Time to Cut Carey Price some slack
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens lost a pre-season game against the Boston Bruins.
Just in case any of you don't really grasp the concept of what that means, let me repeat it for you:
Last night, the Montreal Canadiens lost a PRE-SEASON game against the Boston Bruins.
The keyword, for the record, and again, if anyone didn't really catch the message, is pre-season game. But despite what should be a pretty simple thing to grasp, the talk of the town in Montreal today is Carey Price's performance, or lack thereof, in the period and a half he played last night at the Bell Centre.
Barely a minute and a half into the action, Price let in what could be labelled as a "softie" on Nathan Horton, a goal that I'm sure most fans would forgive, given the nerves or playing in front of a big hometown crowd as, for the first time, the undisputed starting goaltender for the team. Twelve minutes later, Johnny Boychuk slapped one past Price, and two minutes after that, Patrice Bergeron scored to make it 3-zip for the Bruins. Early in the second period, Bergeron broke into the Canadiens zone while the Canadiens were pre-occupied with their powerplay on the other side of the ice and scored again to put the Bruins up 4-0, and that would pretty much be all she wrote for Carey Price's first start of the 2010 pre-season.
The Canadiens would come to within two of tying things up after Jacques Martin made his predetermined goalie switch halfway through the second, allowing Curtis Sanford to finish the game. Maxim Lapierre would score on an easy pass from Tomas Plekanec while the team was shorthanded, and Plekanec would add a goal to his assist with only seconds left in the second, this time on the powerplay. Josh Gorges (that's Captain Gorges to you) assisted on both goals.
The game would enter the books as a 4-2 loss for Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. In the game, there were many good performances to speak of. Tomas Plekanec returning to his regular season pace, Josh Gorges contributing offensively where there might be a lack of defensive scoring, and, of course, some of the rookies getting their first taste of professional hockey with the Montreal Canadiens. However, none that would matter to anyone once the final buzzer signaled the end of the game, and into the aftermath late last night and so far today. All that mattered is that Carey Price let in 4 goals on 10 shots. All that mattered is that after the game, Price chose not to speak to the media.
After the second goal that Price let in, the fans started to jeer, like on the people in Montreal could. They started to boo, and what's worse, ironically cheer every time Price would make a routine save or even come out of his crease to play the puck. Fans and on-lookers felt the effect on Twitter as well, where both Carey Price (and Jaroslav Halak) were among the top trending topics in Canada.
The fans, and the media, took the attention off of the players who we were supposed to be looking at, and put it all on a guy who hasn't played a game of professional hockey in months. It didn't matter that Ben Maxwell may have played the best game of his life. It didn't matter that Aaron Palushaj continued to impress the coaching staff and make a case for one of those final spots on the roster, or that Louis Leblanc held his own in his first professional game.
All that mattered was that Carey Price, in a pre-season game - the first pre-season game, no less - let in four goals on ten shots.
And to follow it up, in arguably the most irresponsible piece of journalism I've read all summer - and if you know what's been going on in the media and the blogosphere this summer, in this city, you know that's saying a lot - Dave Stubbs of Habs Inside/Out posted a long-winded rant on why it was wrong for Price not to make himself available to the media after the loss.
Why is it so important that you ask Carey Price the same God Damn questions you ask him after every loss? Why is it so important that you record what's obviously going to be the same answers he gave you six months ago, and six months before that? Why is it so important to make him feel uncomfortable, for the benefit of your newspaper and your website? Or to reassure the media members that Price cares about the team, and about the upcoming season (as if that's really in question)?
It doesn't matter that the media would have been "generally sympathetic", as he put it himself, or that the same media members were "almost unanimously" against the fans' treatment of Price during the game. This has no bearing on the relevance of anything Price would have to say, or his apparent obligation to speak to the media.
Stubbs went on to say that "it's about accountability after a pre-season game" and to show "that he has maturity to deal with a bad night", about addressing fans that so dearly care about goaltending. All this after Stubbs himself said that the pre-season game had no meaning, and that most of the goals he let in weren't even really his fault?
So what would he say to you, Dave? What would you ask him, even? Would the jeering, the taunting, the sarcasm, the disrespect of the fans be brought up, making Price even more uncomfortable about his performance?
Last night, the fans of the Montreal Canadiens showed absolutely no respect to their goaltender, and while it may not have been his intention, Price was well-justified returning the favor by staying silent when it the time came for the media to meet the players. He wouldn't have said anything important, a couple of canned responses that would have made the rounds, and that would have been likely mis-interpreted by overzealous media members. Frankly, he would have taken even more attention away from the players who deserves it - Palushaj, Leblanc, Tinordi, Maxwell, Dumont, and others.
And regardless of whether he spoke or not, the situation would be no different today. On TSN, RDS, the Montreal Gazette, Habs Inside/Out, and everywhere else, the headlines would all be the same. They wouldn't be about the abovementioned players, the ones that actually played well and would benefit from some positive reinforcement, they would all be criticizing Price, for a damn pre-season game that meant nothing and had no bearing on anything.
While Jaroslav Halak's 3-goals-on-10-shots performance got a few mentions on twitter and maybe a couple of media sources, no one made a big deal of his fumble in his first appearance with the St. Louis Blues. Yet last night, his name was right up there on the top trending topics in Canada. And just like that, people were right back to making comparisons, to moaning and complaining about the trade that shocked the hockey world last June, and to slandering Price.
No one is saying that Price shouldn't be admonished for his performance last night. He had a bad game. But it meant nothing. Everyone knew going in that there would be some rust, some cobwebs to shake off, and the tilt meant absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Not for Price, not for the coaching staff, the fans, or the media. And what meant even less is Price's absence in the media scrum shortly after the game.
No matter what Carey Price does, no matter the situation, or the relevance of the game that he's playing, the bad will be scrutinized, the good will be overlooked, and that which is not his fault will be ignored, and for it to start so early into the hockey season is completely unfair for everyone involved.
If on October 7, against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the ACC, Price plays the same way he did tonight, and lets in 4 goals on 10 shots, then by all means, post all the negative blogs and newspaper articles you'd like. But today, on September 23rd, with no less than 2 weeks to go until the games actually begin to matter, for the love of God, give the kid a break!