Price quietly plants himself in habs’ lore
Quietly, with no fanfare at all, Carey Price played his way into the Montreal Canadiens’ record books Tuesday.
The 23-year-old goaltender moved past Gerry McNeil and Jacques Plante when he appeared in his 71st game of the NHL season, eclipsing the 70-game campaigns of the late McNeil, achieved in 1950-51 and ’51-52, and the late Plante, in 1961-62.
If you thought Price showed Danny Gallivanesque rapier-like reflexes during his magnificent 42-save effort against Chicago, you should have seen him leap up and bolt for cover when the dressingroom doors opened to the media following Wednesday’s practice. Good for Price, enjoying a day away from the microphones and the scribblers. He had spoken at length in the wake of Tuesday’s victory, and in detail a day earlier about being named the Habs’ player-of-the-year based on Molson Cup fan voting.
“I don’t even know where it is,” Price joked when asked about the whereabouts of the trophy, awarded to him five of six times this season in monthly balloting. “Still at the brewery, maybe?”
Seven months ago, at his team’s annual golf tournament, Price spoke at length about the season ahead — his expectations shaped by his three years in Montreal and the summertime of work he’d done to prepare for 2010-11.
“Any goalie who tells you he’s not felt (times of despair) is lying,” Price said that day. “You go through periods when you feel helpless. But you get over it. This is better than working out in the bush — it’s one of the greatest jobs on Earth. We’re very fortunate people to be able to do what we do.”
The despair came with last season’s record of 13-20-5 and a tepid save percentage of .912.
Price watched fellow goalie Jaroslav Halak capture the No. 1 job and this city’s imagination over 13 of the Canadiens’ final 15 regularseason games, and he’d see action in just four of the team’s 19 playoff matches, starting just once.
The Canadiens had a hard choice to make, and general manager Pierre Gauthier took the calculated risk of dealing Halak to St. Louis, a hugely unpopular trade with many when it went down.
Price responded to the selfapplied pressure — and the ridiculously short leash of fans — with a tremendous season, carrying this team on his back to next week’s playoffs as did Halak last spring.
If in September Price had even in the back of his mind a number of games he’d like to play, he wasn’t sharing it outside the clubhouse. But there was no question he was No. 1, with Halak gone and veteran Alex Auld signed as a backup.
Of course, it’s impossible to compare goaltending through the ages. Statistics will never balance on a scale given the colossal disparities in style of play, fitness and mass of players, equipment, rules, travel and a bloated league. Yet five decades apart, it’s fascinating to put Price’s numbers season alongside the 70-game effort of Plante in 1961-62 and see some remarkable similarities:
In 71 appearances, Price played 4,146:08 minutes; Plante played 4,200, credited with full 60-minute games without deduction of any late-game removal time for a sixth skater;
Price and Plante show identical goals-against averages of 2.37 and save percentages of .923, Plante’s percentage (not then charted by the NHL) calculated by Goalies’ World magazine;
Price faced 29.8 shots per game; Plante 30.6;
Price gave up 164 goals, two fewer than Plante.
This isn’t to suggest that, beyond the statistical likenesses, anyone begin using Price’s name in the same sentence as that of Plante, the greatest goaltender at least of his generation and the most influential netminder in history. But in one category in a ledger, in a city that feeds its goaltenders to its young, overcelebrates modest success and crucifies for a single suspect goal against, Price has linked the Canadiens’ present — and its future — with its storied past.