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Poor Carey Price. One half game into the exhibition season and he's already subject to boos and catcalls, all because he gave up one questionable goal in Wednesday's match against the Boston Bruins, three others that leather-lunged fans figured Jaroslav Halak might have stopped if he was still in last year's playoff zone, and generally looked rusty and out of sorts, the way almost everybody looks rusty and out of sorts after a summer without hockey.

People think reporters make snap judgments? Geez, this went beyond silliness.

Price may or may not have a big bounce-back season this year, but to draw conclusions on the basis of one half of one exhibition game shows that - for all of those sophisticated fans they may have in Montreal, there are a few that don't understand much about the ways of the NHL world. At this time of year, it's all about working out the kinks - for every player, including the ones playing in front of Price who alarmingly seemed to lose complete track of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron whenever he was on the ice.

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For every NHL player, like the Mike Cammalleris or Brian Giontas, who embrace the perils and pleasures of life in Montreal's fast lane, there are those who would just as soon not have to deal with the complete fixation on hockey - and Price may soon become one of the latter, if this keeps up. It doesn't take much for the seeds of doubt planted in his brain last season to take root - and it will be worth hearing what Price has to say later today, after deciding not to take post-game questions last night.

Sometimes the decision to keep your thoughts to yourself is not a bad one. I remember one time Grant Fuhr got in trouble with Edmonton fans for calling them "jerks" post-game following a rough ride from the faithful. If Fuhr could have put that genie back in the bottle there, he would have; instead, it became part of his permanent record in Oiler-land.

Price undoubtedly will say all the right things today after pondering his so-so performance, which should be quickly forgotten. Quick question: Anybody remember how any exhibition game involving their favourite team turned out a year ago? No? That's the way it should be too. Some players shine against lesser competition and others play at three-quarter speed just to get through them, but no true assessment can be made until they drop the puck for keeps. That's the case for everyone - from the raw rookies who will enjoy a moment of pre-season glory in the next couple of weeks before fading into obscurity again, to the young veterans, trying to prove they have what it takes to play goal in that tumultuous Montreal fishbowl.

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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