"The kid's been making all the routine saves, and they weren't getting that before," says Buffalo defenseman Garry Galley. "Judging by his record, he's made some big saves, too."
"Jim will go a long way because of his demeanor, his attitude, his composure," says Capital center Dave Poulin, a 12-year veteran. "He's controlled in the way that he plays."
Carey has a square jaw, light-blue eyes and the vague, gentle expression of someone who just woke up. And he plays that way—with minimal motion and emotion. His is a practiced calm.
"You'll never see me break a stick over a crossbar," Carey says. "In my experience, a goalie does that and his teammates think, Here we go, they're going to blow six more past this guy. This is a team sport. The goalie's almost like the quarterback because the whole team feeds off him. If he gets beaten on a breakaway and then acts ticked off, his teammates are going to say, 'He lets one in and he's blaming me for it? I don't want to play for this guy.' "
But remove the mask and replace the goalie stick with, say, a Wiffle bat or a deck of cards or a board game, and this mature, polite, thoughtful kid metamorphoses into a bug-eyed madman. Take Carey off a team and put him into head-to-head competition, and his behavior is—how would Jim Carrey put it?—stupid and more stupid.
Carey had a white-picket-fence childhood in the Boston suburb of Weymouth, except the pickets were always being replaced because Carey kept breaking them in fits of pique. Jim was not a good loser, which runs in the family—or at least part of it.
His father, Paul, a boiler operator for Boston Edison, is a gentle soul. ("My dad is so laid-back that if a nuclear attack happened while he was out cutting the grass, he'd keep cutting because he'd figure when the fallout came, at least our lawn would be nice," Jim says.)
But his mother, Beverly, a medical billing secretary, is more cutthroat than Sweeney Todd. Paul met his wife when she was the shortstop on a state championship CYO softball team he helped coach. When Jim was in seventh grade, his mother was still the best quarterback in the neighborhood.
Long before any sneaker company, Beverly knew life was one big game. "Competition," she says, "is wonderful."
Competition. That was how the three Carey children learned their multiplication tables, their vocabulary words, almost everything. Someone would shout "Nine times nine" at the dinner table, and the others had better know the answer. A 10-cent bet or an ice-cream cone riding on the correct response focused the mind wonderfully.