MONTREAL - For Carey Price, leading the Hamilton Bulldogs to their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history was just business as usual in a season where he could do no wrong.
Despite being only 19 and having all of two AHL regular season games under his belt before being handed the Bulldogs crease in time for the playoffs, Price looked right at home in the AHL's playoff pressure cooker. In 22 postseason games, Price went 15-6 with a 2.06 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
After posting such impressive numbers in leading the underdog Bulldogs to the Calder Cup, the sight of AHL President David Andrews presenting Price with the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP came as a surprise to no one. Least of all, his head coach.
"He fully deserved this award," said Don Lever of Price, the Canadiens' top pick in 2005. "I can't imagine anyone not voting for Carey. He came up with big-time performances for us throughout the playoffs."
And so, at the age of 19 years and nine months, Price also became the youngest player to ever earn AHL playoff MVP honors since its inception in 1984. In a fitting twist of fate, Price surpassed would-be Hab Brian Skrudland who at 20 years and 10 months helped lead the Sherbrooke Canadiens to the AHL crown the last time a Habs' affiliate won the Calder Cup in 1985.
Flashing some of his trademark maturity beyond his years, Price just shrugged and deflected all praise to his teammates.
|19 Candles |
Here's a list of the youngest players to earn the Jack. A. Butterfield Trophy as AHL playoff MVP .
|Year ||NHL Rights || Player || Age ||Farm team |
|2007 || ||Carey Price ||19 years, 9 months ||Hamilton |
|1985 || ||Brian Skrudland ||20 years, 10 months ||Sherbrooke |
|1990 || ||Jeff Hackett ||21 years, 11 months ||Springfield |
|2001 || ||Steve Bégin ||22 years, 11 months ||Saint John |
|1994 || ||Olaf Kolzig ||24 years, 1 month ||Portland |
"As soon as I arrived you could just feel the chemistry that existed on this team," said Price. "And besides, whenever I was out of position, the guys were there to bail me out with a blocked shot or by clearing away the rebound."
Be that as it may, his teammates were just as happy to have Price on their side.
"This guy is no flash in the pan, he's the real deal," vowed Bulldogs' defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who watched his young goalie stone the Hershey Bears with a staggering .953 save percentage in the Calder Cup final. "Carey's got a long NHL career ahead of him. So get ready because you haven't seen anything yet."
Even longtime Habs goalie coach Roland Melanson is still having trouble putting Price's feat into words.
"The experience he's gained over these two months with the Bulldogs is off the charts," admitted Melanson. "And what he's learned will provide the foundation for the rest of his career.
"It's amazing when you consider all he's accomplished this year," added Melanson. "Think about it, over the past six months Carey has led Canada to gold at the World Juniors where he was named tournament MVP, been named the CHL's top goalie, and won the Calder Cup and AHL playoff MVP. I mean, he hasn't left the ice since August! The next assignment for Carey is to finally get some rest."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com