Of course, it’s too early to call Lars Eller the Danish Jean Béliveau.
But on a night when Jaroslav Halak was posting a 19-save shutout for St. Louis, Eller – the Blues’ first-round draft choice in 2007 – put on a Gros Billesque display of strength down the middle in the Canadiens’ 4-1 win.
Eller scored a goal, his third of the season, and added an assist. He topped all Canadiens centres with 18:43 of ice time. This included 4:53 on the power play and 1:22 on the penalty kill.
Numbers don’t tell the full story. Eller had a so-so night in the faceoff circle (won 11, lost 10), but he was a dominant player in all three zones. Through two games, Eller and his sophomore linemates – Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk – have scored five of the Canadiens eight goals. The EGG line has collected 12 points.
They young line is playing with confidence. And with the exception of a penalty Eller took in the opener against Toronto (during which James van Riemsdyk opened the scoring), they’re not making mistakes.
It’s fun to watch – not least because barring injury, these kids are just going to get better.
How long they’ll stay together is problematic because Galchenyuk is going to end up playing centre. So let’s enjoy it while we can – and look forward to the team bolstered by a great one-two punch at the key forward position.
Add a Norris Trophy defenceman, a goaltender who looked great (but, let’s be honest: not First Star great) against the Flyers, a power forward who scores when he’s healthy …
Hey, maybe the Canadiens have the makings of something interesting.
Eller & Associates were not the only shining stars against Philadelphia.
• P.K. Subban played 28:31 and skated circles – sometimes literally – around any Flyer who tried to forecheck him.
• Travis Moen contributed another solid physical effort – and he’s 2-0 in fights this season.
• The Tomas Plekanec line had two goals and five points. Brian Gionta opened the scoring with one of his classic sweet-hands efforts from close in. And Rene Bourque skated hard, played responsible D, notched a goal and has looked good in both games the team has played.
• Playing against the kind of big, tough team that might be expected to trouble him, Raphael Diaz played a solid, error-free 17:35. His partner, Andrei Markov, played 25:40 and contributed flashes of vintage Markov. The legs have been ravaged by injuries, but Markov still sees the ice and thinks the game as well as anyone in the league.
• The power-play has four goals through two games. The penalty kill was excellent until that Lecavalier guy cashed with Josh Gorges in the box.
• Michaël Bournival played only 6:09 but had a shot, a hit, went 2-2 on draws and didn’t do anything that might consign him to Michel Therrien’s Reserved-for-Rookies doghouse.
• Brandon Prust had a Prustian game: two shots, two hits, almost eight minutes on the PK and useful contributions to three different lines.
• Jarred Tinordi played 10:47 – four minutes less than he did against the Leafs. But he contributed a solid 6:50 on the PK and had a couple hits.
It was not a great night for former Flyer Daniel Brière – two penalties, one of which nullified a power-play, and 3-7 in the faceoff circle. His linemate, David Desharnais, was 4-7 on draws.
And, hallelujah, DD played almost five fewer minutes than the centre who is seven inches taller than he is.
It’s early in the season, but this was an important win for your Montreal Canadiens.
On Wednesday night in Calgary, they begin a a four-game road trip across western Canada. It includes an Alberta back-to-back and tough challenges in Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Heading out there winless would not be the best way to start a hockey season.
Especially when the Leafs and Bruins are undefeated.