Four months after leading the Hamilton Bulldogs to their first Calder Cup championship and earning postseason MVP honors along the way, Carey Price is poised to make his highly-anticipated National Hockey League debut tonight when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And in doing so, Price won’t be the first Canadiens goalie to have cut his teeth in Steeltown.
Before even making his first NHL save against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, Price will be able etch his name alongside Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy once the puck is dropped. Just as the 20-year-old will tonight, both Dryden and Roy each made their debut on the exact same ice surface of the NHL’s oldest arena, namely Pittsburgh’s Igloo.
Dryden’s baptism by fire began on March 14, 1971 when he made 35 saves in a 5-1 win over the Penguins. The game was the first of six regular season contests Dryden would play before being handed the crease for the playoffs in the spring of 1971 and leading the underdog Habs all the way to the Stanley Cup as a 23-year-old.
Like Dryden before him, Roy’s first start also came in Pittsburgh. Roy did already have a win under his belt thanks to one period of work on February 23, 1985 in a 6-4 win over the Jets, but he had to wait a while for his first full 60 minutes in goal. That night came five days after his 20th birthday on Oct. 10, 1985, following a 24-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Penguins, Roy was also victorious in his first full NHL game.
While Roy did face Mario Lemieux in that game, both he and Dryden strolled into Pittsburgh with assignments far easier than the daunting task now facing Price. With the high-powered Penguins standing in his way, Price will look to become the latest young Habs goalie to ace his first NHL test.