Can the Montreal Canadiens make a deep playoff run? Ask that question to any rival coach, player or scout and they will respond with the identical answer: with No. 31 in net, anything is always possible. Carey Price has recovered from some midseason struggles and is back to his stellar self just as the postseason approaches. I sat down with the former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner on Thursday night after the Habs clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Florida Panthers.
Ask: You’re on a nice stretch, both you and your team. Is this as good as you’ve felt since that strong start [the Canadiens got off to the best 10-game start in franchise history] to the season?
Price: Yeah, you know, it’s a long year, so you’re going to go through ups and downs throughout a season. You have to pace yourself. Obviously, it would be nice to be on top of your game the entire season, but what I’ve learned during my career is that timing is everything. You want to be playing well at the right time. I think we’re starting to pull our game together at the right time.
Ask: The team seemed to get a jolt from the coaching change [Montreal fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien to replace him on Feb. 14], which always seems to happen when a new coach is brought in. What has been different since Claude Julien came on board?
Price: We’ve had a pretty positive outlook on everything. When you do make a coaching change, it obviously does shake up everybody, it makes you wonder where you stand in the lineup. I think our guys have responded really well to that.
Ask: How do you view this team — given how it’s built, how it’s playing — in terms of its postseason chances?
Price: Well, you got to believe you can do it. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be contenders. We’ve made it this far. We have all the assets and all the right parts to make a great run.
Ask: How has fatherhood (Price’s daughter, Liv Anniston, will turn 1 on May 6) changed you?
Price: Your outlook on life changes, for sure. Hockey is not No. 1. It’s a life-changer, and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
Ask: I’ve had the chance to meet your dad, Jerry, who is a nice guy, but haven’t had the chance to meet your mother. (Lynda Price is a former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation in British Columbia.) She certainly sounds like an impressive person. How has she inspired you?
Price: She’s a very intelligent person, a very hard-working person. She went back to law school and got her degree. Now she’s going to run for chief again in our community. Maybe that will open up more doors for her down the road. She’s a natural leader. She’s not the loudest person in the room but what she says always means something from the heart.
Ask: The NHL has not decided if it will allow players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. One of your great moments was winning Olympic gold with Team Canada in Sochi. How important is it to you that NHL players get to go to the Games again?
Price: I want to represent my country. It was one of my top 10 life experiences so far. I’d love to go again. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be going, I don’t think.
Ask: We talked about how well you’re playing over this stretch and it’s been while wearing the new goalie pants that the league required all goalies to start wearing in January. Do you even think about them anymore? Is the adjustment period over with?
Price: Well, it took probably a week or so to get used to having your stuff overlap a little differently. But it’s history now.
Ask: If you were commissioner for a day, what is the one rule change you would bring in?
Price: For me it would be bringing back more goalie interference penalties. From my vantage point, we’re very vulnerable. We’re looking at the puck and guys are coming barreling in. I get that you have to go to the net and score goals, but if you’re going to run over the goalie there should be some type of consequence. Obviously, the league has changed from the early ’90s, when you’d have a 6-foot-6, 250-pound guy to answer to if you ran into the goalie. That’s just my opinion.
Ask: If I gave you a Hart Trophy ballot, how would you fill it out?
Price: Oof. Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and probably Sergei Bobrovsky.
Ask: Which means you’d give the Vezina to Bobrovsky?
Price: Yeah, it’s really outstanding what Bob has done this season — going from a point in his career where he openly confessed that he had zero confidence and then to come back and play the way he has this year is just really impressive.
Ask: What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever said to you?
Price: I’ve had all sorts of stuff like, “Be a groomsman at my wedding” or “Be my best man.”
Ask: Are you serious?
Price: Yes, I’ve gotten wedding invitations in the mail. (He laughs.) That’s pretty bold. It’s funny, because some of the invitations are for weddings in September. I’m a little bit busy then. So I’ve sent back the little card with a decline in it.
Price: Yes. (Laughs.)
Ask: That is tremendous. Thanks for your time, Carey.