There were many who made mistakes in Wednesday night’s first exhibition game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins (read game review here). The usually-flawless Bell Centre game-day production team allowed Charles Prevost-Linton to sing the anthems with a faulty mic. Stephane Auger and Greg Kimmerly blew a call that resulted in Andrew Conboy going to the box for being a victim.
The Montreal defense, particularly Jaroslav Spacek’s turnovers, led to two goals. But there was only one player in the cross-hairs of some fans.
Carey Price can be faulted for the first of the four goals. He would likely agree. While Nathan Horton’s shot seemed to deflect off a stick, it was a stoppable puck.
Price was not to blame for the others, a screened shot by Johnny Boychuck on the power-play, and two goals where he was left all alone due to major defensive miscues.
Yet, Price was forced to bear the weight of the sins of the entire team.
The reaction of the Bell Centre fans towards Price, particularly those sitting in the famed Molson Ex zone was reprehensible. It was premeditated and spring-loaded. They seemed genuinely happy to be cheering against one of their own.
Imagine being in your place of business and being slapped (by 20,000 hands) each time that a colleague made a mistake.
In a meaningless game, where a player made a single error, the reaction was irrational and over the top.
In an odd way, it made for an easy night for Curtis Sanford. He and Price split the pre-season game down the middle. Sanford wasn’t tested handling six shots.
While he looked awkward on a couple of the saves, the fans gave Sanford a big ovation, simply because he wasn’t Price.
The mainstream media were only too happy to join the feeding frenzy. The headline that appeared on the post-game report on the CBC website was “Habs’ Price stops 4 of 8 shots in opener.” It’s unlikely that the writer even watched the game.
One Montreal personality sent Twitter messages during a Habs game for the very first time to gloat about Price’s misfortune.
Some in the MSM complained loudly that Price was not available to answer question after the game. It’s interesting that they were silent when Jaroslav Halak skipped the media chats after three dreadful games to end the regular season last year. He did the same thing in the playoffs after getting yanked.
Price was in a no-win situation. If he brushed off the performance as a meaningless exhibition contest, he would be labeled as aloof. If he took it seriously, the media would report that his confidence was shaken and that he had no mental toughness.
Realistically, Price had nothing to gain by meeting the media, nor did he owe them anything. It may be fair to expect players to face reasonable questions from objective media. But it’s Montreal, and none of that applies.
The Montreal players to a man came to the aid of their goaltender.
Tomas Plekanec was not only the Canadiens best player on the ice, he was the first to defend Price, in a captain-like way, saying, “Our fans are the best fans in the world and we need them. There is one guy in the room that needs them the most and that is Carey. He’s our number one goalie and we need our crowd to help him out. He is such a great kid.”
“He works hard every day. We are right behind him. We trust him and he’s our guy,” concluded Plekanec.
Plekanec is dead-on. Price has practised hard and been lights out at training camp.
“We all got his (Price) back and we’re all supporting him,” said Mike Cammalleri. “No one in here is booing him, so if everyone wants to identify with this team, we’re all supporting him so jump on board.”
“It’s about time that people realize they’re not helping him,” said Hal Gill. “They’re not helping the team.”
It is long overdue that so-called fans realize that their behaviour is detrimental to the team. They should either get onboard or step off. The mainstream media has to be much more responsible in presenting an objective view rather than shaping stories to stir up negative reactions.
Tonight’s incident could serve as a rallying point for the players and true fans to call out those who try to hijack the conversation. The real story deserves to be told.
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)