Friend and colleague Patrick V. Hickey summed up the mood of the media succinctly as we boarded the elevator to head down to the Canadiens’ dressing room:
“A game like that,” Hickey sighed, “and now we have to interview the Kostitsyn brothers.”
I didn’t stick around the room long enough to hear clichés tumble out of the mouths of Sergei and Andrei in halting English.
What could they or anyone else say about a game in which the Canadiens were lucky to take points from the worst team in the league?
This one won’t be in the Second Century Classic DVD collection.
Several fans used the Comments section to venture the opinion that the Canadiens play to the level of their opponents.
There’s something to that.
With the exception of the Dominic Moore-Travis Moen-SK74 line and occasional flashes from Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot, the forwards were incapable of exerting the kind of sustained pressure that should have buried the hapless Oilers early.
It was also a long night on the back end.
A worrisome sign, during an otherwise boring and entirely forgettable game, was the difficulty the D experienced with Edmonton’s aggressive, oversized forwards.
Dustin Penner was a one-man wrecking crew. Maybe a Zdeno Chara or Chris Pronger can stop that big moose from going to the net when he wants to. But no one wearing a red jersey – least of all Jaro Spacek, whom Penner brutalized all night – was able to even slightly impede the power forward’s bull rushes.
Maybe it was the frequent sight of an onrushing Penner that unnerved Jaroslav Halak. The goaltender did not have one of his better nights.
The Shawn Horcoff goal that tied the game at 4-4 was Edmonton’s 20th shot. A save percentage of 80.0 is not too impressive for a goaltender who came into the game having stopped 92.4 per cent of what he’s faced this season.
Jaro was impeccable, however, in OT and the shootout, lifting his career-best win total to 21.
At the risk of igniting yet another tiresome Comments shootout between Priceians and Halakites, may I suggest it’s typical of this season that Jaro won on an off-night while anything less than his A-game has doomed luckless Carey.
What is untypical of the season is the recent ineptitude of the power play.
Canadiens came up empty in seven man-advantage situations, including a 1:17 5-on-3 and a 4-on-3 in OT, when you’d think all that open ice would be a day at the beach for the swift, skilled Canadiens.
Since returning from the Olympic break, the Canadiens have won five of six. But the power play has gone 0-for against Boston, L.A., Anaheim and Edmonton. The PP is 2-for-21 since the schedule resumed.
There was, as Jacques Martin suggested in his press conference, good puck control and passing on the power play last night. But there weren’t enough shots and the Canadiens were plagued by brain cramps – notably Andrei Markov, who was otherwise excellent, twice losing the pucks fed back to the blueline.
The PP also was plagued by lack of net presence.
The Canadiens don’t have a Dustin Penner or Johan Franzen/Thomas Holmstrom to wreak havoc at the edge of the blue paint. But during a first-period penalty to Tom Gilbert, Martin used Mathieu Darche on his first-wave PP and the hard-working fourth-liner happily camped himself close enough to annoy Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Darche continues to be a late-season revelation. The guy is fearless and works his butt off on every shift.
Moore is similarly tenacious, with the added advantage of strong skating. He and Moen benefit from the playmaking genius of Sergei, who is getting his stuff together in time for the playoff push. SK74 shaked and baked some absolutely sick moves to set up Moen’s goal.
Brother Andrei made a sublime saucer pass to spring Tomas Plekanec for the goal that opened the scoring. And AK46 was the only player on either team to score during the shootout.
Two hard-fought points against a team going nowhere and, consequently, playing for contracts with zero pressure.
It will be different on Saturday when the Bruins are in town.
Jaro and his teammates will need their A-game.
• • •
The last time Travis Moen scored, there were still eight shopping days until Christmas.
• • •
Mark Recchi scored for the Bruins last night.
He is within one goal of Guy Lafleur’s 560.
That just doesn’t seem right.
I mean, Recchi is a terrific hockey player, the more so because he’s still playing at the age of 58.
But passing Guy Lafleur?