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Price aims to be Habs' next playoff star

by Mike G. Morreale

Carey Price looks to extend his win streak to four consecutive games, when the Montreal Canadiens take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight. Carey Price highlights
A few simple words from Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau put Carey Price at ease, despite the fact Price's entire professional existence had just changed dramatically because of management's moves at last month's trade deadline.

To some, the Feb. 26 trade that sent incumbent starter Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals for a second-round draft pick in 2009 was a shock. It left the team with a pair of unproven youngsters in goal -- Jaroslav Halak was promoted to the parent club after the Huet trade -- but also proved just how confident General Manager Bob Gainey was in Price, the fifth-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

Carbonneau reinforced that organizational confidence in the aforementioned conversation with Price, the new starter.

"Coach Carbonneau came up and told me that the Montreal coaching staff and management would never put me in a position that they thought I couldn't handle,” Price told "That's all I needed to hear, and it gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.”

Carbonneau admitted his chat with Price wasn't anything unusual, that he just wanted to show his support.

"I think everyone was surprised when Bob traded Cristobal, but he also knew what we had in Carey and also the kind of player we had in Jaroslav," Carbonneau said. "I just wanted him to realize that he didn't have to be Superman. What got him to this point was just being Carey Price and that's all I wanted him to be. I didn't want to put any more pressure on him than he had and just wanted him to feel comfortable."

Plus, it's not like Montreal hasn't been down this road before.

Ken Dryden made his NHL debut in the middle of the 1970-71 season and became the backbone of six Stanley Cup champions. Following the 1971 title, Dryden earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The next season he won the Calder Trophy as the League's Rookie of the Year. Dryden also claimed the Stanley Cup in 1973, and for four straight years from 1976 to 1979.

Steve Penney made his debut in almost identical fashion as Dryden. He was called up from American Hockey League midseason, like Dryden, and played four of the last six regular-season games of the 1983-84 campaign. In that season's playoffs, Penney had nine victories, including three shutouts. The following year, he became the Canadiens' starting goalie, winning a combined 38 regular-season and playoff games and was voted to the NHL 1985 All-Rookie Team.

Then there's Patrick Roy, drafted No. 51 by the Canadiens in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. All he did in his first full NHL campaign, 1985-86, was backstop Montreal to its first Stanley Cup in seven seasons. The 20-year-old Roy became the youngest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy after going 15-5 with a 1.93 goals-against average in the playoffs.

"I never met Patrick Roy, but did meet Ken Dryden," Price said. "He came to (my hometown of) Williams Lake in British Columbia back when I was little. I believe he was there to give a motivational speech, but I just remember getting his autograph. I still have that signature on a piece of paper. It's kind of neat knowing I'm going through what Ken, Steve and Patrick went through."

Price, like many of his predecessors, hasn't let the pressure of playing in one of the NHL's toughest cities get the best of him, either.

"The legacy can be intimidating if you let it," Price admitted. "But you can't think about trying to live up to what other people have done. Instead, try and make your own name for yourself. I think playing with some composure is just my personality. I really try to not get worked up by anything."

Since taking the starting reins, the 20-year-old Price is 8-3 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. For the season, he is 20-12-3 with a 2.71 GAA and .915 save percentage.

He also scored a memorable 38-save, 4-0 victory against New Jersey and boyhood idol Martin Brodeur on March 11.

"It was a lot of fun to play against Marty," Price said. "I've watched so much video of what he has done over his career. The thing that impresses me about him is his consistency, year in and year out. It's amazing how his style never changes and he still gets the job done."

I'm really impressed with his stature and how big he is in the net. He's very composed for a young guy, which is something you don't see very often. He's playing in a tough place in Montreal and there's going to be a lot of pressure; but he's been handling everything well. - Martin Brodeur
Brodeur, who has seen Price on a few occasions, feels the 6-foot-3, 226-pound goalie is a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate as the League's top rookie this winter.

"I'm really impressed with his stature and how big he is in the net," Brodeur told "He's very composed for a young guy, which is something you don't see very often. He's playing in a tough place in Montreal and there's going to be a lot of pressure; but he's been handling everything well.

"We always used to say, in goalie terms, that you want to play big in net. He's 6-3 and plays even bigger on top of that. He definitely has a bright future in this League."

When asked if he had any advice for Price, Brodeur, a Montreal native, graciously obliged.

"I would tell him to just stay the course," said Brodeur, who won the 1994 Calder Trophy. "There's going to be a lot of people looking to bring him down when things are going good and he just has to be mentally tough. That's what is so tough about getting to that All-Star level. For every good thing you do, there's always someone who wants to see you fail, so it's important that he understand that being second-guessed and questioned all comes with the territory of being a hockey player. I feel he is strong enough to overcome those situations because he has already had so much experience."

Indeed. Price certainly held his own during the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden, earning Tournament MVP and Best Goaltender awards while being named to the tournament's All-Star Team. In that competition, Price led Canada to its third straight gold medal, going 6-0 with a 1.14 GAA and astounding .960 save percentage.

At 19, Price also was the youngest goalie to ever win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup MVP after leading the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs to the league championship with an impressive 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage. Incidentally, the last goalie who helped a Canadiens' AHL affiliate win a Calder Cup was Patrick Roy with the 1985 Sherbrooke Canadiens.

"Winning the Calder Cup and those individual awards are all great and dandy, but as a professional, it's the big one you strive for every year," said Price, speaking of the Stanley Cup.

Price definitely is wise beyond his years.

Contact Mike G. Morreale at

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