Photo by Fred Greenslade/Reuters
On the second Monday in October – and on the 364 other days of the year – Montreal Canadiens fans should give thanks that their team scored in the draft lottery and ended up with the fifth pick in 2005.
I didn’t hear him say it, but during the CBC postgame show, Don Cherry called Price the best goaltender in the world.
Like everything else our most famous Canadian says, the statement is a good argument-starter.
But you’ll get no arguments in the 514 or 450 area codes.
Because Price was better than Ondrej Pavelec (What, no Allan Walsh Tweets?), the Canadiens won an emotional, historic game in which they were outshot 31-22 and outhit 26-7.
They won because they buried their chances … and because Price – playing in a raucous MTS Centre with the aplomb of a kid stopping pucks on a pond – was a wall while the game was close.
Carey Price was the reason the Canadiens made the playoffs last season. And if his performances in Toronto and, especially, Winnipeg are valid indicators, the team will be riding number 31 into the postseason again when April rolls around.
But that’s a long way off. There are 80 games to be played, which means that many opportunities for more injuries.
In 2004, the Boston Red finally exorcised the Curse of the Bambino. Pedro Martinez memorably shrugged off the curse, saying if Babe Ruth were playing “maybe I drill him in the ass.”
We need a Martinez fastball to hit the posterior of whatever evil spirit hovers over the Canadiens.
Was it the Patrick Roy trade?
The move from the Forum?
Andrei Markov, Ryan White, Lars Eller, Chris Campoli, Blair Betts and, during the win over the Jets, Jaro Spacek and Michael Cammalleri.
Can we hope the law of averages means a healthy Canadiens lineup in March?
In the short term, the Cammalleri cut – rumoured to be worth a two-week absence – probably means a call-up for Aaron Palushaj.
I don’t know what Pierre Gauthier can do to shore up his defence. This is not an area where there’s a whole lot of organizational depth at the pro level (shall we have a moment of silence for the loss of Ryan McDonagh?)
Alex Henry? Frederic St. Denis?
The Canadiens have Monday off, then two days of practice to get ready for the home opener against Calgary.
Jacques Martin will have to juggle his second and third lines to deal with the loss of Cammalleri.
Travis Moen joined Tomas Plekanec (who was brilliant in Winnipeg) and Erik Cole. But Moen’s lovely goal and solid 15 minutes of ice time notwithstanding, he’s not a Top 6 forward.
Andrei Kostitsyn, who played 13:43, likely will be promoted to the Pleks line. And if Lars Eller returns, that gives Martin some more ammo for a scoring third line.
I thought David Desharnais played an excellent game in Winnipeg and so did Mathieu Darche.
Scott Gomez continues to play like last season was an aberration. Following up its performance in Toronto, where the Leafs couldn’t score with four man-advantages, including a 5-on-3 – the PK was perfect again, as the Jets went 0-for-7, with a 5-on-3.
The logo on their jerseys may be different, the crowd was a tad more enthusiastic than any they drew in Atlanta, but this is still a team that missed the playoffs by 13 points last season.
And it’s safe to say if Pierre Gauthier is looking for an experienced D-man, he won’t be asking about Johnny Oduya.
Gauthier doesn’t have to make any hasty moves. Even if Spacek is out for a while, the Canadiens have John Gorges, who was heroic, as usual, against the Jets; P.K. Subban, who played a more controlled game than he did in Toronto, and Hal Gill.
The veterans were supplemented by solid performances from Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz and, in his NHL debut, Alexei Emelin.
Weber used his vaunted laser to score on the PP. Even more impressive was a play behind the net, in which Weber won a puck battle against the taller, heavier Nik Antropov.
Diaz is a revelation. So smart with the puck, so accurate in his passing … and he’s going to get better as he acclimatizes himself to smaller ice surfaces and speedy forwards who force quick decisions.
Emelin took a penalty when the Canadiens were nursing a 1-0 lead. But his 16:27 included a half-minute of PK time, and the big Russian showed some offensive flair on a few up-ice dashes.
In his weekly column in the Journal de Montreal, Scotty Bowman wrote faceoffs are one of the three key components of a successful effort (the other two: PPs and line changes). Tomas Plekanec went 13-10, Andreas Engqvist was 6-3 – and David Steckel does not play for Winnipeg.
I thought the stars were in alignment for the Canadiens to get stomped in this game.
But Mike Cammalleri’s goal diminished the influence of the seventh man, and Price was determined to send 15,000 ‘Peggers home unhappy.
Which they weren’t.
I’ll make a fearless prediction for the home opener: If the Canadiens trail the Flames 5-1 late in the third period, a full Bell Centre won’t be giving the boys a standing ovation.
Welcome back, Winnipeg.