About last night …

If I were picking the three stars, Andrei Kostitsyn would have been one of them.

But no problem with Josh Gorges and Carey Price, whom the fans selected.

But the Number One star for me?

Jacques Martin.

The coach ran a tough practice on Thursday. And his team was ready to play a road game against a divisional opponent.

The Sabres, without Jason Pominville, were brutal for 40 minutes. Ottawa will be tougher at the Bell Centre, and the Nervous Nellies among us can begin worrying about the rock ’em/sock ’em line of Mike Fisher, Chris Neil and young Habs-killer Nick Foligno.

We’ll see what Martin can cook up to counter the Senators. 

Against Buffalo, everything the coach did came up aces.

And for one night at least, the coach stifled his know-nothing critics who can’t understand why Martin – a year into his four-year contract and coming off a deep playoff run in which he outcoached Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma – wasn’t summarily fired to make room for Guy Boucher.

Let’s run through Martin’s astute moves:

• He put Travis Moen on the Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta line. Moen had a quiet stat sheet: one SoG. But forechecking and puck-chasing presence opened up the ice for his linemates. Good bet the line will be intact against Ottawa.

• Benoit Pouliot handled his demotion by playing 11 hard-working minutes, dishing out three hits and going to the net consistently. Martin had Benny out in the dying minutes of a one-goal game – gotta help his always-fragile confidence.

• To protect the lead, Martin benched Lars Eller, Dustin Boyd and Tom Pyatt (both of whom were soft on Derek Roy’s goal) for the latter part of the third period. Shortening the bench worked brilliantly. The Canadiens werte able to do what they couldn’t against TB: protect the lead and close out the game with authority.

• Martin formed a D pairing of Alexandre Picard and P.K. Subban. Picard opened the scoring and played 15 qualities minutes. P.K.’s 20:26 included deployment with two minutes left. We remember what happened against Tampa Bay in that situation. Again, Martin – who has the rep of being less-than-supportive of young players – really showed confidence in the kid.

• The final-seconds lines: Gomez-Pouliot-Lapierre and Moen-Gionta-Plekanec. Sabres couldn’t get out of their end against these energized trios.

• Martin is using a Scotty Bowman innovation: two centres on D-zone faceoffs. And one of them is usually Jeff Halpern, who is 28-16 on draws this season … including that game-ending scrambled mess in Buffalo.

• The coach preaches team D. After yielding an average of 37 shots against through the first three games, the Canadiens held Buffalo to 23 in their own barn

• Martin also preaches puck support. There were lapses during a late-game Buffalo surge, but through most of the game the Canadiens forwards came back deep to help on zone clearances, which were achieved through short, high-percentage passes to guys in red jerseys waiting for the biscuit and ready to move it.

• Discipline is a coach’s mantra. The Canadiens took only one minor penalty, and that let Martin roll four lines and six D for 60 minutes.

I don’t know if we can credit Martin for the resurgence of AK46. Playing healthy has something to do with it. And he’s in a contract year. But man, the Belarusian Bafflement is playing like his sparse hair is on fire.

P.K. always plays that way. He had three SoG, made a couple mistakes and used his speed to atone for them. This guy is special … and wait until we see him with Markov on the power play.

The PP finally scored – and Josh Gorges getting it was proof there is a God. My man Josh played another superb game, and as I asked in the game blog: Would you trade Gorges even-up for Craig Rivet?

Yeah … if Tyler Myers were a throw-in.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But an undersized Dman who wasn’t even drafted out of Kelowna has become a pillar (as opposed to Rivet, who’s a pylon) on the Canadiens’ blueline.

In their fourth game last season, the 2-1 Canadiens went into Vancouver.

With his family watching, Carey Price – a stand-on-his head hero in Toronto and Buffalo  – faced 32 shots, let in seven of them and watched the last eight minutes from the bench.

Price went on to the worst season his career.

It’s early, but 2010-’11 looks different.

A lot different.

I think we’ll see him again against Ottawa, which will be a tougher challenge, even on home ice, than the Sabres.

The Canadiens are 2-1-1 after four one-goal games.

It’s going to be that kind of year.

