It’s Easter Sunday, but I’m not going to make any bad resurrection jokes like my friend François Gagnon.
Then again, I didn’t pick Canadiens to finish out of the playoffs like he did. So I don’t have to make any good acts of contrition, as François does in his La Presse story.
Gagnon makes a good point, however, in noting the great confidence you can sense in the Canadiens’ room. A young team is becoming aware it can win, even under adverse circumsances.
Like missing a Top-Four defenceman. Like facing a team desperate to avoid being swept for the season.
Despite the loss of Mike Komisarek and despite the hunger and determination of the Boston Bruins, Canadiens bagged a shootout W last night. The game was immensely entertaining, 21,273 fans went home happy and the two points edged Canadiens closer to the coveted asterisk that will indicate they’ve clinched a playoff spot.
By my calculations, Canadiens need one more win. They can still be overtaken by Buffalo, which is 13 points back and has seven games to play.
Canadiens cannot, however, be caught by Toronto. And that’s worth celebrating.
Great team effort – particularly by the depleted defence corps.
My man Josh Gorges played a shade over 25 minutes, had three shots and three blocks and was almost perfectly in synch with partner Andrei Markov, who played 26:10 and was spectacular.
I also liked the pairing of Roman Hamrlik and Mark Streit, even though Hammer was on for two goals. Streit is playing the position at which he’s most comfortable and he made huge plays, sprawling to block a pass and a shot.
Francis Bouillon played 22:33 and had a couple hits and three blocked shots. Guy Carbonneau was careful with Ryan O’Byrne, playing him a bit less than 11 minutes in a tight game. The kid did OK: no glaring goofs.
The D did a good job clearing the slot in front of Carey Price. The Future faced 35 shots but it’s telling that Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman had five each. Price saw everything and had good rebound control. A few of his clearing attempts ended up on Boston sticks, but I chalk that up to lack of coodination with his totally overhauled D.
I am indebted to astute Habs I/O poster ebk for pointing out a great in-game adjustment by Carbo. Noting that Maxim Lapierre was struggling on the wing – Max made a very soft neutral-zone play on Milan Lucic and it led to Boston’s second goal – the coach moved Bryan Smolinski onto the line with Mikhail Grabovski and Christopher Higgins and had Max centre Tom Kostopoulos and Steve Bégin.
The latter played a monster game: eight hits, two shots, a fight. What a joy to have Bégin back in the lineup, especially against a physical team like Boston. Every shift he does something to get the crowd into the game.
Second biggest hitter: Michael Ryder, with five. In an attempt to salvage his UFA season, Ryder has been playing like his hair is on fire. Props to him for not getting down on himself and coming through in big games.
Ryder is happily reunited with Saku Koivu. Wise veteran that he is, the Captain is playing his best hockey of the season when Canadiens need it most. In addition to scoring that spectacular shootout winner, Koivu had 5 shots, buzzed the Boston end and went 14-7 on faceoffs.
The Captain’s line was joined last night by Sergei Kostitsyn, who had four hits and about 10 pinpoint passes. Along with Jorges, Sergei K. is the revelation of the season.
Bryan Smolinski went 9-5 on faceoffs and contributed 12 quality minutes. I don’t know who sits if Guillaume Latendresse is good to go against Ottawa tomorrow night.
Alex Kovalev, who had six shots in Boston, had one last night – the fewest since the March 8 game in L.A.
The number one line produced Andrei Kostitsyn’s goal, but I thought they struggled a bit last night. Tomas Plekanec had one shot and was 6-11 on faceoffs. They also had their problems on the power play. The PP was 0-for-3, as it was in Boston Thursday night, and is 2-for-24 over seven games.
Speaking of struggling, how about Maxim Lapierre’s pugilistic career. Less than three minutes into the game, he got into it with pacifist Per Johan Axelsson, whom no one would mistake for Boston’s last P.J. The ensuing dance lasted longer than a MikeTyson title defence.
Memo to Max: Don’t try this with a real fighter.