Here’s my Red Fisher lede:
Take a deep breath and hold it.
OK, maybe you can exhale. If you hold your breath until the Canadiens make an announcement on the extent of Andrei Markov’s injury, you’ll be bluer than the jerseys of Canada’s Team.
“Lower body,” was all Jacques Martin would reveal. “We’ll know more in a few days.”
It didn’t look good. A knee-on-knee collision with Eric Staal sent Markov tumbling toward the boards, flinging off his gloves and grimacing with pain.
As he was helped off by P.K. Subban and Canadiens athletic therapist Graham Rynbend, Markov seemed to be favouring his surgically-repaired right knee.
The injury cast a cloud over a great night that capped an amazing week.
The Canadiens got seven goals from seven players.
It was the first time they’d hit that lucky number since March 24, 2008.
The win capped a week in which your red-hot team outscored the Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes by a cumulative 12-3.
So are the Montreal Canadiens for real?
And how real are their chances of continuing to fly high if Markov is grounded for an extended period?
For now, let’s enjoy an impressive W over a team that ALWAYS wins at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens hadn’t beaten Carolina in regulation on home ice since … well, a long bloody time.
And it looked like tonight might not be the night.
Carolina trailed 2-0 aftter the first period despite a 15-10 shot advantage, not to mention eight shots the Canadiens blocked and three misses. Corresponding totals for the home team were 10-3-3.
Carey Price. The goaltender was spectacular in the first period and superb after Carolina had come back to tie the game.
Price’s best save, however, came with his team comfortably ahead. I still don’t know how he got his glove out quickly enough to stop Chad Larose from in close.
Blogger Steven Hindle, on Twitter, wrote: “Did I just see Carey Price bend the Matrix?”
I saw that movie. Didn’t really understand it, but I understand why Price is playing unconscious.
The team in front of him is doing the job, and the goaltender’s confidence grows stronger with each outing.
The Canadiens are fourth in the league in goals-against per game at 2.12. They have not surrendered more than three goals in regulation time through 17 games.
And the power play has come to life: 3-for-5, 6-for-14 in the last three games.
Conventional hockey wisdom has it that a good team has PP and PK percentages that add up to more than 100.
The Canadiens PK efficiency is at 88.9 per cent. The PP has inched up to 14.5
So they’re 103.4
Plan the parade.
Martin predictably praised his goaltender and special teams but reserved kind words for his “gars de soutien”.
“A couple of shifts by the third and fourth line restored the tempo for us,” the coach said, praising the PhD and Eller-Moen-Pyatt lines for keeping their play simple.
“They got pucks in deep and outworked Carolina,” Martin added. “Our skill guys didn’t do that at times.”
He wasn’t talking about Number 1 skill guy Tomas Plekanec. Another stellar effort – a goal, three assists, 4:37 on the PK, 13-12 on faceoffs – had Martin describing Plekanec as “a pleasure to coach” and “a great person.”
“He’s always first at the rink,” Martin said. “He prepares properly. He plays against the other team’s top line all the time, and he’s not a selfish player.”
Sounds like the kind of guy you lock up for five years.
Suggested topic for late-night arguments:
What kind of contract should the Canadiens offer Andrei Markov?
Yes, he’s still their best player.
But Markov is the wrong side of 30, and the injuries just keep coming.