I know I said I wouldn't pay attention to the score of that game the other night. Really, I don't care much about it all. It's just that as I try to fins anything to read about the Canadiens, all the usual sources have their thoughts dammed at the goaltending position.
Before the game, I took my own advice, as I said and made sure I didn't make silly extrapolations from a single game (or half game) in which players we won't even see were playing players we may never see again. Instead of watching the scoreline, I watched Pouliot, Leblanc, Maxwell and Tinordi. I couldn't help but notice Price, but to be honest he didn't do anything to surprise or shock.
Since the game, I have been thinking about Price, the boos, the media response and his teammates. I have come to a few conclusions on the whole thing:
1) This game was going to happen sooner or later
2) Better that it happen now, sooner rather than later
3) The fans were not doing anything unusual
We've had tiring discussion after tiring discussion about Price's apprenticeship to the NHL. Price is learning, we've admitted that. Let's not forget that. He's learning to play in the NHL and that means learning that NHLers can do things junior players can't. As things go, I'd like him to get his hard lessons in at the best possible times. If he has to learn about covering angles, puckhandling and gaining back composure in one game, it's far better than learning all that over 20 games.
This season, after a layoff of quite some time from playing in NHL games, Price was always going to have to be reminded of his weaknesses. Personally, I'm happy the game happened at the earliest possible juncture. I wasn't under any illusion that a summer of training would correct all ills, so better the young goalie (and his team) bring these working points up as early as possible so that they may be on the agenda for every practice from here on. Really, it's a positive thing. How could it not be? Because players who need to improve need to have what they need to improve firmly implanted when they sat out to train. I don't think those lessons could escape anyone after this debacle.
As for the fans, there are two issues here. The first is that they overreacted to the goings on in a preseason game. Second is that we shouldn't be surprised. We fans (and I think it's fair to include us all in this to some degree and not hold to snobbery) overreact to many things surrounding the Canadiens. Dare I say, most things. This game is barely less significant than opening month and those criticising the fans of yesterday are often among the group that talk in terms of being in or out of the playoffs in November. There's degrees of our madness, but don't think we're not all mad.
Anyway, no surprise in the reaction at all for me, or I think for anyone (although they feign their shock). But apart from being blase about this, I also think the chorus of boos could have a strangely positive effect. In fact, I think it already has.
Carey Price now remembers where he is again (not a rodeo ring) and that his rewards for hard work will be paid out at games (in rapturous sound or lack thereof). The team and coaches also see that they need to work hard. For they can talk about the need to protect Carey from their pathetic breakdowns until the cows come home, but at some point we need to see improvement there too. As the hunky-dory of scrimmage game reports flatter players playing against their own squad, they also need these reminders that they're all on the hook for mistakes with these fans. The team has responded at least in voice about this, and we can only hope they respond at some point in play.
One game into a preseason is a strange time to be writing a piece about a team regrouping, or so it would seem. But if regrouping means refocusing on the things that will bring better results, then I couldn't be happier to be writing this now so that in December I may not have to.