Friday, February 22, 2008

In the Still of the Crease

The afternoon sun slanting through the window belied the bitter temperature outside it, as Ken Dryden stood in a batter's crouch, demonstrating the stance of a player who doesn't have "it."

"It applies to any sport," he said. "Take baseball. If a batter is standing there in the batter's box, and he's twitching and swinging his bat and never settling down, he's going to have a hard time hitting the ball. The good hitters may swing a few times, but when that ball comes in, they go still...rock solid."

This impromptu demonstration was his response to my question, "What do you think of Carey Price?" More accurately, it was his second response. The first was, "Well, what do you think of him?" So there I was, humble blogger on the spot, having to explain to one of the greatest goalies in history my impressions of one of his brethren.

I said tentatively, "Well, I didn't see a lot of what the hype has been about until last week when he shut out Florida. But, in that game, he looked big in the net, he didn't go down unless he had to, he came out to face shooters, he was square to the play and he projected an attitude of confidence."

Dryden nodded slowly, then he said, "The thing I always look at is their feet. They all shuffle and move around in the crease, but when it counts...when the play is coming quickly and there are pucks flying and bodies in the way...the good ones settle down and go still, waiting for the play to come to them.

"I see that in Carey Price. When the play comes to him, he's rock solid...still...self-contained. You can see he's got it...that stillness you need."

On the constant comparisons between himself and Price, and whether he sees the similarities, Dryden had this to say:

"It's hard to compare because the game has changed so much. Styles are so different and goalies react in different ways," he said. "But that ability to separate the mind from the body and control the physical side of things, that's similar. I think if he were playing then, or I were playing now, we'd look very much alike."

We talked a little more as the shadows lengthened, and then he said goodbye. I watched him walk away in the chilly afternoon, just a little more convinced that Carey Price is for real.