“Take a deep breath and hold it,” the Living (but, sadly, no longer writing) Legend of Sports Journalism would advise his Montreal Star and Gazette readers.
Fans were to hold our collective breath until Red updated us on the severity of whatever afflicted the team’s fallen heroes.
The LLSJ could usually ferret out solid information about five minutes after the team doctor made a diagnosis.
But we’ll have to wait for some time on Sunday to learn if Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Colby Armstrong and Alexei Emelin are going to be out of the lineup for a while.
The 4-1 win over the Flyers was an impressive team effort. And the W lifted your Montreal Canadiens into the dizzying heights of second place in the Eastern Conference.
But it might have been costly.
Gallagher was hurt after a hit by Luke Schenn , who is tied with Steve Ott for the league lead in that department. I don’t want to be Dick Downer, but Gallagher had a history of concussions in junior hockey.
Pacioretty’s injury was a result of being ridden into the Philadelphia goalpost. His injury history you know.
Armstrong took a deflected puck in the face. And Emelin was hip-checked heavily by Claude Giroux, who spent pretty much the entire game yapping at and attempting to nail the Canadiens defenceman.
The Giroux-Emelin unpleasantness was the only suggestion of old-time Canadiens-Flyers hockey. Although the visitors had a 32-20 advantage in hits, there was not much to suggest the bone-rattling intimidation Philadelphia teams have inflicted on their victims since the halcyon days of the Broad Street bullies.
The Flyers miss Chris Pronger’s malevolent presence on their blueline.
Wayne Simmonds spent a bit of time in Peter Budaj’s kitchen, but his ability to rattle opposing goaltenders was a pale shadow of the havoc Scott Hartnell routinely wreaks.
This was a pretty lousy Philadelphia team. The Flyers are sitting 12th in the conference, and it might be an uphill climb to the postseason.
Credit your Canadiens with getting an early jump that set the tone for the game. First period shots were 12-2 and the Flyers finished with 19. A Philadelphia writer tweeted that was the fifth time in more than 260 games the Flyers were held to fewer than 20 shots.
The Canadiens wanted to do a better job of defending in front of Budaj than they did in his previous two starts. Mission accomplished, especially while the game was still in the balance.
P.K. Subban made a sliding save with Budaj way out of the net. And the Canadiens’ superb penalty-killing units kept the visitors off the board through two consecutive Delay of Game calls after Daniel Brière drew the Flyers to within a goal in the second period.
That was it for the Philadelphia rally. The Canadiens had n 11-9 shot edge in the third period and got the clincher from Tomas Plekanec and their first empty-netter of the season by Rene Bourque – who didn’t really score, but …
Ah, it’s too complicated to explain. Bourque deserved his fifth – which matches what he scored in 38 games with the team last season.
Gallagher got his fifth before he was hurt. The mighty mite brought grit and energy to a new line formed with Pacioretty and David Desharnais. The Gallagher and DD goals came off some exquisite tic-tac-toe passing – the kind of legerdemain that was rarely seen in the Philadelphia defensive zone back in the days when Pronger was there looking to cripple people.
The Canadiens don’t have any killers on their blueline, a lacune lamented by more than a few members of the HIO Commentariat.
But the team does not lack for speedy, puck-moving defencemen who make intelligent plays to clear their zone. And while Andrei Markov and P.K. are the poster boys, save some kind words for Raphael Diaz. The Swiss sophomore has been excellent all season and was not rattled by Philadelphia’s physicality. Diaz also brought some slick puck movement to the power play when Michel Therrien had him playing first wave with Markov.
So now we wait for bulletins from sick bay ahead of a Monday night visit by Kirk Muller’s high-flying Carolina Hurricanes.
It would be a bummer if either of DD’s linemates were lost just as he was starting to find his 2011-’12 vintage game. If Gallagher and/or Pacioretty are out for a while, the Canadiens probably will look to Hamilton for reinforcements.
Gabriel Dumont? Louis Leblanc? Michaël Bournival had a hat trick Saturday night.
Every team in the league suffers injuries. The Flyers really missed Hartnell, and the Senators certainly could have used Erik Karlsson in Toronto, where they lost 2-0 Saturday night.
From where I’m sitting – 20 seats away from where Red Fisher used to sit in the Bell Centre pressbox – there are three players whose loss to injury would doom the Canadiens: Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Markov.
Keep holding that deep breath.
• Last season, it took the Canadiens 2o games to get nine wins … The team has yet to lose a game in which they were leading after 20 minutes … The Canadiens won 38 of 67 faceoffs. Their winning percentage of 57 was a season high … The Canadiens are 27th in the league in faceoffs, and New Jersey is 28th … Alex Galchenyuk was 1-3 on faceoffs before being replaced on draws by Brandon Prust. The Canadiens should bring in Yanic Perreault to work with the kid on technique … Figure that Peter Budaj paddle save might make a few highlight reels? … Galchenyuk tweeted a nice picture of his family out to dinner after the game. They seem to like oysters … The Canadiens have not lost a game outside the Northeast Division … The Saskatoon Blades, with Canadiens prospects Darren Dietz and Dalton Thrower on their blueline, have won 11 straight … After the Flyers had 19 shots on Peter Budaj, the Oilers had 55 on Sergei Varlamov. Empty-net goal gave the Oil a team-record 56 shots – more than the dynasty ever had.