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Price's time in Montreal prepared him for Sochi

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Carey Price was answering questions from reporters Tuesday after being named Canada's starting goalie for the quarterfinals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics while a few of his teammates still were on the ice practicing behind him.

As he spoke, one of his teammates on the ice shot a puck that was deflected high off the protective netting behind him and Price flinched to see if it would hit him, even though it was behind his back.

"Sixth sense," Price said with a smile. "No, I read your eyes."

That innate sense for seeing pucks he has no business seeing is what has led Price to this point in his roller-coaster career, tending goal for Canada in a game where if he has a bad one his team's tournament could be over. And a country will weep.

No pressure, though.

For years there was some question as to whether Price ever would reach these heights. He struggled to find some consistency in his game playing perhaps the most pressure-packed position in North American professional sports: starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.

Now that he's here, the fact he came of age in that kind of environment in Montreal, where practically every game feels like an Olympic knockout game, has prepared Price for this situation better in a shorter period than he ever would have had he began his career almost anywhere else.

The biggest thing it has taught him is not to worry about what's being written or said about him, and there will be a ton of that going on between now and the quarterfinal Wednesday, in which Canada will play upstart Latvia (noon ET, MSNBC, CBC).

"I've learned a lot of things in Montreal that might have taken me longer in other markets," Price said. "Maybe at first when you're a rookie and you're not used to that type of coverage you might want to know what people think of you. But at this point in my career I'm happy with the way things are going and I know what I need to focus on. I don't need to focus on what everybody else thinks I should be doing.

"I know what I should be doing."

The quarterfinal game risks being another low-scoring affair, much like the two games Price already has played here. In a 3-1 win against Norway in the Olympic opener and a 2-1 overtime win against Finland, Price saw a total of 35 shots. He's faced more than that in a single game 12 times in his 48 NHL games this season.

Canada's inability thus far to put up high goal totals removes a lot of Price's margin for error, and often in these games there can be two or three shifts in a row where the puck barely enters the Canadian zone, let alone a shot being taken.

"I'm actually just trying to do the same thing I do in Montreal," Price said. "You're not getting as many shots, but whenever they're in the zone you just try and find that zone that you're in regularly as when you're facing 30, 35 shots."

It's not always easy to do, but Price is not about to start complaining about playing on a team that tends to have the puck practically the whole game.

"For me personally it's kind of fun playing behind a real good defensive team like that where everybody's sticks are so well-placed, everybody's always on the right side of the puck," Price said. "You're just trying to do your job and stay alert. You want to stop that next shot; that's all you think about out there."

Price getting the start in the quarterfinal confirms that the starting job is his to lose, which also means the pressure on him will double or triple with every win. But he's not going to start worrying about that now, not with a quarterfinal game staring him in the face.

That ability to focus on the task at hand and nothing else is something else Price brought with him to Sochi from Montreal because it has been drilled into him all season by new Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite.

"[Waite] has really instilled that in me so far this year," Price said. "It really simplifies your mindset. If you start thinking long-term goals or past immediately what's in front of you, you're not giving the thing that's right in front of you, your full focus."

So even though these Olympics are his first, and even though he insisted again Tuesday that this tournament only became his focus once he arrived here, Price has in a sense been preparing for this moment ever since he first pulled on a Canadiens uniform as a rookie in 2007.

Everything he's experienced, all his failures and successes in Montreal since then, will be in his tool box when he leads Canada onto the ice at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday.

And an entire country will be happier for it.

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