Supplementary question for extra credit: If Smilin’ Jacques had been behind the Canadiens bench Sunday night at the Bell Centre, would the home team have won a game in which it blew a two-goal lead twice?
What a difference a new season is making?
Gauthier is gone. So are Martin and and mini-Jacques, aka Randy Cunneyworth.
Markov is back. And to the astonishment of some, including the know-nothing who live-blogs games of HIO, the defenceman is playing as well as he did before injuries wreaked havoc on his career.
Markov’s overtime winner against the Devils – what the heck was he doing down near Martin F. Brodeur’s left post – gave him four on the season. That’s more than any other NHL defenceman – including Erik Karlsson, the Norris Trophy winner the Canadiens will see twice this week.
At the age of 34, playing on a knee that’s had more surgery than Cher’s face, Markov is averaging 25 minutes of ice time through the Canadiens’ first four games.
The Canadiens’ power-play, which was 28th in the NHL last season, is ranked sixth through four games. The newfound efficiency is almost entirely attributable to the blueline magic being conjured up by Markov and his new PP partner, Raphael Diaz.
(Memo to P.K. Subban: Take your time thinking over the Canadiens’ contract offer. Really, man … no rush at all.)
At even strength, Markov has been paired with Alexei Emelin and has helped his homeboy emerge as a solid Top Four blueliner. Emelin could always hit through his debut NHL season, but the partnership with Markov has allowed the Russian Dman to move the puck with confidence.
Markov boosting a defence partner: Where have we seen this movie before? See KOMISAREK, Mike … who should be paying Markov a percentage of the UFA contract he got in Toronto.
The Canadiens’ OT win was the first over New Jersey on Bell Centre ice since March 11, 2008. Markov was held scoreless that night, but the Canadiens got goals from Bryan Smolinski, Saku Koivu, Maxim Lapierre and Michael Ryder. Carey Price stopped all 38 Devils shots.
Price made 22 saves Sunday night. He got some help from his goalposts, but good goaltenders often do.
Martin F. is a very good goaltender. A great one – arguably the best ever. Heading into the game, Brodeur had surrendered all of three goals in New Jersey’s 3-0 start.
As was the case in that game five years ago, the Canadiens beat their Hall of Fame nemesis four times. But none of the aforementioned goalscorers were teenagers. The youngest player in the Canadiens lineup that night was Guillaume Latendresse.
Remember Gui! Gui! Gui! He’s Karlsson’s teammate on a very good Ottawa side that will provide a tough test for the Canadiens, Wednesday at Scotiabank Place and back at the Bell Centre on Super Bowl Sunday.
With the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued the Canadiens mishandled Latendresse’s development. Brought him up too soon, ladled too much pressure on a kid that was supposed to become a Québecois star.
The latest Great Franco Hope, Louis Leblanc, is playing in Hamilton.
And the latest potential star is playing like … well, a star.
Alex Galchenyuk had two assists against the Devils. He made a sublime pass to Brendan Gallagher for the latter’s first NHL goal.
It will be decision time on Galchenyuk after the Tuesday home against Winnipeg. The kid will have played five games, and general manager Marc Bergevin can either start the clock ticking on Galchenyuk’s pro career – with UFA implications down the road – or send him back to Sarnia of the OHL.
Fearless prediction: The kid sticks. Through four games, you can tell Galchenyuk has nothing to learn in junior hockey.
He and Gallagher have become the young darlings of the Bell Centre faithful, soaking up the adulation that used to be heaped on Subban. They did not look out of place against last season’s Stanley Cup finalists.
Driving home, heard someone on TSN 690 saying the Devils have only two bona-fide stars, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin F. It’s a mystery how anyone could come to that conclusion after watching Patrik Elias against the Canadiens.
The New Jersey veteran had a goal and two assists. He’s not flashy; but like Dainus Zubrus, Elias is a smart, hard-working hockey player who’s not going to let a two-goal deficit diminish his compete level.
A year ago, the Elias-sparked comeback would have shattered the confidence of the fragile Canadiens.
That was then.
Markov is now.
• • •
Credit David Desharnais, who has struggled to get the groove this season, with winning the faceoff that led to Markov’s OT goal … playing against his old team and his kid brother, Brian Gionta had seven SoG … The Canadiens have outhit their opponents in every game since the season opener … My favourite radio analyst, Dany Dubé, likes Rene Bourque and would like him even more if the big winger shot less and went to the net more … if P.K. signs, and I think he will, we’ve probably seen the last of Yannick Weber. He was brutal against the Devils – unlike D partner Francis Bouillon, who’s been terrific through four games