The Dangers of Youth in Goaltending

So, as the Flyers finished off the Canadiens last night, 6-4 (and in an outstanding game, no less), I gave thought to young Carey Price, Montreal’s 20 year old netminder.  I wondered, specifically, about how he’d rebound from being so excellent during the regular season, and so disappointing during the playoffs.  It was clear that Price looked rattled in his last two games of the postseason, games 3 and 5 against the Flyers, letting in soft goals, and being out of position too frequently.

I wondered if there was a history of young goalies allowing their shellackings to get the better of them, and within a few years, they fall out of the league.  I know this is, more or less, exactly what happened to Jim Carey of the Washington Capitals a few years ago.  In 1994-95, the 20 year old Carey (Jim, that is) played 28 games for the Caps and won 18 of them, posting a 2.13 GAA.  In the playoffs, he couldn’t handle the pressure though, and was tuned to a tune of a 4.19 GAA.  The next season, in 71 games, Carey had 35 wins, a 2.26 GAA, and led the NHL with 9 shutouts.  But, come the playoffs, this 21 year-old was festooned with 10 goals in only 3 games, a 6.19 GAA.

That was the end of Carey’s time as a regular in the NHL.  He was traded the next season, only played 10 games the year after that, and only 4 the year after that.  And then, he was gone.  I was curious if this is common among such young netminders thrust into such taxing circumstances.  But, alas, I have no idea how to find such information.  Hockey-Reference.com is lovely, but doesn’t yet have the Plax Index feature that it’s older brother (Baseball-Reference.com)  boasts.

Thankfully, there’s James Mirtle:

Outside of Patrick Roy, there’s just not much of a track record of success from netminders as young as Price. In the modern era, post-Original Six, only 19 netminders have played in a postseason game at age 20 or younger, and only Roy has won more than six games. Eight finished with a goals against above 3.90, a group that puts Price in good company: Martin Brodeur, Grant Fuhr, Tom Barrasso, Don Beaupre, Roland Melanson and Bill Ranford all went onto great careers after early playoff disappointments.

I’m still expecting big things out of Price.

So, from what Mirtle says (and there’s plenty of reason to think Mirtle knows, more or less, what he’s talking about), we can anticipate, and dread, Carey Price coming back for many years to come to dog the Flyers in the playoffs.

For now, though, we can just sit back and look forward to the Eastern Conference Finals.

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