Game 17 preview: Goaltending Controversy? What goaltending controversy!? (part 2)

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So, Thursday's game preview against the Bruins certainly sparked an interesting debate, at least once it was announced that Carey Price would be getting his second start in as many games (after tonight, that number will grow to three games).

You'd think that most people wouldn't have a problem with a highly touted, very young goalie who has been slated to lead this team into the future getting a few starts early in the season. But apparently, being the back-up goaltender in this city and winning a few games as such creates goaltending controversies.

I know, I know, we're not supposed to be throwing that term around after everything that's happened, but that's what it's seemingly come down too. There are fans in this city that are going to jump all over Price unless he starts 70 games and wins most of them, and then proceeds to lead this team to a Stanley Cup, all the while winning the Vezina, Hart and Conn Smythe trophies along the way. Sound a little extreme? Well talk to some people that won't even bother to give Price a chance, all because he had a bad year last season, and then tell me whether the fans are treating him fairly.

Now I'll be the first to admit that Price's journey as a Montreal Canadien has been anything but steady. And I'll also be the first to admit, as a fan, that there have been games which Price has played which have made me want to rip my hair out. But does that mean that we need to give up on the 22 year old?

Clearly, Price has had some confidence issues in his young career. But technically, he has the potential to be a magnificent goalie when his career is all said and done. He can make some tremendous saves, he's great positionally, and he's a good puck handler. In terms of pure talent, he's clearly a better goaltender than Jaroslav Halak.

So why hasn't he been able to put it all together yet, on a consistent basis? It's clearly a confidence issue, and it's clearly a matter of not yet being able to grasp the fact that not everyone is going to like you, and not everything is going to come easy for you if you want to be the top player in an organization such as the one here in Montreal.

But the people in this city have treated Price unfairly. Maybe it's because they cannot grasp the pressures of being a star hockey player. Maybe their expectations are too high. But they need to understand that there are growing pains for almost every star athlete.

I may not have been the biggest fan of Bob Gainey during his tenure as general manager of the Habs, but I can certainly respect him for not always giving into the demands of fans on message boards and blogs, and I can certainly respect him for sticking by Price early in his career.

We don't know whether Price is going to end up being the next Patrick Roy. By the same token, we don't know if he'll end up being the next Jim Carey. It's too early to tell, and none of us can see into the future. But as things stand, we have a good young goaltender who could end up being amazing, and as Habs fans, we need to embrace that, not shrug it off to the side just because he had a few bad games and another goalie had a few good games.

I like Jaroslav Halak as a goaltender. And I'm happy that he's been able to win the Canadiens a few games early in the season. But the fact of the matter is that he's playing with very little pressure at the moment, and that's the total opposite of Carey Price's situation.

Halak will play his games, he'll get his chances, and he'll most likely end up being the starting goaltender on some other team when it's all said and done. But if he's any sort of professional, with any sort of understanding of the game and of the goaltending position, which I presume he does, then he understands why the Canadiens need to stick with Carey Price. And I hope that most fans do as well.


QUICK WORD ON THE BOLTS

All this talk about the goaltending almost made me forget about the game tonight.

This certainly isn't a marquee match-up like when the Bruins or Leafs are in town, but the Lightning are a team that's just itching to taste some success again. A lot of winners are on this team, a lot of people who know what it's like to raise a stanley cup above their heads, not to mention some good, exciting, young players. Not to mention a lot of people who know what it's like to play in this city, on either side of the ice.

Moreover, this is a team that's surprisingly better than they have been these last few years, currently sitting in 9th place in the east, only a point behind the Canadiens. So while a win tonight won't guarantee the Bolts a thing, it will certainly be a symbolic victory, to beat the Canadiens and gain that 8th playoff spot, even if it's only temporarily.

The Canadiens definitely need to be careful with this team.

Who to look out for tonight?

The usual suspects of Vinnie Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, who always like making an impact in this city. Both have had odd starts, scoring only 2 and 3 goals, respectively, and they'll be looking to add to that tonight in their hometown.

- Steven Stamkos, the highly touted former 1st overall pick got off to a shaky start last season, but he certainly isn't suffering from any sophomore blues this year, leading the Bolts in goals (by far, with 12) and points with 17, early in this season.

- This will be the Habs' first look at Victor Hedman, who's had a quiet start to the season after going second in last year's draft behind John Tavares. Naturally, that might be a good thing for a defensemen, as defensemen usually only get on highlight reels if an opposing player undresses them to score a goal, but I guess we'll see that for sure tonight.

- Last and certainly not least is former Hab, Alex Tanguay. After being embarrassed last July when the Canadiens decided not to offer him a contract (and subsequently, 28 other teams as well), finally settling for less than half the money he was making when he signed a contract n Tampa Bay. Tanguay certainly hasn't proven anyone wrong with only 2 goals and 7 points early in the season, but he'll certainly be looking for some revenge tonight (is it just me, or does it seem like every team has a player seeking for revenge against the Canadiens?)

Again, no teams should be taken lightly in this league, but the Bolts are more dangerous than they were in the last few years, and they'll certainly have to be careful if they want to come out with a win.

And they need not only a win tonight, but a convincing win. Price needs to follow up his strong performance and shut the door, not only on the Bolts, but his naysayers.

FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 5 - Bolts 1

Enjoy the game!

Prax
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