Bob Gainey was right. I was wrong.
It’s killing me to say it but I’m a big enough man to do it. Gainey was right about Carey Price being the Chosen One and I was wrong to doubt it. That said, I stick to two things I’ve said a bazillion times in recent years. First, it remains true that the Gainey years (and the Gainey-Lite years with Pierre “Mr. Personality” Gauthier) were disastrous for the Canadiens. That’s a fact that’s only become more clear as the years go by. Just look back at what Gainey did in the summer of 2009 – yes that would be the summer he dropped a neutron bomb on the team, changing I think ten players, bringing in a chap named Gomez and knee-capping the franchise until Marc Bergevin arrived on the scene.
The second thing I’m sticking with is that us naysayers were right to grumble when Price was struggling prior to the past two seasons. He hadn’t delivered the goods until then, so it was perfectly okay to give the Chill Out Kid a hard time.
But we’re now two seasons into the New Look Price and obviously you’d have to be even more of an idiot than I am to be anything but thrilled by the coolest calmest netminder in the league.
The stats do sometimes lie but not in this case. As of Saturday afternoon, Price was ranked No. 3 amongst goalies, with a goals against average of 2.06 and a save percentage of .932.
But you have to keep in mind who’s playing in front of Pricey. On so many a night, it looks like most of the team has come into the game with the idea that they don’t have to back-check hard because this era’s version of Patrick Roy is going to make the save. When he plays like a mere mortal, like during Tuesday’s loss to the basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres, then the Habs look like….well like the Sabres.
But when he’s on his game – as he was for back-to-back shutouts against the Rangers and the Capitals a few days back – the Canadiens look like the best team in the league. Remember that save on Martin St. Louis where Price twirled round in the air and nudged the puck out with his shoulder? That’s the kind of magic we’ve been seeing with scary regularity this season.
There’s also a welcome new intensity to the Price persona. Remember that incident a few years back when he was caught goofing around after a soul-destroying loss to the Bruins in the playoffs? That wouldn’t happen now. Instead we see him smashing and breaking his stick on the crossbar after the Stars score with two seconds left in the period to claw themselves back into the game. There’s a fire there that wasn’t seen before from the guy I used to call the What Me Worry Kid. In other words, he’s no longer the Alfred E. Neuman of goaltenders (ask your grandpa to explain the reference).
During Tuesday’s laugher of a game against Buffalo, I tweeted to say that the feature from that morning’s La Presse speculating about whether Price should win the Hart Trophy had perhaps jinxed the goalie. I might’ve added that Price just let in a weak goal. Then my pal Chris “Hunter S. Thompson” Curtis jumped into the fray, knocking me for daring to question our saviour/goalie.
My argument was/is that Price is not above criticism even if he’s having a career criticism. That’s when Habs Eye on the Prize boss Andrew Berkshire waded in to tweet that: “No, Price is pretty much above criticism. I thought this was a joke but apparently not. Added Berkshire: “No, it kinda isn’t. Carey Price has prevented this team from being in the lottery, essentially on his own.”
Fighting words but with some truth to them. La question qui tue – where would the Canadiens be in the standings if Price wasn’t performing these Vezina/Hart-worthy heroics night after night? To ask the question is to answer it.
So yeah he is The Man. Like I said, I am still no fan of the firm of Gainey & Gauthier’ reign of error. But yes I have changed my position.
On Carey Price that is. I still can’t stand Arcade Fire.