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.
-- 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
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."
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
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.
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
"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
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?
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?
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.
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
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