I once caught a ride home from an Arizona Coyotes game with former NHL goalie Sean Burke. I asked him to drop me off a few blocks away from my home so I could walk the rest of the way.
As I opened the door to get out Sean says to me, “Be careful crossing the street, you don’t want to get hit by a car. “
“Wow,” I’m thinking, “what a good friend to care about me like that.” Then, just before I could turn around to say thanks, he says, “Ah, don’t worry about it, nothing ever hit you anyways.”
Well played, Mr. Burke.
I’m thinking Carey Price must feel similar these days.
After an easy save from a point shot versus the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday, Price was given the Bronx cheer by the Montreal fans in sarcastic fashion as if nothing has ever hit Price, either.
In jeering Price, you would like to think that the Montreal faithful would have learned from the ugly departure of Patrick Roy in 1995. It was then he was Bronx cheered in an 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. It was a home game and coach Mario Tremblay left Roy in for nine goals, refusing to give him the mercy pull. Finally taking him out, an angry Roy informed the team right on the bench that he had played his last game for the Canadiens.
Soon after he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
Montreal is long considered the elite standard for goaltending in the NHL. Pressure-wise it’s a tough place for the home goalie to play, maybe the toughest in all the NHL. The fans have been spoiled with a long line of NHL goalie greats, some being Ken Dryden, Jacques Plante, Roy, and now Price.
There are only a handful of teams in the NHL with an elite No. 1 goalie, and the rest are desperately looking for one. A goalie you can play night after night, year after year for 10-15 years that solidifies that spot and always gives you a chance of winning.
Ask the Philadelphia Flyers how hard it is. The Flyers haven’t had a goalie they could completely rely on since the 1987 Stanley Cup playoffs with Ron Hextall. Some might even argue the last was Bernie Parent 40 years ago.
Now, in fairness to the Montreal fans, Price has not been himself yet this year. He will be the first to admit it. However, in his defence, the organization hasn’t helped him, either.
At a closer look, the Canadiens are 26th of 31 NHL teams in salary cap spending. Right now they are close to $8 million under the cap. That’s two or three really good NHL forwards, or two solid defencemen. I know this has nothing to do with Price’s on-ice performance, but with that cap room, adding some good players would definitely help him out.
So to those calling for the head of Price this early in the season, relax. He’s an elite goalie in the NHL and he will find his game again.
Until then be careful what you wish for.
Roy left and won two Stanley Cups somewhere else.