Will those two points be important in April?
And the Canadiens are only 1-1 against crap teams: the Islanders Z-squad in that exhibition game in Quebec City and the woeful Leafs at the ACC.
A loss is a loss, but there were mitigating factors:
No Andrei Markov.
No Mike Cammalleri.
No Roman Hamrlik.
The first two were missed on the Canadiens power-play, which went 0-for-5.
The absence of Hamrlik was less of a factor. The Canadiens’ highly suspect D played a strong game against a weak group of Toronto forwards.
Yes, Clarke MacArthur looked like his former teammate, Thomas Vanek, on the winning goal. But with the exception of Phil Kessel, the other Leafs fired blanks (including a shot-less stretch of more than 10 minutes in the second period).
Solid but not spectacular. Some huge saves on Kessel, including a cat-quick late-game stop that kept the margin at 3-2 and set the stage for some last-second pressure on Jean-Sebastien Giguère.
(Elliotte Friedman’s excellent interview with Price, including an account of the flare-up with Andrei Markov last season.)
On L’Antichambre, panelists praised the intensity, character and work ethic of the Canadiens.
The team came out thumping – recording five of the first six hits – and were not intimidated by the allegedly scary Leafs. Brian Burke’s truculent team includes small forwards and a defence corps that has size but limited skill and mobility. The Canadiens’ D, missing two regulars, had three blown assigments and Toronto cashed each time.
Forechecking by the Canadiens third and fourth lines created chaos in the Toronto end. And if Giguère hadn’t been at the top of his game …
Again, no points to show for the evening, but there was a lot to like:
• Lars Eller: The Canadiens cleaned house in their pro scouting department, but I hope there was a bonius for whoever recommended this kid. Eller was minus-2, but had two shots, missed the net three times and had two shots blocked. Stats don’t tell the story, though. Eller played with skill, smarts and confidence. For my money, he’s a Top Six forward who should be tried on the wing with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta when Cammalleri returns.
• Dustin Boyd was the only player Jacques Martin singled out in his postgame French remarks. The newcomer played almost 15 minutes, including more than three minutes of excellent PK time – and had three shots and the goal that put the Canadiens back in the game. He seems to have good chemistry with a renascent Maxim Lapierre.
• Jeff Halpern was superb on the PK and played 10:40 – solid minutes for a fourth-liner.
• Josh Gorges had four hits, blocked three shots and kept his head through the rare sequences when the Leafs managed to maintain control of the puck in the Canadiens’ end. He and Hal Gill continue to play complementary D.
• P.K. Subban took another penalty – his ninth, if you include the pre-season – but played with admirable discipline. The RDS guys praised his sang-froid. We didn’t see the patented rushes until late in the game, when the Canadiens were scrambling to tie it up.
• Andrei Kostitsyn had a few shots and played like he cared.
• The defence pairing of Ryan O’Byrne and Alexandre Picard had a shaky start but improved as the game went on. O’B had some big hits, and Picard moved the puck effectively.
• Tom Pyatt was great on the P.K but took a penalty with four minutes left in a one-goial game.
• Tomas Plekanec had four hits but lacked the explosiveness we saw in the pre-season. He missed Cammalleri.
• Benoit Pouliot is playing his way out of the Top Six. Martin was reduced to using Mathieu Darche with Gomez and Gionta, demoting Benny to fourth-line duty. He had no shots on goal, did little of consequence in the O-zone and had a neutral-zone turnover that sprung Kessel for the Leafs’ second goal.
• The Captain forced Giguère into a couple game-saving stops in the dying seconds. But he and Gomez exerted little in the way of sustained pressure – possibly because they didn’t get much help from Benny.
• Where was Playoffs Gill?
Trotting out his favourite mantra for the opener, Martin said special teams were crucial. The Canadiens should have had more to show for three man advantages. They consistently lost crucial faceoffs to begin PPs, Subban was jittery at the point and there was only one occasion when the first wave managed to maintain control for more than a minute … without scoring.
The power-play will be more dangerous with Cammalleri and Markov.
On to Pittsburgh, where the Penguins will be good and pissed after opening their new building with a loss to Philadelphia – a game in which Sid and Geno were kept off the scoresheet.
• • •
With Wade Redden in the AHL, is there a more overpaid Dman in the league than Mike Komisarek?
He played 12:08, had two hits (Josh Gorges and Tomas Plekanec had four each) and was on for both Canadiens’ goals.
What a stiff. And Dion Phaneuf ain’t much better.
• • •
Mathias Brunet of La Presse put it well in a Tweet: The Future of the Canadiens is in good hands with P.K., Eller and Price.
• • •
LOVED the work of Mario Tremblay on RDS. He and Joël Bouchard are a good team.
And Benoit Brunet, who was ripped in La Presse this week, has picked up his game.
• • •
I missed Coach’s Corner, but Commenters say Don Cherry was all over the Halk trade.
First time in history he and Jack Todd agree on anything.