On Saturday night, the Bell Centre will be louder than the LGBT/S&M/B&D/WTF Arena was on Thursday.
Hockey is in trouble in south Florida … despite the ludicrous suggestion that 17,021 showed up to watch the Canadiens.
Scoreless ties after 60 minutes won’t help sell the game in the Sunshine State, but that’s their problem.
The Canadiens come home with an 8-4-1 record that no one in Montreal was expecting when the season began.
And when they hit the ice to face the Flyers, the joint will be rocking.
Just past the one-quarter mark of this truncated season, your Montreal Canadiens are fifth in the eastern Conference. They have won more games than they’ve lost at home and on the road.
Carey Price, beaten six times by the Leafs at the Bell Centre last Saturday, shut the Panthers out and would have hung a goose egg on the Lightning but for an epidemic of brain farts that swept through his teammates late in the Tampa Bay game.
Price’s eight wins lead the league. He’s playing with supreme confidence, as evidenced by deft, Brodeuresque puckhandling that’s turned Price into the third defenceman.
Remember when that was a flaw in his game? Like the glove hand? And Shootouts?
Price is making the big saves and getting solid support. As has been the case with almost every team the Canadiens have faced this season – the Toronto embarrassment being a glaring exception – the Panthers had few odd-man rushes or high-percentage scoring opportunities. And Price was brilliant during the third-period flurry when the Florida attack came fleetingly to life.
The Canadiens have used the same defence pairings, largely to good effect, since P.K. Subban joined the club.
Would it be nice to have an Erik Gudbranson back there terrifying everyone who crossed the Canadiens’ blueline?
You bet. And Jarred Tinordi is in the pipeline.
But for now Andrei Markov, P.K. (up to 21:27 of ice time against Florida) and a much improved Raphael Diaz (four blocked Panthers shots) make up a heady, puck-moving top 3, supplemented by the rejuvenated Francis Bouillon, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin, who seemed to gain confidence on the Florida trip.
Michel Therrien praised his team’s discipline – only two minor penalties – and team D. They even managed to win 46 per cent of the faceoffs.
The coach could have patted himself on the back for adroit deployment of his forwards, a luxury afforded Therrien in a game not dominated by special teams. The Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller lines remained intact; but Therrien did a bit of in-game tinkering, switching Max Pacioretty and Brandon Prust between lines cenred by Alex Galchenyuk and DD.
The Canadiens were able to roll four lines in a gruelling, tight-checking game. And Therrien had enough confidence in Galchenyuk to use him in the 4-on-4 OT …. with spectacular results.
We saw two third-overall draft picks who are going to be NHL stars. And I’ll take Chucky over Jonathan Huberdeau.
That second effort to beat Dmitry Kulikov and feed Rene Bourque for the winner?
Beautiful stuff. And I hope we see 15 years of it in Montreal.
In the short term, bring on the Flyers.
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Your Friday morning/victory celebration laugh: