As anyone who follows this blog knows, Josh Gorges is my man.
The poster boy for overachievement was an undrafted free agent coming out of junior and an unknown when the Canadiens got him from San Jose in the Craig Rivet trade.
That might have been Bob Gainey’s best deal.
Trading with Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson, the brother of one of his best friends, Gainey got the first-round draft choice the Canadiens used to select Max Pacioretty in 2007.
Gorges showed up at training camp and impressed with his hockey smarts and spirit.
Both qualities were n display for the sequence that led to the winning goal in Phoenix.
Gorges got clobbered behind the Canadiens net by a taller, heavier Phoenix forward.
He picked himself up, dusted himself off, moved up ice and converted a nifty Lars Eller play into the goal that got the undermanned Canadiens two valuable points.
Gorges hadn’t scored since Oct. 15 last year. That one was a winner, too – 2-1 over Buffalo.
Then came a season cut short by knee injury, a summer of rehab and a one-year contract to prove his value to the team … again.
Many of the things Gorges brings to the Canadiens don’t show up on the scoresheet.
He’s one of the leaders in the room – and a valued source of good quotes for the media.
He’s Carey Price’s best friend on the team, and that was important two seasons ago when The Franchise was going through tough times.
Gorges is also a steady defence partner, and the latest beneficiary is P.K. Subban. Last season’s rookie sensation did not have a great October, but P.K. is playing smarter and more controlled since Gorges became his partner.
Subban and his teammates need a good November.
The win kept the Canadiens within four points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but the schedule is about to become brutal.
Starting Saturday night in Nashville, the Canadiens play nine games in 15 days.
Five are at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens are 2-4-2 on home ice this season, but the advantage is a short ambulance ride to the Montreal General Hospital.
Interviewed at morning skate in Phoenix, Jaro Spacek said the team has had a healthy lineup for maybe 10 of the games in the two-plus seasons he’s played for the Canadiens.
The team that escaped the desert with two points was missing Andrei Markov, Scott Gomez, Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Cammalleri and Chris Campoli.
Maybe we’ll see them all in the lineup at some point this season.
But I’m not holding my breath … like all of us were when Tomas Plekanec slammed into the boards and lay on the ice for a scary long time during the first period.
The whole season looked to be in the balance until Pleks came back to assist on one goal and do the spadework on another.
The team has two irreplaceable players: Plekanec and Carey Price.
One of them will be waking up sore on Friday, while the other savors a very solid effort, highlighted by the 17 saves Price made in the second period.
Price’s D helped. It was solidified by the addition of Yannick Weber, who was shifted back from fourth-line forward duty after Jacques Martin benched Alexei Emelin.
In addition to missing three top forwards, the Canadiens played and won a road game using three lines.
Playing hurt, Pleks centred the most dangerous lined, with Brian Gionta (a goal, an assist, five SoG) and Travis Moen, whose five goals leave him one short of last season’s total … with 67 to play, in a contract year.
David Desharnais played one of his better recent games, and both of his power-forward linemates, Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole, had good chances. And DD, who struggles on faceoffs, won 13 of 18 against Phoenix.
Lars Eller had three SoG, four hits and a couple takeaways centring Mathieu Darche and Aaron Palushaj, who played the most energetic game of his yo-yo Montreal/Hamilton season.
I’d still like to see Eller centring Cole and Max-Pac. But all the injuries have thrown the line combos into a blender, and bitching after a win is conduct unbecoming a blogger and a gentleman.