When it comes to difficult questions, there are those one must answer, others you'd rather not think about, and the persistent kind that rankle by their very nature.
Seldom do people face all of them at once, but Carey Price's station in life is unlike any other in hockey, so he's gotten used to it.
"I'm pretty numb to it now, it's just another day at the job," Price sighed when asked about the scattered boos and ironic applause he drew for giving up four goals on eight shots in his first exhibition start of the year on Wednesday night.
Never mind that the jeers came from a minority of fans in the Bell Centre - in several cases the hecklers themselves were booed by other fans - or that most of those emitting them have surely been dying to vent their spleen since playoff standout Jaroslav Halak was shipped out of town this past summer.
L'Affaire Price, fuelled by pundits and fan reaction, has thus taken on new proportions despite it being just the sixth day of training camp - familiar questions about his mental toughness are back and more insistent than ever.
So there he was after practice Thursday, dripping with sweat, engulfed by a large herd of reporters and television cameras.
Though the 23-year-old former all-star insists he's faced it all before and has developed a thick carapace, there was still an unmistakable tinge of weariness and exasperation in his voice.
Asked if he had a message for fans, Price blurted: "Just relax. Just chill out, we've got lots of time. We're not winning the Stanley Cup in the first preseason game."
That was a point that Price's teammates were also quick to make, and they way they circled the wagons leaves no doubt the young goalie is still their guy.
Veteran winger Mathieu Darche, who spent lots of time working out with Price during last season's playoffs as both saw only sporadic action, said "he's in a better place mentally even than he was last year; no one in this room is worried about him."
"It's a minority of people [jeering] If he'd had a shutout, they would have said 'Ah, it's only the preseason, it doesn't mean anything,' " added Darche.
Price was on the practice sheet before 9 a.m. on Thursday morning - he was the first man out, coach Jacques Martin would later skate by for a quick pep talk and a tap on the pads - and he said he wants to get back into game action as soon as possible.
He also insisted he is determined to prove his detractors wrong.
"I've never been one to back away from a challenge, it's just my personality, it's just the way I am. I'm not going to cower away from anything," he said.
Martin suggested dealing with fan abuse from the season's outset will surely make Price stronger; either way, it will be a test of the added maturity the coach and teammates have ascribed to the former fifth overall draft pick.
"I think he's responded well. … It's the first game of the preseason, you move on," Martin said.
Price was also critical of his own performance, saying he felt he could have stopped three of the four pucks that got past him - a deflected wrist shot, a laser beam from the point, two from dekes that followed egregious turnovers by the defence.
"It wasn't exactly how I'd planned things going. But that's just the way it panned out. That's why we have these games, to work things out. We've got a lot of things to work out, not only myself, as a team," he said.
While Price is keen to get back on the ice, he won't see action until Saturday night in Ottawa against the Senators - Martin said he has no plans to alter his five-goalie rotation as the Canadiens embark on a stretch of four games in four nights.
That gives Price a few days to stew, but it's not like he doesn't have a solution to the boo-bird problem.
"Winning solves everything," he said.Report Typo/Error