GOALTENDING CONTROVERSY BREWS IN CYBERSPACE


Cyberspace is all a-twitter over comments made by Alan Walsh, the agent for Habs’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Walsh insists he was just having a little fun, when he took a poke at Carey Price’s record of late following Montreal’s 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

He did so when he sent out a tweet from his Twitter account over the internet, which made reference to Price’s less-than-flattering record of 10 wins in his last 42 starts.

The tweet created an instant stir in cyberspace, to the point that Walsh deleted the entire reference to Price from his Twitter account.  However, Walsh’s comments left a vapor trail in cyberspace that have created a goaltending controversy where there was none.  Not in my mind, at least.

The point is this: the Montreal Canadiens do NOT have a number 1 goaltender.  They have two goalies in Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, who rank 1A and 1B.  It can be argued that Halak has played well enough to BE the number 1 goaltender.  But he’s not, that much is clear.  What’s not as clear, at this point in time, is this:

Who is 1A and who is 1B?

Let’s go back in time a bit, shall we?

It would appear to me that some Habs’ fans resent the treatment that Carey Price has received from this organization ever since the Canadiens drafted him 5th overall in 2005: a fast-track to the NHL that has left the same fans asking the question:

Why?

Why was Carey Price rushed through the system without the benefit of any significant seasoning at the American Hockey League level?  Why did the Canadiens trade veteran Cristobal Huet midway through the 2007-2008 season and hand the top goaltending job to someone just one year removed from the Western Hockey League?  Why did the Canadiens live or die with Carey Price in the playoffs last season (they died), while Halak languished on the bench during a four-game first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins?

All good questions.

However, the reality, MY reality, is this:  Carey Price took the bull by the horns after the Canadiens traded Huet and he responded with a terrific half-season of play, full of promise.  Although he was not an all-star in the true sense of the word through the first half of last season, I had no problem with the fact that (Habs’) hockey fans voted Price in as the starting goaltender for last year’s all-star contest at the Bell Centre.

And please, don’t cry me a river that Price didn’t deserve the all-star nod.  The NHL set up the system whereby fans get to vote on the starting lineups, and that’s fine by me.  The fans pay the freight, they can vote on the starting lineups for the all-star game.  Maybe it doesn’t work for you, but it works for me.  If you want to complain about the all-star format, complain to Gary Bettman.

Which brings us to the second half of last season, when the wheels fell off.  Not only for Carey Price, but for the entire Montreal Canadiens team.  Sure, Carey Price struggled.  So did Jaroslav Halak.  You don’t remember when Price was injured and Marc Denis was called up from Hamilton? When Habs fans couldn’t figure out why coach Guy Carbonneau (remember him?) refused to give Denis a start at a time when Halak, too, was faltering?

Too many Habs’ fans romanticize Halak’s stint with the Canadiens.  Yes, he was very good at times late last season and indeed did help “propel” (I use that word very loosely) Montreal into post-season play.  But at times, he was very mediocre.  This season, he’s been very good at times, and did help the Habs out of a dreadful early slump en-route to a four-game winning streak.  However, it might surprise you to learn that Price has a marginally better save percentage than Halak so far this season (.894 vs. .893).

I realize I’m splitting hair by trotting out that particular statistic.  The same Habs’ fans who have drifted to the ABC camp (anyone but Carey) will simply point to the fact that Halak has a 5-2 record while Price has a record of 3-7.  Those numbers don’t lie.  However, what those numbers don’t tell you is that Price stole the three games that he won and was often deserted by his team mates in the seven games he lost.  Those numbers also don’t tell you that Halak gave up four goals in the game he won against Toronto, and another four goals in the game  he won against the Rangers.

Believe me, Carey Price doesn’t need me to prop up his sagging 3.30 goals-against average (compared to Halak’s 2.85).  It’s called perspective.  And I think a little is called for right about now, when it comes to the Canadiens’ goaltending situation.

Now.  Bring on the Calgary Flames tomorrow night.  We’ll talk again.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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