A little less than one year ago, on the June 17th, 2010, the Montreal Canadiens shocked their following and the whole of the NHL for that matter by trading away the man who was without a doubt their MVP in last year’s playoffs. Yes, against the wish of most fans the Habs decided to send Jaroslav Halak packing and put their faith in Carey Price’s potential. Almost instantly, the fans started to blame Price for the trade and from the first preseason game, Price had to deal with boos and jeers. Fast forward to today however and have things ever changed!
Against all odds, in the face of adversity and in hockey mad Montreal, Price managed to backstop the Canadiens to a playoff berth even though they were faced with plenty of injuries during the year and most experts did not foresee them as postseason material. Most importantly though, Price also managed to turn anger and resentment into admiration for this year he was voted by the fans as the winner of the Molson Cup. How things can change in the space of a season. Having the coach’s full confidence, Price even set a new record for the most games played by a Habs goaltender in a season (overtaking Habs legend Jacques Plante). Of course, that’s only the number of games played but a goaltender who is not doing well doesn’t play that many games. Number 31’s record speaks for itself, with 36 wins, a save percentage of 92.3% and a goals against average of 2.37 Price is the biggest reason why the Habs got their ticket to the spring dance.
It is rather refreshing to see the young goaltender bounce back like this after his fall from grace last year. Montreal is probably the hardest city to ply your trade in when you are a young goaltender struggling to learn to cope with the demands and the pressure of the NHL. Everything you do, or don’t do is scrutinized ten times over by every possible media outlet. Losing his number 1 goalie spot to Halak last year thought Price a lesson and slowly but surely he learned to cope with it, he worked hard in practice and when it was time to step up at the start of the season he was as ready as could be.
Today, Carey Price can truly say that he has been vindicated and that the fans who were upset about the Halak trade have now gotten over it. However, he won’t say it he has too much class for that and that’s how Montreal likes its heroes.
After the playoff clinching victory though, Price was not the only player who could feel vindicated. The other hero of the game for La Sainte-Flanelle, P.K. Subban must have felt that way as well. The youngster scored the game-winning goal in overtime and allowed himself to celebrate in a somewhat unconventional manner for a Montreal player. In fact, the last time he used his “arrow” celebration, Subban got criticized everywhere in the papers; too flashy, takes too much room for a rookie, and does not respect the veterans on the team...the list went on and on...That was back in January, four months on though, Subban has got the flashy numbers to match his flashy attitude. In fact, his numbers are so good that he might tie the all time goal record for a Habs rookie defensemen set by Guy “Pointu” Lapointe back in the 1970-1971 season. In 75 games this year, Subban has notched 14 goals and added 24 assists for 38 points which makes him the 5th highest point scorer on the Habs roster and yes, that is ahead of Scott Gomez.
The next morning, no one was criticizing Subban in the papers. No, now, people realize how important Subban is to this team. This season, the rookie has been a minute’s muncher on the ice and he is without a doubt the reason why the Habs were able to overcome the prolonged absence of Andrei Markov and the injuries to many regular defensemen this year. Sure, it wasn’t always easy, there were teething pain and he even watched a few games from the press gallery but now, Subban is an integral part of the Canadiens. No one lifts the Bell Centre like him when he decides to carry the puck from one end of the ice to the other, the fans are delighted when they see Subban and Price executed their now famous triple low five and for once, traditional Montreal is learning to love a little bit of difference.
No matter what happens in the playoffs, both of these young players can be proud of their accomplishments and of themselves this year. They have both grown so much as hockey players and stole the heart of so many hockey fans. The future now looks bright in Montreal with high talent both in net and at the blue line and, as they say, the future is now so go get them boys...roll on April 13th!