Carey Price is the Most Misunderstood Goaltender in the NHL

By
Updated: January 16, 2014
Carey Price

Carey Price and his career with the Montreal Canadiens has been tumultuous, to say the least.  He was thrusted into the starting role in early 2008 as a rookie 20-year-old goaltender, for a team that unexpectedly finished first overall in the now defunct Northeast Division and also first overall in the Eastern Conference.  Up-and-down play from the British Columbia native has plagued the young star with an intense love-hate relationship with Habs fans.  When then general manager Pierre Gauthier traded goaltender Jaroslav Halak for Lars Eller after an amazing playoff run with a performance similar to that of a guy who wore 33 for the Canadiens, the trade was met with ire from many fans who felt they traded the wrong guy.  It was understood that one goaltender would be moving out of town.  Few expected it to be Halak.

To state it simply, no favours have been afforded to Price in his time with the Montreal Canadiens to help endear him to the fans.  Throw in quite a few questionable goals in the playoffs, and support from the Bell Centre has been quite fickle.

Despite heavy criticism at times, Carey Price has continued to perform.  With the exception of a late season stumble from Price last year at a time when it seems obvious now that he was injured, he was likely on pace for a Vezina Trophy nomination.  This season he has continued with a level of excellence and has secured himself a spot on the highly competitive Team Canada for the 2014 Olympic Winter games in Sochi, Russia.  While he is not assured a starting role, he is the presumed starter for the team at this point.

So how is Carey Price misunderstood?

If you’re watching Price play game after game, there are patterns that are predictable.  If Price is out at the top of the crease and challenging shooters, it is safe to assume the team is coming away with two points.  If he is back in the net and not challenging the shooters, it’s likely to be a long night.  But it is in Price’s demeanor that leads to him being so misunderstood.  When you watch him play, he is very controlled and calm at all-times – even when the 21,273 in attendance are not.

When trying to describe a goaltender in words, are “anxious, nervous, overwrought,” how you would describe the ideal goaltender? Of course they’re not.  A goaltender in hockey is much like a pitcher in baseball: calm, controlled, unshakable – this is what you want to see.  At the absolute peak of emotion in a sporting event, in a moment when the thousands of fans in the arena have their hands on their head and cannot control themselves, we ask our athletes to remain in control.  Carey Price has this.

Yet because he remains calm, remains controlled and whether he just made a highlight reel save or let in a soft goal, he immediately is moving on to the next shot; his perception from haters is that he is the epitome of flippancy.  When Price comes out of the net to play the puck, he’s not operating with a sense of urgency. And a fan base that has urgency coming out of their pores, a disconnect between fan and athlete is created.  Critics of Price want to see more of a Ron Hextall personality to remind them that he does care.

Any defender of Carey Price within the fan base of the Montreal Canadiens is likely to feel that it is an exercise in futility to try to have a Critic understand.  The Canadiens have a 26-year-old goaltender, an all-star caliber netminder, a goaltender that will presumably be starting in the Winter Olympics for the defending goal medal winning country. The team also has a fan base that is clearly divided.

When you look at Price’s roots, he is a young man from a small town and a simple upbringing.  He doesn’t crave a limelight or seek attention.  It’s safe to assume that if he were the starting goaltender for a small-market team somewhere in the United States, life might be a little bit easier for the young star.  But he’s not – he was dropped into the pressure cooker that it is to be the starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.  And while it has been tough for him at times over the years, the young star has turned a corner.  There’s a portion of fans of the team that still resent the trades that have continued to leave him with the Canadiens and they hold up goals that are often not his fault as justification for their disdain.  Measuring intangibles to try to explain something that doesn’t exist is a common denominator among the ones who claim Petr Budaj should be the starter or that Zach Fucale is the future of this team.

The irony here is that what makes Carey Price great is exactly what his critics hold against him.  When you think of the greatest relief pitcher of all-time, Mariano Rivera, if someone hit a line drive up the middle off an 0-2 fastball, did he give off any response?  He didn’t. It wasn’t in him.  If it was, he wouldn’t have been as great as he was.

If your perception of Carey Price is one of flippancy, you’re not paying attention.

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Main photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

3 Comments

  1. Ziglveit B Schtoonik

    January 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Price is a great goalie for the regular season. He cannot handle the playoffs. In 2013 he single-handedly gave the series to the Sens. He cannot handle pressure. He is no Halak. He may have improved but I doubt it. He should be traded for players that the Habs need to fill the deficiencies in their game. You can’t win unless you score a goal. Goalies are not that valued anymore. Most teams can pick up goalies as UFAs or in trades without giving up a lot of assets. Anderson came at a reasonable price and the Lightning acquired Bishop for an undrafted Conacher. Kari Rammo was a throw-in on the Cammalleri deal. There are a ton of goalies out there who could take you deep in the playoffs and could be had for a reasonable cost. Let’s not delude ourselves into believing that Price is the only way to the promised land. Better goalies merely keep you from seeing the flaws in your team and correcting them. Until you fix those flaws you are going nowhere. Goalies don’t score goals and you don’t win without goal-scoring. Even the 1993 Habs had some scorers like Leclair, Bellows, Damphousse, Savard and Leeman etc. These Habs teams of the last 20 years have nothing but 4th liners.

    • Lee McNeil

      January 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      I shudder to think where the Montreal Canadiens would be in the standings if not for Carey Price! There’s some holes that surely need to be filled on this club and Marc Bergevin needs to adequately fill those gaps and to rid this team of its lazy passengers! There’s no doubt in my mind that Price tweaked a hamstring during or before the remaining seven games to be played in the 2013 regular season campaign. Adding Stephan Waite to the payroll was a very smart move by this GM. This year we see Price’s lateral movement’s much quicker; he’s challenging the shooter and the PUCK now more so than ever in his career! I suppose he should have scored in last night’s game against Ottawa as opposed to literally standing on his head while stealing two crucial points! You’re as good the team that is in front of you – in this case, Carey Price is much more better than that, and it’s up to Bergevin to see past his great netminder and to give him the quality pro hockey players that he deserves. I can just imagine his numbers soaring if, say, he played for the Hawks, Pens, or even the Caps! Halak plays for a defensive style first mentality for Hitchcock’s team in St. Louis. Try to remember that stinker of a series that he played against Philly that year. He came back down to earth after having a ‘Steve Penny’ like TWO series. Go cheer for that team in Toronto!

  2. Rick Wiseman, Admin

    January 19, 2014 at 7:19 am

    “Goalies are not that valued anymore.”

    I guess we’ll agree to disagree.

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