MAGAZINE > ASK DAVE > RUMORS > EXPERTS > RANKINGS > TFP RADIO SHOW > CONTACT US

 

 Home |

 >> Scores / Schedule

 >> Standings
 >> Injuries
 NHL RUMORS
 >> Rumors
 TFP RADIO SHOW
 >> Radio Home
 >> Broadcast Schedule
 TFP MAGAZINE
 >> Magazine Home
 >> Subscribe Now!
 FEATURES
 >> Trade Deadline
 >> TFP Forums
 >> Ask Dave
 >> Rankings
 >> Experts
 >> Team Reports
 SPECIAL EVENTS
 >> 2007 World Juniors
 >> 2007 NHL Draft
 >> 2007 NHL Awards
 ABOUT TFP
 >> About Us
 >> Our Team
 >> Contact Us
  

December 18, 2007
The Price is Right
TFP Editor-in-Chief David Pagnotta reflects on the great goaltending history of the Montreal Canadiens and explains how Carey Price could be next in line.
 

[TORONTO, ON] -- For any true hockey fan, growing up in a city like Montreal meant basking in the glory of the one of the most storied sports franchises in history.

In addition to their 24 championships, the Canadiens were blessed with showcasing such superstar athletes as Howie Morenz, Doug Harvey, Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson.

If you were a star hockey player wearing le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge in Quebec, you weren't only deemed an icon, you were treated like a God.

Throughout the hockey ages, Les Habitants not only iced superstar forwards and defensemen, they have arguably the best collection of goaltenders in NHL history.

From George Hainsworth to Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante to Ken Dryden, and most recently Patrick Roy, the Canadiens' netminders have racked up a total of 28 Vezina Trophies [Georges Vezina, of whom the award is recognized after, also played for Montreal].

By the time I came around, I missed out most of the Canadiens' historic years. I didn't see them capture four-straight championships in the late 70s, but I was lucky enough to witness them raise the Stanley Cup twice (1985-86, 1992-93).

In both of those years, the Canadiens wouldn't have been able to call themselves champs without the play of "St. Patrick."

 

Roy, a rookie at the time, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and posted a brilliant 1.92 goals-against-average to go along with 15 victories. A few seasons after taking home his second title with the Habs, Roy was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche on December 6, 1995. Since then, the Canadiens havenít had a superstar between the pipes.

There was hope that Jose Theodore would fill the void left in the Montreal crease. Following the 2001-02 season, Theodore captured the Hart Trophy (MVP), Vezina Trophy and Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award (best save percentage) and the entire Province once again had its star in goal...

...For about two, maybe three, seasons.

Crying out for a superstar, the Canadiens faithful were getting restless.

On July 30, 2005, several days after the NHL lockout officially ended, I sat in the first row of the media riser at the NHL Entry Draft inside the Marriott Hotel in Ottawa providing live updates throughout the event during our radio show's draft special. Oddly enough, I was seated near a big portion of the Montreal media.

After Sidney Crosby was taken first-overall, I rushed out to interview the young phenom [with the rest of the building] despite talk surrounding the Habs and their attempts to move up to the No.2 spot. By the time I returned, Anaheim chose Bobby Ryan second and Carolina selected Jack Johnson third.

The Montreal media, primarily the French crowd, began drooling over the possibility of the Canadiens drafting Benoit Pouliot.

"This is it, he's our guy," one of the radio announcers told me.

"Providing the Wild donít pick him," I replied.

After receiving the look from hell, Minnesota approached the podium. If the Wild didn't say the name "Benoit Pouliot," the Habs would surely snach him with the fifth-overall pick.

Carey PriceWell, sure enough, the Wild drafted Pouliot. Following a few choice words from my boys in MTL, the likes of which even I wouldn't repeat [in English or French], the Canadiens were on the clock.

With some suggesting they go with defenseman Luc Bourdon, center Gilbert Brule or sniper Anze Kopitar, we waited in awe as GM Bob Gainey and Director of Player Recruitment and Development Trevor Timmins approached the stage [I got caught up in the moment].

And, with the fifth pick in the 2005 draft, the Canadiens select... goaltender Carey Price.

Let's pause for a moment, as I try to come up with the right words to explain the reaction of the group surrounding me.

