Habis Inside/Out’s wonderful server ate an entire edition of Quick Hits.
It had some good stuff about Carey Price and the Canadiens’ patchwork D.
But the golden prose is lost to the ages, so rather than dwelling on the game, maybe it would be useful to asess where the Canadiens are at after exactly half their schedule.
The team’s 41st game last season was a 4-2 loss to Ottawa in which jaro Halak allowed three gaols on 27 shots. The Canadiens’ first-half record was 19-19-3.
They had scored 105 goals and allowed 114.
Last night’s win – in which Price made 31 saves in regulation and another five in his first Shootout of the season – raised the Canadiens record to 22-16-3 – a six-point improvement.
They’ve scored 102 goals and allowed 97. The plus-5 goal differential is a nice improvment on last season’s minus-9 in the first half.
If the Canadiens second half total matches the first, 94 points should punch a ticket to the postseason dance.
But that’s a big if.
Josh Gorges is gone for the season with torn ligaments in his right knee. He and the similarly hors de combat Andrei Markov are arguably this team’s best defenceman (no argument re Markov), and they find themselves on IR, facing uncertain futures, in their contract years.
With Roman Hamrlik nursing a foot injury, Hal Gill played 26 minutes against his former Pittsburgh teammates last night. The big guy cannot sustain that ToI though 41 more games, and the Canadiens are doomed if he has to.
In his post-game remarks,Jacques Martin talked about the injuries reprresenting an oppiortunity for the Canadiens’ young defencemen. I presume he was mostly alluding to P.K. Subban.
Despite rookie mistakes, like the penalty he took last night, P.K. probably has seen the last of the pressbox. He played 24:52 – though only 33 seconds on the power-play – and we’re probably going to see that utilization, or pretty close to it, down the stretch.
I thought James Wisniewski had an off-night. His first passes were inaccurate – which, granted, didn’t make him unique – and the Penguins did a nice job of either taking away or blocking the Wiz’s point shot during that maddeningly futile 2:29 of 5-on-3.
Martin said another aspect of injuries piling up on D would be increased impetus for the forwards to conscientiously get back and help the beleaguered blueline corps.
We saw that against Pittsburgh: five-man defence, in support of a brilliant effort by Price. It won many games in October, and the martin system will have to be almost hermetic to carry this low-scoring team through the rest of its schedule.
The best forward line last night was the newly created Franco Trio of David Desharnais, Benoit Pouliot (who scored in regulation AND the Shootout) and Mathieu Darche.
Desharnais looks like he might be up for a while, which could mean Lars Eller should start looking for apartments in Hamilton. The puckhandling legerdemain of the diminutive centre is a nice complement to darche’s non-stop motor, and the two of them will continue the heretofore Quixotic quest to get Benny playing up to his talent level.
Through 41 games last season, Michael Cammalleri had 19 goals and 16 assists. He’s matched that assist total, but has only 12 goals to date.
That projects to 24, which would be Cammalleri’s lowest total since he scored 19 (in 63 games) with L.A. three years ago.
Coming off 13 goals in 19 playoff games last spring, Cammalleri was poised for a big season. It hasn’t happened, and theories abound:
• He’s annoyed that Brian Gionta got the C.
• Cammalleri didn’t like being bumped off Tomas Plekanec’s line in order to liberate Gionta from Scott Gomez, temporarily, and get the captain untracked.
• The sniper, more than anyone else on the team, is stifled by Jacques Martin’s system, which obliges Cammalleri to come back deeper and work harder in his own zone than he might like.
Whatever the reason, Cammalleri has to get untracked if the Canadiens are going to scratch and claw and bite and stay in this thing.
The win over Pittsburgh was huge because a loss to the Crosby-less Penguins would have been demoralizing.
As it was, the Canadiens came back from being down for the third game in a row and, for the first time this season, won a game in which they trailed after the first period.
The team has sustained body blows on D. There is no one in the organization who can replace Markov, and the loss of Gorges compounds the problem.
Wiz will help, and P.K. will have to mature in the crucible of late-season pressure.
The most encouraging aspect of last night’s game was the play of Price.
After all his one-on-one difficulties during the team’s slump,who would have suspected Price would stone five Penguins – including ace Kris Letang – in his first Shootout of the season.
The crossed-arms celebratory gesture was conservative by NFL endzone celebration standards, but Price was immensely pleased to make saves that secured a W.
He’ll have to be that good again when the Bruins visit on Saturday … and thereafter.