They’re fiery. They’re young. They’re both relatively at the beginning of their careers.
But if you wanted to see a better duo represent the city of Montreal in the 2011 NHL All Star Game – you needed to look no farther.
There is no doubt that the hail of controversy shrouding the careers of both players (Price mostly in preceding seasons, and Subban on many occasions this year) might have had an adverse effect on the past weekend – especially if Montreal media and some Habs fans had their way, but that was not to be.
Instead, Price looked calm during Friday nights Fantasy draft. There were six goalies to choose from, and the list was elite. He went 19th overall, and was the 5th goaltender selected (picked by team Staal). And there was no doubt that he was just enjoying the moment as he sat in the team seats, joking about nearly having his head taken off during the regular season by some seriously intense shots.
The chat was candid, and it was nice to just listen in as he had a “real” conversation with a fellow NHL’er.
Even though PK had little choice in where he would end up as a rookie in his first ever NHL All Star match, it was clear to see that he was just absorbing it all and enjoying the moment. It was great when Hall took the puck flip, and chose Team Lidstrom, giving Stall and his entourage both Canadiens for the weekend.
So with the Fantasy Draft as a success, it was all about the Skills Contest on Saturday night.
PK Subban stood out amongst the rest.
There is no doubt that he’s no withering violet and a few people covering the weekend commented on how “refreshing” it was to see a player like him acting the way he was. He was fun, fresh, and lively.
Up against the defending champion for the Breakaway Challenge of the past two years (Alex Ovechkin), Subban skated over to the youngest participant in the 2011 ASG, and quickly donned the sweater of the 18 year old hometown Carolina Hurricanes Jeff Skinner. The RBC Arena crowd brought down the roof, as Skinner watched on smiling. There was plenty to smile and cheer about as well, as Subban showed incredible hands and lightening quick moves that earned him second place in the contest.
But Price would also shine in the skills contest, on a night that clearly belonged to the goaltenders. The Montreal Canadiens starting keeper isn’t exactly known for his strength in a shootout, but that was not the case Saturday night. He stopped six of his opening eight against the likes of Taylor Hall, Henrik Sedin, and Phil Kessel (giving up only 2 to Dustin Byfuglien and Danny Briere). In the second round he made 2 of 3 saves against the two goal scorers from the first round, finally surrendering to a brilliant move by Martin St. Louis. Overall, his shootout presence in the blue paint was fantastic.
Sunday would be no different, as Price would get the call for the second period. Playing the full 20 minutes, he earned his place as second best tender on the ice for the night. In a game that clearly belonged to the goal scorers (retributive justice for the previous evening), Price stopped 13 of 16, with a SV% of .812. Despite the fact that the outcome of the game has no effect on the season, the Canadiens premiere goalie seemed to be taking his role seriously, and seemed intent on making his home fans proud. He did just that. The only other man between the pipes that did better was Jonas Hiller – stopping 15 of 17.
Interviewed from the bench during the third period, Price talked about the difference between this appearance at the All Star Weekend, and his first one on home ice at le Centre Bell in 2009. He spoke of the lack of pressure this time around, by not being the host team goalie, and that this year, he was more clearly focused on having fun.
The spark that they have shown in their interaction together during the regular season continued to shine over the past few days, and there is no doubt that there is a growing bond between these two All Stars. One that we can only hope to see grow over the next seasons.
So the weekend now over, and having been much entertained, the NHL and all it’s fans can now look forward to Tuesday evening, as the regular schedule resumes, and teams refocus on driving for the playoffs.
But here in Montreal, we should remember how proudly, and exceptionally we were represented by two of the best young players in the league. They did themselves proud, the Canadiens organization proud, and the City of Montreal proud.
Thanks boys – we salute you!