Canadiens won a nailbiter, as Cristobal Huet – mediocre, to put it charitably, against Toronto – made 29 stops, all of them tough, in a 2-0 conquest of the visiting Sabres.
“It wasn’t too pretty,” said Christopher Higgins. “We started a little slow, we weren’t skating as well as we have been.”
“It wasn’t pretty,” echoed Tomas Plekanec. “But good teams can fight through it, and we did.”
Higgins speculated that the Canadiens may have been feeling a bit of a letdown after the fever pitch of the Toronto game. But, he added, Huet kept his team in the game until they could find some semblance of rhythm.
The winning goaltender posted his first shutout of the season and, as always, spread the credit around.
“The defence played well in front of me,” Huet said. “They didn’t give Buffalo a lot of chances.”
Such a nice guy.
But a glance at the shot totals reveals the Sabres had a 16-8 edge in the first period and a 9-2 advantage in the third.
Mr. Nice Guy stole a win for his team.
Bryan Smolinski, whose defence was huge in the closing minutes – rewarded by a empty-net insurance goal – described the game as “a little bit of a chess match.”
They’re a very good team,” Smolinski said of the Sabres. “They execute well, they pass well. Once we knew what we were in for, we started chipping the puck in and playing our game.”
Guy Carbonneau was pleased to have confounded skeptics who wondered why he was starting Huet against the Sabres. The coach said he was “paid to make decisions” – and the Cheshire cat grin playing at the edges of Carbo’s mouth indicated he’d earned his salary tonight.
Another coach’s decision was promoting Andrei Kostitsyn to the second line. It paid off in the spectacular passing play that led to Tomas Plekanec’s goal.
“The last three games he’s played really well,”" Carbo said of Kostitsyn. “That’s how he finished last year.
“He has good size, good speed, a good shot. When he uses these assets, he’s a good player.”
The Canadiens’ next four games are on the road. Noting that it was good to “win ugly”, Higgins said the Canadiens were playing better as a team than they were at this point last season – “this game excepted.”
“We’re more confident than we were last year, when we were coming from behind a lot,” Higgins added. “We’re smarter, there’s more determination.”
• • •
Third Period 00:22 Smolinski empty-netter
Huet: 29 stops.
Third Period 1:04 Dandenault, Bégin, Smmolinski
Third Period 1:20 An offside has Vanek banging the boards in frustration.
Third Period 2:00 Smolinski … so smart. Gains control in the Buffalo zone and eats seconds.
Third Period 4:17 Kostopoulos on Koivu line for defence.
And Bégin with Pleks and Kovy for the same reason.
Third Period 4:18 Shots are 27-18 for the tteam that isn’t leading.
Third Period 4:58 Huet lost hhis stick, but Hamrlik saved the day by clearing the puck after some tense seconds.
Third Period 6:58 Buffalo PP.
Third Period 8:00 Huet stones DDrew Stafford. 26 saves, none easy.
Third Period 9:30 Komisarek is fine. He just wiped out Pominville.
Third Period 11:00 Nice bbackcheck by LLatenddressse. Little things count in a 1-0 game.
Third Period 11:20 All Buffalo here. But komisarek is back.
Third Period 12:12 Streit and Markov.
Third Period 12:44 Huet saves Kostitsyn’s ass. A giveaway, a hot shot and an alert save.
Third Period 13:39 Komisarek went to the room with some sort of knack.
Third Period 14:49 Tight collar time here. Sabres play so smart. Their system generates great chances.
Third Period 18:34 Huet clears badly and it nearly costs him. He is the worst puckhandler. But he’s made 1 saves.
Third Period 20:00 This is far from over, but if the Canadiens can play 20 more minutes like they just did …
• • •
Pleks is 9-6 on faceoffs and is playing his best game in a while.
This line has the chance to be special. Kostitsyn is the perfect complement to thhe other two speed/skill guys.
He is so much bettter than Latendresse, there’s just no comparison.
Given time to learn each other’s dance moves and develop some chemistry … well, it’s going to be special.
PLEASE, Carbo: Don’t tinker with them.
Second Period 00:00 The place would have gone wild.
But Bégin couldn’t cash Dandenault’s pass, off a great up the boards ffeed by Hamrllik
Second Period 4:00 What PK work by Tom the Bomb and Dandenault .. and Gorges
Second Period 5:05 First penalty .. after 35 minutes.
Second Period 6:08 Latendresse stumbles, gets to his feet, fires the puck into the mesh.
The boos are getting louder.
Second Period 6:19 Another great rush by Special K.
Second Period 6:56 Andrei Kostitsyn just said goodbye to the pressbox.
Enjoy the third line, Guillaume.
Second Period 8:18 Speaking of great defencemen, Roman Hamrlik is a joy to behold … aagain.
Second Period 10:00 Man, Brian Campbelll can play. Excellent puckhandler. Cool as a cuke back there.
Second Period 12:18 This has to be the longest a game has gone scoreless this season. Chances are there. Good goaltending at both ends.
Second Period 12:22 Chipchura hooked down. No Call
Second Period 16:27 Ryder puts another goal on Saku’s stick. He’s playing with energy tonight.
Second Period 17:15 Latenddresse just played his worst shift of the season, and his fans are starting to notice
Second Period 18:19 Saku has Miller looking behind him on a great feed by Higgins.
