Maybe there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
We’ll find out tomorrow whether it’s an oncoming train.
Boston will be a sterner chalenge than Ottawa was last night, when Alex Tanguay’s shootout goal propelled your Montreal Canadiens to victory in the Futility Bowl.
But a W is a W. The Canadiens had two of them on their three-game road trip this week … albeit against the Senators and St. Louis, two teams that would be facing relegation if the NHL worked like the English Premier League.
Guy Carbonneau was all smiles in his post-game press conference.
As they pointed out on L’Antichambre, however, the coach looked more relieved than happy.
And what a relief it was – even though the game produced a lot more plop-plop than fizz-fizz.
The teams each had 11 shots though the first 40 minutes. The Canadiens went nine minutes without getting their first shot of the third period.
No. The Canadiens and Senators played like they were scared to lose, and that style rarely produces much for the highlight reels.
The Canadiens had 20 shots through 60 minutes, matching their season low during the ACC debacle we don’t like te talk about.
The Senators took two minors, one of them a coincident minor for diving. That’s the fewest penalties of any Canadiens’ opponent this season, and it’s indicative of the minimal pressure our boys were able to exert on the home team.
But let’s look on the bright side: the Canadiens’ power play was 100 per cent effective.
And for the 30 seconds it lasted in the first period, the PP shone. Robert Lang won the draw (while going 4-11 on the game), and the Canadiens worked the puck smartly to set up Saku Koivu’s goal from close in.
We’ll get a better idea against Boston, but playing Sergei Kostitsyn on the right point and allowing Andrei Markov to return to the left looked good in the brief first wave last night.
Alex Kovalev assisted on the goal, but his new line – with Tomas Plekanec and Christopher Higgins – struggled for coherence.
The guys I liked:
• Carey Price: Knocked for inconsistency, by an NHL GM requesting anonymity when he talked to La Presse, Price is carrying the Canadiens most nights. He’s had off-games, but they’ve coincided with poor team performances. Price has not cost the team any games, and he’s been the difference in several.
• Josh Gorges: An heroic 27:33, high on the team. My man was especially efficient on the PK. Gorges has done yeoman service in relief of Mike Komsarek, but the physical Bruins will be the big test. Milan Lucic is coming – and he’s coming hard.
• Steve Bégin: What a warrior! Five hits to lead the team, skated miles, went a respectable 3-3 on faceoffs, won a fight and keyed another great night for the fourth line which was the only one able to hem the Senators in on a consistent basis.
• Saku Koivu: I like him every night. The Captain busts his ass on every shift. He should be an inspiration to his teammates. not al of whom match his courage and commitment.
• Sergei K: Played 15:04, highest of the fourth-liners. Of course, SK74 isn’t really a fourth-liner. It was Carbo’s way of waking him up, and I think it worked.
• Andrei Markov: His goal was vintage Markov, and he also scored in the shootout.
• Francis Bouillon: Steady as a rock, and very effective when he joins the rush.Pairs well with Breeze.
• Guillaume Latendresse: Worked the corners and did some banging to help his linemates, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay. Memo to Carbo: Leave this line intact for a while.
• Tom Kostopoulos: The Energizer Bunny exemplifies hard work and play-to-the-whistle hockey. If he could score, Tom the Bomb would be a star.
• Andrei Kostitsyn: Skated, looked interested … but still strugglng to find the groove he was in last season.
Guys I didn’t like:
• Alex Kovalev is still in a funk.
• Ryan O’Byrne played 18:40 and it seemed longer. O’B's confidence is in the porcelan parlour and he looks shaky on every shift. His jitters hamper Roman Hamrlik’s ability to jump up into the offence, which was producing chances early in the season. O’Byrne is the team’s number 6 defenceman, and he’s playing in the number 4 spot.
Bottom line: Nice to get a W, but I’m still not convinced Canadiens are the team we thought they’d be coming out of training camp.
Ottawa is a mess, and the Senators were missing Mike Fisher and Chris Neil.
We’ll know a lot more by about 10:30 tomorrow night.