Photo of Ryan Miller by Dario Ayala of The Gazette)
Your Montreal Canadiens are 1-3-1.
They are fourth in the Northeast Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Their only win is over the team that’s 14th.
And the Canadiens have allowed four more goals than they’ve scored.
So how come so many fans are smiling?
Maybe. But the kindly old coach was on to something when Jacques Martin said: “If we play that way every night, we’ll win our share of games.”
Ryan Miller stood on his head in the Sabres net. Martin said the Canadiens outchanced the Sabres 18-7, and some counts had the disparity even greater.
The Canadiens got great efforts from three forward lines.
With the exception of Josh Gorges, who made the mistake that turned the game around, the defence played its best game of the season.
Carey Price gave up a fat rebound that Jordan Leopold cashed for the Sabres’ first goal. The Canadiens’ goaltender wasn’t perfect … and Price had to be flawless to beat Ryan Miller.
Bottom line: your Montreal Canadiens played their best game of the season.
And it wasn’t good enough.
But the Wednesday morning practice in Brossard will be upbeat and positive because there were so much good stuff on display against the Sabres.
• Max Pacioretty had nine shots. His 19:51 ToI was second only to Brian Gionta’s 20:55 among the forwards.
• Raphael Diaz was the best Canadiens Dman. He scored his first NHL goal, making a sweet move to beat the great Miller, and played flawless hockey on the back end.
• Lars Eller is 100 per cent recovered, skating well, battling ferociously for pucks (the added muscle is helping) and making smart plays.
• Tomas Plekanec was the fastest forward in the building, had five shots on goal and meshed well with this season’s new linemates.
• P.K. Subban, who was awful against Colorado, bounced back with 25 minutes of ice time, four shots on goal and a solid effort marred only by a lapse on the Thomas Vanek goal …. and Gorges is wearing the horns for that whole schmozzle.
• Andrei Kostitsyn had four hits and continues to play like he cares.
• David Desharnais lost the draw to Paul Gaustad that led to the Vanek goal. But DD centred the Canadiens best line and continues to make sweet plays for Max-Pac and AK46.
• Alexei Emelin had six hits to lead both teams and made smart zone clearances.
• Yannick Weber played 22 error-free minutes.
• Scott Gomez went 14-8 on faceoffs and skated miles. Too many of his passes were imprecise, but Gomez is still crafting a bounce-back season.
• Erik Cole skated well and battled for pucks. But his three giveaways hurt.
• I didn’t see it, but Pierre Ladouceur thought the Canadiens’ fourth line outplayed Buffalo’s.
Another positive, and highly indicative of the flow of play: the Canadiens took only one minor penalty, to five for Buffalo.
Unfortunately, the power-play took another 0-for.
The PP is a weak-ass 2-for-21 on the season. That 9.5 per cent efficiency, combined with only 80 per cent on the penalty-kill, is not good. The combined number exceeds 100 on top-tier teams (Colorado is an otherwordly 31.8 and 90.5).
Three scoring lines, however, have the Canadiens playing much improved 5-on-5 hockey.
And if the special teams improve …
Well, don’t plan the parade just yet.
But step in off the window ledge. If the Canadiens play like they did last night on a consistent basis – and that’s a huge honking If – this is going to be an entertaining season.