As intimidating as Canada’s forwards and defensemen are, opponents still have to beat the man in the crease – and that hasn’t happened in a long time.
As we break down Canada’s dominance in international men’s hockey, many players deserve credit. Sidney Crosby, obviously. Fellow two-way demons Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jonathan Toews are up there, too. There’s the shutdown prowess of Shea Weber and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the defense. But if your team has enough elite skill and is somehow lucky enough to still possess the puck after all those barriers have been crossed, you will find yourself dishearteningly facing goaltender Carey Price. The best in the world.
Not only is Price a titan in the NHL, but he has now gone 16 international games without a loss.
“Everybody’s brought it up, yeah,” Price said. “I thought it might be over tonight, but we willed our way through it.”
Unflappable at his post-game podium, Price fielded questions while a pair of anti-beer goggles sat perched atop his ball cap.
“I might wear them all night,” he joked.
But Price was also quick to give credit to a Europe team that pushed Canada like no other squad in the tournament. Led by Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa and Jaroslav Halak, the NATO squad had clearly picked up on some of Canada’s tendencies from their previous two meetings, interrupting passing lanes and refusing to sit back once they had the lead. And here’s the thing: Zdeno Chara’s early goal was a bit of a shocker (how did he get such a clear lane to the net?), but you can’t beat this version of Canada in a potential gold-medal game with just one tally. Problem is, you can’t beat Price often in general. Hossa had a golden opportunity late in the game, but Price stoned the awesome Slovakian.
“Unbelievable,” said coach Mike Babcock of Price’s save. “He just does what he does.”
And while Price had sympathy for his latest vanquished foe, he also revealed why Canada is such a machine.
“They deserved a better fate,” he said. “They brought everything they had and really pushed us to the limit. But there are a lot of players on our team who have won championships and know what it takes to win.”
Boy, did they. The only players on the team that had not won either a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, world junior gold or World Championship gold were Logan Couture and Braden Holtby.
Price would surely like that Stanley Cup next and his healthy performance in this tournament is great news for the Montreal Canadiens. Without him last year, the Habs were lost at sea. But if they get 65-70 starts from him in the upcoming campaign, the playoffs are basically guaranteed. How far they go may depend on the ascent of center Alex Galchenyuk and the sturdiness of the defense, which of course subbed in Weber for P.K. Subban in a mega-trade this summer. Having Weber as a World Cup teammate has at least given Price a preview of his new protector.
“He’s a leader for sure,” Price said. “One of those big presence guys that played a lot of good minutes.”
As long as Price is given a goal or two to work with, he can win a game. He’s done it time and again with Canada and obviously the hope in Montreal is that he brings the Habs back to glory, too.