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According to The Team 990 in Montreal, following last week’s 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, veteran defenceman Andrei Markov had some harsh words for teammate Carey Price.  As per the report, Markov told Price, “If you are not going to play with heart, stay home. We don’t need you here,” at which point some players defended Price and others sided with Markov.

The first thing to note is that this could be nothing more than frustration after a very tough loss.  Ty Conklin was outstanding for the Blues, but Montreal still managed to overcome a 3-1 deficit by scoring two goals in the third period and forcing overtime.  Despite Montreal’s strong game, several of the goals scored against Price had some odour to them, and Markov had a front row seat to the final goal of the game; he had Andy McDonald up in the high slot but McDonald beat Price cleanly with a strong shot.  Here are the highlights:

I’d also imagine that Price’s demeanour doesn’t help matters much, particularly after he’s played a flawed game.  Two years back, in their 2008 Future Watch issue, The Hockey News ran a profile of Price which related an interesting anecdote about his professional debut (with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL) and some relevant quotes from coach Don Lever.

Just minutes before his team’s first playoff game against the Rochester Americans last spring, Hamilton Bulldogs coach Don Lever was speaking to his team when he glanced over at the club’s rookie goalie to check his body language and determine whether the 20-year-old was nervous.  And there was Carey Price, just a couple of weeks after completing his junior hockey career, leaning back in his stall with his arms clasped over his chest, yawning.  It wasn’t as though Lever had asked the Montreal Canadiens to foist this rookie upon him in the playoffs, so seeing Price suffering from either boredom or sleep deprivation didn’t exactly have Lever bubbling over with confidence.

It’s fair to note that Price recorded a shutout that night, and led the team to the Calder Cup, so however irritating his approach to the game might be, it works for him.  Lever however was quick to note that approach when asked what Price needed to work on:

He has to be more focused.  I think sometimes his lackadaisical personality catches him flat-footed.

There have been similar stories over the years, but the moment I heard Markov’s comment my mind went back to that story.  It’s worth stressing that it’s all conjecture, and my personal feeling is that it doesn’t much matter where a goalie’s mind is at as long as he does a good job of stopping pucks (and despite his unfortunate win/loss record this season, Price does that) but it’s easy to imagine how that attitude might grate on some teammates.  Then again, as I said at the outset, it’s possible that this was nothing more than frustration after a tough loss.