Carey Price had his chance, and he lost it. He was awful in that Ottawa game. We all saw it in the shootout in the Ranger game. He played small and second-guessed himself, and we knew it'd carry on into the Ottawa game if he started. But, once again, Bob Gainey overlooked the fact that Halak has been winning games...somehow...and started The Franchise.
This has been a problem since last year. I know Gainey took a gamble on drafting Price so high, when the team already had Theodore playing decently and a desperate need for a talented forward. But his need to justify the pick is hurting both Price and the team. Yes, Price has talent, and he proved it when he won all the things he's won in lower levels of hockey. But a goalie friend of mine says the art of goaltending is fifty percent mental. And right now, that means Price is only fifty percent an NHL goalie, because his confidence is shot and his mental game is not there. That's now affecting his physical and technical game as well.
I lay this at Bob Gainey's door. Price won the Calder Cup, but when he came to camp last year, he wasn't the best goalie there. Jaroslav Halak was, and he fully deserved, based on the fact that he almost single-handedly dragged the Habs into the playoffs the previous season, to be Cristobal Huet's backup. That's what should have happened, based on merit. That's what Guy Carbonneau wanted. But Gainey wanted Price to get his feet wet in the NHL. The GM wasn't planning to re-sign Cristobal Huet, and figured Price would serve a year's apprenticeship and then take over as the number one this year.
It turned out Price wasn't ready. He had to go to Hamilton to lick his wounds after a rotten stretch of play last season had him in tears and mentally shattered. Fortunately, he managed to get it together and came back playing well...well enough for Gainey to make the Huet trade and hand Price the number-one job just in time for the playoffs. We know now how that worked out.
But despite everything, Price was anointed and handed the top job out of camp this year. He played well for a while, but got hurt a couple of times. After the second injury, he's been atrocious. This year though, there's no trip to Hamilton. Price must clear waivers, so he'll have to sort out his game and his confidence in Montreal. Halak, on the other hand, managed to stop the bleeding for a while with his four unlikely wins in a row. To his misfortune, he got the flu and allowed Price back in the net. Price played decently enough, even while allowing his token softie per game...but wins were still hard to come by. Then the shootout in the Rangers game showed his confidence is shot once again.
Price is very young and perhaps shouldn't have been given an NHL job before he was ready for it. Now it's time for Halak. Gainey doesn't want to play the backup...he wants the Franchise to play better. But maybe Halak's not meant to be the backup. He's got confidence in himself and he's stopping more pucks than Price. If the Habs have any hope of the post-season, a goalie will have to drag them there. And the only thing Price is dragging anywhere right now is a whole lot of baggage.