As it stands right now, the Montreal Canadiens are tied for first in the Atlantic division and tied for second in the Eastern Conference. Now think about where the Habs would be if Carey Price wasn’t in net. Price may not be leading the league in either save percentage or goals against average but he is in the top ten in both categories. More importantly, he is tied for second in wins at 19 and has appeared in 29 out of 35 games for the Habs so far this year. There have been more than a few nights this season where Price has won games for Montreal and I have lost track of all the times Price has been bombarded in the first period while waiting for the team in front of him to get their act together.
One of the toughest jobs in sports
Price has one of the toughest jobs in sports which is being the number one goaltender for the storied Montreal Canadiens. Playing goal in the city of Montreal is no small task. It’s one thing to play in Florida and Arizona where the media attention isn’t intense. It’s an entirely different thing to hold court with both the English and French media in a city where the Habs are everything and players can’t hide. But anyone who occupies the blue paint for the home team in the Bell Centre is being compared to past greats like Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, legends with countless accolades and Stanley Cups to their names.
So far, Price doesn’t have a Stanley Cup on his resume or even a Vezina trophy nomination for best goaltender but he is still considered to be one of the best goaltenders in the world. You can school a goalie in all the techniques and fundamentals and have them practice for thousands of hours. There are a lot of goalies out there who are all technique and possess little natural ability. But Price has natural ability in spades and is almost always in position to make saves as he prefers to make the saves in the easiest way possible rather than try to make them look impossible.
Addressing the critics
But Price has his fair share of critics. His mental game has always been in question but that nagging has been quieted in the past year. He has had to answer questions about his ability to win “the big game” but he silenced a lot of the haters on that one by winning Olympic gold and carrying the Habs to the conference finals before an injury stopped him. Others feel he is overrated because he doesn’t put up the best numbers in the league and that playing in Montreal gives him a better status than he deserves. Some critique him for lacking passion in his game and compare him to the ultra competitive and fiery Roy which isn’t fair. Price and Roy are opposites in many ways. Roy exuded confidence and wore his emotions on his sleeve. Price is calm, cool and collected. Roy opted for flash to make saves look otherworldly while Price doesn’t. Trying to compare a Hall of Famer to a current player is often a futile task but trying to compare two men who are as different as can be on and off the ice is just wasting time.
Price and the Habs get the last laugh in defeating the Bruins in double OT and taking the series.
The Habs’ MVP
There is little doubt that Price is the Habs’ MVP. The Montreal Canadiens are a good team but still suffer from inconsistency and have a weak defence corps. Being a pro athlete is hard but doing it under the glare of the media with the expectation to live up to the immense accomplishments of past greats is another obstacle. In becoming the goalie he is today, Price has had his struggles but has always bounced back stronger. In the wake of losing the number one job to Jaroslav Halak only to be given the job back, Price responded with one of the best seasons of his career. When he melted down at the end of 2013, the Habs brought in a new goalie coach in Stephane Waite and Price responded with an outstanding season that saw him regain his form, go to the Olympics and have an outstanding playoffs.
No goalie is perfect but I don’t think there is a better goalie to try and lead the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup. Montreal pays Price an average of $6.5 million to man the net for the Habs but he brings more than just good goaltending to this team. He brings things money can’t buy, like calmness in the net and leadership on and off the ice. He instills confidence in the team as demonstrated by the conference finals. When Price went down, the team’s spirit dropped significantly. As good as Dustin Tokarski was, he doesn’t bring the same feeling of confidence like Price. Arguably the most popular current Hab, Price is always in high demand amongst the fans. Price jerseys heavily populate the Bell Centre and he gets the loudest cheer when his name is announced. At Habs events, fans flock to him and while he isn’t the extrovert PK Subban is, Price does his best to act the part of franchise player. Despite not wearing the captaincy, Price’s voice and presence is taken seriously with the team. Not all goalies are capable of being leaders and not many are the face of their respective franchise.