With Montreal's defense ravaged by injuries throughout the season, GM Pierre Gauthier was on the lookout for reinforcements throughout the season.
Brent Sopel was one of his targets; coveted for both his presence in the defensive zone and his championship pedigree after winning a Stanley Cup this past season with Chicago.
Gauthier was able to land his man in late February and the hard-nosed vet is already paying dividends. Thursday night, in Montreal's Game 1 victory against Boston, Sopel was at the vanguard of his team's shot-blocking commitment. The Canadiens blocked 19 shots and Sopel shared the team lead with fellow defenseman James Wisniewski. Each player had 4 blocks.
"It's playoff time," Sopel said. "Everyone is battling for one another and sacrificing. I've always said that blocking shots hurt, but if a puck hits me it is not going into the net. That is what you have to do is block shots and play solid defensively."
Sopel proved his point in the third period, splaying out to block a dangerous shot from Boston defenseman Andrew Ference.
"Like I said about sacrificing to win, I'll do that; I'll drop in front of anything," Sopel continued. "Pricey is there for us and I am there for him. We all are. It was just one of those things, a bang-bang play. He has a shot and I am going to be lucky to get my body on it."
Price certainly appreciates the willingness of those around him to sacrifice their well-being for the greater good.
"I could mention everyone on our hockey team," Price said. "From Andrei Kostitsyn to Brent Sopel; everyone is willing to sacrifice the body for the team."
Price says he tries to let his teammates know how much he appreciates their efforts after each block, but he was extra demonstrative after the block by Sopel on Ference.
"I let him know every time he blocks a shot," Price said. "When I have guys that are willing to sacrifice any part of their body to keep the puck out of the net and from reaching me, I'll let them know for sure. That is encouraging and is good for our hockey team."
Sopel is happy for the acknowledgment from his goalie, but insists he is just doing the job for which he was imported into the organization two months ago.
"Price and I have connected pretty well from day one," Sopel said. "I sacrifice my body in front of the puck and he enjoys that. He is thankful for that. That is how we win. We haven't talked about it but I'm sure later on we will have a laugh."