Friday, September 25, 2009

Carey Price still No. 1 for the Canadiens: Jacques Martin

AMC09-0923-Habs-12.thumbnail Habs-Practice-Gallery-10.thumbnailDespite a great pre-season from Jaroslav Halak (bottom), Canadiens coach Jacques Martin sill  has Carey Price as the No. 1 goalie for Montreal

A power outage in Brossard today cancelled the Montreal Canadiens’ practice, but coach Jacques Martin did talk to the media while players continued to workout in the naturally lit gym.

During the session, Martin essentially indicated that Carey Price, for time being, is still the No. 1 goaltender in Montreal.

It clears any speculations to who would take the starting roll, or if Martin might use a 1A, 1B tandem to start the season.

Many journalists and fans felt that the No. 1 spot was Price’s to lose, and looking at the pre-season thus far it would have looked that way.

But, while Halak has posted a 1.56 GAA and a .938 SvPct and Price appears to be struggling at 3.75 GAA and .875, one has to keep in mind that the Canadiens have only played six games and that Price was lit for 4 goals in forty minutes in one of those games.

As with pitchers in baseball, the pre-season essentially gets a goalie loosened up and prepared to play five to six games, or more, straight and avoid fatigue and potential injury. Nobody screamed if Nolan Ryan got shelled in a Cactus league game, right?

In light of Halak being designated the backup, for now, Martin said he likes seeing a battle between his goalies.

“Competition has always been healthy,” he said. “It helps the coaching staff when you have two goalies that are capable. They’re both young, getting better and pushing each other.”

The idea of battling goalies could be reminiscent of Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque’s during the Canadiens’ ‘70s dynasty.

Though Dryden was the designate No. 1, Larocque always stayed competitive in games, as well as in practice against Dryden.

Like his Hall of Fame counterpart, Price has not only the competition of Halak, but also the all-seeing eye that is comprised of the Montreal media and Canadiens fan base.

In Thursdays edition of his “6 Cities in 6 Days” feature, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie notes that Carey Price’s performance this season will be under the microscope first, and above all else.

“In a season full of Canadiens' shortcomings, the poor play of Price was as glaring as anything.

He was very good as a rookie, not very good as a sophomore, and where he goes in Year Three may well define him in the eyes of the Canadiens' fans.”

Mr. McKenzie’s article continues looks at other elements of the team, but his conclusion returns to the Habs’ No. 1 man between the pipes.

“But any way you slice it, it always comes back to Price and goaltending will either have to hold the fort while the Canadiens try to gel with their new teammates, or not be bad enough to discount any strong play if the team should come together quickly.

Honestly, I don't know what to make of a Montreal team with so many changes, but what I do know is that they're going to need A-level goaltending no matter what.”

Price is scheduled to start in the Canadiens last pre-season game Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.

After that, the team will head to Caledon, ON for some team bonding and light workouts before the season begins on October 1st in Toronto.

Based on what he sees at the team outing, coach Martin feels he will find the team’s next captain.

Martin also said that with the exception of Kyle Chipchura, who is still waiting for medical clearance, the team on the ice Saturday should be close to the roster that he wants to start the season with.

The possibility of eight defencemen on the roster is also being thought over by the Habs coach, and he will stick with four lines given the league’s grueling schedule with the Olympics sandwiched in between.

More from the coach: Coach Martin addresses his team’s size issue on TSN.

Cut!: Mathieu Dandenault has been released by the San Jose Sharks following a tryout.

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