Carey Price will get the start for Team Canada tomorrow at the Quarterfinal of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Canada’s Head Coach Mike Babcock announced this morning that the Montreal Canadiens goaltender will remain in Canada’s crease through the Medal Round.
Price started the opening game against Norway, and helped Canada to a 3-1 win by stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced. It was a surprisingly busy game against an opponent that was not supposed to be able to generate anything against a hockey nation like Canada. Price played well and kept the Norwegians off the scoreboard while Canada’s offense sputtered, and bought them time to find the back of Norway’s net.
Price sat against Austria while Luongo posted a 23 save shutout in a 6-0 win. After much deliberation from Team Canada’s management team, they decided to go back with Price in the preliminary Round finale against Finland.
Canada would win a nail biter 2-1 when Drew Doughty scored his second of the night in overtime. Price only faced 15 shots against Finland, but he saved his best for last, making a fabulous blocker save in overtime that allowed time for Doughty’s heroics.
It was that ability to make a big save when called upon after facing just two shots in the entire third period that makes Babcock confident Price is the man for the job. Canada will play the winner of this afternoon’s game between Switzerland and Latvia in the Quarters, and it will likely be more of the same type of game for the goaltender.
Switzerland are the odds on favorite to beat Latvia, but have only scored a total of twice in three games thus far. They have been so good defensively, allowing just one goal in total, that both of their goals were good enough for 1-0 wins.
If Canada faces the Swiss, Price is not likely to face a bombardment of shots. In fact, the 15 he faced against Finland might be hard for the Swiss to match. Considering how deep Canada’s defense is, and that Switzerland only has two NHL forwards in Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter, they will have a tough time generating offense against Canada.
Price is certainly not used to such a light workload.
In his last six games with the Montreal Canadiens before heading to the Olympics, Price faced an average of 35 shots per game. The same number directed his way in two games combined at the Olympics, including an overtime. You may have understood if he fell asleep, but there he was making his toughest save of the tournament on just the third shot he had seen in over 20 minutes of hockey.
Price may not be used to playing behind a defense that allows less than 20 shots per game, but one thing he is used to is pressure. This is his first experience at an Olympic Games, but Price is under the brightest NHL spotlight in the league in Montreal.
Remember, this is a guy who was booed for allowing a goal in a team’s first pre-season game before. Sure, it was a weak goal, but would any other goalie in any other market ever get booed for allowing a goal in an exhibition game?
Price is quite used to the scrutiny of having to be at his best every night. The Medal Round that begins tomorrow is like a series of game sevens, where if you don’t win you don’t move on.
Price has been pretty solid in the two seventh games he has played in for Montreal in his career. His first, as a rookie NHLer playing behind a team that finished first in the Eastern Conference standings, and simply could not face their fans if they lost in the opening round to their rival Boston Bruins.
Price stopped all 25 shots he faced, and the Habs cruised to a 5-0 victory in front of their home fans.
Three years later the Habs would head to Boston to take on the heavily favored Bruins in game seven of the first round. Price stopped 30 shots but ultimately fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions on an overtime game winner by Nathan Horton.
Price may not be the most experienced goaltender in the Olympic Games, but you can be sure the pressure of the moment is nothing new to the Montreal Canadiens goaltender.