That’s why I don’t bet on sports events.
The Vancouver Canucks came in with the most dangerous power play in the NHL.
The Canadiens killed four penalties.
The Canuck centres are among the league’s best on faceoffs.
The Canadiens won 30 of 53.
That’s why they play the games – because they’re unpredictable … and in this case, very big fun.
“Everybody brought our A-game,” said Roman Hamrlik, who certainly brought his, scoring the insurance goal on a third-period power play. “The character was there.”
The Canadiens’ game plan, Hamrlik said, was to keep the Canucks to the outside and “keep the middle tight.”
Done and done … in no small measure because Hamrlik and partner, Jaro Spacek, did a superb job against the ultra-dangerous Sedin twins – an assignment they didn’t get till just before the game.
“We were sitting on the bench, and Perry (Pearn) said ‘Hey guys, Hammer against Sedin.’ We were hoping we’d get the second line, but …”
Coach Jacques Martin said the win was one of the most satisfying of the young season. Comparing the game to a chess match, Martin was pleased he could get the centre match-ups he wanted: Tomas Plekanek against Henrik Sedin, Scott Gomez on Ryan Kesler and Jeff Halpern against Manny Malhotra.
Each of the three Canadiens centres won nine faceoffs, and Gomez was particularly dominant, winning nine of 12 while Henrik Sedin lost 11 of 13.
Henrik didn’t get a shot on goal. Daniel had none until the third period.
Christian Ehrhoff had 10 of Vancouver’s 35 shots. The Canadiens blocked 21, including five by Hal Gill and four by Hamrlik.
Andrei Markov, in his best game this season, played almost 25 masterful minutes and scored his first goal.
Carey Price posted his
second shutout of the season. And while he was, as always, anxious to spread credit around, Price made some spectacular stops, notably against Daniel Sedin, Jannik Hansen and Ehrhoff.
Price was to mention that a key to defusing Vancouver’s powerful PP was obliging the Canucks to make several passes in order to set up, thereby eating minutes and robbing the man advantage of its rhythm.
In developing his game plan, Martin said, he noted that his Canadiens were statistically a better 5-on-5 team than the visitors. With last change, he was able to get the match-ups he wanted, and the Canadiens’ PK took care of business.
Early in the game, my pressbox neighbours and I wondered why Martin was employing the seemingly suicidal strategy of playing his oldest Dmen against the lethal Sedins.
“In the first half of last season, with Markov out, those two (Hamrlik and Spacek) kept our team afloat,” Martin recalled. “They played against the opponents’ top lines. It was nice to see them elevate their game tonight.”
Martin also had praise for Markov – “very strong, we need him to play that kind of game” – to Price and to his buddy Pearn for preparing the team’s PK strategies.
• Tomas Plekanec, spectacular as usual on the PK
• Maxim Lapierre, skating, hitting and forechecking ferociously in his new role on the Gomez line
• Josh Gorges, who looked more at ease with Markov
• The PhD line for consistently getting the puck behind a slow Vancouver D and making the Canucks work hard to move it out.
• P.K. Subban, who’s settling into the 18-minute role that’s probably right at this stage of his development. And he’s still making spectacular plays.
A great W.