If there were a direct correlation between hard work and success, Tom Kostopoulos would have a den full of Art Ross trophies.
You can’t succeed without trying, but busting your butt is no guarantee.
So it’s nice to see Jeff Halpern, Mathieu Darche and Benoit Pouliot rewarded for their effort.
As they said on L’Antichambre last night, PhD (yay, Stubbs!) is a north-south line:
Darche goes and digs out the puck, Halpern makes plays, Benny is the shooter.
And as Darche said, it’s not rocket science.
Nothing cute or fancy. Simple, direct hockey.
Because with Tomas Plekanec too flu-gripped to play and the Top Four forwards continuing to struggle, the Canadiens needed production from the proletariat to scratch out a win in Buffalo last night.
Maybe “scratch out” overstates it.
The sabres are a terrible team: dead-last in the league, winless on home ice, a goal differential of minus-12 and a power play that’s worse than the Canadiens’.
For all that, however, the home team began the game like they planned to win it. Buffalo skated off to an early 10-2 shot advantage, had two power-plays within 10 minutes and fired 16 first-period shots.
But they didn’t beat Carey Price until Mike Grier completed an odd-man rush late in the period. And Halpern got that one back less than 90 seconds later.
Same deal in the second period. After Jordan Leopold pinched deep and took advantage of Scott Gomez’s defensive lapse in Price’s crease, Pouliot took all of 40 seconds to make it 2-2.
You have to be happy for Benny. That was the fourth goal for a guy who stopped his 2009-’10 scoring on March 25 and didn’t get his first one this season till Game 7.
The players talk about confidence all the time. It is, as far as one can ascertain, the belief that muscle memory cultivated since pee-wee hockey will produce the desired results.
Confidence can be fragile. It certainly is in the case of Pouliot, who’s had a career that scarcely justifies his lofty first-round draft status.
Playing with two hard-working (and low-paid, but that’s another story) veterans, Pouliot is rebuilding his belief that he can score goals. And the knack is returning because he working hard on the other elements of his game: solid, physical two-way hockey.
Confidence is also sky-high for the Canadiens’ goaltender. Price has won seven games, and he’s yet to play a bad one.
The key to the Canadiens’ season was getting Price off to a good start. They’ve done this, based on Price’s own ability and team defence: the Canadiens are the only team in the league that has yet to surrender more than three goals in regulation time.
There were many things to like last night – and a few aspects of the Canadiens’ game not to like – but I’ll not enumerate them because the Sabres are so gosh-awful.
I’m reserving judgment on the new defence pairings until I see them against Ottawa at the Bell Centre tonight.
What bears mentioning is Jacques Martin’s confidence in his players.
In the third period, protecting a one-goal lead, Martin used all four lines (albeit limited ToI for Lars Eller and Dustin Boyd). And on two third-period power plays, the allegedly ultra-conservative coach (he used to be Joe Clark’s brother-in-law, but I digress) continued to use four forwards.
Watching Mike Cammalleri on the right point, I couldn’t help wondering what might happen if a speedy penalty-killer pops one past him. Could Andrei Markov make it back to avoid disaster.
But the coach had confidence in his new PP alignment …. even while nursing a narrow lead.
And Martin had confidence in his lineup, all of whom – with the exception of Eller – played double-digit minutes.
• • •
I should have had more faith in a McGill man.
I was one of the fans disappointed by the Canadiens’ decision to keep Mathieu Darche after Ryan White’s excellent training camp.
It wouldn’t have happened, some suspected, if the name was Matthew Parker.
Darche is grateful for the opportunity to play in his hometown, and he never takes a shift off. He has excellent chemistry with Halpern; they’re helping Benny revive his career.
And in these tough economic times, everyone loves a bargain. Halpern makes $600,000, Darche $500,000.
Suffice it to say the lunch-bucket guys have been more productive than players making A LOT MORE money.