That frequently boring game in which the Canadiens were outplayed was a big win.
For one thing, it allowed the guys in the white jerseys – who were commemorating the 1970-’71 season, when they wore white at home – to slay a bête noire. Canadiens hadn’t defeated Florida at home since Jan. 28, 2003 – a streak of nine games.
For another thing, the team is idle until Saturday, By racking up a hard-earned W, the Canadiens can relax today and get back to work tomorrow without a bunch of L-induced question marks hanging over their heads.
This is what they’d be talking about in the sports bars if the Canadiens had lost last night:
• What’s with the power play? It was blanked in five opportunities last night, the third 0-for of the young season.
• What’s with the Tomas Plekanec line? You have to go back to the first five minutes of the Boston game to find them on the scoresheet.
• What’s with Alex Kovalev? He scored against the Bruins and hasn’t since, despite holding the puck longer than the gestation period of some mammals.
• What’s with Ryan O’Byrne? He played 8:42, fewest minutes on the team and managed three giveaways in his 13 shifts.
Canadiens coaching staff will break down video today and there will be much to discuss when the team, having surrendered the Bell Centre to Madonna, reconvenes at the Denis Savard Arena in Verdun tomorrow.
In an otherwise upbeat press conference, Guy Carbonneau said he’d be talking to his players about neutral-zone and defensive-zone errors. Nor is Carbo happy about surrendering 36 shots to the Panthers.
That said, there are some positives to accentuate:
• The Canadiens have won five in a row after opening night in Buffalo and are undefeated in regulation time this season. This is a great start considering they’ve yet to play a game with their complete lineup in uniform.
• Jaroslav Halak was superb last night. His style is not as classic as that of Carey Price, but Jaro gets the job done. He’s given up only one goal in each of his starts and has a spectacular save percentage of .967. Comparisons are odious, but Price’s is .939.
• Andrei Markov has been on the scoresheet in every game the Canadiens have played. He has nine assists – the most recent of which was that brilliant pass to set up Saku Koivu.
• While experiencing occasional difficulties against the speedy Panthers, Mike Komisarek had three hits and blocked seven shots.
• Roman Hamrlik has been on the ice for one of Phildelphia’s goals, all three of Boston’s and that’s it thus far. The Hammer has been terrific this season.
• Guillaume Latendresse had six hits and annoyed the hell out of the Panthers. Tom Kostopoulos had five hits.
• Robert Lang had seven shots. Using his size, reach and smarts, Lang excelled at puck-holding in the O-zone.
• Sergei Kostitsyn played well on the Pleks line.
• Kyle Chipchura was in possession of the puck when the final siren sounded – appropriate because the kid contributed a solid, hard-working effort in game that had grind-it-out stretches, the 70-shot total notwithstanding.
• Francis Bouillon played carefully managed minutes – 9:17, including a few shifts up front to start the game – and scored the winning goal.
• Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Dandenault bring a lot of speed to the fourth line, and Max has some sand to his game.
So your Montreal Canadiens are sittin’ pretty: 11 points, second highest total in the league, two points behind the Rangers with three games in hand. They have an NHL-best goal differential of plus-12.
And yet … And yet …
I’d like to see Bob Gainey land another defenceman.
Gainey and Cliff Fletcher are friends who cooperated on the Mats Sundin soap opera. What would it take to pry Tomas Kaberle out of Toronto?
The rock ’em, sock ’em Anaheim Ducks make a rare visit on Saturday.