(Photo: Peter McCabe/The Gazette)
The Canadiens cleared out their lockers on Saturday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and fielded questions about their season and playoff run.
For some players, like unrestricted free agent Thomas Vanek, the questions were also about the future.
The Canadiens finished the season with an impressive 100 points and made it to the Eastern Conference final, losing the series in Game 6 on Thursday to the New York Rangers.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price spoke to the media for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final when Rangers forward Chris Kreider lost his balance and crashed into him.
“I don’t think it was on purpose,” Price said.
“Hockey is a rough sport. Injuries happen all the time. Sometimes they’re intentional, sometimes it’s just bad luck. I don’t think he did it on purpose.”
“I actually got really lucky. It could have been a lot worse than it was,” he said of the injury which won’t require surgery.
Price said he would have been pushing his luck to come back really quickly. But he thought he would have been able to return to play in the Stanley Cup final if the Habs had made it there.
When Price got injured the Canadiens opted to go with rookie Dustin Tokarski instead of back-up goaltender Peter Budaj.
“Peter is one of the genuinely nicest human beings I’ve ever met,” Price said.
“He’s an unbelievable back-up. He’s a really good friend of mine. He’s one of the best friends I have on this team. He showed a lot of character. He never hung his head. He never pouted. And he showed the utmost support for everybody including Dustin. It takes a special person to do that.”
Tokarski did a great job, Price said.
“That’s probably one of the hardest situations you could ever throw a guy into. And he really excelled. He showed why he’s won at different levels.”
Price had an excellent season and won a goal medal backstopping Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
“During this playoff run it was really fun to play with these guys in this locker-room. I think this is the tightest group we’ve ever had. Obviously it’s sad to have it come to an end right now. But we’ve got to look forward to next year,” Price said.
Vanek struggled during the playoffs, but suggested he wasn’t suffering from a serious injury.
“Nothing big. In playoffs I think every player has bumps and bruises. I had a few, but overall that was not a reason (for) what happened,” Vanek said.
“It wasn’t great obviously,” Vanek said of his playoff performance. “Yesterday was tough waking up because I know I could have made a difference and it just–it wasn’t there.”
“When I first got moved here, I played a few games, struggled. Then I got moved with (David Desharnais) and (Max Pacioretty). I really found myself. I think I was put in a position to do well. And then once I got moved, I struggled to find chemistry. This game is all about chemistry and confidence. I slowly lost it. I thought the later part in the Rangers series, I played with Lars (Eller) a little bit and Danny (Brière) and I slowly found my game and I thought I was better.”
Asked he would have liked to stay playing with Desharnais and Pacioretty, Vanek said: “No, I mean, changes happen. I’m not ignorant to that…I’m not blaming anyone but myself. Chemistry doesn’t just happen overnight. Sometimes it does when you play with players that you feel right with. I think it happens quicker. But again, I just didn’t find it.”
You can watch what Price had to say here:
You can listen to what Vanek said here:
You can watch Canadiens captain Brian Gionta here:
You can watch P.K. Subban here:
You can watch what Mike Weaver had to say here:
You can watch what Max Pacioretty had to say here:
You can watch what rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski had to say here about his playoff experience and future:
You can watch Budaj here:
You can listen to Lars Eller here: (I hit ‘focus’ a second into the video.)
You can watch Francis Bouillon here:
(Video: Brenda Branswell)