Wait’ll next year!
It used to be the eternal plaintive cry of long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers fans. But in Montreal, we can say it with a bit more conviction.
There won’t be a Stanley Cup parade in 2008, but Canadiens are on the come. They’re young, they’re talented and they’re going to get better.
Exhibit A: Last night’s game. Down a defenceman, lacking their captain, dressing only 17 skaters and facing a hot team and a well-rested goaltender, Canadiens took it to the Rangers for 54 minutes. Had Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev – who were brilliant, along with linemate Andrei Kostitsyn – cashed a third-period 2-on-1, the Canadiens would have won in regulation.
As it was, they got a very well-deserved point to complete an outstanding 3-0-2 road trip.
There are many positives:
• Michael Ryder didn’t score but played his best two-way game of the season.
• Wearing the C, Kovalev played his heart out in the city where his NHL career began. Crafting the best season of his Canadiens career, Kovy is a leader and an inspiration to the kids.
• The stats sheet shows Roman Hamrlik at minus-3. He had some late-game difficulties and was the goat of the OT, but Hamrlik blocked six shots, had four thunderous hits and was a rock for most of the evening.
• The fourth line was minus as well. But Tom Kostopoulos had five hits and skated all night, as did his linemates. I hope Kyle Chipchura is back in the lineup to stay.
• Andrei K. is rising to the challenge of being shown up by his kid brother.
• When Guy Carbonneau was able to get the matchup he wanted, Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek did yeoman duty against the Jagr line – just as they’d done against Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vincent Lecavalier. Mike Ribeiro was the only big gun Canadiens couldn’t muzzle on their road trip.
• Christopher Higgins is playing like he’s happy to be reunited with Ryder.
• Guillaume Latendresse had a quiet night but a splendid road trip.
• Maxim Lapierre played 20 high-energy minutes (but he needs work on faceoffs).
• Josh Gorges had some anxious moments, but I like him and the resurgent Francis Bouillon as a defence pairing.
• You like disciplined hockey? Canadiens took two minor penalties last night and killed them both.
• Neither Sean Avery nor Colton Orr was a factor against your allegedly soft Montreal Canadiens.
• The power play produced two goals in three chances. I like the brothers K together on the PP.
• On RDS, the postgame comments of Jacques Demers and Benoit Brunet praised the Canadiens’ puck support (illlustrated by a clip of Chipchura coming back behind the net to help Bouillon), one-on-one battling, forechecking and opportunism. Canadiens competed, they said, in all facets of the game – against a team that had annihilated the Leafs.
All in all, then, a loss worth celebrating.
And there is reason to believe the best is yet to come.