Sunday, July 13, 2008

Habs Review 2007-08:

Carey Price

The numbers

41 GP: 24 W, 12 L, 3 OTL, 2.56 GAA, .920 Save %, 3 SO

Career best year
Rookie (Same as above)

2007-08 playoffs
11 GP: 5 W, 6 L, 2.78 GAA, .901 Save %, 2 SO

Career best playoffs
Rookie (Same as above)

Plays of the game: 5

Game pucks: 6

Domes: 40

3 Star selections: 8 First, 8 Second, 3 Third

The story

Where he started the season
Carey had one of the most impressive seasons of any Hab prospect in a long time in 2006-07. If you forget the mediocre work he did with his junior team in the playoffs then it would be considered a perfect season. Taking home the best goaltender of the CHL, as well as gongs for MVP of the WJC. What's more, just 3 months after leading Canada to gold at the world juniors, he was at it again as the backbone of another championship team; the Hamilton Bulldogs, taking that MVP award as well.

Camp would start less than a month after his 20th birthday, so making the team was going to be tough. A lot of people thought that Carey would benefit more from a full year in Hamilton than a year of playing back-up to Huet (notably us), while a more clairvoyant (as it turns out) minority thought he should get NHL exposure. What the Habs did know was that we would be carrying a young goalie as our #2, so Price really did have a shot. All through camp it looked like Halak had him beat, but at the last minute Gainey made the call to keep Price in Montreal and to have him start his NHL career ASAP. We didn't know what kind of minutes we'd get out of Carey, but what we did know was that our goalie of the future had arrived.

The season
Price's first game would come on the road against the mighty Penguins. Despite his first ever goal against early in the 1st (to Ryan Whitney) the kid would bounce back and lead the Habs to victory. Clad in an all white mask (a la Patrick Roy '86, the Anti-Martin Gerber) he impressed in that first game and was named the game's second star. He went on to record a 4-1-1 record in his next 6 games and it was becoming obvious that he was indeed here to stay. As the season went on, his playing time went up. In early December Huet was sidelined with a minor injury and Price was called on to play in every game during that stretch. This added pressure seemed too much for the kid, however, as he only recorded 3 wins in 10 games before finally being demoted to the farm.

The idea (unbeknownst to us at the time) was that Price would go down to Hamilton, regain his confidence and then return to Montreal (apparently as the #1). It wasn't long after Carey's early-February call-up that Huet was traded and the weight of a city would fall on the 20 year-old's shoulders. He went on to finish the regular season with a truly remarkable record of 15-4 and it was into the playoffs as the #1 seed for the Habs. In the playoffs, I think the pressure once again got to Carey. He was able to play well enough to squeak by #8 Boston, but his play was simply not good enough to go any further. The season would end very abruptly for the Habs leaving us all asking ourselves yet again - was Carey the man of the future? With 15 goals against in 4 games against Philly I think quite honestly, the questioning is valid. For one thing, the bubble has been burst on Carey never succumbing to pressure, never having 2 bad games in a row and never giving up in a game. So, he's human after all.

Highlights: You could almost forget he were a rookie, were it not for that white mask, such is the quality of these highlights

Price by the numbers:

Lions' links on Price:
To Trade Huet?
Why Gainey should be open to trading Carey Price
Canadiens rookie camp
Halak of respect?
Chink in Price's armour
Does three goalies constitute depth?
Not buying the hype on Price
Price Update
Locke and Halak given their chance
What's right for Price?
Disappointing News for Halak
Here We Go Again
Round 1: Montreal - Boston Preview
Wading Through The Rhetoric

Grade: B+
Carey's grade would have been higher had he kept up his regular season play in the playoffs. He did, however, have a great season considering just how young he is and the situation that he was put into. I don't think anyone expected the team to go all in with Carey, but as of now it looks like they may be onto something. It wasn't his fault that Huet was traded for nothing or that Halak saw limited time, so I really can't hold anything against him. All Carey did was play his best, act and speak like a 10-year veteran and deliver 24 wins in only 41 games.

One knock on the kid has to be his inability to let a bad goal go. If he gets scored early and it was a shot that he should have had then the game, at that point, seemed like a foregone conclusion. I noticed this about 3 or 4 times during the regular season and in pretty much all of his losses during the playoffs. His play in general was very solid, however, with only a few areas that aren't quite at NHL-star level. His puckhandling was the weakest part of his game (non-mental) following in the footsteps of pretty much every Habs goalie since Roy.

Where we'd have him next season
I don't think that he played well enough this year to be our guaranteed #1 for the upcoming season. I am positive that more people in the Habs orginization are Carey people than Halak people, but I still think it will be a battle. The addition of Marc Denis shouldn't have any impact at the NHL level as he has proven time and time again that the NHL isn't the league for him. So Right now I would say that Carey is in the driver's seat, but I believe the battle for Habs #1 will go on for a long time and may not even be resolved by season's end. What I do expect from Carey is improved play from this year. If his numbers do indeed improve then I believe that our team has nowhere to go but up. Price has proven he is a true champion and I am sure he is more eager than anyone to prove that that title also applies to the NHL.

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