BROSSARD, Que. –
They stood a few lockers apart in the Montreal Canadiens
dressing room after practice Tuesday, two players so vital to their team's chances for success this spring -- and two players hoping for vastly different results come Thursday night.
Of course, both goaltender Carey Price
and center Scott Gomez
would love nothing more than to come out of the Canadiens' first game against the Boston Bruins
with a victory.
But where they differ is that while Price is hoping the success he's had all season continues into the playoffs, Gomez is looking forward to leaving the worst season of his 11-year career behind him and starting fresh in the postseason.
The reality is that the Canadiens need both players to get what they wish for if they hope to eliminate the Bruins for the 25th time in 33 all time playoff meetings between the Original Six rivals.
"I just want to keep on doing what I've been doing all season," Price said, facing a phalanx of reporters after getting a day off practice a day earlier. "It's not just me out there, there's the rest of the guys out there too. I'm not going to put all of the burden on myself.
"I just want to have the same goal I gave myself in the regular season, that's to give my team an opportunity to win hockey games every time I go in there."
Almost simultaneously, just a few feet away, Gomez was saying practically the exact opposite.
"I was laughing with my parents the other day about it, I've never had a year like this," Gomez said, chuckling again as he said it. "But this is where it all counts. It doesn't matter if you have 100 points or you have 7 goals, we all start over. The main goal is to win. I want to hold the Stanley Cup again, that's the goal."
The interesting dichotomy between the outlook of Price and Gomez doesn't end there.
As great of a season Price has had, he does not have an excellent playoff history with a 5-11 record, 3.17 goals against average and .894 save percentage. Meanwhile, Gomez's paltry 38-point offensive output and minus-15 rating -- both career worsts -- are a little easier to overlook when you consider his playoff resume.
Since making his debut in his Calder Trophy-winning 1999-2000 season with the New Jersey Devils
, Gomez has never missed the playoffs, through his two years with the New York Rangers
and his last two in Montreal.
In three of his first four seasons in the League, Gomez won two Stanley Cups and made the final one other time, though as a young player he didn't play a huge offensive role in any of those years.
Since being a part of the Stanley Cup-winning Devils in 2003, Gomez has played 61 playoff games for three different teams -- and registered 59 points in those games.
He said a lesson he learned from Larry Robinson
, his coach with the Devils back in the 2000 playoffs, has stuck with him all these years later.
"I learned right away about the difference of the playoffs," Gomez said. "I had a great rookie year, I thought the League was pretty easy. I think in Game 3 against Toronto in the second round, Larry asked me if I wanted to sit out and watch. That kind of scared me. It's a different game. Every aspect of it is different."
Gomez will need to hope they are drastically different for him and linemates Brian Gionta
and Mathieu Darche
, because the Canadiens will desperately need that unit to produce offensively against a Bruins team that can get scoring from all four lines.
Since Darche was placed on their left wing line six games from the end of the regular season, Gomez and Gionta have played about as well as they have since losing their regular left wing, Max Pacioretty
, on March 8 to a concussion and fractured vertebra in his neck after being hit into a stanchion by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
Both Gionta and Darche had 3 goals and 2 assists in those six games, while Gomez had 3 assists after getting just 5 assists in his previous 15 games.
"I think I probably benefit more from them than they do from me," Darche said, though the evidence suggests otherwise. "But I try to open things up for them by driving to the net."
Gomez's offense and Price's play as the last line of defense will go a long way toward determining whether the Canadiens can give their fans another taste of the magical ride they were taken on in the playoffs a year ago.
Even though both players are hoping the start of this playoff season triggers different things in their own personal performances, both had the benefit of taking part in some communal success last spring alongside most the teammates in their dressing room.
While Price watched most of the games from the bench as Jaroslav Halak
played in goal, he knows this year's edition of the Canadiens have to find some similar magic in a hurry.
"I don't know how to really explain it, it's just a special feeling when you have a team that gets on a roll," Price said. "I felt that in Hamilton (winning the AHL's Calder Cup), I felt that same thing last year. You have that tight dressing room where anybody will do anything for anybody at any time. We've got to find that feeling in here and go into Thursday with that feeling and ride it out as long as we can."