Carey Price matures, takes his responsibility as Montreal's #1 goalie seriously

careyprice4.jpgBeing the starting goalie for the Montreal Canadiens could be viewed as one of the toughest jobs in the NHL. There’s pressure to be the absolute best in the world game in and game out or else you’ll be run out of town like a witch would in Colonial America.

For a guy like Carey Price, the hill to climb to be appreciated fully is even steeper after being relegated to the bench last year by Jaroslav Halak’s stellar play and still dealing with the scornful eye of some fans for an image that was perceived to be that of a carousing playboy not taking his job seriously.

With Halak out of town, Montreal is Price’s town to make it or break it and according to Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette, his playboy partying days may be out of the headlines for good as he’s matured into taking his job seriously now.

In Kelowna, B.C., Price spent part of the summer working with Canadiens goaltending coach Pierre Groulx. Last season, Groulx’s first with the club, was a feeling-out process for both men. This year, Price said, “we’re going to be a lot more detailed.”

“We worked on a lot of technical aspects we wanted to bang out,” he explained of their summer sessions. “This season, we’re going to be more thorough with things.”

There was no need for either to dwell on last season’s statistics. Price was 13-20-5 with a pedestrian save percentage of .912, a spectator in 13 of the Canadiens’ final 15 regular-season games and a participant in only four of their 19 playoff matches, three times appearing only in relief.

The running gag last season at head coach Jacques Martin’s media briefings was the question, “Who’s in net tomorrow night?” to which Martin would reply he’d sleep on it, since he believed he had two No. 1 goalies.

“It’s a different scenario this year,” Martin said yesterday through a smile. “Carey is our No. 1 and Alex Auld is going to support him. It’s the situation we’re confident with entering the season.”

It’s encouraging to see Price buckling down and taking his job more serious. His first season in the NHL was brilliant and to see him struggle the way he did the last two years was startling. After all, seeing goalies arrive on the scene hot only to fizzle out shortly thereafter isn’t uncommon in the NHL. To see it happen in Montreal would over-dramatize the situation and turn it into a provincial catastrophe in Quebec.

After all, we’ve seen what happened when photos of Price out drinking and partying did to Montreal, having him burnout completely would only make things seem even more insane than they already are in the hockey-mad city. If Price can ultimately revive his career in the city that’s re-embracing him as their star, it’d make for one heck of a movie script. Playing in Jacques Martin’s defense-centric system can only serve to benefit all the more, but it’s up to Price to determine how bad he wants it.

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    Looks like Laine, Jets are heating up

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    Big breaks can be really nice for NHL teams, but sometimes you wonder if the timing is all wrong. It will be interesting to see if the Winnipeg Jets (and Patrik Laine) feel that way about their upcoming breather.

    The Jets had really been cooking after shaking off a tough start from Steve Mason (the Jets dropped their first two games in ugly fashion). By edging the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Friday, the Jets have now won four of their last five contests.

    As you can see from the video above, Laine played a significant role in that win, showing that he might have some potential from “Alex Ovechkin‘s office” on Winnipeg’s power play. Laine doubled his 2017-18 goals total from two to four with that effort, pushing him to six points in seven games.

    Laine was unleashing that lethal shot with aplomb last night, too, firing eight shots on goal.

    (Last night’s edition of The Buzzer notes that it was a milestone night for Paul Maurice and Blake Wheeler, who collected his 200th assist in sending the puck to Laine’s wheelhouse.)

    The Jets have high hopes for 2017-18, and Laine’s a big part of that excitement, so it was nice to see him unleashed.

    If it’s a matter of rhythm, then this break is a bummer. Their next game doesn’t take place until Thursday, making for almost a week off, just when they were really sizzling. It’s a tough haul for the next while, so maybe they’ll take advantage of the break (or get rusty?):

    Thu, Oct 26 @ Pittsburgh
    Fri, Oct 27 @ Columbus
    Sun, Oct 29 vs Pittsburgh
    Tue, Oct 31 @ Minnesota

    November isn’t a breezy month for the Jets, either, so Winnipeg has to hope that they can carry over some of this momentum.

    For more Jets-related fun, check out this interesting NHL.com piece about how Connor Hellebuyck is changing things up.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Look at what Rangers are up against right now

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    You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

    With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

    “The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

    “None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

    They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

    Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

    Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

    Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

    Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

    Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

    Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

    Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

    Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

    The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

    Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

    So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

    One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

    (If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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    The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

    Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

    A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

    These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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    Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

    Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

    The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

    Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

    Highlight of the night:

    What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

    Factoid of the night:

    It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

    Scores:

    Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

    San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

    Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

    Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

    Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

    Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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