Would you have felt better of Jaroslav Halak had been forced to stop 45 shots?
Then we could enjoy a few hundred Comments about Pierre Gauthier keeping the wrong goaltender 18 months ago.
As it was, the 2010 playoff hero faced 19 shots. There were difficult saves – off a Tomas Plekanec shorthanded breakaway, off noted sniper Mathieu Darche – but let’s be honest:
With that group of Blues playing in front of him, David Aebischer might have pitched a shutout.
Please don’t read this as a knock on Jaro.
He’s a terrific guy, and he may yet dislodge Brian Elliott from the Number One goaltending job and duplicate his playoff glory in St. Louis.
But Ken Hitchcock has that team contesting pucks on every inch of the ice. The Commentariat may correct me on this, but I can’t remember a game this season when the Canadiens were more thoroughly dominated in every important aspect.
A disclaimer: Because pinch-hitting for Patrick V. Hickey (day-to-day with an upper-body injury after his car skidded off the road in the Eastern Townships on Tuesday) required me to write during the game to make my deadlines, I missed some of the action and had no sense of the flow and rhythm of the action.
But it seemed like every time I looked down at the ice, a player in red was being rushed into a bad play and a player in white was pouncing on the puck and moving it in the other direction.
In their post-game analyses, coaches always talk about time and space. Aggressive and effective play means minimizing the time an opponent has to make a decision and restricting the space in which he can maneuver while trying to make a positive play.
The Blues did it brilliantly. St. Louis has size, speed and a very nice blend of youth and experience.
Davis Payne must have been a terrible coach to have this agglomeration of talent flundering through the early weeks of the schedule. Ken Hitchcock has them skating hard and checking ferociously in all three zones.
In their first measuring-stick game of the week, the Canadiens came up way short.
19 shots in their own barn? That’s brutal.
Mike Cammalleri skating around the perimeter, blowing a perfect set-up on the power-play and drawing the increasingly loud ire of Bell Centre fans.
Lars Eller playing nervous through the first half of the game, exemplified by a penalty less than three minutes in.
Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty, the two forwards whose size matched up well with the likes of David Backes, Chris Stewart and Jason Arnott, didn’t do much. Cole had one shot on goal, Pacioretty two.
P.K. Subban, back in slapshot-happy mode on the PP, had two SoG while having three shots miss the net and another four blocked.
The Canadiens coughed the puck up 21 times. That exceeded their shot total.
None that I noticed. But again, I was too busy to watch the game.
Pittsburgh lost, so the Canadiens didn’t lose any ground in thie desperate attempt to climb back into the playoff hunt. They’re still in 12th place, seven points behind the Penguins.
And it’s on to Boston, where they’ll proabably beat the Marchand-less Bruins and get everyone clambering back aboard the bandwagon.
But be very glad this team doesn’t have to play the St. Louis Blues – with Jaro, Elliott or your Aunt Minnie in nets – more than once a season.
• • •
One from the pressbox:
Reporter 1: “Well, at least Campoli can skate.”
Reporter 2: “Yeah, he’d make a great linesman.”