You’d like to think the Saku Salute would have been as heartfelt if Koivu’s Anaheim Ducks had been on the long end of a 4-1 score.
But they weren’t, so Bell Centre hockey fans could be classy and magnanimous in treating the Canadiens’ former captain to a sustained ovation during the dying seconds of the game.
Props to Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau for sending Koivu out to take a late faceoff.
Props to Montreal fans for giving a great warrior the reception he deserved, from the opening strain of the Star-Spangled Banner to the announcement of Anaheim’s number 11 as the game’s third star.
And props to your Montreal Canadiens for taking full advantage of a lacklustre performance by the visiting club.
There was a lot to like about the win.
• Carey Price was superb on another night when his team allowed more than 30 shots – for the sixth straight game. Price’s 150th career win should have been a shutout and would have been if his B.C. pal Josh Gorges hadn’t turned the puck over in the face of some rare Anaheim pressure, giving the Ducks a 2-on-1 break that left someone named Patrick Maroon with an open net.
• Max who? Brandon who? With injuries to Pacioretty and Prust leaving the team thin on left wing, rookie Michaël Bournival is taking advantage of Top 6 minutes. The kid has points in four straight games, and Bournival’s speed and forechecking tenacity are creating openings for linemates Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. They scored three of the Canadiens’ four goals.
• DD lives! David Desharnais did not get on the scoresheet and hasn’t since he got an assist in Winnipeg. And Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith has more goals than Desharnais this season. But DD worked hard, won some battles, created chances and went 13-2 in the faceoff circle. At his career best two seasons ago on a line with Max-Pac and Erik Cole, DD benefits from big wingers – currently Rene Bourque and Travis Moen.
• Alex Galchenyuk was used on the Canadiens’ 5-on-3 power play and earned an assist on the game’s key goal, a Gionta tip-in that made it 3-0. Galchenyuk also made a couple of good, hustling defensive plays. I can’t wait to see him play centre. Give him two snipers on his wings and Galchenyuk will pile up the assists.
• Andrei Markov played 27:06 – high on both teams and 4:30 more than his D partner, P.K. Subban. Listening to the TSN 690 postgame show on the drive home, I heard Tony Marinaro fretting about Markov’s minutes. And when you consider his age (25 in December) and injury history, there is cause for concern.
But if this game was any indication – and maybe it wasn’t, because the Ducks were kinda brutal – Markov is evolving into the kind of defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom was in Detroit: a cerebral rearguard who doesn’t hit anyone and doesn’t get hit but rather uses his smarts to control the pace of a game. And it doesn’t hurt that Markov’s partner is a total stud.
That said, Anaheim let Markov play easy minutes. I don’t know that I’d risk that much ToI against Toronto or Boston.
• Anaheim’s power play is statistically the league’s worst, but the Canadiens’ PK – including rookie Patrick Holland – was impeccable.
• Tomas Plekanec was great in his 3:06 on the PK. He was also great in 3:14 on the power play (Michel Therrien wisely made the Pleks line the first wave after the kids had made a mess of the game’s first PP). And Plekanec was great at even-strength. He was just great all over the ice – a 200-feet performance that was kind of an hommage to the kind of hockey Saku Koivu used to play in bleu-blanc-rouge.
• Jarred Tinordi might be in Hamilton for a while. Nathan Beaulieu combined with Raphael Diaz to give the Canadiens a credible second-wave blueline presence on the power play. And the kid blocked two shots and did nothing egregiously wrong at even strength.
It’s reasonable to look at the 10-game mark as the first tranche of the long NHL season.
After 10 last February, the Canadiens were 6-3-1. They were 5-2 at home, 1-1-1 on the road. They had scored 31 goals and allowed 24.
The win over Anaheim elevated this team’s record to 6-4. The Canadiens are 3-3 at the Bell Centre, 3-1 on the road. They’ve scored 33 goals and allowed 20.
Anyone remember what happened in Game 11 last season?
The Leafs came to the Bell Centre and smoked the home team 6-0. Then the Canadiens won five in a row.
Mighty San Jose – which outshot Boston 39-17 but lost 2-1 when David Krejci scored with a second remaining in the third period – is at the Bell Centre Saturday night.
It’s Hockey Inside/Out Summit weekend … and your Canadiens skate into it on a high.
• A note worth repeating from Ron Reusch: When Teemu Selanne started his rookie season, Alex Galchenyuk and Nthan Beaulieu didn’t exist. Michaël Bournival, Patrick Holland and Brendan Gallagher were six months old.