Any predictions as to when Scott Gomez might score his next game-winner?
Of course, in this star-crossed season, Gomez ended the game minus-1.
And L’Antichambre being L’Antichambre, they needed a new whipping boy. So Tomas Plekanec became the butt of their jokes. It’s a nice job, the wits suggested, to earn $5 million a season playing on a checking line.
Man, I gotta stop watching that TV show. Best thing to do when the siren sounds is switch channels.
As L’Antichambre began, Mario Tremblay was theatrically clapping his hands to applaud the Gomez goal.
Hey Mario, weren’t you worried the sound might drown out the telephones ringing with calls offering you jobs in the NHL?
OK, that’s it for TV criticism. Let’s talk about a trend we haven’t seen in a while:
The Canadiens hadn’t won three in a row since they beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 at the Bell Centre on Oct. 29. Then after a six-day early-season layoff, they went to Ottawa and beat the Senators 2-1 to make it four straight before losing 5-3 in New York the following night.
Since then, the Canadiens have won two straight on four occasions. The inability to put together any kind of streak explains why three wins leave the Canadiens in 11th place, nine points out of a playoff spot.
The postseason is still a longshot. But if the Canadiens can win in Toronto on Saturday and beat Carolina at tghe Bell Centre Monday night …
“It’s a great group of guys, and you never know,” Gomez said after the game. “You just gotta keep winning.”
Whether the fiendishly complicated math of moving north in the Eastern Conference standings works out or not, the Canadiens are playing their best hockey of the season.
The goaltender is in a groove, as evidenced by Carey Price’s remarkable performance during the Islander power play that began the second period. With the home team throwing the puck among themselves like it was on a string, Price made four saves, then three more shortly after the penalty expired.
As my friend Stubbs, who knows goaltending, pointed out on Twitter, the remarkable aspect of it was Price didn’t look like he was straining to make saves. That’s how good his positioning was.
Holding the fort in front of Price were seven defencemen Randy Cunneyworth employed adroitly, giving major minutes to the studs: Josh Gorges (23:08), P.K. Subban (21:52) and Alexei Emelin (20:19). François Gagnon made a valid point on L’Antichambre: P.K. is a better defencemen when he doesn’t play 25 minutes and try to do everything.
Up front, Cunneyworth is enjoying the luxury of three stable forward lines:
• Two and a Half Men line continue to be the team’s best line … by a lot. While scoring the first hat trick and the first empty-netter of his NHL career, Max Pacioretty had 10 shots on goal, another four that were blocked and two that missed the net. Do the math: 16 times he had the puck on his stick to make a play in the offensive zone. david Desharnais continues his playmaking wizardry, and Erik Cole picked up an assist to end a five-game dry spell.
Even when he doesn’t score, Cole skates, hits and brings a work ethic to the rink that has to inspire younger players. Max-Pac, Rene Bourque and Louis Leblanc benefit from playing with a winger who busts his butt on every shift.
I don’t know if Cold-FX works. But the Cole Effect is magic.
• With two physical, north-south pluggers – Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen – on his wings, Tomas Plekanec is enjoying a late-season surge. They may not light up the scoreboard, but the line spends a lot of time in the offensive zone, digging and making life difficult for defencemen.
• If the Canadiens had blown another lead, Lars Eller’s high-stick on John Tavares would be seen as the turning point. But that didn’t happen, and Eller continues to build good chemistry with Rene Bourque and Louis Leblanc.
• That leaves a fourth line of Gomez-Andreei Kostitsyn-Whomever (often Bourque, sometimes Cole). Call them The Enigmas.
But now that Gomez has what old friend Robert Lefebvre calls “a whole planet of the Apes” off his back, maybe he and AK46 will be helpful in the Canadiens desperate push toward …
The playoffs still seem like too steep a mountain to climb. But starting Saturday night at the ACC, the Canadiens’ next five games are against Eastern Conference opponents.
If they keep winning …