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Behind The Bench: Carey Price

by on 07/15/2011

Born: August 16, 1987
Ht: 6’3″
Wt: 219
Draft: 5th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2005
Plays for: The Montreal Canadiens, Goaltender, Catches Left
Jersey No.: #31

NHL Totals

Regular Season: 206 GP – 98 W – 76 L – 24 OTL, 2.60 GAA, .916 SV%
Playoffs: 26 GP – 8 W – 15 L – 3 OTL, 2.84 GAA, .907 SV%

Playing net for the NHL’s most storied franchise means dealing with constant scrutiny. After all, the Montreal Canadiens have had many superstar goaltenders over the years, including Georges Vezina, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. Thankfully, it appears Price is taking it all in stride:

“Relax, chill out, We’ve got lots of time. We’re not winning the Stanley Cup in the first exhibition game.”

Price started his hockey career with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL in 02/03 and played only 1 game for them. It wasn’t until his draft year that Price was given more starts. He rewarded the team for having faith in him; Price posted 8 shutouts in 68 games with a 2.34 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He went on to finish his last year in junior (06/07) with style. He won the goal medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in Sweden and was named the tournament MVP. He then went on to win both the Del Wilson Trophy for WHL Goaltender of the Year and the CHL Goaltender of the Year award.

Immediately following his award winning season, Price went straight to the Canadiens’ AHL Affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. He went on to lead the the team to become 2007 Calder Cup Champion. Price posted an impressive 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage and received the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup MVP, becoming the youngest player ever to receive the award.

Price is the only goaltender in history to be named both CHL Goaltender of the Year and WJC MVP and to be a recipient of the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy in the same season. He is also the only goalie in history to win the Jack A. Butterfield award the same year he played junior.

The Canadiens rewarded his outstanding year by adding him to the starting roster for the 07/08 season. Price made his highly anticipated debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 10, 2007, making 26 saves for a 3-2 victory. After a 5-4 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, Price was re-assigned to Hamilton; he posted a lackluster 9 – 10 record in his first 19 games. He spent only a month in Hamilton, as he was recalled after starting goaltender Cristobal Huet was traded to Washington. Price would go on to lose only 3 games for the rest of the season and ended his season leading all rookies in wins (24), SV% (.920) and shutouts (3). Price carried his dominant performance into the playoffs; posting a 1-0 win against the Boston Bruins, he became the first Canadiens rookie to post a playoff shutout since Patrick Roy. The Canadiens would be eliminated in the Conference Semifinals by the Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games.

Price suffered an ankle injury in late 2008 that sidelined him for nearly a month. While he was recovering from his injury, he was voted as a starting goaltender in the 2009 NHL All-Star game. Entering the 2009 playoffs as the eighth seed, the Canadiens faced off against the Boston Bruins in the opening round for the second straight year. The Canadiens were swept in 4 games. Price struggled in the final game at the Bell Centre, giving up 4 goals in 2 periods. After making an easy save off a dump-in, the crowd jeered; Price responded by raising his arms in mock celebration a la Patrick Roy (during a humiliating 11-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in December 1995, Roy was jeered by fans).

As if carrying the weight of last year’s sweep against the Bruins solely on his shoulders, Price struggled mightily during the 09/10 season and eventually lost his starting job to Jaroslav Halak. Halak spent the entire playoffs playing on his head, taking the Canadiens on an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Final, where they faced the Philadelphia Flyers. Sadly, the Canadiens were outmuscled and Halak’s magic finally ran out; the Canadiens were eliminated by the Flyers for the second time in three years.

Because both Price and Halak were restricted free agents in the summer of 2010, a goaltending debate broke out in Montreal: who should the team re-sign? Playoff hero Jaroslav Halak or the struggling Carey Price. After much media speculation, the Canadiens traded Halak to the St. Louis Blues and re-signed Price to a two-year, $5.5M contract extension.

Price rewarded the team’s decision by playing in 72 games and posting world-class numbers during the 10/11 season:

  1. He finished tied for 1st in wins with Robert Luongo (38)
  2. He finished 8th overall for GAA (2.35) among goalies who played more than 40 games
  3. He finished 6th overall for SV% among goalies who played more than 40 games
  4. He finished 2nd in games played by a goalie (72)
  5. He finished 3rd in shutouts (8)

Price carried his strong play into the playoffs but the Canadiens fell to the Bruins in 7.

Price is a butterfly goalie with tremendous agility and exceptional reflexes. He is able to read and react to plays so quicky that he can steers rebounds into corners almost effortlessly. Price is excellent at taking away the lower half of the ice while his size and reflexes help him cover the top. Moving fast can be tough for a big goalie but Price is able to move fast and maintain control. Price already moves better than All-Star Roberto Luongo. His only weakness is his limited experience. In the past season, Price demonstrated that he was capable of stringing all of his physical abilities together with the experience he gained in his first 3 years and become a dominate goalie at the pro level. The Canadiens have a goaltender they can be confident in net with for the near future. If the Canadiens can get Price both a serviceable back-up and some offensive help, they’ll be knocking on Stanley’s door soon.

Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on puckpuckgoose.com.

Edited by: Aneil Parashar
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