About last night …


Let’s get a negative note out of the way right off the top.
Call me Danny Downer, but if your Montreal Canadiens are outshot 37-19 on Tuesday night in Tampa, I’m not entirely confident they’ll win 4-1.
Steven Stamkos is not Vincent Trochek.
Ben Bishop is not Dan Ellis.
And the Lightning, battling the Canadiens for home-ice advantage in a first-round series, are a much better team than their Florida cousins, who’ll be watching the playoffs on TV.

OK, that’s enough negativity.

As Michel Therrien said in his postgame media scrum, the Canadiens got off to a good start and played a strong first period against the Panthers.

They were on their backfeet for the second half of the game, but the excellence of Carey Price kept the home team from mounting a serious comeback.

This might have been Price’s best game since the Olympics. It was certainly among his busiest, as Florida outshot the Canadiens 27-8 over the last 40 minutes – including a 15-3 advantage in a nervous third period.

But when the dust settled,the Canadiens had their fifth win in a row and eighth in their last nine. If Lars Eller and Jarred Tinordi had made those gaffes against Columbus, we might be looking at a nine-game winning streak.

Washington still has a mathematical chance of overtaking them, but the Canadiens sit 13 points clear of the playoff cutoff with six games to play. And they have two games to get ready for that first-round preview in Tampa.

Let’s hope Tomas Plekanec is back by Tuesday. His place between Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher was filled by Lars Eller, and the line combined for a grand total of zero shots on goal.

The gang on L’Antichambre were wondering whether Plekanec, the Canadiens’ shut-down centre, would stay with the kids in the postseason, when Gallagher and Galchenyuk might have difficulty covering the opponent’s top forwards – like that Stamkos guy.

The not-so-much-maligned-anymore Therrien and his staff will figure out. A greater challenge faces opposing coaches, who have to figure out how to slow down the Canadiens’ top line.

Thomas Vanek has been a catalyst, elevating the games of David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty to form one of the league’s most dangerous lines. At a certain point in the telecast, Pierre Houde said they looked like they’ve been playing together for 20 years, and the RDS play-by-play man was, as usual, bang-on.

Pacioretty is playing with an intensity that has not always been in evidence. And you had to love the play – Therrien said he did – when Max passed up a hat trick to feed DD for the empty-netter.

We knew Vanek was a scorer. But his passing has been superb, and he’s even playing some D.

For the first time in a long time, Vanek is playing for a winning hockey team. And he seems to enjoy it.

DD – an undrafted free agent centring two first-rounders – must think he’s died and gone to hockey heaven.

Desharnais isn’t the only happy centre. Daniel Brière, who has struggled on the wing, is back at his natural position and looking good between Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque – although Gaston Therrien, on L’Antichambre, said if Travis Moen were healthy his grit would be a better complement to Brière and Gionta than anything Bourque can provide.

I hope the recently-minted fourth line is back together in Tampa: Lars Eller between Ryan White and Michäel Bournival, whose speed was much in evidence against the Panthers.

Notwithstanding that huge shot disparity and Price’s heroics, I liked some of what I saw on the Canadiens back end.

As pointed out by the L’Antichambre guys, surviving all those atempted muggings in Boston has boosted Alexei Emelin’s confidence. He’s playing smart, physical while not always looking for the killer hit and benefitting, as many before him (see KOMISAREK, Mike) from being paired with Andrei Markov.

In the Saturday Gazette, Patrick V. Hickey, made a case for signing Markov to a new three-year contract. I don’t always agree with my learned former colleague, but Patrick V. is right on this one.

P.K. Subban is the most talented defenceman on the roster, but Markov is playing the best hockey of anyone on the team’s blueline. His knee injuries have robbed Markov of a step or two, but he is compensating with smarts.

I want him around to teach Tinordi, Beaulieu, Pateryn et al – none of whom are ready, at this point, to pick up the ToI slack if Markov leaves.

So memo to Marc Bergevin: Sign Markov.

And P.K.

And Vanek.

•  •  •

The Canadiens will stay in Florida until Thursday and then travel to Ottawa for a Friday night game against the Senators.

I’m worried about all this Sunshine State free time for my man Patrick V.

The last time he had a day off in Florida, Hick fell asleep on the beach and Greenpeace tried to roll him into the ocean.

•  •  •

From Twitter:

On March 13, Toronto was three points ahead of the Canadiens.

The Habs have gained 16 points on the Leafs IN 16 DAYS!





  1. punkster says:

    If you like NCAA March Madness check out this Stauskas kid for Michigan right now…Etobicoke boy with awesome skills.
    Number 11

    Release the Subbang!!!

  2. LizardKing12 says:

    Since Vanek has joined the DD-Pacs line and they’ve been lighting it up he’s naturally been the talk of the town. There is no denying the positive impact that adding a player of Vanek’s caliber has had on the Habs. Hopefully that line can keep it up come playoff time and Habs fans everywhere get to enjoy a very interesting spring!

    For the long run I think it is essential that the Habs find a way to keep Vanek. Looking at this season and future seasons pending free agents it doesn’t look like there are many, if any, realistic replacements for the combination of size and skill that Vanek provides. As far as prospects go De La Rose and McCarron are probably the best bets to round into big effective top 6 forwards but that could take a while. Keeping Vanek in combination with our youth improving makes the Habs a contender over the next few seasons as opposed to having to wait 2-3 more years before reaching that status.

    That being said there are few fans who don’t think keeping Vanek is a good idea. The main argument isn’t that we shouldn’t sign him but that he won’t sign here because it’s been a known fact all season that he is Minnesota bound this offseason. From Vanek’s perspective that move makes sense, his wife wants to go there and he has ties to the community because he played college hockey there. What about from the Wild’s perspective? Going into the trade deadline the Wild were looking to solidify their top six with a goal scoring winger just like the Habs were. If their plan was to sign Vanek this offseason why not trade for him at the deadline? They ended up giving away more assets for Moulson. If you are planning on giving away boatloads of cash to a player in the offseason and have the opportunity to bring him in at the deadline doesn’t that give you an idea of if he will work out on your roster and whether he will truly be worth the money? It would’ve also allowed the Wild the option to sign him to an 8 year deal instead of 7 years and given them exclusive negotiating rights until july 1st.

    Obviously it is still a possibility that Vanek ends up in Minny. The way I see it though all the reasons for why he would sign there are reasons that it makes sense for the player but nothing has come out about the team having any interest in him. IMO it is much less of a done deal than some make it out to be. He is currently gelling really well with DD and Pacs and getting a taste of what it’s like to win and be a fan favorite in the mecca of hockey come july first anything can happen!

    • Dunboyne Mike says:

      Hey LKing.
      I was looking for analysis like this earlier. Makes a lot of sense. Also means we have no option but to wait and see, meantime constantly hoping that that line continues to rock and that the Habs go at least two rounds or more.

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