Second Period 20:00 Pleks line to start again. They have a lot of jump with the kid at LW.
• • •
The Sabres came out flying, and when they have room to skate, scary things happen.
The Canadiens are skating as well, but their passing was poor in the first period. A lot of pucks tossed into the slot and easily picked off by Buffalo, which would roar away in transition.
Andrei Kostitsyn had more first-period ice time than Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins, Michael Ryder or Guillaume Latendresse.
See, I knew the Canadiens should start Cristobal Huet.
The goaltender was very sharp, stopping 16 Buffalo shots to keep the visitors off the scoresheet … and his teammates in the game.
So what’s with your Montreal Canadiens and First Periods?
First Period 00:00 Highlight of the period: Roman Hamrlik hammers Paul Gaustad down behind the Canadiens net
First Period 2:19 Not a bad shift by the Pleks line, with Kostitsyn
First Period 4:30 Huet is keeping the Canadiens in this. Shots are 13-6, good chances about 10-0
First Period 5:29 Latendresse on the third line … again.
First Period 5:47 Coach will like that. Ryder made a nice pass to Saku in the slot.
First Period 8:25 Huet save puts a stop to a scary sequence that inclluded an Andrei Markov giveaway along the boards.
First Period 9:14 Suddenly, Buffalo has seven shots. And Huet’s been very sharp on most of them.
First Period 10:42 Maxim Afinogenov is scary … to everyone. He’s minus-6 on the season.
First Period 12:20 Latendresse back with Pleks and Kovy.
First Period 12:49 Through seven-plus minutes, shots are 1-1.
First Period 14:55 Latendresse on the second wave of the PP. Some slick moves by Kovalev, but no solid chances.
First scattered boos of the night for a bad pass by Ryder.
That’ll get louder.
First Period 16:55 First PP, and Ryder is on it.
First Period 17:15 Good! The fourth line has been reunited.
First Period 18:50 Big save on Thomas Vanek in close. Latendresse with Smolinski and Dandenault.
First Period 20:00 Nice hand for Molson Cup winner Carey Price
First Period 20:00 Plekanec line with Kostitsyn to start. Last couple games it was Smolinski.
• • •
Mike Komisarek and Guy Lafleur in pre-game videos.
• • •
Online All-Star voting begins Nov. 13 at NHL.com.
Vox populi are two of my favourite Latin words – along with “res ipsa loquitur” to explain Don Cherry’s neckties.
But will we see a repeat of the Rory Fitzpatrick farce?
Canadiens are at the ACC on the 13th. I’ll be blogging off TV, but then I’m staying up all night to cast votes for my man Josh Gorges.
• • •
Does defence win championships?
The Rangers, for all their early-season travails, have allowed 23 goals. Their tied for league-fewest with the mighty Blue Jackets, who have that Pascal Leclaire dude pitching shutouts every second night.
I guess we can look forward to a New York-Columbus Stanley Cup final.
• • •
So the “crowd” at the Fleet Centre in Boston shared a cab ride home last night.
The reason: Bostonnians were at home, watching their Patriots beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.5.
The week before it was the World Series.
“How come,” asks a pressbox wag, “no one ever cites a hockey game as the reason for low attendance at another event?”
• • •
Cristobal Huet gets the start over October’s Molson Cup winner.
Carey Price is this season’s first Player of the Month. Based on Three Star selections, Price had 11 points, as did Tomas Plekanec. The tie breaker is Price’s two selections as First Star, to one for Pleks.
Huet, who also had two First Star selections, was third with 10 points.
As for tonight, maybe Guy Carbonneau figures it’s too early in the season to be undermining the confidence of his Number One goaltender.
But Huet was not good against Toronto. If he’s shaky tonight, Carbo has to make a switch when Canadiens begin a four-game road trip in Boston on Thursday.
It’s only a matter of time before there’s a permanent change, and everyone – Price, Huet and Carbo – knows it.
The timing has to be right … if only to sustain Huet’s trade value.
Pierre McGuire says in a true meriticracy, it’s no contest: Carey Price should be the Canadiens’ goaltender.
Perhaps management should consider the famous words of Rabbi Hillel, who lived at the time of Jesus:
If I am not for myself, who is for me?
When I am for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
• • •
And Michael Ryder – who play to date defies analysis by hockey experts or Talmudic scholars – stays on the top line … at least to start the game.
But if Buffalo jumps out early and if Ryder is struggling, Carbo has to find someone who can play up to the early-season high level of Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins.
I’d like to see Andrei Kostitsyn get a shot, but the more likely on-deck hitters are Alkex Kovalev and Guillaume Latendresse (even if the latter had to play on his off-wing.)
• • •
Is this déja vu all over again.
Pass the Gravol.
And the Prozac.
Jack Daniels wouldn ‘t hurt either.
It’s going to be that kind of roller-coaster hockey season.
Your Montreal Canadiens win four in a row, including two back-to-back on the road.
They come home and totally suck against Atlanta.
Then they open a can of whup-ass on the Flyers, only to lose to the hated Leafs.
We’ve seen this movie before. And we all remember how it ended.
After 13 games last season, the Candiens had won seven, lost three in regulation and dropped another three in shootouts.
Their current record is seven wins, three losses, an overtime loss and a shootout loss.