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Price cool under pressure as Canadiens rookie leads team against Bruins

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Price cool under pressure as Canadiens rookie leads team against Bruins

The Canadian Press
By:

MONTREAL - When Carey Price got to the Bell Centre on Wednesday, teammate Guillaume Latendresse was waiting with the scissors.

Price, fresh off a 27-save effort for his first career playoff shutout on Tuesday in Boston, became the latest youngster on the Montreal Canadiens to get a short version of the Mohawk cut for the NHL playoffs.

In the stall next to him, Maxim Lapierre was freshly shorn with the same cut. Both seemed to like it.

"When it comes to team stuff, I'm pretty easy going," said the 20-year-old Price. "Guillaume did it.

"I think he's going to start making some money off it during the summer - become a hairdresser. He's OK. I wouldn't pay him for it, but he's not bad."

The atmosphere was loose a day after Price paced Montreal to a 1-0 win in Boston to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference series. The Canadiens can advance to the second round with a win Thursday night at home.

The Canadiens have played solid defensive hockey and the Bruins are not the league's best offensive club, but Price's play has still been outstanding.

The rangy goaltender has allowed only five goals on 120 shots in his first four playoff games and leads the league with a stellar 1.19 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage.

"It's kind of how the playoffs go - you have to try to make every save because that one goal could make the difference," he said. "I thought we really needed to get that one.

"We wanted to get at least a split in Boston and that's what we did."

Pressure is not new to Price, who was named the outstanding player of the 2007 world junior championship after leading Canada to gold and joined the Hamilton Bulldogs in time to take them to the AHL title last spring.

The Vancouver native made the Canadiens out of training camp and performed so well that veteran goalie Cristobal Huet was traded to Washington at the NHL deadline on Feb. 26, leaving rookies Price and Jaroslav Halak as the goaltending tandem.

Price is 15-4 in goal since the Huet trade.

Coach Guy Carbonneau says Price's play hasn't surprised him at all.

"I saw him last year a bit," said Carbonneau."It was a different level, but he did pretty amazing things. He's playing his position as well as anybody right now and he's fun to watch.

"Look around the league. (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Alexander) Ovechkin - they're (around) 20 years old and they're playing unbelievably. That's the way the NHL is right now. It's a young kid's game. They don't want to wait 10 years to show what they can do. They want to do it now."

Even before the playoffs started, comparisons were being made to Patrick Roy, who took Montreal to a Stanley Cup as a rookie in 1986 and went on to win four Cups and become the league's all-time leader in goaltending victories.

Ken Dryden also won a Cup as a rookie in 1971.

"I will never compare myself to Patrick, ever," said Price. "Even when my career is over.

"He's him and I'm me. Two totally different people."

One way they differ is on superstitions.

Price said he has none, but Roy would bounce pucks on the dressing room floor before games, talk to his goalposts, go through elaborate rituals before taking his crease to start a game.

"I could do everything different from one game day to the next and it wouldn't matter at all," Price said. "You have a routine, you like to do things to get ready, but if I don't do it, it's not going to bother me one bit.

"I'm not much of a believer in luck. I think things happen for a reason. I'm not going to say superstitions are stupid because a lot of people are superstitious, but I'm just not interested in it."

Price is about the most low-key player on the Canadiens and doesn't seem fazed at all by the attention he has received in hockey-mad Montreal and around the league.

"It really isn't that bad," he said of the pressure.

He had one jittery period in mid-season and was sent briefly to Hamilton to straighten out his puck tracking and has been solid ever since.

"I'm sure he's nervous a bit but he doesn't show it," added Carbonneau.

Price relaxes these days by learning to play the guitar. Most of his relatives play an instrument, but he is a total beginner.

"I'm still not getting any better at it," he said with a grin. "It's all about co-ordination and I'm not co-ordinated in my fingers. I'm co-ordinated in my limbs."

His favourite is country music, as his goalie mask would attest. It features pictures of his two favourites singers, Garth Brooks and George Strait.

There was no word on whether there would be lineup changes for Game 5. Defenceman Mark Streit missed practice but it was not known if he would play.

Injured defenceman Francis Bouillon skated and is getting closer to returning from a sore ankle, but Carbonneau said he isn't ready yet. Captain Saku Koivu had X-rays on his fractured foot and skated on his own but won't return yet.

The Bruins practised in Boston without defenceman Aaron Ward, who is a question mark with a knee injury.

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Price cool under pressure as Canadiens rookie leads team against Bruins