Unlike the evident selflessness and esprit de corps that have propelled your Montreal Canadiens into a 6-2 start that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE was expecting, the prevailing ethos at the modest suburban abode of the ol’ hockey blogger can be summed up in three words:
What about me?
So I will leave it to the Commentariat – brilliant hockey experts, every mother’s son and daughter – to pick over the stat sheet of a fifth straight home-ice win.
I’m banging out a few thoughts and then joining the rest of the civilized world, parked in front of our flat-screen TVs.
Here’s the game in a nutshell:
Ottawa, which had a day off on Saturday, dominated the third-period against a team playing their second game in as many afternoons.
As the Canadiens clung to the 2-1 lead Erik Cole had given them some 48 minutes earlier, Craig Anderson was on the bench as the Senators pressed for an equalizer.
Faceoff in the Canadiens zone. On the ice in red jerseys: Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz, Erik Cole, David Desharnais and – wait for it – Lars Eller.
Yeah, the guy recently paroled from Michel Therrien’s doghouse.
Eller played 18 minutes against Buffalo and had a goal and two assists.
His reward? With Max Pacioretty miraculously back in the lineup, Eller was bumped down to the fourth line, centring Travis Moen and Colby Armstrong. His ToI against Ottawa was less than 11 minutes.
But there he was with the game on the line, as Therrien employed the old Scotty Bowman technique of using two centres for defensive-zone faceoffs.
This is a coach who gives players second chances. And Therrien talked to Ryan White before the game, pumping the fourth-liner’s tires and telling him he’s part of the plan.
And White will be needed.
Through their unexpectedly hot start, the Canadiens have avoided injury … save for the Max Pacioretty hangnail they expect us to believe was an appendectomy. The good health can’t last in this season’s crazily compressed schedule – there’s another back-to-back in midweek – and everyone will get some playing time.
Therrien was very adroit in protecting the one-goal lead. The coach moved Moen up to Rene Bourque’s spot on the Tomas Plekanec line late in the game. Brandon Prust played with Armstrong and Eller.
But with four minutes to go in the period, the coach had Bourque out with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher – a nice vote of confidence in the Flying Freshmen.
If Therrien has screwed anything up so far this season, I haven’t noticed.
OK, maybe Carey Price should have started in Ottawa. Having bested Martin F. Brodeur and Ryan Miller, Price added Craig Anderson to the list of hot goaltenders he’s defeated. As has been the case in every game except the loss to Toronto and the win over Winnipeg, Price was lights-out against the Senators, stopping 32 shots and getting plenty of puck-clearing help from a six-man defence corps that didn’t miss Kaberle.
Gorges blocked seven shots, running his league-leading total to 29. Alexei Emelin, however, did not lead the Canadiens in hits, as Cole – who came to life this weekend – had six of the team’s 28.
There’s lots more to chew over … including piss-poor officiating that hurt (that absurd goalie interference call on Tomas Plekanec) and helped (an even worse call on Jacob Silfverberg, negating the tying goal).
The PK pitched another shutout and was perfect on the weekend.
But for the first time this season, the Canadiens power-play took and 0-for.
The Canadiens improved their Northeast Division record to 2-2.
Next up: Boston at the Bell Centre on Wednesday.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready for some football.
• The Canadiens swept Super Bowl weekend for the first time since 2006, when they rang up back-to-back shutouts of Boston (2-0) and Philadelphia (5-0).