in a full slate of games, a top-10 save percentage, a top-15 goals against average and top-five wins total. That’s the best-case scenario for Price so far in his career.


Season Goals Against Overall Save Percentage ES Save Percentage
2008-2009 143 (3036 minutes) .905 SV% (1513 shots) .920 (1087 shots)
2012-2013 97 (2249 minutes) .905 SV% 1018 shots) .920 (827 shots)
Totals 240, 5285 minutes (2.73 GAA) .905 SV% (2528 shots) .920 (1914 shots)


When you look at his even-strength save percentage in his worst seasons, a .920 ESSV% isn’t even that bad. There were 30 goalies that played at least half of their team’s games in 2011-2012 and Price would have finished inside the top-20 with that .920 mark. That’s not great, but certainly it isn’t terrible.

Penalty Killing Can Kill Save Percentages

So what makes his save percentage plummet then? Well, penalty killing of course.

Here are Price’s save percentages while on the penalty kill from the four seasons I’ve mentioned, his good seasons in green and his bad seasons in red:

Season Power-play Save Percentage Overall Save Percentage ES Save Percentage Montreal’s PK Efficiency
2007-2008 .885 (253 saves, 286 shots) .920 .929 82.5%
2008-2009 .843 (237 saves, 281 shots) .905 .920 82.4% *
2010-2011 .886 (349 saves, 394 shots) .923 .931 84.4%
2012-2013 .804 (123 saves, 153 shots) .905 .920 79.8%

*in 2008-2009, Jaroslav Halak’s PPSV% for Montréal was .892, so even though the Habs had a decent efficiency, Price’s PPSV% tanked largely, it seems, just to random distribution of power-play goals allowed

You see that Price’s even-strength save percentages vary just 1.1% over these four years while his overall save percentage fluctuates 1.8% because his power-play save percentage fluctuates 8.1%. This is why it’s a risky proposition to draft just about any goaltender in fantasy hockey. Take Pekka Rinne for example: he posted the lowest save percentage of his career last season (.910) and I’ll give you a guess why … his .818 PPSV% in 2013 was the worst of his career (and was worse than backup Chris Mason’s .821) with a previous low of .835 in 2009-2010 when his overall save percentage was .911. The biggest reason for a good save percentage from a goaltender is being a good goalie. The second biggest reason for a good save percentage from a goaltender is his team’s penalty killing.

So does Carey Price have to prove he’s elite? Not really. It seems he’s like most goalies and can only do so much, he needs the support from his team infront of him. Montréal used mostly new penalty killers in 2013 – the PK ice-time leaders per game in ’11-’12 among forwards were Tomas Plekanec, Travis Moen, Brian Gionta, René Bourque and Mathieu Darche while in 2013 they were Moen, Jeff Halpern, Plekanec, Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong. For defensemen, Josh Gorges led both years but in 2011-2012 the second-most used defenseman was P.K. Subban, last year it was Andrei Markov. Why an aging defenseman with a lengthy and recent injury history was getting so much time on the penalty kill, I don’t know. If that changes and one of the Habs’ worst penalty killers finds the pine in four on five situations, I like Price’s prospects a lot. It seems Price’s save percentage next year is at the mercy of the whims of the coaching staff. That, I don’t like.

Put quite simply, you can rely on Carey Price year to year in your fantasy leagues and he should be a top-10 goalie. I had a lot of concerns when I looked at the variance of his numbers over his career, but when I see the stability of his ESSV%, I know he’s probably in the top dozen goaltenders on the planet. Unfortunately, if you rely on Price, by extension, you’ll have to rely on the coaching prowess of Michel Therrien. That is a therrifying prospect.

author avatar
Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');

Comments are closed.