No More Doubts Over Price
One of the most highly scrutinised positions heading in to the Olympics was the Canadian starting job. By the end of the tournament, it was hard to believe there was ever a debate at all.
Carey Price posted back-to-back shut outs in the semi-final and gold medal game to help Team Canada defend their Olympic crown; and in doing so removed any lingering doubts over the Anaheim Lake natives star status.
Few netminders have run the gauntlet Price has since breaking in to the NHL in 2007 – lesser men might have been broken by it, but Carey Price has emerged as one of the sports best puck stoppers.
Price was, slightly controversially, taken 5th overall at the 2005 draft by the Canadiens. The historic franchise decision seemed justified as Price excelled for the Tri City Americans, winning the Del Wilson Trophy as the WHL’s Top Goaltender and the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award in 2007.
Further success followed as Price backstopped Hamilton to the 2007 Calder Cup, picking up the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as play-off MVP along the way.
It was enough for the Habs to bring Price in to the fold the following season, and a strong rookie campaign convinced Montreal General Manager to trade then number 1 Cristobel Huet to Washington and give Price the ball.
A play-off semi-final exit followed, but the future appeared bright for the Canadiens and their new goaltending hero.
Things began to waiver the following season however, as Price started to stumble, Slovak team mate Jaroslav Halak began to emerge as a legitimate NHL netminder.
Halak would claim the #1 job the following season, and back stopped the Habs on a memorable run to the Conference Finals – toppling Washington and Pittsburgh on the way.
Such was Halak’s success, some called for Price to be traded and the Slovak to be signed long term as free agency loomed. Instead, Halak was dealt to St Louis for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz and Price was restored as the clubs go-to-goaltender.
Montreal’s faith was rewarded though, as Price played 72 games during the 2010/11 season, posting a .923 save percentage along the way. It was the first signal that Price had matured in to one of the NHL’s elite netminders.
A difficult campaign followed, with Montreal finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference, but Price’s reputation continued to grow in spite of the clubs struggles.
The truncated 2012/13 season saw a quick return to the post season, with Price again a key contributor. The Habs look set to make the cut again this year, with the 26-year puck stopper playing some of the best hockey of his career.
What is often forgotten about Price is how much he went through the ringer in Montreal during those difficult years.
The Canadiens #1 job is one of the most high pressure positions in the sport, carrying the hopes of one of hockey’s most passionate fan bases. This is a franchise whose history is littered with legendary puck stoppers who have created certain expectations for all future goaltenders at the club.
Price came in to the league to great fan fare, stealing the starting job and then losing it. He was criticised heavily when he slipped and the clubs management took a lot of fire for letting Halak go in the summer of 2010. To a point, Price was even vilified by some at the time.
To come through that kind of situation and then keep on getting better and better shows a tremendous amount of mental strength – an aspect of goaltending frequently under valued among the general hockey populous, but one that allowed Price to step in to the frying pan that is the Canadian starting job, and excel.
Price has worked hard on the technical side of his game this season as well; with new Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite getting him to be less aggressive in terms of depth, but also more active and engaged in his new stance – and the results are speaking for themselves.
Many among the goaltending community have classed Price as one of the leagues top netminders over the past couple of seasons. Now, with an Olympic gold medal to his name, the rest of the hockey world seems to have woken up to his talents.
The scary thing is, his best years are probably still ahead of him.