Mock cheers for Canadiens’ Price give glimpse of pressure he faces

Jonathan Quick stopped all 40 shots he faced as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

MONTREAL—Here’s a question to consider: What will life be like for Carey Price in Montreal when he’s making an annual average salary of $10.5 million per season and his Canadiens are entrenched in a rebuild? Okay. It’ll still be pretty sweet. That’s a lot of moolah over eight years.

But in all seriousness, the pressure that comes with it can be a lot to deal with, especially when you’re a fraction off from your best self. Never mind how suffocating it can be when you play a game in front of your own fans and are way below the standard you’ve set over your career.

It’s been pretty rough for the franchise goaltender in the early going of this season, with the Canadiens stumbling out to their worst start to a season since WWII was in full swing; since the Chatanooga Choo Choo topped the charts; since Casablanca was playing in movie theatres; since…okay, you get the point. It’s rough and Price’s big contract—signed this past July—is still nearly a full calendar year away from kicking in.

It was particularly rough for Price on Thursday night, when he was mock-cheered with nearly 20 minutes remaining in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Just 200 feet away from Price, Jonathan Quick was putting on a show.

Only three Canadiens failed to register a shot on goal, and one of them was Nikita Scherbak, who left the game after seven shifts and did not return. Nearly all of them tested Quick, and he came up with all the saves—many of them of the incredible variety.

"We had tons of chances, but he’s one of the best goaltenders—if not the best—in the world right now," said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who had eight of Montreal’s 40 shots in the game.

That’s the label Price has worn for the better part of five years, but his play through nine starts has allowed someone else to borrow it.

Thursday marked the fifth time this season Price allowed at least four goals. He was handcuffed on the first one from Kings forward Andrian Kempe, beat clean on the second one just 11 seconds later, beat clean by a tremendous shot from Kings captain Anze Kopitar and left shaking his head on Kurtis MacDermid’s shot, which was tipped by Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw some 50 feet away from his net.

Did Price hear the taunts that came shortly after?

"Sure," he said. "I don’t have anything to say about it. It’s been done before, it’ll be done again."

True that.

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You’d think the fans in attendance would give Price a break, considering the Canadiens have scored on a grand total of 17 of their 354 shots while their defence has appeared sloppy at best this season. But the team is now 2-7-1 and nowhere close to appearing like the contender they hoped to see when they paid top dollar for their tickets.

A lot of fans left before the third period was even halfway through.

"It’s their money. They can do with it what they want," said Price.

He was calm as usual, even if he admitted he was frustrated.

Price has made a career out of covering up for ill-equipped Canadiens teams. With a career save percentage of .920 and a goals-against average of 2.42—numbers impacted by an .887 and a 3.60 through this pitiful start for his team—one can only imagine how much this is eating him up.

Pacioretty was asked if he felt bad for Price, and he took umbrage.

"Price? We’re all going through this, man. Come on," Pacioretty said. "We’re all going through this. This isn’t one guy; this is everybody. The defencemen, the goalies, the forwards; this is everybody.

"We’ve left him stranded. To say one guy… We all feel the same. We have heart in this room. We want to win games. If your job is to score goals, you want to score goals. If your job is to play physical, you want to play physical. To say one guy, do you feel bad for him? No, we don’t feel bad for anyone. We feel we have to turn this around, and the only way we’re going to be able to do it is by everyone looking in the mirror."

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It’s been so rare over the last half decade that Price could be grouped into a statement like that, and age will eventually only make it a more common occurrence.

It’s impossible to imagine that will become easier to deal with for the quiet kid from Anahim Lake, B.C.

"I just gotta find ways to stop the puck and keep the guys in it until we bury the puck," said Price after this latest disappointment. "It just seems that I’m not doing that right now so I just gotta find a way to do it."

He will. But more nights like these are on the horizon—if not for this edition of the Canadiens, than certainly for more than one of the eight that will see Price carrying a record cap hit.

You can just imagine how that’ll play.


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