Professional athletes lead charmed lives, but even they aren’t above the odd harsh – and necessary – lesson.
Carey Price may not have joined the ranks of Montreal’s goaltending gods this spring, but he’s better positioned today to be one of them in the future based on what happened in this year’s playoffs.
There’s a sentiment out there that the Canadiens have caused irreparable mental damage to their young goaltender by throwing him into the post-season fire at age 20 and subjecting him to an excess of pressure.
I’m not buying it.
First of all, if this setback causes Price too much distress to recover from, he wasn’t going to make it in the first place.
Secondly, Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden – the two goalies Price was endlessly compared to on the eve of the playoffs – represent a very, very minute portion of society: people who experience ultimate success before enduring seemingly endless hurdles.
Call me a cynic, but I believe the natural cycle of life involves being kicked in the gut before raising your hands in celebration.
Price has been bucked from the saddle. Now it’s up to the kid who flew (literally) to minor hockey games in his dad’s four-seat Piper Cherokee to get up and ride again.
Those who claim GM Bob Gainey should have kept veteran puckstopper Cristobal Huet as an insurance policy have missed the point entirely. Being exposed to two rounds of playoff hockey, despite the outcome, will expedite, not impede, Price’s development.
While it could be argued Montreal would have won one more round with Huet in goal, the bleu, blanc et rouge weren’t winning the silver Cup this season, regardless of who they had manning the crease.
Big picture, the best thing for the Canadiens was to have Price learn firsthand about the discrepancy between NHL pressure and the types he’s already shown he’s more than capable of handling at the junior and minor-pro levels.
Nothing in life comes easy. The fact Price has gone through some tough times this spring simply means his career trajectory is more on track than ever.
This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears every second Friday.
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