This just in from the HIO Fearless Prediction Desk:
When your Montreal Canadiens visit beautiful downtown Newark Wednesday to play New Jersey for the second time in three nights – I know: we just can’t get enough of this scintillating hockey – the Devils’ goaltender will be Cory Schneider.
And when New Jersey visits the Bell Centre Jan. 14 … well, who knows?
Perhaps Schneider will have solidified his position as the Devils’ number-one goaltender.
Or maybe the great Martin Brodeur will get at least one more start in his hometown.
I doubt I’m alone in hoping for the latter scenario.
Montrealers’ last chance to see the greatest goaltender our fair island has ever produced – Jacques Plante was born on a farm in the Mauricie region – should not be a game in which Brodeur was beaten three times on 17 shots. A goalie with a lifetime save percentage of .930 shouldn’t be bidding us adieu at .824.
Brodeur did not play poorly Monday night at the Bell Centre. Rene Bourque and Max Pacioretty beat him with excellent shots, each a consequence of superb playmaking by David Desharnais.
The winning goal was the culmination of a comedy of errors, by both teams, in the New Jersey zone. And to add a bit of perspective, Alex Galchenyuk, who nudged in the GWG, was born during the season Brodeur won the Calder Trophy.
That was the season, 1993-’94, when Jaromir Jagr had 32 goals and 99 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The New Jersey Devils are the hockey version of the Eagles Reunion Tour, and Monday was one of those nights. They have been playing the same defensive style since Brodeur was a rookie and galchenyuk was an infant. It’s won them three Stanley Cups.
This just in from the Prediction Desk: The Devils won’t be adding a fourth Cup banner in 2014. But they are a disciplined, hard-working and well-coached team that dominated the Canadiens for long stretches of Monday’s game.
Take the first period. Or as a Habs’ fan might say, take the first period … please.
The Devils had 11 shots on goal. Five others were blocked, and three shots missed the net.
Equivalent first-period numbers for the home team: 5-1-1. After 20 minutes of hockey, 14 Canadiens had yet to register a SoG. And a dozen members of the home team didn’t even attempt a shot in the first period.
During his postgame press conference, Michel Therrien said he and his coaching staff expected a letdown after the Saturday night win over the Leafs. Hockey, Therrien added, is “50 per cent Xs and Os and 50 per cent emotion and passion.” The latter qualities were much in evidence against Toronto and almost entirely lacking – for the better part of 50 minutes – against New Jersey.
There’s a Quebec expression to describe what Bell Centre fans endured: “un spectacle plat a mourir”. It means a show that’s deathly dull.
The coaches and players come and go. But the constant, under general manager Lou Lamoriello, is a Devils team that plays suffocating, energy-draining defence.
Through 40 minutes, the Canadiens had nine shots … and a 2-1 lead. The team we’ve been enjoying for the last two weeks did not show up until the third period, when the Canadiens protected their lead by taking the play to the Devils’ zone.
So for the first time this season, the Canadiens started the month with a win. They beat a goaltender whose career record against them was 44-18-6, and they moved past Detroit and Tampa Bay into second place in the Atlantic Division.
Although the game will not be included in anyone’s boxed set of hockey classics on DVD, there was much to like for Habs fans:
• Carey Price got a few breaks, sure, but when the final siren sounded, he had outgoaled an NHL legend.
• P.K. Subban – playing “his best hockey”, according to Therrien – excelled in all three zones, blocked five shots and bailed his buddy Price out a couple times with opportune puck-clearing.
• David Desharnais continues his phoenix-like ascent from the post-Erik Cole ashes.
• Max Pacioretty became the first Canadien scorer in double figures.
• Travis Moen was moved onto the Tomas Plekanec line because daniel Brière couldn’t cope with the size of Jagr, Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac. Moen’s thunderous hit on Mark Fayne brought the Bell Centre and the bench to life.
• The penalty-kill was 3-for-3 and the power play produced Max-Pac’s goal, off some lovely passing.
• Galchenyuk, who watched the third period of the Toronto game from a seat beside George Parros on the Canadiens’ bench, responded with four SoG and his seventh goal of the season. The kid had nine in 48 games as a rookie. And the coach who had benched him against Toronto had Galchenyuk on the ice protecting a one-goal lead in the dying seconds against New Jersey.
• Brendan Gallagher had a quiet night on the scoresheet but played his usual buzz-saw game – including several visits to the close proximity of a goaltender who’s 20 years his senior.
A note from Arpon Basu at NHL.com: It was the 11th straight game in which the Canadiens have allowed two or fewer goals. They are 8-1-2 in that stretch.