Your Montreal Canadiens are idle for a couple day, but it’s safe to predict their next game will be a contemporary variation on a classic movie:
Mr. Bourque Doesn’t Go To Washington.
It took 22 games to do it, but Michel Therrien finally came up with four forward lines that provided energy, entertainment and, oh yeah, SIX goals.
It was fun to watch.
And for perhaps the first time this season, the Canadiens looked like they were enjoying themselves on Bell Centre ice.
Missing the party, due to a lower-body injury, was Rene Bourque. His absence obliged Therrien to tinker further with forward lines he had created at the team’s Monday practice.
Daniel Brière took Bourque’s spot on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Ryan White came out of the pressbox to join Travis Moen and rookie Michaël Bournival on the fourth line.
Brière scored, off a three-way passing play with Gionta and Plekanec.
Bournival got his sixth, with Moen drawing an assist.
Regardless of Bourque’s health, if he makes the team flight to D.C. on Thursday I can’t see him dressing against the Capitals Friday night.
Why would Therrien mess with a lineup that produced the most goals this team has scored since last March 2 … when they lot 7-6 to visiting Pittsburgh in overtime?
The coach certainly won’t be changing his other two lines.
Brandon Prust’s forechecking and general orneriness opened up some ice for Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. And the rugged winger drew an assist on Galchenyuk’s goal, which was the conversion of yet another perfect pass by Andrei Markov.
Brendan Gallagher had an even greater energizing effect on his linemates. The sophomore winger drew an assist on only one of Max Pacioretty’s three goals, but Gallagher’s buzzsaw intensity was a crucial element in getting Pacioretty and David Desharnais off the schneid, out of their funk and into an O-zone rhythm reminiscent of their best games over the previous two seasons.
Max-Pac, whose natural hat trick was the product of 10 shots on goal, got the game’s First Star. But save some kudos for the tireless Gallagher and for the much-maligned DD – whipping boy of Canadiens fans ranging from radio blowhards to Montreal’s new mayor … and including, I must admit, at least one Habs blogger.
Bolstered by Gallagher and Pacioretty, Desharnais played with a confidence that deserted him during a Gomez-like slump that extended back to last season. One game does not a revival make, but DD & Co. looked terrific against the Minnesota Mild, who were outhit 21-15 by a Canadiens team that never outhits anyone.
A dozen Canadiens registered points on the scoresheet, and 11 skaters contributed to the Canadiens’ 23 blocked shots.
Playing 18 minutes, Alexei Emelin blocked five shots and aded a team-leading five hits.
With his team enjoying a rare laugher, P.K. Subban played a mere 23:48. He picked up two assists, briging P.K.’s total to 16, which is tops among NHL defenceman.
Subban finished plus-3 to lead the Canadiens in that department. His Norris Trophy rival, Minnesota’s Ryan Suter, played almost 27 minutes and was minus-3 on the game.
It’s a challenge to be a minus when your team wins 6-2, but the line of Eller, Galchenyuk and Prust pulled it off. They were on the ice for Niederreiter’s even-strength goal, and each member of the – chose your acronym, PEG or LAB – line finished at minus-1.
Customarily brilliant. Easy winner of his goaltending duel with Josh Harding – and royally pissed when Minnesota got a second goal with one second left in Garbage Time.
It was scored by Dany Heatley.
He’s their Rene Bourque.
So shall we plan the Cup parade?
Um, maybe not just yet.
Let’s see how the Canadiens fare in Washington and back home on Saturday against Pittsburgh.
But it was important to start a tough week with a good performance – the more so since November had been miserable for the Canadiens.
While Pacioretty enjoyed a career night, everyone in a red jersey contributed.
And the guy behind the bench – the subject of dire speculation, even this early in the season – had a very good night.
• • •
If you’re near the Bell Centre on Wednesday, pop into the Canadiens’ annual blood donor clinic.
It’s a good cause, and you’ll meet some players and/or execs and/or team legends.
Clinic runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Access at main entrance at 1909, Canadiens-de-Montreal Ave., section 116.