The four goals on nine shots Carey Price(notes) gave up Wednesday night for the Montreal Canadiens are meaningless. They carry as much statistical weight as a puck flying by him in practice or warm-ups. They mean nothing for the success or failure of this team next season.
But they gave Canadiens fans a chance to ... what, register a formal protest that Jaroslav Halak(notes) was traded? Let Price know that they have a knife pointed at his back the moment he steps on the ice?
They booed Price Wednesday night and taunted him, leaving his teammates to get his back in the locker room. You could argue this is a self-inflicted wound by the Habs, having traded the hero and kept the goat. Or you could argue the No. 1 goalie for a conference finalist deserves a little more slack than getting jeered in a practice game.
Price played 30 minutes and was booed by the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre while giving up four goals on nine shots as the Boston Bruins took a 4-0 lead before holding on for a 4-2 win on Wednesday night in the first NHL pre-season game for each club.
Price -- who was handed the No. 1 job when the Canadiens dealt playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis in the off-season -- couldn't be blamed for all the goals, but the crowd let it be known that he won't be getting an easy ride this season. The Halak trade has been roundly criticized by Canadiens fans, many of who think the team traded the wrong goalie.
Price didn't speak to the media after the game, a decision Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette felt was the wrong one, whether it was made by the goalie or his handlers:
This is the preseason. Wednesday's game meant nothing, finally. The usual idiotic fans showed their true colours by derisively cheering Price's routine saves.
But it also was a chance for the goalie to make a statement, in deed as much as in word -- to demonstrate that he has the maturity to deal with a bad night.
It would have been unpleasant for only a couple of moments to express his feelings, and then it would have been done. He'd even have found a generally sympathetic media, which almost unanimously thought little of the fans' treatment of him against the Bruins.
Hard to argue with that. It's a measure of maturity that Price needs to exhibit to get the haters off his scent, if only for a moment. It's more catnip for the bashers.
Absent his reaction, it was on Price's teammates to shield him after the game. From the Examiner:
"To be honest, I was disappointed," admitted Tomas Plekanec(notes), after the Habs' 4-2 loss, of the fan reaction. "Carey's a great kid, he works hard, (and) he's there every morning to work hard. He's got a great attitude and all the talent in the world to be the best goalie. ... It wasn't easy. It was the first game and we didn't help him, too, defensively."
"Booing the goaltender in the first preseason game, that's unfair," said Josh Gorges(notes), Price's closest friend on the team. "The fans were cheering but it was derisive. Honestly, I don't understand."
"It's tough for the whole team. Carey is just one player on the team. Everyone is at fault for the goals that went in," he continued. "I know expectations are raised, but is he Superman? Is he supposed to save everything? Breakaways, backdoor 2-on-1s, shots that he can't see; we have to help him."
Booing Carey Price is a natural reaction for Habs fans. He's earned it; check his playoff numbers to find out why.
But circumstances have changed. There is no Plan B. He very well might fail as the Canadiens' primary goalie, but booing the guy out of the building isn't allowing him a chance to do so. It's saying: We're on your ass in a practice game; go ahead and think about that after giving up the first goal on opening night.
But hey: Maybe Montreal fans just needed to give their vocal chords some preseason action.
- Carey Price