Never in doubt, right?
OK, I’ve had my little joke.
For 40 minutes, your Montreal Canadiens’ crucial win over the Winnipeg Jets was very much in doubt.
But there were third-period heroics, and the upshot is there will be a hockey game at the Bell Centre next Tuesday.
The Canadiens having secured a spot in the upper tier of Eastern Conference playoff seedings, here’s a question for the Commentariat to chew over on Friday morning:
Should Andrei Markov play in Toronto on Saturday night?
He definitely could use a night off.
Markov played 21 games in the KHL – with Chekhov Vityaz, which sounds like a theatre troupe. And through 47 NHL games, Markov is averaging in excess of 24 minutes and looking more and more like Uncle Vanya.
Also, bad things happen to Markov at the Air Canada Centre, where he was cut by Carey Price’s skate blade and suffered his first knee injury when hit by Mikhail Grabovski, of all people.
The 4-2 win over the Jets put the Canadiens beyond the reach of Toronto. So Saturday’s game is not a showdown for home ice in the opening round.
I’d be tempted to rest Markov and Josh Gorges. I might even be tempted to start Peter Budaj.
Except for one factor: the Canadiens can still win the Northeast Division. And that might mean a more favourable opening-round match-up than the psychodrama that would ensue if they played Toronto.
On the postgame edition of L’Antichambre, Guy Carbonneau’s “manchette” was “Rien de convaincant encore.” Translation: the win over Winnipeg did not convince Carbo that the Canadiens have recovered from their late-season woes.
The Canadiens were bad in the first period and mediocre in the second, Carbo said. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was weak on two goals, and a dumb Too Many Men penalty created the 5-on-3 power play that produced David Desharnais’s winning goal.
Best aspect of the win for Carbo?
The play of Carey Price. The goaltender made saves – notably that amazing stop on Blake Wheeler’s breakaway – that kept the Canadiens in the game.
I liked Price, too. I also liked Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk and Rene Bourque. During the third period, there were signs of life from the David Desharnais line after Michel Therrien made an in-game adjustment, switching Gallagher and Bourque.
On the back end, the Canadiens got another stud performance from P.K. Subban: 25 minutes, four shots on goal plus another five that were blocked. Jarred Tinordi played almost 16 minutes and had seven of the Canadiens 16 hits (nine others had one each; P.K. and Markov had none).
Raphael Diaz played 19:39, including 2:17 on a Canadiens’ penalty-kill that was 2-for-2 after being lit up during the team’s slump. Michel Therrien did not use Markov or Subban on the PK.
Tomas Plekanec’s line continued to struggle. Not much talk lately about whether the Canadiens will sign Michael Ryder this summer. He’ll need a strong playoff performance to make a case for a new contract … and I doubt it will be with the Canadiens.
The fourth line didn’t do much. Brandon Prust had one shot and no hits. He’s playing hurt and might be a candidate to be rested on Saturday …. the more so because the valiant Prust would probably have to drop ‘em with one of the Toronto thugs whom Randy Carlyle will dispatch to “set the tone” for the playoffs.
That’s why I’m glad home ice won’t be in the balance at the ACC. Coming on the heels of what we’ve been seeing for the past two weeks, the Canadiens being gooned out of fourth place on Saturday would be too much to bear.
I’m still with Carbo, standing skeptically beside the CH bandwagon.
The Canadiens have not beaten a playoff team since edging the Bruins 2-1 on April 6. That will be three weeks ago on Saturday.
But the franchise goaltender was good in New Jersey and Winnipeg.
And even through the slump, the young core of the team – to which we can now add Tinordi’s name – offered hope of a bright future for the franchise.
On to TO … and absolutely no pressure.