Hockey

Tim Wharnsby - Tuesday Feb. 18, 2014 05:03 ET

Carey Price to start for Canada in quarter-final game

Goalie faces winner of Switzerland-Latvia

Carey Price of Canada in men's hockey action
Canada's goalie Carey Price stopped 14 of 15 shots in an overtime win against Finland Sunday at the Sochi Olympics. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

SOCHI – Four years ago, Carey Price went ice fishing near his hometown of Anahim Lake, B.C., caught a couple rainbow trout and then settled in to watch Sidney Crosby put the entire country in a euphoric state with his golden goal.

Now, the Habs netminder is preparing to lead Team Canada into the playoff round at the Sochi Olympics.

In 2010, Price was 22 years old and considered the future of the Canadian goaltending scene. He already had celebrated a world junior title with Canada in 2007 and an AHL Calder Cup championship with the Hamilton Bulldogs a few months later.

The Montreal Canadiens netminder peaked the season following the 2010 Olympics with a career-high 38 victories. He seemed to be on his way, only to suffer through some tough times.

Price bottomed-out at the end of last season, when he won only five of his last 15 starts and his play worsened in the playoffs in an early first-round exit to the Ottawa Senators.

He wondered whether he had blown his chance to make the Canadian Olympic team. This was important to him. Winning an Olympic gold medal is as important to Price as hoisting the Stanley Cup one day with the Habs.

“I’ve always been a short-term goal type of guy and just focused on whatever was put in front of me,” Price said. "It really simplifies your mind and helps you focus when you focus on one thing and try to be really good at that and not worry about anything else.

“This is something that only comes around once in a while, it’s something you dive into when it comes along.”

There was no surprise Canadian head coach Mike Babcock announced that he will stick with Price in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. When the orientation camp in Calgary broke up in late August, Babcock told each player to strut their stuff in the first three months of the season and then decisions will be made.

Price was the best Canadian-born goalie before the Olympic team roster was announced on Jan. 7 and in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. So Babcock arrived in Sochi with a plan that had Price as his No. 1 and nothing the coach has seen here has altered that plan.

Improved technique

The change from Pierre Groulx to Stephane Waite as Montreal’s goaltending coach has benefitted the 26-year-old Price. He moves better from post-to-post and Waite, who was Cory Crawford’s coach with the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks, has him in a more athletic crouch than his being so upright like he used to be.

Waite has taught Price some new technical matters, but he also has been helpful to keep Price focused on the moment.

“He’s really instilled that in me so far this year,” Price said. “It really simplifies your mindset. If you start thinking long-term goals or past immediately what’s in front of you, you’re not giving the thing that’s right in front of you your full focus.”

Outwardly, he’s as cool as a cucumber. But don’t mistake his peaceful demeanour for a guy who isn’t intense behind the mask. Playing in Montreal, Price has learned to live in a bubble and not get distracted by the white noise made in the media and by fans.

“Maybe at first when you’re a rookie and you’re not used to that type of coverage you might want to know what people think of you,” he said. “But at this point in my career, I’m happy with the way things are going and I know what I need to focus on.

“I’ve learned a lot of things in Montreal that might have taken me longer in other markets.”

So far in Sochi, Price hasn’t been that busy in his two wins. He’s faced only 17.5 shots per game, compared to the 30.4 a game he sees with the Canadiens.

“I’m actually just trying to do the same thing I do in Montreal,” he said. “You’re not getting as many shots, but whenever they’re in the zone, you just try and find that zone that you’re in regularly as when you’re facing 30-35 shots.”

Are those low shot games more difficult?

“Yeah, sort of I guess,” Price said. “For me personally, it’s kind of fun playing behind a real good defensive team like that where everybody’s sticks are so well-placed, everybody’s always on the right side of the puck. You’re just trying to do your job and stay alert. You want to stop that next shot, that’s all you think about out there.”

Shuffling the deck, again

Babcock, meanwhile, changed up a couple of his lines in practice on Wednesday.

Chris Kunitz was back on a line with Sidney Crosby. Patrice Bergeron will stay on the right side.

Jamie Benn moved from the left side of Crosby's line to the left side of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

"We’re trying to find the right way," Babcock said. "It’s time to just let ‘em go and we think that’s an option for us [Benn with Getzlaf and Perry] and we’re giving her a run."

And on Kunitz back with Crosby?

"They’ve played together all year," Babcock said. "We thought we had a real good game out of Benn and Bergeron and Crosby last game. We just feel we need Getzy’s line to be good as well. So we’re just trying to get everything going as best we can."

Benn didn’t mind the change.

"It’s going to be good," he said. "I had a chance to play with them a couple of years ago at the world championships. They’re obviously skilled player, big guys who like to control the puck, control the play, and use their big bodies down low. Hopefully we can find some chemistry."

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