Price’s season is proving Bob Gainey knew what he was talking about all along.
TORONTO, ON. — Carey Price’s 2010-11 campaign has been spectacular! Hearing his name mentioned in the same sentence as “Vezina” is not entirely absurd. His compete level is flat-out impressive. Up 4-1 late in the third period, he will still go post-to-post to make a highlight reel save as if it was overtime in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals!
The numbers don’t lie:
- Currently leads the league in wins & games started [setting new career-highs in both areas]
- Has almost doubled his career shutouts in this season alone [entered the year with four in his previous three NHL seasons- he has seven so far this year]
- 2nd in the NHL in saves & has faced the 2nd most shots against, yet is in the top 10 in save percentage
Most of all, Price looks confident, relaxed and technically sound night after night. He is a steadying presence in the net that has guided his team to victories in games when they might not have brought their best efforts.
This is exactly the type of player the Montreal Canadiens were hoping for when they drafted Price fifth overall in 2005. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Price in his young NHL career, especially the past two seasons.
>> Rewind to April 2009:
“I think Carey Price is a thoroughbred.”
Those were the words of then-Montreal Canadiens general manager/head coach Bob Gainey used to defend his decision to stick with Price as his number one goalie, despite having Jaroslav Halak on the bench, following his team’s first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
Gainey was heavily criticized for that statement when he said it. The ridiculing continued into the 2009-10 season when the “thoroughbred” was seen at the end of the bench more often than in the net. When he did play, he was often on the wrong end of the score posting a lowly 13-20-5 record. Halak had stolen the starting job and was the major reason the Canadiens Cinderella run in the playoffs took them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Heading into the off-season, everyone knew the team would have to make a decision on their goaltending as both Halak and Price were restricted free agents. It was clear one was had to go and considering what had transpired that year, especially in the post-season, it seemed almost a no-brainer Carey Price’s days in the bleu, blanc et rouge were over.
And then June 17, 2010 rolled around – a day that sent shock-waves through Montreal and the rest of the hockey world: Jaroslav Halak had been traded to the St. Louis Blues which by default, re-anointed Price as the Habs number one goalie.
The organization had made their decision and it was a bold one! By this point, Gainey had resigned as Habs general manager. Pierre Gauthier was now the man to face the heat from unhappy fans and bewildered media members. But Gauthier, like Gainey did before him, stood by his decision to pick Price over Halak: “we had two good young goalies, now we still have one good young goalie. We have somebody that should contribute next year,” he said via conference call shortly after the trade was announced.
Price returned to Montreal in September knowing full-well all eyes will be on him more so than the usual intense scrutiny the goalie of the Montreal Canadiens faces. Those same eyes would also be taking a peek at the St. Louis Blues’ boxscores to monitor the play of the departed Halak. Every bad goal allowed and loss would be magnified and raise questions whether the team went the wrong route.
“I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge, it’s just the way I am. I’m not going to cower away from anything. I’ll just be myself and accept what it is I have to do.” Price told reporters the day after he heard some boos following the Habs first preseason loss, in his now famous “chill out” message to the fans.
>> Rewind back to April 2009:
“If I was playing against him, I would think, ‘Man! That’s a good goalie! Look at him the way he plays!’” Gainey continued on about Price, who posted an ugly 4.11 GAA and .878 save percentage in the series versus Boston.
While many didn’t fully understand what Gainey was talking about then, hopefully they do now as Carey has made all the doubters and opposing teams stop and say, “Man! That’s a good goalie!”
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)