Habs' Price eager for challenges after rough sophomore year Staff

8/5/2009 9:26:39 PM

It seemed almost too easy for Carey Price

In 2007, he stole the show at the World Junior Hockey Championship, demolished the competition in the American Hockey League and helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to the best record in the Eastern Conference in his rookie season. But life isn't always like an episode of Entourage. And to say the 2008-09 NHL season didn't end well for Price would be an understatement.

After an impressive rookie campaign, Price endured a tumultuous sophomore year that saw his play regress along with that of his team.

"It's definitely been a learning experience so far in the NHL," said Price, who was attending the Calgary Pro Goaltending Camp on Wednesday. "I think I've learned a lot more lessons in my first two years than a lot of goalies would have learned anywhere else in six years."

The young netminder - who turns 22 next week - cruised through the first half of the season with a 16-4-5 record to go with a solid 2.30 GAA and .921 save percentage. However, an ankle injury suffered on Dec. 30 forced him out of the lineup for eight games and he was never the same after his return. He never got his groove back, winning just seven of his final 31 appearances.

But instead of masking his imperfections in the comforts of home, playing in the fishbowl that's Montreal only magnified them.

After getting yanked in Game 2 of their eventual first round sweep against the Boston Bruins, he was caught on camera making a faux 'jump' at a heckling Bruins fan at TD Banknorth Garden. Then in Game 4 at the Bell Centre, the second-year goalie gave a Patrick Roy-like salute to Canadiens fans who jeered him on a routine save.

"We had two frustrated parties and maybe the choices weren't the best, but you know, it's going to happen," said Price. "Sometimes I'm going to get it, sometimes a player shouldn't give it back but sometimes it happens."

Perhaps it's too much for a 21-year-old to handle, but Price is moving forward with a new outlook.

"I don't think I've ever been put in a situation that I can't handle," Price said. "I've never backed down from a challenge and this year I'm not going to start."

The talented goaltender will start fresh in several areas - starting with new head coach Jacques Martin - who was in attendance on Wednesday to watch him play. Martin's reliance on defensive play, along with the addition of veteran blueliners Paul Mara, Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek, should provide plenty of protection in front of him.

Price will also be working with a new goaltending coach, as the Canadiens replaced Roland Melanson over the summer with Pierre Groulx. While working with Martin in Florida, Groulx built a strong track record while working with netminders Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson.