With Jaroslav Halak (Montreal’s star of last season) leaving over the summer, the pressure is now once again on Carey Price. And as Price celebrates his 23rd birthday he has much to look forward to; first and foremost, he must launch the Habs back into the playoffs in 2010-11.
The Canadiens surprised everyone last season as they reached the Eastern Conference finals, dumping out Washington and Pittsburgh in the process. This was largely due to their committed team defense and some extremely good goaltending by Halak.
With Halak on his way to St. Louis, Price will once again be the center of attention in Montreal. To this point, Price hasn’t exactly thrived on pressure at the NHL level. However, when he helped the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL to the Calder Cup title in 2007, he responded supurbly to immense pressure. The thing is, the pressure of playing for Montreal is on a different level entirely, and following the Canadiens’ fantastic progress last season, the expectations will be even higher this time out.
Before Halak was called up to the Canadiens in 2007, Price was their first choice between the pipes. However, Halak’s impressive goaltending made it a two-horse race, with Halak coming out on top. The pressure was taken away from Price, but he will not have that luxury this season.
Halak had a very good season, and it was largely due to the amount of shots he stopped. Montreal found it difficult to defend without Andrei Markov in defence, who missed a large chunk of last season through injury. With Markov looking fit for the new season, Price will likely be a bit more confident suiting up for the Habs.
Price’s inability to respond to pressure has in the past been put down to lack of experience. However, Price is now 23 and will be playing in his fourth NHL season. He has more experience than many of his peers, and the stability of still being a member of the same franchise by which he was drafted.
Price does not like losing, but he’s not the only one. He is a naturally gifted shot-stopper, but his mental strength has question marks. The British Columbia native has successfully helped the Habs qualify for the playoffs every year of his NHL career. Now Price has to give something back to the franchise that has stuck with him through thick and thin.
The Canadiens will once again be expected to reach the playoffs for the fourth year running, and Price will play a vital role, as Halak did last season.