Carey Price may have been a competitive calf roper when he was younger, but as soon as he steps on the ice in Alberta, he plays as though it’s his first rodeo. And if the Montreal Canadiens want to continue their white-hot start to the season, that’s going to have to change in a hurry.
So the most important person on the Montreal Canadiens as they head into a western Canadian road trip in first place in the Eastern Conference might be goaltending coach Stephane Waite. The man who has been most responsible for altering Carey Price’s mental approach to games could have to do some major psychological massaging on Price this week.
That’s because Price gets about as many victories in Alberta as a Liberal candidate. For alll his brilliance, Price has yet to experience the feeling of winning a game in either Edmonton, where the Habs open a three-game road trip tonight, or Calgary.
As you can imagine, it’s been pretty ugly. Price is 0-3-0 at the Rexall Centre in Edmonton over the course of his career, has been torched for a total of 13 goals and has a save percentage of just .822. At the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, meanwhile, he’s been thrown around like a city slicker. going 0-3-0 with 12 goals against and an .875 save percentage. Overall, Price is 0-6-0 in Alberta with 22 goals against and an .853 save percentage.
With the Canadiens playing in Price’s personal death valley on back-to-back nights, it would only stand to reason that coach Michel Therrien would use backup Dustin Tokarski in one of those games. The suddenly hot Oilers have won three in a row, all against Eastern Conference teams, so it might be a good idea to have Price make the start and hope he gets his Alberta game on track against the Oilers before handing the reins to Tokarski for the Calgary game. If Price continues his early stellar play and shines against the Oilers, Therien can decide then whether to continue with the hot hand or give Tokarski a game.
(Update: TSN is reporting that Tokarski will get the start Monday night against Edmonton.)
That would leave Price nice and fresh for Thursday night against the Canucks, where the Anahim Lake, B.C. has had much more success. After getting torched for seven goals in his first career start at GM Place in 2009-10, Price has followed that up with three wins and has given up only four goals in those games.
So let’s say both Price and Tokarski stand on their heads and the Canadiens run the table against the Oilers, Flames and Canucks. That would give the Canadiens a 10-1-0 record. To put that record into perspective, consider this: When the Canadiens won their four Stanley Cups in a row in the 1970s, the best October they had was in 1976-77, when they went 9-3-1. When they won their five straight Cups in the 1950s, their best Octobers saw them compile 7-2-2 records in 1958-59 and ’59-60.