Given the situation – Leafs in town, six straight losses at home – it was the Canadiens’ best game of the year.
Everything worked. If I were grading the Canadiens’ effort:
Goaltending: A- (only because the Devereaux goal was a softie)
Defence: A … and that most definitely includes Ryan O’Byrne and my man Josh Gorges, who held his own against the physical Leafs and made some precise outlet passes.
Forwards: A+ Keyed by the Captain and Christopher Higgins, who’ve been re-energized by the addition of Sergei Kostitsyn, all four lines contributed to a solid effort at both ends of the ice. There were sequences when the Leafs just could not touch the puck in their own end. If that cycling-down-low game keeps up, the fans have to learn to chant "The wheels on the bus go round and round …"
Special Teams: B- for the power play, which went 0-for-3 and A for the PK because Toronto went 0-for-3
Coaching: A At one time or other, Guy Carbonneau used each of his four centres against Mats Sundin, and the big (talented) lug was kept off the scoresheet. Despite some no-calls that had the Bell Centre faithful howling with rage, Carbo was smart enough to realize his team was controlling the game and there was no point ragging the refs – least of a rabbit ears like Kerry Fraser.
Fans: F- Throwing beer from $150 seats unto the Leafs’ bench? Totally uncool, totally unMontreal, totally idiotic. C’mon guys! What is this, Philadelphia?
Would it be immodest to point out that that the Boone Reverse Jinx was a perfect 2-0 this week? I predicted wins by the Flyers and Leafs, prognostication that made sense on paper.
But the game isn’t played on paper (and if it were, Hal Gill would be an ink blot.)
I admit it: a week ago, I wanted to fire Carbo and trade half the team. But the league is wacky this season. With the exception of Detroit, every NHL team is vulnerable to slumps.
The Canadiens’ swoon came early. And while they’re not out of the woods yet, the team is sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference and has played 120 minutes of excellent, disciplined hockey.
And they’re young. Half of these guys would get carded in an Ontario bar. They make mistakes, but when the Kiddie Corps is on, as they were against the Leafs last night, it’s a sight to behold. The Bell Centre cognoscenti love the kids. It’s wonderful to hear applause for the subtle, Hockey 101 skills of Kyle Chipchura.
I wonder if Bob Gainey will make a move before the holiday trade freeze kicks in. There’s less urgency than there was last week, but the play of Sergei K., Ryan O’Byrne and Josh Gorges makes for some dicey personnel decisions as players come off the IR list.
Anyway, these are good problems to have.
Florida on Tuesday night. I don’t know that I can invoke the Boone Reverse Jinx without turning it into a joke.