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.

Really, Dave?

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!


Jason Pietroniro's picture

So glad you mentioned Maxwell playing one of the best games of his life. I was most excited for him. He looked like he was having so much fun. The guy must be twice as fast as last season!

George Prax's picture

He knows that this might be his last chance to make the team. He needs to have a huge season and he can't afford to be stuck in the pressbox all year either. At his age and considering his history with the team so far, he isn't going to learn much more from JUST practicing. I'm glad to see he's motivated, and I honestly wouldn't mind seeing him center the 4th line.

hab4evr's picture

Couldn't agree anymore with this article! Fantastic read Prax!!!

evilbobsaget's picture

Great blog. Absolutely agree with it all even though I was saying "Ostie d'Price a marde!" last night. Cause let's face it, who likes to lose right? It's pre-season and I even if we would have lost 10-0 I would still thank God for giving us a hockey game.

I still think Price was the right choice and Im fairly certain most true hockey minds agreed with the decision.

Wally Brennan's picture

Look, as a Bruins fan it just tickles me pink that the rabid fans might ruin this kid before he even reaches the end of his second contract.

But as a hockey fan it stinks. The talent is so clearly there, and to think that just a few poor performances are going to outweigh the positives (including a boatload of talent) in the minds of some fans is really shameful. He's barely 23. I agree with everything here, Prax, and I revel in the failure of this team. It's getting out of control

George Prax's picture

I have no problem with people admonishing him for the bad goal he gave up last night (and even if the others weren't really his fault, he wasn't doing much to stop them). But the fans, and the media, took it way too far last night.

It's preseason, and just like Pouliot and Kostitsyn are going to get an extended chance (20 games?) to prove their worth, Price deserves at least as much, and not the fans mocking him, which isn't going to help anyone.

demez's picture

If it were Halak everyone would be saying oh it's just 1 game, it's just pre-season but it's Price so the sky is falling. Halak didn't do much better against the Avs in his first game the other night.

Price didn't trade Huet and make himself starter, Price didn't keep Halak on the bench when he should have been starting, Price didn't trade Halak this off-season but the fans seem to want to hold him responsible for all this team's shortcomings. The booed the guy last year in the Carolina game I think it was when he was 2nd or 3rd star but we lost, they booed him yesterday in the team's first pre-season game.

I can very well see Price asking for a trade this season if the fans don't give him a chance and I don't blame him.

George Prax's picture

I'm incredibly surprised that you're being so soft on him lol.

Anyway, Price responds which makes Stubbs' post look even more foolish.

demez's picture
George Prax wrote:

I'm incredibly surprised that you're being so soft on him lol.

Anyway, Price responds which makes Stubbs' post look even more foolish.

I'm being soft on the kid because what choice do we have? He's our goalie and we need to support him, booing him isn't going to make him better, this is the hand we've been dealt so we might as well make the best of the situation. I still prefer Halak and I doubt I'll ever be a Price fan but I want my team to do well. If we lose Price, Alex Auld becomes our starter.

Alex Mueller's picture
Micheal A. Aldred wrote:

The team just had a long post-season run, which leaves a bit of a lag at the start of the year for most, if not all, Stanley Cup Finals teams.

A long playoff run that Price HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH! This is now Price's 4th year in the league which is more than ample time to prove his worth. The Canadiens had a gift in Halak that they easily could have cut ties with Price but they stupidly cut ties with Halak instead. Why? Because Price was a 5th overall pick, way to high for the Canadiens brass to admit they made a mistake. But they should because they just keep shooting themselves in the foot. If Price was a 3 round pick, he wouldn't be on the team anymore.

George Prax's picture

Goalies generally take more time to develop. Only 23, Price is the youngest player to achieve several milestones, including 100 GP and 50 wins for a goaltender. Whether he was rushed out of junior, I don't know. But it's definitely not the time to give up on him just because he's been around for a little while. I think goalies are better judged at 25-26, not 23 and after, really , only one bad season.

The move to go with Halak was definitely questionable, but it's about more than just sticking with what you've invested in - which is a valid enough reason anyway - but also going with potential over one good season.

And let's face fact, Halak had one good half-season. Nothing more. Not yet. There could be things that the staff here knew that maybe we don't. Maybe they didn't have long term confidence in Halak (and frankly, he was starting to break down and had a really average end to round 2 and Round 3 vs. the Flyers). Maybe they saw a lot of improvement and maturity in price towards the end even if he wasn't playing?

Price deserves more time, even if the organization has put a lot of pressure on him to succeed this season, and what the fans did to him was uncalled for. Even during the regular season, although I'd be willing to accept it then under certain circumstances.

Alex Mueller's picture

True but when you consider what Patrick Roy did at 20.... But I realize not everyone develops the same. As for the fans, they pay for the tickets and they will do as they please. But granted it's preseason and like the first game, so everyone needs to relax.

George Prax's picture
Alex Mueller wrote:

True but when you consider what Patrick Roy did at 20.... But I realize not everyone develops the same. As for the fans, they pay for the tickets and they will do as they please. But granted it's preseason and like the first game, so everyone needs to relax.

For the record, it isn't a Habs fan making the comparison to Patrick Roy right now. And that's the problem. It's the comparisons and hype (or anti-hype) that are made outside of this city that get attributed to Habs fans. How many goalies win Stanley Cups and become legends at such a young age? Price is good, and while he lost the starting job last season he really didn't have all that bad of a year, when you really look at the stats. He needs more time to develop, and what Habs management did, whether we agree with it or not, was give him that chance to develop. The fans have to relax and realize this before jumping on him at every opportunity.

Booing and sarcastic cheering isn't going to help anyone.

habsnews's picture

I agree with demez's comment, booing Carey Price is only going to make the situation worse....the only way he's going to find his game again is by getting his confidence back....a little support from the fans would go a long way towards that.