Price faces comparisons to Halak

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price makes against the New York Islanders. (REUTERS/Mathieu...

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price makes against the New York Islanders. (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 PM ET

TORONTO - Being under the weather is bad enough.

Being diagnosed by one of his twitter-world critics as having a new disease known as the “Boo Flu,” well, that’s certainly kicking an ailing man right in his, ah, medicine cabinet.

Such is life in the tumultuous 2010 world of young Carey Price.

Pencilled in to be the Montreal Canadiens starter for their 2010-11 curtain-raiser against the Maple Leafs Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre, Price became ill earlier this week and missed practice Wednesday, leaving some doubt as to his availability for the season opener.

Sure enough, just minutes after coach Jacques Martin had publicly revealed Price’s condition Wednesday, one of the legions of Price Bashers out there immediately tweeted the following line:

“C.P. afraid Habs fans in T.O. will jeer him. He has the Boo Flu.”

Give us a break.

This is an example of the ridiculous propaganda that has been oozing from those still bitter that the Habs traded away fan favourite and playoff hero Jaroslav Halak over the summer while opting to keep the less-popular Price in the fold.

What a ludicrous suggestion. Why would Price be ducking a start that isn’t even at the Bell Centre, a place where he was lustily booed by the home fans after allowing early goals against the Boston Bruins in his first pre-season game?

It’s such a far-fetched concept, it’s not even worth talking about.

At the same time, these are the handful of loony tunes Carey Price, still just an NHL infant at age 22, is going to have to deal with every time there’s a wart in his season. That’s how much of a polarizing figure he has become among the Habs’ passionate fan base.

A year ago, the most scrutinized trade in the NHL was the deal that brought young sniper Phil Kessel from Boston to Toronto for a pair of first-round picks along with a second-rounder.

When he pulled the trigger on that swap, Leafs general manager Brian Burke never envisioned his team would plop so far down in the NHL’s outhouse, the Bruins would be in position to use Toronto’s 2010 first-round selection to pluck Plymouth Whalers star Tyler Seguin at No. 2 overall.

But that’s the way it played out, setting the stage for comparisons to be made, fairly or unfairly, between Kessel and Seguin for years to come.

Twelve months later, it’s the Halak trade that similarly finds itself under the microscope more than any other of the past four months.

And, in the end, it’s Carey Price who could pay the price, no pun intended, with his numbers constantly being matched up with those produced by Halak in St. Louis for who knows how long.

Admittedly, Price brought the negative spotlight on himself by mockingly waving his arms a la Patrick Roy at the heckling Bell Centre fans who had showered him with Bronx cheers in Game 4 of the Habs ’09 first-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Those of us in the press box that eventful Montreal spring night immediately realized that it was a fight he could never win.

Habs supporters are too proud, too passionate, too aware of the team’s rich history to let a gesture like that go. Some still haven’t.

At the same time, Canadiens management should have realized the no-win situation Price was in when it became apparent one of the team’s goaltenders needed to be moved this past summer.

This decision should have been about more than money. Or talent. Or about more than an organization trying to save face by keeping the kid — Price — it had used a fifth overall pick on.

Given Price’s hot-and-cold relationship with Habs Nation, it should have been about keeping the guy who’d be in the best position to succeed.

And that easily would have been Halak.

Halak, 25, was loved by the Montreal faithful, easily the most passionate in hockey.

Back in the spring, they chanted his name, wrote songs about him and created T-shirts in his honour.

And, after the trade, 5,000 people showed up at a Montreal mall to say goodbye to him before he left for St. Louis.

The two players the Habs received from the Blues in return, centre Lars Eller and Canadian junior right-winger Ian Schultz, each have promising upsides.

But unless they’re able to leave a noticeable footprint on the Habs 2010-11 campaign, this trade, in the eyes of Habs fans, will be gauged on who does better — Price or Halak.

In the end, it has put Price, who’ll be replaced by Alex Auld if he can’t play Thursday, in an unfair and unenviable position.

After all, who else in the league would be accused by some idiotic space cadet of having the “Boo Flu?”


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