You have to like the way this is trending:
On Nov. 20, Carey Price shut the Leafs out 2-0.
It was the first time a Canadien goaltender had hung a goose egg on Toronto since Nov. 12, 1977, when Ken Dryden did it.
So after a 33-year gap, Price has two DSos against the Leafs this season.
And thanks to an outstanding team effort, he made it look easy.
Playing for a national Hockey Night in Canada audience and their adoring fans in the HNIC studio, the Leafs pretty much sucked in every aspect of the game.
They were outscored, outshot, outskilled, outskated … even outhit, which is embarrassing for a team that prides itself on truculence.
The Canadiens dominated “from the front of our net to the front of theirs”, as Price said.
The dominance and shutout were all the more remarkable because the Canadiens had surrendered 15 goals during their three-game losing streak.
The problem, Jacques Martin said, was surrendering “too many chances off the rush” and extended periods of defensive zone pressure.
That didn’t happen tonight.
Granted, Toronto isn’t as offensively talented or physically imposing as Boston, but you play whom the schedule says you play. And Martin lauded his team’s work ethic, his players’ effort without the puck and the “very intelligent” way the Canadiens managed the game.
Those qualities were exemplified by Roman Hamrlik, who was the mainstay of the Canadiens’ depleted defence. Hamrlik logged a team high 25:15 (he’ll enjoy the Sunday off), including 4:50 of three shorthanded situations. The old man had five shots on goal, blocked six Toronto shots and had three hits.
Like the best Dmen in the league, notably Nicklas Lidstrom, Hamrlik controlled the pace of the game when he was on the ice. He was magnificent.
At the other end of the age spectrum were the kids, particularly David Desharnais.
I’ll admit it: I thought there was no way a player as small as DD would make it in the sweet savagery that is the NHL.
Since his call-up on the day after New Year’s, Desharnais has progressed from game to game to the point where he and Scott Gomez are the team’s co-Number Two centres behind Tomas Plekanec.
DD set up Benoit Pouliot for the goal that opened the scoring. He converted Gomez’s pass to drive a nail into Toronto’s coffin.
He went 12-4 on draws and played 4:12 on the power-play.
What doesn’t show up on the scoresheet are the pinpoint passes Desharnais put of the sticks of linemates. And the allegedly tough Leafs couldn’t line up a hit on him all night.
Martin praised Desharnais’ dedication and commitment. The coach rhapsodized about “the kind of person (Desharnais) is”, meaning a character player who has exceeded limited expectations, based on his size, at every level of hockey.
This was a huge win for the Canadiens.
A four-game losing streak would have sown seeds of doubt, with surging Buffalo here on Tuesday, before a trip to the West.
Now there’s some breathing room. The Canadiens are comfortably in sixth place, with a points total that matches fifth-place Washington’s.
• • •
Mike Komisarek had less ToI than any other Toronto defenceman. The big thumper of yesteryear had one hit.
Two more seasons, at $4.5 million per.