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How Carey Price has leveled up in the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Carey Price returned home after winning Game 4 against the Winnipeg Jets, there was a gift waiting for him. Placed on the front porch of his Montreal home was a goalie stick. Strapped to the blade was the head of a broom, a neighborly acknowledgment of the Montreal Canadiens' second-round sweep, and Price's leading role in completing it.

Price has gotten his share of gifts this postseason, most of them in the form of goals from teammates. In six of the Canadiens' eight playoff wins, they've scored three or more goals. Price is now 15-0 in his postseason career when the Canadiens fill the net at least three times. Unfortunately, he's played 81 playoff games.

Price, in turn, has gifted his teammates with an outstanding two rounds of goaltending. His .935 save percentage and 1.97 goals-against average lead the playoffs. He's been steady and, at times, flawless. "He's really in the zone and he wants to win. He gives us a chance to win every game," said center Phillip Danault. "He gives us wings."

Price has pitched one shutout, a 1-0 victory in Game 2 against the Jets. When asked about winning a game when one bad bounce could have tied it, Price simply replied, "It's fun."

There wasn't much fun for Price before the playoffs. The 2021 regular season was one of the most underwhelming of his career: a 12-7-5 record with a .901 save percentage. His 3.3 goals saved above average ranked him 39th, right behind Chicago Blackhawks rookie Kevin Lankinen.

What changed? How did a barely above replacement-level goalie in the regular season flip the switch to become an MVP-level playoff performer almost instantaneously?