Thursday, October 22, 2015

Price is ready to put Montreal in the Stanley Cup picture

By Larry Wigge

Unusual or uncanny?

There is a mural painted on the wall over his Cary Price's shoulder of the last of the great Montreal Canadiens goaltenders.

Patrick Roy.

Gives you an eery feeling that maybe the ghosts of the old Montreal Forum have moved crosstown to the Bell Centre.

"It's not daunting at all," Price said matter of factly as if to say he don't believe in any darn spirits of the dead. "It's kind of like my way to motivate myself. It's a great job ... if you do it right. And that's what I'm trying to do.

"You can't compare me with Patrick Roy, because I haven't done anything yet."

The 28-year-old Price was born in Anahim Lake, Saskatchewan. This is his seventh NHL season with the Montreal Canadiens. Carey was made of the Habs as his fifth overall position called for in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Growing up, Price was schooled in the fine art of goaltending by his father Jerry, who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the eighth round, 126th overall, in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft.

"My dad showed me a lot," Carey remembers. "There's lessons he taught me at an early age that I still use today.

"I do remember having a set of little goalie pads and I would bring my pads and play with him. We used to work on an outdoor rink in Anahim Lake. Pretty cold. We had a chicken wire fence around the outside of the rink. It got to be minus-20 and lower -- and believe me when a puck hits you, you feel it.

"My dad didn't push me. When I was growing up, he always asked me if I wanted to keep playing hockey. I just decided to go in the pipes one day and I've been there ever since."

From there to the legends of the Habs puckstoppers. In Montreal, everyone remembers the goalies who helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup. Nothing less.

Georges Vezina, George Hainsworth, Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, Rogie Vachon, Ken Dryden or Roy, winners of 24 Stanley Cups.

2013-14 season, Price put up numbers strictly for the stratophere. He became the first goaltender since Dominik Hasek in 1998 to be named NHL MVP (Hart Trophy), top goaltender (Vezina Trophy) and most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA.

In addition to these great stats, Price backstopped a gold medal for Canada in February of 2014 at Socchi, Russia . Price gave up just three goals in five games – two on tip-ins, one on a breakaway.

But, he'd trade everything for a Stanley Cup.

"That's my ultimate goal," Price said without hesitation. "I'd trade all four of these in for that one."

Headed for another standout season, Price was off to a 6-0 start following a 3-0 victory over St. Louis, stopping
an incredible 38 shots.

It was his second shutout in the last three games and lowered Carey's goal-against average to a miniscule 1.00 per game.

Carey Price has proved that if he can see a puck, he'll likely stop it.

Price was raised in a community in the northern Chilcotin wilderness so tiny it barely rates a dot on most road maps. His mother, Lynda, is serving her second term as chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation there. She is the first woman to serve on the executive of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and believes her son can become an example to native children facing challenges.

There was no organized hockey for Carey until he was 11. But his dad drove long and far to make sure his son would get the right kind of competition to help achieve his dream of playing in goal in the NHL. To that end, Jerry Price once bought a plane to fly Carey to elite-level hockey in Williams Lake, B.C., some 300 miles away. But Carey Price obviously made up for lost time in the competition department with the aid of his dad.

While Price said he admired Roy, Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph when he was growing up, he said his style is his own.

"I'm a mix of a little butterfly and standup," he added. "I'm big and I take up some room and I try to be in the right position, have the right angle."

What you may not know about Carey Price is that he's a kid who loves to play video games, play a guitar and relax in the big city of Montreal.

Lost behind the pads and goalie equipment, Price would fish and hunt at one of the nearby ranches. He was infamous for his displays of bow-hunting and he grew up riding horses as well.

After the playoff debacle in 2008, a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I packed away my hockey gear, turned off my cellphone and jumped in my truck and drove west," he told me. "There was a trip to Mexico with friends and a trip home to fish with my dad. Then I got back to work in late June, working out hard with my cousin, Keaton Ellerby."

According to Carey, there was a positive attempt to lose weight to help his quickness in goal and the strength of his core and legs -- which is important to all butterfly-style goaltenders. The weight-loss part of this story came at the suggestion of the Montreal training staff. He also spent several weeks of goaltending sessions with Eli Wilson, who runs a summer school for goaltenders that specializes in leg strength and recovery rate.

And ...

"The talk around the locker room now is that Carey is no longer enjoying no more late-night burgers, chocolate bars and other sorts of junk food," Price said, shaking his head. "That may be an exaggeration. I did work hard and began to eat right. When I reported to training camp I was 28 pounds lighter."

And then there's Stephane Waite. Price's goaltending coach at Montreal. Waits won Stanley Cups in 2010 and 2013 in Chicago working with Anti Niemi and Corey Crawford.

So Even if Price the person didn't change a whole lot, it's pretty clear that Price the goaltender did.

"Things just started to go well. You find a zone," Price emphasized. "I don't know if it's just maturity or just knowing you have the ability or whatever it is, you just go out there and do your job. Obviously you need a team in front of you to play well. I totally trust the guys that are playing around me, and that's the God’s honest truth. All I worry about is making that first save, and when you're doing that it really simplifies things."

At 28, Carey Price seems ready to take it to a different level ... Stanley Cup.

"He can be a real difference-maker if he chooses to be," said Canadian Olympic team coch Mike Babcock. "It looks like he has that fire."

Maybe the Patrick Roy mural will feel more like home for Carey Price.

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