LAS VEGAS — Carey Price spent his first night in Las Vegas watching the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show.
It was fitting, as the Montreal Canadiens would have been a high-wire act without him.
Price got through the mourning period of the Canadiens’ playoff exit but still hasn’t had the chance to appreciate his superb season that got his team there.
On Wednesday night he could very well become the first goaltender since Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998 to win the Vezina Trophy, Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and Ted Lindsay Awards as most outstanding player voted by the NHLPA.
No goalie has won the Hart and Vezina in the same season since Jose Theodore in 2002. But his teammates and opponents feel Price is deserving of that honour.
“What’s special about Carey is you don’t have to talk about it because his play did all the talking for him,” Habs defenceman and Norris Trophy finalist P.K. Subban said Tuesday. “It’s about time now that he starts getting this type of recognition.”
In winning 44 games, Price broke Jacques Plante’s franchise record and has been mentioned in Habs history along with Ken Dryden, too.
His 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage led all goalies this season.
Down the hall from the trophies he could be picking up at the league’s annual awards show, including the William H. Jennings for the lowest GAA, Price said he hasn’t thought much about his place in history or what he accomplished.
“To be honest it hasn’t really hit me yet,” Price said.
Awards will help tell Price’s story.
Wednesday night could be a great one for the Habs if Subban captures his second Norris Trophy, but it almost certainly will be a good one for Canada’s teams.
Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames are up for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and Flames coach Bob Hartley is considered the favourite for the Jack Adams Award. If Subban doesn’t win the Norris, it very well could go to Senators captain Erik Karlsson, who like Subban is a better defensive player than when he got the award the first time.
“I think I have improved as a player, an all-around player,” Karlsson said. “Obviously with experience you get every year, every player develops into something better. I’m happy where I am right now. I think I’ve made progress since my season three years ago.”
Price has made progress through his eight NHL seasons and will likely win the Vezina over Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals scored a league-best 53 goals, and John Tavares led the New York Islanders back to the playoffs, yet Price has been the Hart front-runner since the midway point of the season.
On the eve of the awards show, a handful of his Canadian Olympic teammates from Sochi expressed an appreciation for his season for the Habs.
“If it wasn’t for him they wouldn’t have been where they were,” Norris finalist Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings said. “I think his season overall was just amazing, really.”
Rival Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins was impressed at just how many 1-0 and 2-1 games Montreal won because of Price. Tavares paid Price an even bigger compliment as a shooter trying to score on him.
“Sometimes you think you let one rip and you feel like you got some pretty good wood on it and you got the target that you’ve looked at and picked off and he kind of just gloves it like it was a bouncing tennis ball going in there,” Tavares said. “He just makes it look easy.”
Price, Ovechkin and Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn are up for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is voted on by players. Tavares said it’s a different kind of award that the league MVP, but no one would be surprised if Price wins that, too.
When Price is not on the stage, stars from the Sochi Olympics will be. Bergeron, Jonathan Toews of the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks and Slovenian superstar Anze Kopitar of the Kings are up for the Selke Trophy.