Canadiens’ hot prospect is following Patrick Roy’s path to the NHL


Story by Michael Traikos
National Post
Friday, June 01, 2007
CREDIT: John Kenney/CanWest News Service

Drafted fifth overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2005, goalie Carey Price is having a breakout season with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He’ll be in goal for the Calder Cup final Friday night.
HAMILTON – Carey Price has heard all about Patrick Roy’s coming-of-age story. As the Hamilton Bulldogs goaltender prepares for tonight’s Game 1 of American Hockey League championship series, he is writing a similar narrative for himself.
In 1985, Roy was coming off what had been a disappointing season in junior hockey when the Montreal Canadiens invited the 19-year-old to join their AHL affiliate in Sherbrooke, Que., for the playoffs.
The idea was for the goaltending prospect to hang around the team and get a feel for the pro ranks — from dressing room and the press box.
But backup goaltender Paul Pageau’s wife went into labour, and Roy found himself on the bench.
Then starting goaltender Greg Moffett’s equipment fell apart during Game 1 of the playoffs, and Roy suddenly found himself in net. What happened next is part of hockey legend.
In a preview of his outstanding NHL goaltending career, Roy performed spectacularly to lead Sherbrooke to an unlikely Calder Cup championship.
He followed up that success the following season, when the NHL rookie was named playoff MVP in capturing his first of four Stanley Cups.
“My teammates told me about what Roy did after being called up,” Price said this week after practice at Copps Coliseum.
He has been following the same plot in this year’s AHL playoffs.
“I was obviously coming to help out the team, no matter what role I was playing– whether I was going to be up in the stands or backing up. So it’s definitely been a ride so far.”
Like Roy, this latest 19-yearold Canadiens prospect played a full junior season in the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans before joining the Bulldogs right before start of the playoffs — the Americans having been bounced in the first round of post-season play.
But it did not take an unexpected birth and wardrobe malfunction for Price to become the No. 1 netminder.
Instead, Price stole the starting job from Yann Danis and Philippe Sauve after playing in two of the final three regularseason games for the Bulldogs.
In his first playoff game, Price stopped all 34 shots he faced for a 2-0 shutout win against Rochester.
Since then, he has maintained a 2.13 goals-against average to help sixth-seeded Hamilton upset No. 2-ranked Manitoba and No. 3-ranked Chicago. They meet the Hershey Bears in the final starting tonight in Hershey, Pa.
“There was no hesitation,” Bulldogs head coach Don Lever said of deciding to start Price for Game 1 of the playoffs.
“If he had gone in and been shaky, there would have been no qualms about going to Yann right way. But he took the net and rode with it. He’s definitely earned it.”
When Montreal drafted him fifth overall in 2005, the only thing that Price had earned was criticism from Canadiens fans.
At the time, the team had 2002 Vezina Trophy winner Jose Theodore as its starting goaltender, which caused people to wonder where an Anglophone who had been cut from Canada’s 2006 junior hockey team would fit in.
Two years later, Theodore is no longer in Montreal and it has become perfectly clear where Price fits in: as the franchise’s goaltender of the near, if not immediate, future.
“A lot of people had question marks when [Canadiens general manager] Bob Gainey made that decision to pick him first,” Roy, now the coach of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec junior league, said.
“But now everybody realizes how good he is and how much potential he has.
“Maybe next year, he might be ready to step on the ice with the NHL team.”
Whatever happens next season, 2007 will be remembered as Price’s breakout year. The Anahim Lake, B.C., native took home gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships in January, was recently named the Canadian Hockey League’s goaltender of the year, and is four wins away from winning a Calder Cup.
“He’s backing up all the hype,” Bulldogs alternate captain Ajay Baines said.
“It’s something for me that I’m going to be able to look back and say I got a chance to play with this guy, because the upside’s so huge for him.”
Despite the publicity that surrounded Price’s three-year, US$2.805-million contract in April, there was still some uncertainty that the junior hockey standout would be able to replicate his success at the pro level.
Of course, he soon put those fears to rest.
“I think after that first game, everybody’s eyes were open,” said Baines. “I mean, c’mon, let’s not kid ourselves here; throughout the playoffs, he’s been our most valuable player.”
“He’s a money player,” Bulldogs forward Maxim Lapierre said.
“He’s calm in net. That’s good for when he goes to play for the Canadiens.”
Though Price is winning praise for his on-ice play during the Calder Cup playoffs, it is his stoicism that may serve him well in the hockey hotbed of Montreal.
Price, who could become the first high-profile Anglophone goaltender to play for the Canadiens since Ken Dryden, does not speak French, except for a few profanities.
“He’s been getting a lot of press, but nothing like how it’s going to be when he gets to the NHL,” said Lever, who pulled Price in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, only to have him come back and win the following two games.
“Just playing in Montreal alone, he’s got the right persona for that. I really do believe that.”
Team officials joke that the reserved teen can answer “25 questions in one monosyllabic minute,” while Tri-City head coach Don Nachbaur claims, “Price never once broke his stick after allowing a goal.”
For that, you can thank Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig.
During the 2003-04 NHL lockout Kolzig, who co-owns the Tri- City team, taught Price to better hide his emotions and keep an even keel during the best and worst of times.
“Good for him that he is a boring interview,” Kolzig said. “That’s good to see. There’s no question that he’s got to be unflappable.
“I’m advising him not to read into anything that the media are saying; don’t read the papers, don’t watch the news, don’t listen to them when they absolutely think you’re the king, don’t listen to them when they think you’re the worst person on earth.
“Just go and play hockey.”
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