You know when you and your family or friends all know something about a person, but aren't suppose to say anything, and then by accident someone slips up and throws that in set-person's face? Think about everyone's reaction. Mouths drop. Eyes widen. There's an eerie silence in the room.

Yeah, that was the exact reaction from the bulk of the Montreal media. Speechless.

"I wasn't expecting to go this high, but I'll take it," Price that day after being chosen by the Habs.

"I'm really looking forward to going to Montreal. It's a well-respected franchise and they have a great, rich history. To follow the legacy of goaltenders that have been there, it's a real honor."

Some inside, and out, of the Montreal media questioned the Canadiens' decision. Other called it complete lunacy.

They passed up on guys like Brule and Kopitar for a netminder? What in the world were they thinking?

Fast forward a couple years later. Theodore is long-gone, Critobal Huet's the new star goalie in Montreal and Price is lighting it up at the junior level.

In early January 2007, the native of Anahim Lake, British Columbia led Canada to their third-straight gold medal title in Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship. He was named MVP of the tournament, as well as top goaltender, and was named to the All-Star Team along with Canadian teammates Jonathan Toews and Kristopher Letang.

A few months later, Price was called up to Hamilton of the American Hockey League and led the team to a Calder Cup championship. He won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoffs MVP, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award.

Back in Montreal, the city is finally buzzing over this now-20 year-old kid. Hmm, maybe he wasn't a bad pick after all?

With training camp around the corner, fans were itching to see what Price really has to offer. His cool attitude and relaxed charm is reminiscent of the Dryden days, but can he get the job done?

Price cracked the big club to start the year and has showed signs of brilliance since his first NHL start [and win] on October 10 against Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins.

Carey PriceI may not have the same luxury as my Montreal colleagues to watch the storied Canadiens and their new young stud on a regular basis, but I've seen Price in action three times so far this season [twice in Toronto, once in Buffalo] and he's looking like the real deal.

"It's impressive the way he handles himself and how calm he is in the calm situations, considering his age," said Canadiens captain Saku Koivu. "We knew what to expect when he came in the league, but I think he's impressing a lot of people."

In 16 games this year, Price has posted a 9-5-2 record with a 2.69 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage. He'll get the nod Tuesday night [Dec. 18] against the Florida Panthers and you can be sure he'll be giving Nathan Horton and Co. a run for their money.

"He's been great since the beginning of the season and he gives us a lot of confidence," Habs sniper Alex Kovalev told me. "Every time he's making stops, we're trying to get goals for him. He's a great kid. He carries himself very well, [he's] really stable and confident in the net, and calm, and that's important for goalies."

This calm and collected rising star will get better with more experience under his belt. Already, he makes his job seem effortless to those watching. He appears to be one step ahead of the play, finds himself in an excellent position to stone his opponents and utilizes his big frame extremely well.

How does he do it? What's his secret?

"I'm just trying to fill up a lot of net and make the guy hit a small target, or make him make a good move," Price explained. "Hopefully he misses the target or misses the move."

Seems simple enough, right?

You'd think so, but Price possesses such a nonchalant goaltending style [also known as the butterfly] you often have to rewind the game --providing you can do so-- to double check the save he just made.

His extremely fast reflexes allow him to knock away quick shots, while positioning himself properly in the event that a rebound becomes available.

Simply put, this kid is a keeper. Obviously, Gainey and Co. knew this when the drafted him in 2005.

Price, who rooms with 21-year-old center Kyle Chipchura, doesnít even have any pre-game rituals or mandatory meals. He just goes with the flow.

"I'm a pretty normal goalie," he said. "I pretty much do whatever the guys are doing. If they go play soccer [before practice], I'll probably do that too."

Time after time, Price has proven heís got what it takes to lead a team in the right direction, and he's not even old enough to buy his buddies a round of beer when he visits the U.S. Just imagine what he'll be able to do with a few seasons and a lot more NHL experience to add to his resume.

Yes, Canadiens' fans. The wait may finally be over. Price is here to stay, and you can't help but feel giddy about it.
 


David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs and the NHL for TheFourthPeriod.com. He is also a contributing writer for NBCSports.com.
 

 

 

 Contact Us | Jobs @ TFP | Advertise | Privacy Policy
 
© 2007 TFP Media, Inc. | All Rights Reserved | The Fourth Period™ is a registered trademark.