Memo to Guy Carbonneau:
Tomorrow night at the Bell Centre, when Canadiens try to sweep the season’s series against Boston, keep Mark Streit on defence and dress Steve Bégin.
I’m basing this unsolicited advice on the unavailability of Mike Komisarek. He’ll be examined by doctors in Montreal this morning, but whatever Komisaurus has, it looks serious.
The team made it through 75 games without a significant injury to a key player. This is a bad time to lose a pillar of the defence corps, but the availability of Streit – as opposed to You-Know-Who – softens the blow.
There are two players whose loss woud doom the Canadiens: Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov.
Touch wood, they’re still going strong – especially Kovalev.
When he scored his first goal off the Savardian spinerama that mesmerized poor Zdeno Chara, Kovalev was recording Canadiens’ 10th shot of the game on Tim "I Can’t Beat the Habs" Thomas. Bruins had fired 20, all of which Carey Price had stopped.
IThrough thefirst period and well into the second, it looked like Price would need a shutout for Canadiens to salvage a point. The home team was that dominant.
Kovalev’s two goals – spectacular, but Martin Brodeur, and possibly Alex Auld, would have stopped them – turned the game around. From that point on, Canadiens had 20 shots to 16 for the Bruins.
And once again, speed trumped muscle.
The only time muscle has a chance against speed is when muscle is being exercised by big, skillful teams like San Jose and Anaheim.
The lumbering Bruins aren’t in that class, and their difficulties are personified by Chara. The biggest player in the league was exposed by Buffalo in the 2006 playoffs. That’s why Ottawa kept Wade Redden and let Chara walk ªas opposed to "run" as a UFA).
Yes, it would have been nice to have Ryan Getzlaf – and really nice to have Georges Laraque – last night.
But the Canadiens showed some character, some heart and a whole lot of speed.
It’s a first-place combination.
I’m hoping Steve Bégin is in the lineup to redress some of the physical imbalance between the Canadiens and Bruins. Last night it was Komisarek getting thumped by Milan Lucic, but what if the Bruins – desperate to avoid 0-8 (and 0-11, going back to last season) – start running Markov or – heaven forfend! – Kovalev?
Canadiens need someone to record some early hits and send a clear message. Number 22 – again, not number 71 – is that guy.
Keep Ryan O’Byrne with Markov and Streit with Roman Hamrlik. The Josh Gorges-Francis Bouillon team stays intact, and Canadiens are still looking OK on the blueline.
Up front, Bégin would complement a set of forwards who played generally well in Boston, particularly in protecting a lead.
The Tomas Plekanec line was brilliant again: 13 shots (six by Kovy), three goals.
And I was impressed by the supporting cast:
• Christopher Higgins missed some chances – that’s a given – but continued to work hard and battle for pucks.
• Guillaume Latendresse made a great play and a slick pass to Saku Koivu on the sequence that ended with Michael Ryder’s classic Michael Ryder goal.
• Maxim Lapierre played almost 12 minutes, went 7-5 on faceoffs and was a monster on the PK, which was 4-for-4.
• Mikhail Grabovski did not look out of place in a tough, physical game.
• Sergei K. would be the best rookie on the team were it not for – drum roll, please …
Brilliant last night. Price kept Canadiens in the game through the early Boston onslaught. The goals that beat him were flukes: the first in off Gorges’ ass, the second scored after Price lost his balance while wisely avoiding a collision with Shawn Thornton, who was zipping through the crease.
We should find out today what the deal is with Komisarek.
But with Price in goal and the effort we saw for the second half of last night’s game, Boston will be beatable at the Bell.