•  •  •

One of my favourite Michael Farber bon mots is the SI writer’s observation that two organizations in this world know how to do ceremonies: the House of Windsor and the Montreal Canadiens.

The Sabres forgot so consult either.

•  •  •

Man, the reffing has been brutal.

That phantom Too Many Men whistle killed the Sabres.

•  •  •

Josh Gorges said the ice was bad.

Didn’t hurt him.

•  •  •

Louis Leblanc scored twice, including the OT winner, as the Juniors edged Chicoutimi 3-2.

45 Comments

  1. WestHab says:

    Man no kidding, Ak was first man on the puck a number of times the past 2 games and has actually made defensive plays. I don’t mean to be sarcastic either but last year he was so out of it. This can only help. Looks like he wants to get in with the Pleks, Cammy crowd.

  2. saskhabfan says:

    Gotta give credit where credit is due carey played another great game and the team finally gave him some decent defensive support. Gotta get more support from the offense ,mainly the gomez line. This will take pressure off the defence and goaltending. Loving how AK is looking so far this year.

  3. WestHab says:

    Boone, thanks for flying the JM flag a little. He doesn’t have the TV behind the bench charisma like some other hot heads in the league. But in a job where it’s so easy to 2nd guess and in the city where 2nd guessing hockey coaches is a law, I think he’s ok.

  4. Fred D says:

    I liked Red Fisher’s piece on Subban.

    When I was starting out, working for Sherwin Williams in the Pointe in Montréal in 1964, I had a Supervisor who once told me. “My job is to channel your energy, without knocking the chip off your shoulder”.

    (His name was Marcel Goguen and he was a training genius; may he rest in peace)

     

    I suspect Jacques Martin has the same challenge with PK.

  5. Fred D says:

    Great comments in the “About last Night”. Thank you.

     

    One comment extra.

    I was amazed at the times Scott Gomez had the puck, with a scoring opportunity, and didn’t shoot. I found myself yelling “SHOOT” at my TV, at least three times, and he didn’t; looking for someone to pass to, or fumbling the puck, at the last second.

    On each of these occasions, he was in the slot, or close to it, and appeared to have an excellent chance to put the puck in the Miller net.

    It is like he has a mental block on “pulling the trigger”. Early season stuff, which, I am sure, will work out, but it’s frustrating.

  6. habs-hampton says:

    For those you of you pushing for Josh G as a Noris candidate. Just remember that that award is reserved for the top scoring d-man in the league (typically). Even top-scoring flamingos! Guys like Josh are always snubbed. I’ve always said there should another award for defensive (or all-around) d-man. I mean really, if you’re protecting a 1 goal lead in the last minute, who do you want on the ice, Josh, Hal or Mike Green?

  7. Arrow77 says:

    The team defense was great last game but I don’t think every JM decision paid off. For one, I don’t think Moen on the second line is gonna work for more than one game or two. Gomez and Gionta still have problems creating scoring chances and Moen is not gonna provide that for them. I’d like to see Eller try for a few games; Lapierre and Boyd are not good fit for him. Other than that, I’m not convince about Picard over O’Byrne but we’ll see.

    As for Price, we should stop saying that whatever game he played before proved that he’s great/terrible. I’ve alway’s been a backer and one of the reason why is how amazing he was at the beginning of last year. His potential his tremendous but depends on his battle for consistency. Last year, his streak ended in part because the team in front of him didn’t provide enough help to give him Ws and because he got discouraged by it. If the team can play defense like last night and provide him a little more offense, he can make this team better, and the team can make him a better goalie in return.

  8. G-Man says:

    Buffalo is awful right now offensively. Tonight will be a different story with so many more skilled and physicla players with

    Ottawa.

    This is not to belittle the excellent effort last night. It’s just to sat that Ottawa right now has more weapons than Buffalo. If the Habs can play up to Ottawa and limit their chances, the team will look good. I, expect another 35 to 40 shot shooting gallery.

    Habs score 4 tonight and they will win. Any less and it will be a tough road to hoe.

  9. Clay4bc says:

    Yeah Boone…fairly dead-on in the game summary. I of course concur about Georges, but I think you came down a little hard on Rivet, who was one of the more solid defensemen we had at the time, and played hard for this team when here. Glad he’s gone though, on favour of Josh.

