During last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carey Price played only one game throughout the Montreal Canadiens' remarkable run. The hockey world was in shock when the team traded off their playoff star Jaroslav Halak and named Price their starting goaltender. And it seems like it was just yesterday when, during the 2010-2011 preseason, the crowd at the Bell Center in Montreal emphatically booed him as he skated on and off the ice.
After the notorious booing incident, Price issued a statement to Habs fans via the media: "Chill."
For the passionate hockey fans in Montreal, this was a bold, almost insolent statement. After all, they live and breathe hockey over there, and no self-respecting Canadiens fan is willing to sit back and "chill" when the playoff future of their beloved age-old franchise is at stake.
But things have certainly changed for the small-town British Columbia native. Since then, it seems Price has taken his own advice and has become more calm, more steady, and more confident in net as the Habs' starting goaltender. In the span of 82 games we have watched the young goalie grow into a player who could very well be the reason the Habs repeat last year's extrordinary post-season story.
He's a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, though that honor is sure to go to veteran Tim Thomas and his incredible comeback. Price was a few games short of reaching and breaking several franchise records, needing only 9 more wins in the regular season to catch up to the legendary Jacques Plante for most victories in a season at 42. He played more minutes than any other goaltender in the league during the 2010-2011 season. Not to mention that his shutout total for the season is double the amount of shutouts he's had in his previous 3 years in the NHL combined.
12 months ago, Price was merely the backup netminder for his surging Habs, sitting meekly on the bench, while all eyes (including his own) were on Halak. But through the course of the year, he has stepped up to the plate and assumed the responsibility given to him of being the starting goalie for a team that represents the very essence of Canadian hockey. It's a lot of pressure, but somehow he's done it.
Price is almost a completely different person on the ice nowadays, known for his acrobatic saves, humorous gestures and memorable celebrations. Forget the captain Gionta, the cocky but dynamic rookie Subban or the learned veteran Gill. Carey Price runs the show on the Canadiens roster. And if he continues to play the way he did in the first game of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, it won't be long until he's running the entire province of Quebec.