The Montreal Canadiens opened up the Eastern Conference Finals with home-ice advantage but also, it seems, a hangover from their emotional seven-game series victory over Boston in the second round.
That hangover intensified into a migraine on Monday when the team announced that starting goalie Carey Price, who backstopped Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and was a major factor in the Habs’ series victory over the top-seeded Bruins, would miss the remainder of the conference finals. Price seemed to suffer a right leg injury when Rangers forward Chris Kreider collided with him in the second period of Game 1.
Having dropped Game 2 3-1 at the Bell Centre on Monday, the Canadiens’ situation has grown dire. They now trail the New York Rangers 2-0 with the series moving to Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
It is obvious to say that Price’s absence is likely to have a major impact. Montreal’s starting goalie in Game 2 was Dustin Tokarski, making his playoff debut with all of 10 NHL games under his belt over three seasons. Montreal coach Michel Therrien praised Tokarski, who made 27 saves, and announced he would start again in Game 3.
If the Canadiens are to advance, they will have to do so with either Tokarski or Peter Budaj, who relieved Price for the third period of Game 1.
Injuries always play a role in the playoffs but Price’s represents a huge blow to the Canadiens. Here is a look at some other key injuries over the past few decades that made major impacts on their respective playoff series. Some may give the Canadiens hope while others will not.
This is an example that might encourage the Canadiens. Forsberg was Colorado’s leading scorer in the playoffs with 14 points in 11 games when his spleen ruptured during a 5-1 series-clinching victory over Los Angeles in the second round. He showed up at a Denver restaurant after the game "all white and in pain," as described by then-general manager Pierre Lacroix. Forsberg was immediately taken to a hospital and underwent emergency surgery to remove his spleen. The injury knocked him out of the remainder of the playoffs. However, the Avalanche defeated St. Louis in the Western Conference finals and then beat New Jersey in the Cup Final in seven games. Of course, it helped the Avs still had future Hall of Famers Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque and Joe Sakic.
Tomas Vokoun, 2006
The Predators, in their seventh season, finished with 106 points, sixth-best in the NHL. Nashville also had a pair of 31-goal scorers in Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan. Vokoun ranked fifth in the NHL in save percentage and sixth in wins. Near the end of the regular season, the Predators learned that Vokoun had a blood condition that would keep him out for the remainder of ‘05-‘06. Without him, they lost in five games in the first round to San Jose.
This one contains a somewhat mixed message for the Habs. In the first round, the New York Islanders eliminated Washington in six games but not without losing one of their best players. Turgeon scored late in the third period of Game 6 to put the Islanders up 5-1. As he raised his arms in celebration, the Capitals’ Dale Hunter delivered a vicious blind-side hit, sending Turgeon, who won the Lady Byng award that season for sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, reeling into the boards. Turgeon, who ranked fifth in the league that season with 132 points — tying him with some Winnipeg rookie named Teemu Selanne — suffered a concussion and a separated shoulder. Hunter was suspended for the first 21 games of the following season, one of the longest suspensions in league history. Turgeon missed the next six games but the Islanders were still able to defeat two-time defending Cup champion Pittsburgh in seven games in the next round in what is considered one of the best series in league history. The Isles’ luck ran out in the conference finals against Montreal, the eventual Cup winner, in five games. Turgeon sat out Game 1, which the Islanders lost 4-1. While he recorded two goals and three assists in the final four games of the series, Turgeon’s injuries were said to bother him still and the Islanders were eliminated in five games.
Kevin Stevens, 1993
In that Game 7 against the Islanders, Stevens suffered a gruesome injury. As the big power forward delivered a check against the Islanders’ Rich Pilon, Stevens was knocked out as his head made contact with Pilon’s visor. Stevens landed face-first on the ice and the next day he underwent four-and-half hours of surgery to fix the numerous broken bones in his face. The play happened within the first five minutes of a scoreless game. Playing without Stevens, who scored 55 goals that season and added five goals in his first 11 playoff games, Pittsburgh lost 4-3 in overtime.