Canadiens' faith in Price paying off

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price waves to the crowd after being named the game's first star...

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price waves to the crowd after being named the game's first star after their 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL hockey play in Montreal, November 20, 2010. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)

MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 12:48 PM ET

TORONTO -- The panic and distress that engulfed Montreal Canadiens' supporters when the club opted to trade playoff hero Jaroslav Halak feels like a distant memory.

So is that first exhibition game when Carey Price was mercilessly booed in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Now, the potential savior-turned-goat has reemerged as the second coming of Patrick Roy in La Belle Province, turning the Canadiens into an elite opponent.

Still just 23-years-old, the native of Anahim Lake B.C., is proving why he was the fifth-overall pick in 2005.

Price has played more minutes and made more saves than any other goalie in the NHL this season - if there was an iron man award handed out at the quarter mark, look no further.

Of the Canadiens' 13 wins this season, Price was between the pipes in all but one of them.

It should also be mentioned he has a 2.05 goals against average and .932 save percentage to go along with four shutouts.

He also leads all goalies in All-Star votes with over 71,000 as of Tuesday.

While Halak has been good in St. Louis, Price has been exceptional in Montreal.

Thanks in part to Price's performance to date, the Canadiens are second in goals against, own the best penalty kill in the NHL (90.8 per cent) and have shown no signs of slowing down.

The biggest question moving forward will be whether the Habs' floundering offense can make life a bit easier for their young netminder.

Statistically speaking, Montreal is scoring at a similar clip to last year (2.52 goals per game compared to 2.56) with plenty of time left for Michael Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta to rediscover their scoring touch.

But unlike a season ago, Le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge are without the benefit of riding two talented goalies when things get tough.

Halak was undoubtedly the go-to-guy and better player last year, and although Price struggled, he was still a decent backup in his 41 games played.

In 2008-09, Price suited up in a career-high 52 games in what was his worst statistical season.

It's not fair to assume Price will burn out as the season grinds on, but fatigue - both mental and physical - is inevitable, especially come playoff time.

If the forwards crank it up, much of the mental burden Price constantly endures in low-scoring games will wash away and allow more mileage down the stretch.

It will be interesting, however, to see how Price responds if at some point he goes cold and loses some of the confidence that has made him an early candidate for the Hart and Vezina trophies.

But for now, the Habs will continue to ride the red-hot shoulders of their franchise player, like most good teams do.

And while the old adage that defense wins championships is a waning truth - as the last two Cup winners have been better at scoring goals than preventing them - the Canadiens, with top-notch goaltending and a solid defense, are on the path to rewrite the rule.


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