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Leaner Price trying to live up to hype in Montreal

Wednesday, 11.19.2008 / 8:30 AM / NHL Insider

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Mike Komisarek heard the question and shot a quick glance across the visitors' locker room inside the Air Canada Centre. In an instant he gave Carey Price a once over before coming to the conclusion that is most obvious about the Montreal goalie.

"He's a lot leaner," Komisarek said. "That's for sure."

Well, yeah. Price lost 28 pounds during the summer, and it's showing not only in his physical stature but in his play. His teammates say he's quicker in the net, especially going side to side. He's not getting tired. He has more energy than anyone on the team.

"He looks confident," forward Tom Kostopoulos told NHL.com. "He looks quick. He looks good."

He's supposed to. His name is linked to Patrick Roy's, so he better be.

Not since Roy arrived in Montreal for the 1985-86 season have the Canadiens had a goalie so young, talented and hyped as Price.

The comparisons to the Hall of Fame goalie began in earnest last season when as a 20-year-old, Price was the starting goalie for the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs one year after backstopping his American Hockey League team to the Calder Cup.

Roy, of course, won the Calder Cup at 19, but he also won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy at 20. Price was ousted in the second round last season and comparisons ended right there.

Twenty-eight pounds later, they're back.

Price is 8-4-1 this season with a 2.56 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He's tops among goalies in the XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting presented by 2K Sports on NHL.com.

"I like the way he's playing," Roy told NHL.com of Price. "He's playing very simple hockey. Everything looks easy, and I like that type of style. When a goaltender is moving well and always in the right place, he doesn't have to make the special save. The save will come on its own. He seems to be under control at all times, and I really like that."

Even Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, a former teammate of Roy's, told NHL.com that comparisons are "always fun and you have to enjoy it because it's not everyday you have that kind of talent. You have it in (Sidney) Crosby, Sam Gagner, (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane. We haven't had that here in Montreal for a lot of years."

So, yeah, Carbonneau is a fan, but like any coach would, he hesitates when it comes to anointing anybody as the next in line. He wants to see Price do it over the long haul, "not a month or a season.

"I don't think it's the same as when Patrick came up," Carbonneau said. "He had success right away winning the Cup, but it took him three or four years to gain that confidence and for us to gain that confidence that he'd be there every night. The same thing in Jersey. Martin (Brodeur) had success, but it still took him a few years to gain that confidence. We have to give everybody time."

If you ask his teammates, they have enough confidence in Price right now.

"He's not just relying on his talent and reflexes," Komisarek said. "He's really trying to maximize his potential and be the best possible goalie. His attitude and work ethic more than anything is unbelievable this year. He came to camp in shape. Usually the goalies are a little pudgy, but Pricey is one of the thinnest guys on the team. You see him not only eating well but working out everyday and it shows. He has a lot more energy and he's quicker. I think it will lead to a lot more great things for him."

Kostopoulos said Price's demeanor suggests he's comfortable and confident.

"I think he's different form most goalies that I have met because he is so relaxed," Kostopoulos said. "He does goofy things before games and it doesn't seem like he's got a whole lot of pressure on him. He laughs and jokes and messes around and then he goes into the game and plays great. Hey, whatever is working for him he needs to keep doing."

 
 
Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller sees a noticeable difference between Price last season and Price this season.

Last season, Price started as the backup to Cristobal Huet. He took over as the No. 1 when Habs General Manager Bob Gainey dealt Huet to Washington at the trade deadline. This season, Price is the No. 1 with Jaroslav Halak pushing him.

"He has that drive to want to be No. 1 and he has the elite ability to be the No. 1, and in that hand I think he looks a lot more comfortable than he did a year ago," Muller told NHL.com. "He's still young, but he has that drive to want to be in the elite."

Carbonneau believes Halak's presence keeps Price grounded while also keeping him rested. Price, who played 41 regular-season games last season, figures to wind up playing between 50 and 60 this season.

Roy played 47 in his rookie season and 45 the following year, with Brian Hayward pushing him for time. Roy didn't play in 50-plus regular season games until his fifth season and didn't hit the 60-game mark until he was seven seasons into his career.
"He's playing very simple hockey. Everything looks easy, and I like that type of style. When a goaltender is moving well and always in the right place, he doesn't have to make the special save. The save will come on its own. He seems to be under control at all times, and I really like that." -- Patrick Roy on Carey Price
"If we only have Carey, it's almost like you have to put him in the net every game, but I think it's too early and he's too young and it would be too many games," Carbonneau said. "It's so hard now. I understand those guys want to play every night, but it's so hard physically and mentally. To have Jaro, who understands and wants to push, makes for great competition. It keeps them sharp every night."

So sharp, in fact, that Price knows never to compare himself to Roy.

Maybe one day, but not right now.

"Every franchise has some player and you hear that he's the next top D, top forward, top goalie, whatever," Muller said. "(The Canadiens) have been blessed with a lot of good goalies over the years and obviously Patty is the last one, so it's natural for them to put those comparisons on Carey. Carey is very mature and you can tell that he knows it's not even time to discuss them right now. He wants to prove himself."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com


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