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Price focused on winning Cup, not individual honors

by Arpon Basu /

MONTREAL -- The history of the Montreal Canadiens can be suffocating at times for the players trying to live up to it.

The franchise's NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup banners watch over each of their home games, as do the banners commemorating the 18 players who have had their numbers retired, each of them a member of the Hall of Fame.

In the dressing room, the photos of the 44 players in team history who are in the Hall of Fame watch over them as well, their photos lined above the players' lockers.

That history can be a burden when things are not going well.

But it also makes becoming a part of that storied history that much sweeter.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price did that Thursday in a 4-3 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings. It was his 43rd victory of the season setting a franchise record on a team that takes records more seriously than most.

Price broke the record of 42 wins set twice by Jacques Plante and once by Ken Dryden, two players Price can literally look up to on the wall of the dressing room and who, in a way, he can now consider to be his peers.

"I've been looking at them for quite a while," Price said of the photos in the dressing room. "Obviously I have a lot of respect for what it takes to get up there and what they accomplished in their careers.

"It's definitely special playing here."

Price made 24 saves against the Red Wings, a relatively light workload for him this season. But what followed after Lars Eller's overtime goal secured victory No. 43 will stick in his memory for some time.

As the Canadiens gathered at center ice for their traditional post-victory salute to the fans, all of Price's teammates mugged him to congratulate him for setting the record. After being named the game's first star, Price went to do an in-arena interview, but the Bell Centre crowd barely let him speak as they roared their appreciation for his historic season and rained down chants of "MVP! MVP!" to drown out his answers.

Then, as Price was exiting the ice, his teammates were returning from the dressing room to give some fans their jerseys, as is customary following the final home game of the season. Defenseman Alexei Emelin smothered Price's face with a towel full of shaving cream, followed by defenseman P.K. Subban screaming something at Price immediately afterward.

"It's definitely nice to be appreciated like that, " Price said. "But at the end of the day I'm just looking forward to starting the playoffs. I'm not the guy that takes those types of awards or whatever. I'm just focused on trying to do what I need to do to stop pucks."

Price enters his final start in the regular-season finale at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday with a 43-16-6 record, a 1.95 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage and nine shutouts. He either leads or shares the League lead in each of those four categories. Thursday marked the 21st time in 65 starts this season Price allowed more than two goals, and just the ninth time he has done so in his past 42 starts.

Carey Price
Goalie - MTL
RECORD: 43-16-6
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: .934
"He's been unbelievable, I don't know what to say," center Tomas Plekanec said. "He's the biggest reason we are where we are. Hopefully we can help him out a little bit more than we did so far."

Price knows the biggest test for him and his teammates awaits when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next week, and that's all he wants to think about right now. He is not ready to reflect on the historic significance of the season he put together, nor the individual trophies he might receive as a reward.

"You want to reflect on it, but you don't want to get too caught up in looking back," Price said. "It's been working all season long, the goal-setting looking forward. I don't want to start resting on a good season yet."

It's normal that Price doesn't want to feed his own campaign to win the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player, one that appears to have gathered enough momentum to make him the winner at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas in June. But his coach, Michel Therrien, has no such inhibitions, and he made it quite clear who he thinks should win that trophy two months from now.

"He deserves the Hart," Therrien said of Price. "As far as I'm concerned he's the best player in the League right now, he's the player that's got the most impact on games. There's a lot of good players in this League that had some good seasons, but Carey Price deserves that trophy."

For now, Price is thinking about another trophy, and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup begins next week. Price's value to the Canadiens may win him the Hart Trophy, but from now on it will have to be higher than it has all season.

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