The Jacques Martin mantra: Goaltending and special teams.
The Canadiens were superior in both departments, and the result was victory against a better team.
Oh yeah, I still think the Canucks are a Stanley Cup contender … if they can shore up their D with someone better than Dreadful Sorry, Uncle Andrew Alberts
Would the Canadiens beat them 2-0 four times in a seven-game series?
But for one great night at the Bell Centre …
At that, the Canucks held a territorial advantage. They fired 35 shots at Carey Price, the Canadiens blocked another 21 and there were 14 misses. The Canadiens corresponding totals were 29-11-11.
So we’re talkin’ 70-51 in pucks on their sticks, with at least a chance to score.
But the Canucks didn’t score. And the way Price played last night, he’d have stopped 70 SoG.
The Canadiens killed four penalties, got a goal on the power-play to
break an 0-for-17 streak (Yes, you read that right) and got lights-out
goaltending from the young guy who was born in the province where
Vancouver is located.
Carey Price is 8-5-1. His GAA is 2.28, with a save percentage of 91.8.
He has started 14 games, more than any other goaltender in the league.
Through 15 games, the Canadiens have accomplished Job One of the 2010-’11 season: they’ve got their question-mark goaltender off to a good (with gusts to great) start.
Price saw every shot the Canucks fired at him. On the few occasions there were rebounds, his D or backchecking forwards – even Scott Gomez, on one occasion – swept the puck out of harm’s way.
Price’s confidence is growing faster than his Movember moustache. And, crucially, he has won the admiration, if not yet the affection, of Bell Centre fans.
At this point, Carey Price can play a bad game, as he inevitably will, without all the old doubts – immaturity, laziness, weak glove hand, goes down too early – seeping back in.
Oh, the Price bashers will still be at it. They can’t help themselves, and they fully intend to spend the season pissing and moaning about a goaltender who plays in St. Louis.
They will be joined, in annoying harmony, by the fans who think they can stroll down from the cheap seats and take over for Jacques Martin behind the bench.
I think the Martin Must Go lobby is worse than the Halakite Chorale.
The latter have Jaro’s brilliant playoff performance on which to base their case. The former ignore Martin outcoaching Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and, last night, Alain Vigneault.
Martin got all the match-ups he wanted. And his Top Three centres – Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Halpern and Gomez – each won most of their draws, with the much-maligned Gomez going 9-3.
Martin brought Mathieu Darche out of the pressbox, and the McGill grad has rewarded his coach’s confidence – and inspired his teammates – with hard work and physical play in every start.
Martin used Lars Eller for 4:24 last night, and I can just hear the critics: “He’s killing the kid’s confidence! This team doesn’t know how to develop young talent!!”
Know what? Eller packed good stuff into his seven shifts. A kid with all of 22 starts is learning to play NHL hockey.
No, Jacques Martin is not the most dynamic coach in the league. He doesn’t bellow and gesticulate during late-game timeouts. He doesn’t, to anyone’s knowledge, throw sticks around the dressing room in fits of Tortorellian rage.
There are some other things he doesn’t do:
He doesn’t panic.
He doesn’t call out his players to the media.
He doesn’t put veterans in the pressbox.
I was among those who thought Jaro Spacek was washed-up. Martin forgot to ask my opinion, and Spatch was excellent last night, as was his partner, Roman Hamrlik.
Martin has been knocked for stifling the creativity of P.K. Subban.
You know what “creative” 21-year-old defencemen do?
They get their coaches fired.
P.K. played 18 minutes last night. He still offered his adoring Bell Centre fans a couple of shake-and-bake moves, but Subban didn’t do anything to elevate his coach’s blood pressure.
Andre Markov played 25 minutes and worked his usual calming effect on the BP of coaches and teammates. He’s back, folks, and Josh Gorges is learning how to play with him, i.e. as Gorges said: “Skate to open ice and he’ll find you, dump it into his corner if you get in trouble and he’ll get it out.”
Alain Vigneault was after his 300th NHL win.
He wasn’t going to get it in Jacques Martin’s 1,195 game behind an NHL bench.
Compare the rosters of the Canadiens and the Canucks. Think Scotty Bowman would have won 4-0?
On to Boston …