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Morning Skate: Don’t look now, but the Montreal Canadiens are in a playoff spot

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The Canadiens have been a different team with Carey Price in between the pipes.

It has been night and day for the Montreal Canadiens since the return of Carey Price to the lineup. Four games is a pretty small sample size, to be fair, but the Canadiens have undergone quite a transformation since Price has returned from injury.

On Thursday, the Canadiens steamrolled the Detroit Red Wings — who have now lost six straight games — by a score of 6-3. Those three goals allowed by Price have been the most since his return on November 25 after he shut out the Buffalo Sabres, but he didn’t need to be perfect after the Canadiens scored four goals in the first two periods.

In the aftermath of the four straight victories by Montreal, that now have them sitting in the third spot in the Atlantic Division in a playoff position, it’s very clear there are two Canadiens teams: one with Price, and one without Price. It’s very much a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation, and one that’s reared its head more than once thanks to the injuries Price has sustained over the last few years.

Price is a world-class goaltender, and is clearly the team’s MVP by a long shot. The Canadiens do, however, play differently in front of Price than they do in front of their backups, because they know they can take risks offensively and it very likely won’t burn them. The team would likely deny it, as most hockey teams would, but the difference between Price and a backup like Antti Niemi is clear.

However, the Canadiens haven’t really been tested in this four-game stretch. Games against the Sabres, Blue Jackets, Senators, and Red Wings don’t give us the full view of what this Canadiens team can be, but with Price, they’re no doubt a vastly different hockey team.

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