    Also, nice to see the team work hard to give Price a break for a change – he’s earned more games like this.

    __________________________

    Fighting Ignorance since 1970 (It’s taking longer than I thought)

  10. nightmare_49 says:

     

       WOW, another asute About Last Night from Mr.Boone.

       His assessment of the game now is my favourite segment on the site. He’s noted so many items that even the elite on L’antichambre don’t even bring up.

       This year Mr.Boone’s work is progressing to the level of the best french media experts including Alain Crete, lol. Keep up the good work and it’s amazing how well you grit it out during a typhoon and not getting into the second six pack, BRAVO.

  11. Will Longlade says:

    It’s nice to see AK46 getting into these early season games, even if he didn’t make the scoresheet. 

    If the net was centred six inches to the left, there’s no doubt in my mind that Spacek would win the Maurice Richard trophy.

    I really like this year’s version of the team. There’s an excellent work ethic, even though there was a bit of a lapse in the 3rd period last night.

    Tonight’s a big test. Last year the Sens pretty well owned the Habs and the team hasn’t fared particularly well in back-to-backs over the last few seasons. Tonight we’ll see whether the Habs will be fighting for a playoff spot (as many pundits predict) in April or be a top three or four  conference team. IMO, many of the fighting for a playoff spot theorists assumed the Habs would be weak between the pipes. After 15 to 20 games they may have to change their tune and predictions. 

     

     

     

  12. Ian Cobb says:

    The coaches game plan prepared the team with more disciplined last night as pointed out by Mike Boone. I thought that the coaching in the last two games were the difference.

    And in fact with the cap today ,parity is very much present now and the coaching is going to play a much larger roll in the out come of most games.

  13. RGM says:

    A thoroughly satisfying victory yesterday – first period wasn’t all that exciting but hard work over the last 40 minutes upped the entertainment ante considerably. I’m still of the view that the play that led to the Roy goal should have been blown dead because of the incidental contact with Price, but them’s the breaks. A shutout would have been really nice to cap it off.

    I will add that on the day that I changed my Facebook pic to my signed 16×20 of Carey & Josh they were our two biggest performers. That is all.

    Go Habs Go!

  14. RGM says:

    “Credit Boone for being the first person in Montreal to have a man-crush on him.”

    In Montreal, yes, but some of us knew what the Habs were getting the moment the trade was announced.

    Go Habs Go!

  15. topher5468 says:

    I have to admit that Im not a big fan of JM. I can however give credit where credit is due, he did a nice job last night. However I am not ready to say that I think JM is the right coach for this team. I am a know nothing fan that Mr Boone references in his ALN and I was harsh on him for not making any noticable to me in game changes to try to curb the onsaught against TB. Too many times this team can get a lead then get kiled trying to protect the lead. Yes we won two rounds last postseason and I think Bruce Bodreau is an idiot but we won last year due to goaltending, not coaching. Getting outshot sometimes 3 to 1 is not outcoaching. Yes Wash and Pit may be superior teams but I still don’t believe we beat Pit or Wash due to coaching. I dont like JM but hes our coach so I say, Good job last night 

    “It’s not an obsession, It’s a way of life..”

  16. G-Man says:

    You’re right- too many think JM is a lousy coach- like they think last year’s playoff run was in spite of him. Gimme a break.

  17. JF says:

    The Habs played a very good road game and thoroughly deserved the win.  Keys were Price’s play and very solid defence.  I don’t know what Price did over the summer, but his concentration and focus are miles better than they were last year.  He used to have these apparent lapses in concentration which would usually cost us a goal, and in scrambles around our net he often lost sight of the puck long enough for it to be banged past him.  I don’t know how many attempts to protect a 1-goal lead last year ended that way.  He looks razor-sharp and much quicker than he did a year ago.  Now he needs a win on home ice.

    As for the defence, we gave up only 23 shots, and defensive zone coverage was good.  Hamrlik turned over the puck early in the game, but after that was solid. Gorges and Spacek both had very good games, and I would think Alexandre Picard is playing himself into the 7th d position.  He’s not the fastest or the most physical, but he doesn’t seem to make the kind of mistakes that O’Byrne keeps repeating.  And of course the goal helps.

