OTTAWA – The Canadiens-Bruins rivalry does not exist for Carey Price and Zdeno Chara. For one weekend, anyhow.
The regular season rivals will be joining forces in Ottawa as All-Star teammates, Chara having nabbed Price in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft held on Thursday night. He was Chara’s second choice among goaltenders, the Bruins captain not surprisingly opting for teammate Tim Thomas with his second selection.
“They’re good guys,” said Price, who heard his name called three rounds earlier than in 2011. “We play against them all season, you learn to hate them but you get on their team and they’re actually really good guys. That’s kind of the fun thing behind this whole thing – you get to meet guys you normally learn to hate.”
It’s not the first time he’ll be donning the same All-Star sweater as his division rival. Last year in Raleigh, Eric Staal picked both for his roster. And, in 2009, Price and Thomas both represented the Eastern Conference under the past All-Star format.
This year, players awaited the call of the draft from a backstage lounge. Price was somewhat caught off guard, which ultimately led to him not shaking Chara’s hand.
“I didn’t know I was picked! I think Hartsy tapped me on the leg and said ‘It’s you.’ I was like, ‘What?’ So I didn’t even know,” he explained. “Then when I got out there I didn’t even see the big Zdeno standing there, all 6-foot-10 of him. I was looking down. You know goalies don’t stickhandle with their heads up. I’m just trying to do one thing at a time around here.”
And that included acknowledging the 6-foot-9 blue-liner.
“I gave him a point after,” Price said. “ He kinda looked at me funny; I felt bad. He’s a big guy. I was like, ‘Oh, how’d I miss him?’”
Chara held no hard feelings on the missed handshake, taking responsibility for the unintentional snub.
“That was my bad, I missed him. I was kind of following the picks and I was trying to look at the computer to see how much time I had and how many picks I had left and he snuck by,” Chara said. “No big deal.”
In a game where defence isn’t a part of the vernacular, Price has actually been one of the stronger goaltenders in his two previous appearances. In the two periods he’s played, he’s given up just five goals on 27 shots – a save percentage of .815. Thomas ranks second behind Price of goalies to have played in the 2009 and 2011 midseason showcase, with an .811 save percentage (30 of 7) Rangers’ backstop Henrik Lundqvist is third at .743 (26 of 35).
“I don’t go on with a whole lot of pressure, knowing that you’re going to get lit up,” Price said. “Just try and go out there and hopefully make a couple of big saves and try and get the HON (highlight of the night).”
His pretty solid All-Star stats were announced as he came out to accept his jersey. Price didn’t hear it – and he wanted to keep it that way.
“No,” he said when asked if he was aware of his numbers. “I don’t even want to know. Don’t tell me.”
With goalies required to be off the board by the 10th round, Price hasn’t had to worry about being a final pick. This year’s honour went to San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture. Until the final moments, though, there were certainly some nerves as players waited to join a team.
Except maybe for one.
“I know it wasn’t Raphi Diaz! I know that as a fact,” joked Price of his rookie Habs and now Team Chara teammate.