Let’s try for some positivity here.
As we say 2,400 km north of the St. Pete Times Forum, the Canadiens’ 2-1 Shootout win was plat a mourir.
Deathly dull … and almost totally lacking in the qualities that make hockey a pleasurable sport to watch.
No flow to the game.
Passes were imprecise. Shots were off target.
There wasn’t much physicality.
For most of the game, forward lines on the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning played like they’d met in a bar an hour before the game – or had tucked into turkey leftovers during the national anthems.
But a win is a win.
And at the halfway mark of their longest road trip of the season, your Montreal Canadiens have taken four of a possible six points.
They’re sitting comfortably third in the Atlantic Division – four points ahead of Detroit, six ahead of Toronto with a game in hand on each.
And the teams ahead of the Canadiens are banged up.
Boston, which lost 4-3 in Ottawa Saturday night, is still in first place in the Atlantic; but the Bruins will be without Dennis Seidenberg for the season. Zdeno Chara and Loui Eriksson didn’t play against the Senators.
Tampa Bay, a point ahead of the Canadiens with a game in hand, is missing Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Eric Brewer, Keith Aulie and Sami Salo.
As they near the midpoint of their season, the Canadiens – despite their lack of size and recent history of losing key players such as Andrei Markov and Max Pacioretty to injury – are healthy.
That’s unlikely to last. The NHL is The Hunger Games on Ice, a six month war of attrition, then a postseason in which the whistles are put away and stuff gets really serious.
An injury to Carey Price, who was brilliant again in Tampa, would be calamitous.
The Canadiens would also be in deep sewage were they to lose Markov, P.K. Subban or Tomas Plekanec for any significant chunks of the schedule.
Again, though, let’s not dwell on the ever looming possibility of catastrophe.
And I won’t dwell on that crappy game in Tampa.
A few positives:
• Price was superb – including the Shootout.
• Alexei Emelin continues to bounce back from his bed-soiling performance in St. Louis.
• Lars Eller was 5-1 on faceoffs – the only Canadiens centre to win more draws than he lost – and beat Ben Bishop easily in the Shootout.
• The penalty kill pitched another shutout. It’s the league’s best on the road and number five overall.
• The line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher was the Canadiens’ best, particularly during the third period, when the home team won every shift except for those of DD et al and the fourth line.
• Josh Gorges played a quietly effective game.
A cause for concern heading into Sunday’s 5 p.m. game against Florida?
The power play is 0 for the road trip. Greater hockey minds than mine perhaps can explain why Rene Bourque, who has seven points this season, had 2:57 of PP time to 1:15 for Alex Galchenyuk, who’s third on the team with 22 points.
It’s a head-scratcher – like the Dion Phaneuf contract.