Your Montreal Canadiens don’t have much time to enjoy the scenery, up at the dizzying heights of seventh place.
Their charter had to be de-iced – good idea! – and was late leaving New York. That meant a 2 a.m. bedtime for players who have to face the well-rested Penguins tonight.
So morning skate is optional.
Most of my thoughts on the W are in Quick Hits.
Jacques Martin coached brilliantly. He made quick adjustments to what was and was not working – actually, who was not working. The result was limited ice time for Lars Eller and David Desharnais.
Mathieu Darche and Benoit Pouliot got to play with Tomas Plekanec, and the ad-hoc line produced the tying goal. Then Benny, who played like his hair was on fire, popped the winner.
It was also significant that on the shift preceding Jaro Spacek’s goal, a reconstituted line of Jeff Halpern, Travis Moen and Max Pacioretty kept the puck in the New York zone – territorial dominance the Canadiens had rarely enjoyed through the first 37 minutes of the game.
With Eller, who was skating in Michael Cammalleri’s spot, and DD on the bench, Andrei Kostitsyn was dropped down to a checking line with Moen and Halpern. AK46 had only 13:11 of ice time but he responded to the demotion with a pretty good game, skating hard, winning puck battles, acquitting himself well in defence of a one-goal lead.
I don’t think we’re looking at the second coming of Bob Gainey, but with AK46 you celebrate any positive contribution and hope it signals better games to come.
You also hope the win at MSG is a harbinger of better performances on the road.
Of the 16 teams currently qualifying for the playoffs in both Conferences, only two have losing road records: the Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks.
The ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes are 11-8-4 on the road, as are the Atlanta Thrashers, whom the Canadiens leapfrogged into seventh place last night.
If the Canadiens go down to the wire in pursuit of a playoff spot – and I think they will – four of their final five games are away from home, beginning with what proabbly will be a four-pointer in Carolina on March 30.
Last night, we saw flashes of what you need to win on the road.
The Canadiens were disciplined, taking only three minor penalties … although Lars Eller’s O-zone hold won him a good seat to watch the game and possibly punched his ticket for Hamilton.
You can’t be intimidated in road games, and the Canadiens got good, physical play out of Benny, Darche, Max-Pac, Moen and AK-46.
Alex Auld continued his mastery of the Rangers and in the process lowered his GAA to 1.74 and raised his save percentage to 94.1.
Both stats are better than Carey Price’s. Let’s start a goaltending controversy.
I liked P.K.’s 22 minutes last night, even with his holding penalty. Jaro Spacek was really good – and he had to be, paired with Yannick Weber. Roman Hamrlik was solid, as always, and his defensive abilities complement James Wisniewski’s O-oriented game.
Hal Gill was a pylon on Brandon Dubinsky’s goal. But in the replay that the RDS guys, Joël Bouchard and Gaston Therrien, broke down, P.K. should have played more aggressively in support of his partner. His tardiness allowed Dubinski, a LH shot, ample time to cut in front of the net to beat Auld.
This is nit-picking, as is pointing out the Rangers’ 39-28 hit advantage.
The Canadiens played a very good road game.
They got great goaltending, excellent performances by some key players (notably Benny), outshot a home team 38-26 and bagged two valuable points.
No rest for the weary.
Crosby-less Penguins tonight.
• • •
Ryan McDonagh: 10:46 (low among their Dmen), no shots, no hits, no blocked shots and plus-1.
If he did anything noteworthy, I missed it.