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Canadiens' future looks bright despite Game 7 loss

by Arpon Basu
BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens likely don't want to hear it as long as the sting of losing Game 7 in overtime to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night remains fresh, but when they look at who is manning their net and who is their top player on the blue line, the franchise's future should be something to smile about.

Carey Price and P.K. Subban emerged as the Canadiens most important players this season, and that didn't change one iota in the playoffs.

The two also became good friends over the course of the season, with Price taking on almost a fatherly role for the younger Subban, even though he's only 23 himself.

That's because Price sees a bit of himself in Subban in that he, too, was placed on a pedestal in Montreal at age 21, only to be knocked off it so hard that many in the city believed the goalie was a bust before he even got a proper chance to start his career.

Price has warned Subban of the potential pitfalls of his own talent and sees what kind of player the young defenseman can become with some seasoning.

"You can see what he does out there," Price said. "He can skate, he can shoot, he can pass. He's just a complete package. The only thing with him is that he's young. I had a heart-to-heart with him a couple of weeks ago. It's going to be fun to watch him in a couple of years when he learns a few tricks. Everybody has to go through that learning stage, but it's going to be really exciting."

Subban showed just how clutch he can be Wednesday night in the face of a hostile TD Garden crowd that was booing his every move. When his team needed him, Subban delivered with a game-tying power-play goal with 1:57 left in regulation to send the game to overtime.

His level of poise at 21 is unusually high, and now he has some good baggage of playoff experience to go with it after joining the Canadiens run to the Eastern Conference Final last spring.

"Not very many guys can have the experience I've gathered in the playoffs this early in my career," Subban said. "This was my third Game 7 already. It's great in terms of experience moving forward. I'm happy to have that experience, but it would have been nice to move on."

As huge as Subban's goal was, it would have been completely moot were it not for Price making three massive saves in regulation to keep the game at 3-2. The first was off a point-blank chance for Mark Recchi just moments after Chris Kelly scored the go-ahead goal at 9:44 of the third. The second was a breakaway blocker save off Kelly about two minutes later. The third was a larcenous glove save off Recchi about two minutes before Subban's goal tied the game.

"If Carey wasn't playing today, I don't think we even make it to overtime," Subban said. "He made some key saves for us down the stretch, as he has all year. He carried us this far, and obviously we wanted to get the win for him today and make it to the second round. It just didn't happen."

There are other young players who will play a big part in Montreal's short- and long-term future, led by Lars Eller, 21, and David Desharnais, 24, who emerged in these playoffs. Max Pacioretty, 22, who didn't play in the series still recovering from a concussion and broken vertebra in his neck, will also be an important part of the future.

But the key pieces are clearly Price and Subban.

Judging by the way both performed in these playoffs, they represent a pretty solid foundation for the Canadiens to continue building around next season.
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