Price for the Prize: Montreal's Rookie Goaltender for the Conn Smythe 2008

Ryan MillarCorrespondent IApril 10, 2008

It's a truism that if you want to hoist Lord Stanley's mug, the best player on your team needs to be your goaltender.

Of course, the rest of your team also needs to be white-hot for 16 to 28 postseason games. There is no room for coattail riders in the grueling postseason.

Not only does the whole team need to play at the top of their game, but each and every player needs to bring a little something extra to the game. And I'm not just talking beards here; well-springs of energy need to be tapped, heavy hits shaken off, and grit, goals and guts brought to the ice for every shift.

Good doesn't cut it. Sensational does.

This postseason I've got a good feeling about one of the surprise teams of the 2007-2008 NHL season. The Montreal Canadiens were picked by many to finish the regular season out of the playoffs, but instead they finished top of the Eastern Conference.

This was due in no small part to the rookie goaltender's outstanding season. In fact, he was so good, Montreal traded away their original number one goaltender, Cristobal Huet, at the trade deadline, making Price their go-to man.

Or should I say go-to boy? The rookie starter is only 20.

Regardless of age, he responded to the call like a seasoned vet, going 16-5 since Montreal traded away Huet. On the season he has a 2.56 GAA and .920 save percentage.

Not too bad at all for a rookie who had the mantle of starting goaltender for a Stanley Cup contender thrust upon him at an age when most goaltenders are still years away from the NHL. To put it in perspective, Nabokov is 32, Brodeur is 35, and Henrik Ludqvist (also a relative youngster) is 26.

Watch for this kid to outshine the other highly touted youngsters: the Sid the Kids, the Malkins, and Ovechkins. Watch him stare down the older goaltenders with their years of experience.

There's no denying Montreal will need their veterans to lead this team if they want to go deep, but they also need sensational goaltending. Price has proven himself equal to the task.

Montreal is a hockey-mad town with a rich and storied history. History will be made yet again this year if they hoist the biggest prize on the strength of their rookie goaltender.