That was the good news after a nervous but hugely entertaining 5-3 win over the not-as-lousy-as-you-think-they-are Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Canadiens announced Max-Pac has a strained hamstring. He will be out of the lineup for three weeks.
It could have been worse. When Pacioretty went down on his sixth shift of the first period in Winnipeg, it looked like a knee or groin injury that might jeopardize his season.
Beginning with Nashville’s visit to the Bell Centre on Saturday, the Canadiens will play 10 games before Pacioretty’s projected return to action. Six will be on home ice, and the only game against a division rival is the Nov. 7 visit to Ottawa.
So we’re probably spared a Simon Gagné signing.
Pacioretty is the Canadiens’ premier power forward. And that’s a somewhat misleading description, because Max-Pac relies more on speed, skill and finesse than on Lucicesque rockin’ and sockin’.
The Canadiens don’t have a Milan Lucic. Nor, on the evidence of this game, do they have a Boone Jenner and R.J. Umberger. The Canadiens are hoping that first-round draft choice Michael MacCarron becomes a classic power forward, but that mammoth ship won’t be coming in for two or three years.
Columbus erased a 3-0 deficit and nearly spoiled the Canadiens’ welcome home party because the Blue Jackets have several forwards who don’t mind parking themselves in areas where most Canadiens forwards – with the notable exception of wee Brendan Gallagher – fear to tread. While compiling an impressive 5-2 start, your boys have been outhit in all seven games – including a 25-19 advantage for the big, bad Blue Jackets.
(Man, that sounds ridiculous!)
Lars Eller had four hits, one more than Brandon Prust, the indomitable warrior who moved up on LW with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta and ended the game plus-3. Travis Moen and Ryan White each had a couple hits, and eight Canadiens had one each. Six defencemen combined for five hits. Jarred Tinordi had none.
I hate to nit-pick after the Canadiens’ fourth straight win, but the team’s lack of physicality is worrisome.
Price outplayed Bobrovsky and did so with white jerseys crashing his crease all night. The only Canadien who went to Bobrovsky’s net was Brendan Gallagher, and I think he got there by skating between Fedor Tyutin’s legs.
OK, let’s banish the negativity. The cavalry is coming.
Mac-Pac will be back in November, as will Douglas Murray and Alexei Emelin. By the time he gets to The Show, MacCarron will be cheeseburger shy of 250.
Until then, the Canadiens will get their Ws on team speed and great goaltending.
The former quality has been a hallmark of Montreal hockey teams since Red Fisher was Brendan Gallagher’s age. And the team has added another racehorse in rookie Michaël Bournival, whose acceleration terrifies defenders and brings a new dimension to the Canadiens’ fourth line. Call the kid Daniel Paille Lite – and I think Bournival has Top 9 upside.
Bournival had five shots and scored the first goal of his career off a lovely pass by Andrei Markov, who scored his first of the year. The Markov goal and Plekanec’s empty-netter were the Canadiens’ second and third shorties in seven games. Last season’s SHG total: 0.
Markov added an assist. His defence partner had two helpers, lifting his total to eight assists – tops among NHL defencemen. P.K. has points in seven straight games. Does any sane person – Steve Yzerman included – doubt that Subban is Sochi-bound?
P.K. also took two penalties. One was a very dubious elbowing call and raised the question someone posed on Twitter: How come Norris Trophy laureates Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara always got away with attempted murder while P.K. gets called from borderline crap?
Maybe for the same reason Barack Obama is despised, by some, as a Kenyan Marxist traitor?
I’m just sayin’ …
Where would your Montreal Canadiens be without P.K.?
Hint: Not two points behind Toronto and Detroit in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand on each.
And where would they be without Carey Price?
I can’t even bring myself to hint …
• Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec both played 17:50.
• Alex Galchenyuk overhandled the puck a couple times and ended the game at -1 – his first minus night this season.
• Jarred Tinordi played 10:29 and only scared Michel Therrien for about 10:20.
• David Desharnais had no SoG, but I thought he hustled. And DD won five of his nine draws (the only Canadiens centre above .500) and was on to take a crucial D-zone faceoff late in the game.
• The Canadiens plus-12 goal differential is the best in the Eastern Conference and third in the NHL behind San Jose’s ridiculous plus-20 and Colorado’s plus-13.
• The Canadiens were 5-2 after seven last season.