About this afternoon …

Allan Walsh didn’t wait long to Tweet:

“Ondrej Pavalec … 47 Saves … BOOM!”

Good summary.

Since Twitter only allows 140 words, Walsh didn’t have room – or perhaps the inclination – to add “Carey Price … 25 saves … OUCH!”

Jacques Martin says his goaltenedr is working hard on issues such as positioning.

The Canadiens will have two practices (they’re off tomorrow) before Sidney Crosby comes to town.

Price said he has to be better.

He’s not the lights-out goaltender he was at the beginning of the season. Is fatigue – mental and/or physical – an issue?

You won’t get Price, or any player, to say he’s tired.

And you won’t get Martin to acknowledge he may have overused Price, with 36 starts through the first 40 games.

And the goals weren’t entirely Price’s fault. The Canadiens were guilty of soft D-zone coverage on several occasions, and mistakes are finding their way to the back of the net with dismaying frequency.

There were few occasions, when the season began, that Price was the second-best goalie on the ice.

That was the case today.

It’s been the case often lately.

But Brian Gionta said the Canadiens should try to build on their positives, and maybe the fans can as well.

• In the first game since firing a season-high 48 shots on goal in Florida, the Canadiens had 50 on Pavelec. The Scott Gomez line accounted for 21. Every skater except Yannick Weber (!!!) and Mathieu Darche had at least one shot.

• David Desharnais has three SoG and went 5-1 on faceoffs. His French Connection line, with Darche and Benoit Pouliot, showed some promise.

• P.K. Subban and Weber played strong games on D. There were mistakes, but the young ‘uns are progressing … which is good, because the old ‘uns are gonna be dead by late February.

• James Wisniewski has points on five of the team’s last six goals. He has breathed life into the power play.

• Tomas Plekanec went 18-11 on draws, skated like the wind and created create chances on Pavelec, his Kladno homeboy.

• The Canadiens came back from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. And for the first time in games they’ve trailed after either one or two periods, the Canadiens got a point.

• 98 SoG – plus 33 blocked and 31 misses – in two games is not chopped liver.

But nor is it foie gras for a team that continues to have trouble burying chances.

The game against Pittsburgh on Thursday will mark the midpoint of the season.

The Canadiens are where they were a year ago. Indeed, they are where they’ve been for the 21st century: part of the desperate Parity Division struggle to squeeze into the playoffs.

They should have more than six goals to show for 98 shots.

Carey Price should stop more than 24 of 28.

In 10 starts dating back to a Dec. 10 loss in Detroit, Price is 2-7-1. He is giving up 3.50 goals per start in that span, with a save percentage of 87.0.

These are not good numbers.

Price will have to be better through a January schedule that includes a preponderance of games against Top 8 teams.

Again the goaltender is not the entire problem. He’s playing behind a depleted D that combines creaking old age with raw youth.

The Canadiens forwards are less than the fiercest backcheckers in the league.

And this team NEVER gives its goaltender a cushion. So cumulative stress has to be an issue.

Three days off, then the Penguins.

•  •  •

It’s not like today’s competition was the Little Children of the Poor.

Pavelec is excellent, and he has a primo defence. Dustin Byfuglien is a revelation, and Tobias Enstrom may be the Nicklas Lidstrom of his generation.

All those shots-against notwithstanding, Atlanta plays a sound, hard-grinding game in the image of their coach, Craig Ramsay.

They may not catch Washington for the Southeast Division lead, now that the Caps have survived their nervous breakdown. But the Thrashers are a solid playoff team.

•  •  •

Robert L – remember him? – weighs in with an irate e-mail:

I’m sure you didn’t need my help to point this out, but isn’t it totally whacked that an onslought worthy of 50 shots on goal draws only one penalty call from the Thrashers, apart from Hainsey’s puck over the glass? The officiating just gets worse. The late call on Subban was fringe at best, but it decides the game when the Habs pouring wave upon wave of shots at the Thrashers goal doesn’t. If I’m Martin, I’d be writing out a $10,000 check for the upcoming league fine, calling the reporters into a circle, and blasting league officiating till blue in the face. There’s got to be some measure of consistency. Yes, size wise, the Habs small forwards physically do not test defenses terribly hard, but the speed that accounts for 50 shots most certainly does. It falls on deaf ears when claiming the refs have screwed us, but on this day I think it is justified to say a fair shake did not happen.


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