    But we need more scoring. Moen with Gionta and Gomez is obviously not a long-term solution although he played an aggressive, effective game.  Both Gionta and Gomez looked better last night and were excellent in the dying minutes, but they really need to start producing.  Cammalleri, despite his two-goal performance against Pittsburgh, looks a little off to me.  He missed a perfect pass that should have been a great scoring chance and instead turned into a dangerous rush for the Sabres.  Andrei Kostitsyn was our best forward, and Lars Eller also played well.  I was glad to see Pouliot working so hard; he seems to have accepted his “demotion” in a better spirit that last year.

    The other thing I liked was that we were not as passive in the third period as we usually are when protecting a lead.  I expected to see us continually backing up and the Sabres coming in waves, but that didn’t quite happen.  They were pressing, but we didn’t turn into a shell and let them pound Price.  Nor did we take penalties.

    Off topic, but what’s with the Leafs?  Scoring goals was supposed to be one of their problems, but they’re scoring at the rate of 4 per game.  I’ve watched bits of their games and am impressed; I’m not sure that those (like Tom Nickel) who say they’ll collapse back into form are correct.

  18. Rugger says:

    Just one bone to pick – the Buffalo feed on the internet last night showed the replay of the too many men.  There were 6 sabres in the Habs zone plus another skater (not Miller) skating toward the bench, still a good 20 feet away, so clearly the ref was correct, one Sabre came on way too early, since he was already involved with the play.

  19. Mike Boone says:

    And I get the same kind of buzz off Eller.

  20. Led says:

    I don’t think you need to be biased to see the qualities that kid brings. In fact, I think you’d have to be biased, or blind, to argue against his value. I might not see the Norris consideration however he’s certainly on my short list of fave habs in the last decade +.

  21. Led says:

    Nice! Just got home from the bar(how can 71/2 hours go by like 3 ?), missed the whole game ( one of the rare times ), and was pleasantly surprised. We out shot them to boot, sweeeet!

  22. sidhu says:

    I know I am biased, but JG should get Norris consideration for how solid he is on D.  His performance in the playoffs last year should have turned some heads.

    Credit Boone for being the first person in Montreal to have a man-crush on him.

  23. KamiDave says:

    You type this in Word first?

  24. Chuck says:

    Back from the game. We made it to the HSBC just in time for the 40th anniversary ceremony. I wish we hadn’t.

  25. rocketsglare says:

    Boone, I don’t think Moen has enough scoring skill to remain on that line indefinitely and I see

    Pouliot returning to the top line eventually. But for tonight, he served his purpose by being for-

    ceful and aggressive on the rush and around the net.

    However, the story tonight was the dominating play of the D which not only controlled most of

    this game but also provided both the opening and winning goal, and that on the PP. Although

    many positives, their has to be some concern over the lack of scoring so far from the top 3 lines

    and for that matter from most of our forwards. Hopefully, that will begin to improve as the Habs

    play more and their lines start to solidify and gel. The PP will also begin to improve with the re–

    turn of Markov sometime this month. And what can you say about Carey; he has been composed

    and solid in net and appears to be very comfortable doing so. So, yes there are many reasons to

    be positive about this team.

     

    Go Habs Go!

     

  26. habs001 says:

    2-1-1 10 goals scored and 10 given up…if price maintains his play along with the d and we get some pp goals we are in good shape but we still need to add at least one  forward who can score 25-30 goals to beat a team like the flyers in the playoffs…pouliot and ak46 playing well is all fine but that is not enough as we have players on the 3rd and 4th line and a few in the ahl who can play well but provide no scoring…if pouliot and ak46 dont score than we are in big trouble as last year we had gritty players who are just not scorers…no matter how well you play if you only score 2-3 goals most nights you will loose as many as you win…today we outplayed buff but needed a flukey goal to beat them…

  27. smiler2729 says:

    Mike,

    you are bang on. Excellent wrap up. It’s about time some of us recognize the little things that make big things happen. Too many here crap on JM, Carey, the defence, the team, without seeing the game within the game.

    This team’s getting an image now, they’ve got character and with more consistent mojo, they could be the dark horse.

    But then the Mighty Laffs won again and the Cup apparently’s theirs.


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