I decided, however, to go in a different direction and instead focus on Price himself, and whether or not it's time to panic and cast doubt as to whether or not he's really the goaltender of the future in Montreal.
There's no denying that Price, now in his third year in the NHL, has been inconsistent at best thus far, while his numbers during the 2008-09 season took a sizable dip from the production he put up his rookie season. Through his first six starts this season, the production is even worse. Time to panic?
Of course it's not.
While it seems like Price has been around forever (to me it does), it's important to keep in mind that he's still only 22 years old, and doesn't turn 23 until Aug. 16, 2010. I was curious to see how other starting goaltenders around the NHL had performed in the big leagues at the same age, and how many had not even made their NHL debut.
The results (regular season games only):
The thing that surprised me wasn't necessarily the performance of the goalies listed above, but how few games many of them played at that point, and the goalies that had yet to play a single game in the NHL at that point in their careers: Henrik Lundqvist (made debut at 23), Miikka Kiprusoff (24), Evgeni Nabokov (24), Tim Thomas (28), Niklas Backstrom (28), Jonas Hiller (25), Marty Turco (25), Pekka Rinne (23), Dwayne Roloson (27), Mike Smith (24), Cristobal Huet (27).
While Price has battled inconsistency and struggled at times, he's playing in the NHL at an age when most of his peers (and some of his best peers) had yet to even play a game in the league. That has to count for something, right?
I think a solid comparison for Price at this point, in terms of performance and development, is Fleury. Both players were top picks in their respective draft class (Fleury was No. 1 overall, Price No. 5) and both were thrown to the wolves probably earlier than they should have been. Granted, Fleury played on a far worse team early in his career than Price did, while the media scrutiny and pressure wasn't quite what it is in Montreal, but he still struggled at times through his first three seasons (particularly his first two seasons) before finally putting it all together during the 2007-08 season.
It's stating the obvious, and something all hockey fans know, but patience is a must with young goalies.
Price started each of Montreal's past five games on the bench, and played the third period of Wednesday's loss in Pittsburgh after Halak was lifted after giving up four goals on 23 shots. Let's go back a week when Robert L. at Habs Eyes On The Prize weighed in on the goaltender debate:
My problem is that I think Price is best be served by a veteran netminder who's assured of his role and can serve as somewhat of a mentor to a young rising goalie. Price has never had that in Montreal, and it often shows. A capable older goalie would be a fountain of experience and calming presence for a designated franchise goalie, and that is something, no matter how good Halak performs, is not being provided to Price.Price gets the nod on Friday when Montreal travels to Chicago.