Let’s provide dialogue for Allen McInnis’s Gazette photo:
Carey Price: “Boring game, eh?”
Andrei Markov: “Da. But we win. And you get shutout.”
Price: “I only had to stop 24 shots.”
Markov: “And we block 19.”
Price: “Thanks for that. Now move your left hand, s’il vous plaît.”
Bada-boom! I’m here till the playoffs. Try the veal.
But seriously folks, Price and Markov found themselves in the middle of the goalmouth melee that erupted at the final siren and might have been Buffalo’s only display of emotion in 60 minutes.
Oops! I forgot Matt D’Agostini slamming the door of the penalty box, a fit of pique that earned the former Canadien an extra two minutes and the disapproval of his coach, who said D’Agostini had behaved “like a five-year-old.”
Somewhere in the world, there may be a five-year-old infant who will grow up to become a hockey prodigy drafted by the Sabres. The Buffalo rebuild might take that long.
Man, they’re a lousy team – the NHL’s worst in many statistical categories, including points, road wins and goal differential.
But as has been the case in more games than I’d care to remember over the last few seasons, the Canadiens played down to the visitors’ level … which would explain why Bell Centre fans were anaesthetized by a scoreless tie that lasted 50:53.
Coming off intense, emotional wins over two bitter rivals, Toronto and Boston, it was inevitable the Canadiens would have a letdown against woeful Buffalo. In his postgame press conference, Michel Therrien said his team’s first period had been marred by trying to make plays that weren’t there – sloppy execution that might have been exploited by a team more adept in transition than the Sabres.
Therrien said the latter 40 minutes hewed more to the Canadiens’ game plan. The coach was able to roll four lines and benefit from many shifts during which the Canadiens were able to cycle the puck effectively in the Buffalo end.
After facing 11 shots in that sloppy opening period, Carey Price made five saves in the second and eight in the third to record his fifth shutout of the season. The goaltender got help from his defence corps and a penalty-kill that pitched another shutout and has killed 35 of the last 37 penalties against the Canadiens.
I was impressed by Jarred Tinordi, who played 18:53 beside workhorse partner P.K. Subban (27:14, high on both teams) and had three hits and a couple blocked shots.
Granted, it was the Sabres, not the Penguins or Sharks, testing Tinordi’s mettle. But he played erfor-free hockey and merits another start Thursday night in Detroit.
As was the case Monday night in Boston, where he faced down concerted thuggery by Milan Lucic, Alexei Emelin was a rock on the back end. He had only one hit but blocked five shots.
Although torched to the outside by Cody Hodgson on one Buffalo rush, Mike Weaver played another steady game. He and fellow veteran Douglas Murray showed no ill effects of playing both ends of a back-to-back that included OT in Boston and travel back to Montreal.
After being forced to play the Bruins with 10 forwards, Therrien was able to roll his four lines.
After the game,, the Canadiens updated the casualties of Boston: Dale Weise is out for three weeks and Travis Moen for at least a week.
They join Brandon Prust in sick bay, a situation that would be worrisome were it not for a superb effort against the Sabres by Lars Eller, Ryan White and, especially, Michäel Bournival. The newly-minted fourth line was fast, physical and smart on the puck.
Playing without offensively-gifted linemates, Eller avoided his tendency to over-handle the puck. Maybe centre on a checking line is the role that suits him best, Eller’s physical gifts and lofty draft status (13th overall in 2007) notwithstanding.
The other first-rounders in the lineup had strong games against Buffalo:
• Price was flawless.
• Max Pacioretty’s 32nd goal of the season was the 100th of his blossoming career
• Thomas Vanek had four shots on goal, plus another three that were blocked. vanek also made some sweet passes, including the one that set up Pacioretty
• Alex Galchenyuk, coming off his Shootout heroics in Boston, did not make the scoresheet but played 16 solid minutes and flashed several examples of the vision and hockey sense that will make him a star when he moves to centre.
That will be next season – which is when the Canadiens will play their next game against Buffalo. They won all four games and outscored the Sabres 10-3 this season – the first series sweep of Buffalo in 35 years.
The 1978-’79 Canadiens beat Buffalo four times en route to winning their 22nd Stanley Cup.
Gee, do you think the snow in Montreal will have melted in time for this year’s parade?