On June 16, 2010 the Montreal Canadiens traded playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.
The city of Montreal and the whole province of Quebec was in uproar. Very few people around the National Hockey League believed that new No. 1 goalie Carey Price could carry the load in Montreal.
Price had already been given a shot to prove that he could be the guy in Montreal. After being drafted fifth overall in the 2005 entry draft, he started his NHL career on October 10, 2007 with a 3-2 win in Pittsburgh.
Going on to win 24 of his 41 games that year, Price was already being compared to Canadiens great Patrick Roy.
Price’s production fell off the next season, as he won only 23 of his 52 games. He finished the year with a 2.83 goals against average and a save percentage of .905. While these numbers aren’t exactly bad for a 21-year-old playing in only his second season, the Montreal Canadiens expected more out of Price.
Then in the 2009-2010 season, Carey Price only won 13 games.
Being the No. 1 goalie in Montreal just might be the toughest job in hockey. You are under the microscope in a town where hockey is the heart of everything. It was apparent that the pressure of the media and fans was starting to get to Price, and he was folding under all of the scrutiny. But he was given another chance.
Price split time last season with newcomer Jaroslav Halak. After Halak won the starting job for the playoffs, he stole the heart of the Canadiens faithful after a first-round upset of the top-seeded Washington Capitals. Next, he blanked Sidney Crosby and the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. It seemed that the Canadiens had found the answer for their goaltending struggles and that Halak was the guy.
Then came the trade to St. Louis.
The Canadiens front office had made it clear that they had confidence in Carey Price, even if the fans didn’t.
After being booed in the preseason this year, Price has played like a guy with a chip on his shoulder. He is out to prove that he deserves to be the starter in Montreal and that he can handle the pressure.
Winning six of his first nine starts, and 13 of 21 overall so far, Price has shown that he can perform in the spotlight and is ready to carry the load in Montreal.
Playing with confidence between the pipes, Price’s mechanics have been nearly perfect. He is showing the kind of high-end skill that made him a first-round pick. More important is how is handling the pressure of playing in Montreal. Nothing seems to faze him this year, and it has really shown in his on-ice performance.
Finally winning over the fans in Montreal, Price is also making his name known around the NHL. His .933 save percentage is fourth best in the league, while his 2.00 goals against average is good for fifth. He has doubled his career shutout total this year with four.
If Price can keep playing the way he has, Jaroslav Halak’s playoff heroics will be a distant memory for Canadiens fans.