As late as fifteen months ago, the combination of Carey Price and Peter Budaj appeared to be one of the NHL’s best goaltending tandems. Price was the clear number one and an up-and-coming star. Budaj was the uncomplaining backup; one of those rareties in the ego-driven world of professional sports of a player who was willing to sacrifice his time and ambition in support of team and teammates.
Tomorrow night Carey Price will enter the world of superstardom as he picks up two or maybe three post season NHL awards in Las Vegas.
At the same time, Budaj is home in Denver pondering, at age 32, his hockey future after a series of career setbacks that started during the 2014 playoff series between the Canadiens and Ottawa .
PETER BUDAJ’S NIGHTMARE
We might be able to trace it back to February 2013. Budaj had just started his second two year Canadiens contract. Meanwhile, in only his second trade as Canadiens general manager of the Canadiens, Marc Bergevin acquired goaltender Dustin Tokarski from Tampa in a minor league deal that sent Hamilton goaltender Cedrick Desjardins to the Lightning.
A year later, Tokarski replaced Budaj in the Canadiens nets after Price suffered a first round playoff injury against Ottawa. It was obvious Budaj’s days were numbered even with a year remaining on his contract and the axe fell at the end of the 2014 training camp when he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for left wing Eric Tangradi. Winnipeg’s annual goaltending problems were well known. so many of were surprised that in only three days Budaj cleared waivers and was sent to the Jets-St. John’s AHL farm team. In only a half year Budaj’s nine year NHL career had taken three heavy hits. Another came when, at St. John’s he quickly found himself as second banana behind the promising goaltending prospect Connor Hellebuyck.
Outwardly, through all of this, Budaj took a positive outlook but to all who watched his season unfold, Budaj’s confidence was shot. He appeared in 19 games last season without a win. His last two season starts summed it up. On April 5th he started at home vs. Providence and gave up three goals on six shots and was replaced by Hellebuyck. In his final start April 19th vs. Springfield, also at home he and the IceCaps blew a 3-1 third period lead and lost in overtime. His final season statistics were 0-9-6 with a 3.55 goals against average and an .888 save%.
Even with all of his own problems, Budaj still found time to tweet his friend Carey Price at the end of his season
Great season Carey!!! Totally deserve and will win hart and Vezina for his amazing season. ! You deserve it man !!@CP0031
— Peter Budaj (@peterbudaj30) April 13, 2015
Wednesday night in Las Vegas Price has a strong chance of becoming only the second player in history to complete a grand slam of post season individual awards. The only other player to take home four of the NHL’s official individual awards is Bobby Orr. In 1970 Orr won the Hart, Art Ross, Norris as well as the Conn Smythe Trophy. Price has already won a share of the Jennings Trophy for being the number one goaltender on the team that allowed the fewest goals (188). He is favoured to win the Hart, Vezina and the Ted Lindsay Award which is the MVP as voted on by the players. Along with that, like Orr in 1970, Price will probably be named to the first all-star team.
Only three players have won the Vezina and Hart Trophies in the same season – Jacques Plante (1962); Dominik Hasek twice (1997 & 1998) and Jose Theodore (2002).
In Canadiens history only one player has won three major individual post season awards – Guy Lafleur, who won the Hart, Art Ross and Conn Smythe in 1977.
Price finished the season leading the league in wins (44), goals against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933). He was one shutout shy of becoming the first goaltender in history to lead all four goaltending categories.