OK, Marc Bergevin isn’t Irish.
Moreover, there is a rapidly accumulating body of evidence to suggest the Canadiens general manager is good, rather than lucky.
But check the calendar: It’s March 17.
Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
And while the Blarney Stone has not been relocated to the seventh floor of the Bell Centre, good fortune and Irish eyes (maybe Brendan Gallagher’s) are smiling on the Canadiens’ executive suite.
It’s almost spooky: Everything Bergevin and his staff do comes up smelling of clover … or shamrocks.
The latest example is Jarred Tinordi.
The defenceman is recalled from Hamilton and makes his NHL debut against the Devils in New Jersey. Partnered with Francis Bouillon, Tinordi plays almost 15 minutes. He does nothing egregiously wrong on D, picks up an assist on Tomas Plekanec’s winning goal and ends his first game in the bigs at plus-2.
On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, the Canadiens skated out on the ice of the Prudential Center as a fourth-place Eastern Conference team. Saturday afternoon wins by Boston and Pittsburgh knocked them out of the lofty perch the Canadiens had occupied since a 3-1 win over the Rangers lifted the Canadiens into first place on Feb. 19.
But by 10 p.m. – after a typically hermetic New Jersey defensive effort in which the Canadiens had to scratch and claw for each inch of the ice – they were back on top of the conference with a 19th win in 28 games.
It didn’t last. The Penguins edged the Bruins 2-1 Sunday afternoon; and by the time the last Celtic celebrant is poured out of the pub on Sunday evening, the Canadiens find themselves in second place in the conference, two points behind Pittsburgh with two games in hand.
The Canadiens remain atop the Northeast Division. They’re a point ahead of Boston, which has played one game fewer.
The Sunday afternoon game was costly for both teams. Kris Letang and David Krejci left with injuries..
Canadiens fans should congratulate themselves for staying awake through the 2-1 Saturday win. Until its last few frantic minutes, the game at the Pru was stultifyingly boring.
You want excitement in New Jersey? Watch the Sopranos or read Philip Roth. Devils hockey is about as exciting as watching Tony wash his car or Portnoy pleasure himself.
The Devils gave the Canadiens nothing. The home team had a 33-22 shot advantage, outhit the Canadiens 26-18 and set up a wall of sticks and bodies in front of goaltender Johan Hedberg. New Jersey effectively stifled the Canadiens’ speed and skill.
Playing against his old team, Brian Gionta was held without a shot on goal. His futility was matched by Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov.
Heck, Colby Armstrong had a shot. And it went in, Armstrong’s first of the season.
In his postgame remarks, Michel Therrien praised Armstrong for contributions that escape the scrutiny of many fans. The coach made an in-game adjustment, moving Armstrong to the Lars Eller-Alex Galchenyuk line in the third period and dropping Gabriel Dumont down to play with little-used Ryan White and Michael Blunden.
And for a late defensive-zone faceoff, Therrien used David Desharnais, who won 13 of 24 draws on the night (Plekanec won 19 of 29).
P.K. Subban led the Canadiens’ modest shot parade with five. Lars Eller had four, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty three each. Four players accounted for 15 of the team’s 22 shots.
The Canadiens power play went 0-for-3. The PK allowed New Jersey’s only goal, by Peter Harrold.
Fans have been waiting for Carey Price to steal a game. This might have been it. With the game in the balance, Price made 18 saves in the third period.
• The win lifted the Canadiens’ road record to 10-2-2. Last season they were 15-20-6.
• The Canadiens have scored first in 21 of their 28 games. This speaks to the team’s level of preparedness.
• The Canadiens have one regulation-time loss in their last 17 games. They have not lost consecutive games in regulation this season.
• On L’Antichambre, Stéphane Leroux talked about the eight-game segments of the Canadiens’ season. They have gone 6-2-0, 52-1, 4-1-3 and, to date, 4-0-0.
The latter should get a boost this week, when the Canadiens play Buffalo twice at the Bell Centre, sandwiched around a visit to Long Island.
Perhaps Brandon Prust, Michael Ryder or Rene Bourque will be cleared to rejoin the roster.
Recovery will take longer for Raphael Diaz. But Tinordi’s play in New Jersey merits another start Tuesday against the Sabres. And maybe the big galoot, for whom the Canadiens traded up in the 2010 draft – will be around for a while.
Once everyone is healthy, Bergevin will have some personnel decisions to make.
May the road rise up to meet the Canadiens GM. May the wind be at Bergevin’s back.
And a happy St. Paddy’s to all HIO readers.
Hickey is buying.