Bobrovsky Wins the Battle, But Carey Price Is Rightly Winning the All-Star War

Alistair SmoutContributor IDecember 15, 2010

MONTREAL - NOVEMBER 16:  Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers stops the puck during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on November 16, 2010 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Wednesday night saw the match-up of what were, until recently, the two leading goalies in the NHL All-Star ballot, and I was interested to see how the pair would match up.

It was Sergei Bobrovsky, the Russian rookie for Philadelphia, who came out on top as Montreal's Carey Price conceded five goals for the first time this season.

But that doesn't mean that Bob should head to the All-Star game in Price's place.

Let's put this in some context: The Montreal fans are a dedicated bunch and Wednesday night was about the 266th straight sellout at Bell Centre. Their dedication can transform itself into slight obnoxiousness, however.

In fairness, they only boo the real cardinal sins. You know, when the ref doesn't give a penalty against the Flyers for being within a two metre radius when P.K. Subban decides to fall over, or for being French-Canadian and having the temerity to have never played for Les Habs.

So you've got to have sympathy for anyone who stands between the pipes for them.

I've never really liked Price, but mainly for reasons which aren't at all his fault and have more to do with this dedicated/obnoxious culture of the franchise.

I hold it against him when the Montreal management tries to artificially make him the next Patrick Roy by starting him in the playoffs when he's not ready. I loathe him for winning the 2009 All-Star Game Ballot, along with half of the Habs' starting skaters, just because the Quebecois voted in droves to see their idols in All-Star garb at the Bell Centre.

The pressure cooker that is Montreal creates a massive overreaction to any success and any failure—this isn't news.

What's nice is that this season, Price deserves the praise he's been getting and possibly deserves to be at the top of the All-Star ballot. I say possibly because we all know that the ever unfashionable Tim Thomas actually probably should be there, and would be if he played for Les Habs.

Moreover, had Carey Price put up these numbers in Nashville, Phoenix or (whispers) St. Louis, he could drive through downtown Toronto with a megaphone and still the media wouldn't pay attention.

However, the fact that Price has done this in Montreal is a feat in itself. He followed in the shadow of Halak and was booed in his first preseason game. This may have actually taken some pressure off and because he was the unchallenged starter, he could only exceed expectations.

But to have stuck around so long and shown the resilience to rise to the challenge he faced at the beginning of this season took guts.

If Tim Thomas were in Montreal, he wouldn't have made it to this season. The fans would've driven him to an early retirement and the psychiatrist's chair for daring to follow a Vezina year with a dud, while if Tuukka Rask was a Hab, they would've awarded him Time Man of the Year for finishing with a GAA below 2.00.

Carey Price deserves kudos for sheer perseverence. His abilities may be overstated by the current polling, but he's earned it purely for putting up with so much crap for so long and being able to thrive in an atmosphere which would stifle most others.

So, what about Bob? I remember when the All-Star voting opened, I had a look at the ballot and thought about writing in for Bobrovsky, as a personal acknowledgment to a good start to an NHL career—I didn't realize that hundreds of thousands of others would have the same idea.

He's not going to win the All-Star Ballot and it's better for him that he doesn't. He's good, but not an All-Star—yet. He's never gotten a shutout in the NHL. Brian Boucher is giving him a run for his playing time. Now is not the time in his career to put pressure on him.

I'm sure that no one had really written him off as an NHL goalie after the San Jose game, but by the same token, it showed he was mortal and much like Price in the preseason, it may have done him some good.

Some of the Flyers fans seemed to have a messiah complex for him, which he could do without. Philadelphia may not be Montreal, but the fans can be known to place unrealistic expectations on goalie prospects.

Wednesday night's game turned into a shootout in the third and was not a battle between two All-Stars. Bobrovsky outplayed Price, making 38 saves, some of which were stella; however, he conceded goals in the last period that he would have liked to have back.

I have faith that he will get there. He is not the next Bernie Parent and that is a good thing. If he makes it, he will be the best Flyer goaltender for a generation.

But piling on the pressure helps no one, except possibly Brian Boucher—just ask Carey "The Next Roy?" Price.