The verdict is in: Bad trade.
I’m referring, of course, to the Canadiens giving up on Matt D’Agostini.
A goal (including the third-period D’agger in the CH heart), an assist, four hits, plus-3.
And D’Agostini would have looked good at in Max Pacioretty’s spot on the Scott Gomez line.
Sadly, no one in a white jersey did.
Once again, Benoit Pouliot was a Not Ready for Prime Time player, with a stat line diametrically opposite to D’Agostini’s.
In 10:57 of ice time – only 45 seconds of which was in the third period with the game on the line – Benny managed to make errors on the first two St. Louis goals, take a penalty 175 feet from his net and finish the game at minus-2.
By the end of the second period, Jacques Martin had seen enough. Ryan White was bumped up to the Gomez line and Andrei Kostitsyn got a copuple shifts.
Jaro Halak made 26 mostly easy saves, surrounded by blue jerseys and safely protected from Canadiens forwards who, with rare exceptions, were disinclined to go to the net in quest of rebounds or second chances.
The Canadiens’ popgun attack was reminiscent of what we saw before Max-Pac began coming into his own. The value of a power forward was amply demonstrated by Chris Stewart and, especially, by David Backes.
There were rumours that Pierre Gauthier had asked about Backes when the Halak deal was being negotiated. You can see why John Davidson wouldn’t hear of it.
Backes had a goal, four hits and was plus-3. He’s a big, high-energy, annoying and highly-skilled guy who against whom no one likes to play.
Backes plays to the whistle on every shift, and not many Cnaadiens brought that degree of dedication to the Scottrade Centre tonight.
Lars Eller played hard in an effort to win one for the Goater. I thought he and Gomez were the best of the Canadiens forwards, but the industrious centres didn’t get much support from their wings.
And it was yet another game in which David Desharnais was reduiced to single-digit minutes on the fourth line.
The D had their hands full with swarming Blues. James Wisniewski was a turnover machine and finished minus-3. P.K. Subban crapped the bed on the play that led to the D’Agostini goal that put the game out of reach.
To their credit, however, the Dmen did a decent job of clearing what seemed too be an inordinate number of rebounds bouncing off Carey Price.
But let’s hear nothing about Halak winning the long-awaited goaltenders’ duel. As was not the case during his playoff heroics last spring, Jaro was playing behind a team that was, at least on this night, much better.
Without some big stops by Price, this one would have been an early rout.
At a certain point, Pierre Houde said the Canadiens looked like the team that had played last night. They had no jump, no rhythm or flow to their game, no commitment to winning one-on-one battles.
In short, they displayed none of the high-octane fuel that powered the winning streak.
Maybe it was a psychological hangover after the Pacioretty injury and the media-fuelled circus that ensued. You know the team isn’t mentally ready when its captain is taking brain-dead penalties.
(Wait! Saku used to do that … oh, never mind.)
Martin and his staff have work to do to prepare the Canadiens for their visit to Pittsburgh.
Job 1: Find a linemate with hair on his butt for Gomez and Brian Gionta.
Because based on what we saw tonight, number 57 ain’t no number 67.
• The Canadiens are still undefeated with Brent Sopel in the lineup.
• When the Stanley Cup champions visit the Bell Centre April 5, it will be the Canadiens’ last chance to salvage a win against the Central Division.
• Mike Cammalleri doesn’t have a point in a 2011 road game.