About last night …


To understand how good the Canadiens were in beating Carolina – and how important it was for them to be that good in the front end of a back-to-back – check the ice times for the roster’s two best defencemen.

• Josh Gorges (shown fielding a pop-up in John Kenney‘s Gazette photo) played  9:58 in the first period. Had the game been tight, he may reached Prongeresque ToI. But as it was, Gorges finished at 24:30 and will be good to go less than 24 hours later on Long Island.

• P.K. Subban played 8:47 in the first en route to 24:49.

If you were reading this last season, I’d be lamenting the amount of ice time Jacques Martin was obliged to use his old geezers.

But Hal Gill and Jaro Spacek didn’t dress against Carolina. And Roman Hamrlik is in Washington.

So Yannick Weber and Raphael Diaz – two slick-passing, light-hitting Swiss defencemen – each played 18 minutes and change.

Frédéric St. Denis, an emergency Hamilton call-up making his NHL debut at the age of 25 – played 2:57 in the first period but a shade under six minutes in the second period and finished the night at 13:42.

The most pleasant surprise, however, was Alexei Emelin: 18 minutes, including 2:37 on the Canadiens perfect penalty-kill; seven hits and seven blocked shots – leading both teams in those two crucial categories.

Making only his 10th start in the 19 games the Canadiens have played, Emelin is showing flashes of being the player the team has waited for. And just wait until Andrei Markov is in the lineup to help his fellow Russian.

That’s assuming Emelin will be among the Top Six D when Markov returns. Things could get complicated on the blue line when Markov, Gill, Spacek and Chris Campoli are available. But for the game on Long Island, at least, the Canadiens will go with the young, inexperienced defence corps that helped Carey Price record his first shutout of the season.

The Islanders surely will present a sterner test than Carolina. The Hurricanes were outshot 32-12 through the game’s first 40 minutes. By the time they mustered 13 shots in the third (to four for the Habs), the game was no longer in doubt.

I was surprised by Carolina’s feeble start. If I’m Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, I’m looking over the Canadiens depleted roster and telling my guys to mount a ferocious check, forcing turnovers and sowing chaos among the Canadiens’ undersized and green Dmen.

Didn’t happen.

Carolina’s failure to exert any pressure was a reflection of thier ineptitude – not much talent on that roster once you get past Staal, Skinner and Sutter – and the back-pressure commitment of Canadiens’ forwards.

When the puck was in the Canadiens’ end, there were many red jerseys in proximity. Cognizant of all the missing regulars, the Canadiens focused on simple plays – chipping the puck out, making short, high-percentage passes – and using their speed in transition.

I thought Martin got excellent performances, in all three zones, from his three top forward lines.

Through the team’s current 7-2-1 run, we’ve come to expect good things from David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty. There was nice stuff from Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. The revelation, however, was the play of the third line:

Lars Eller was plus-2. Travis Moen blocked four shots, hustled and scored his sixth goal, matching last season’s total. And Scott Gomez skated miles and had four shots on goal, plus another three that were blocked.

Gomez has now gone 38 regular-season and seven playoff goals without scoring. He has had 100 SoG since the last one that went in, on Feb. 5 against the Rangers.

A European friend, who’s in Canada this week for the Hall of Fame ceremony and a visit to the Bell Centre to see his favourite team, said the problem with Gomez is he confuses everyone he plays with. There is no rhyme or reason to the play of someone who marches to his own drummer (and this rich buddy’ss drummer ain’t Gene Krupa).

Look, Gomez is what he is: a good teammate, respected and well-liked in the room (though young teammates like DD can’t believe he scored 33 goals during a season with the Devils); a hard worker who has given it his all on he fourth and third lines since returning from an injury.

The team is winning.

The goaltender is in his zone.

The penalty-kill is fifth best in the league.

And Northeast Division-leading Buffalo is only three points ahead of the Canadiens – and struggling, as are the Leafs.

The Bruins?

Let’s just enjoy the win.


  1. Barts says:

    Gomez is garbage, and his presence sucks the life out of this team. He isn’t going to get any better. If Molson/Gauthier had any cojones, they would send Gomez to the minors, eat his salary (because the organization can afford it), and go looking for a team that wants to dump an impact player, and I guarantee you there are a couple out there. Imagine how much better the Habs could be with $7.4 in cap space. It’s all about a commitment to winning.

    • Hard4Habs says:

      I agree, but we could call Gomez a “long term investment”; similar to buying jewelry or gold. By keeping Gomez and his cap hit, this gives management time to evaluate this team and it’s young core. What I mean is, instead of freeing up that space now to reinvest it into old washed up veterans whom could help this team on the short term, they just keep Gomez and his cap hit. This releaves the pressure to use that cap room somewhere else. So instead of having the Metropolits, Halperns and Dominic Moores of this world, you let the young players get their ice time and develop. That way, when the time comes to sign Price, Subban, Maxpac etc. All you have to do is get rid of Gomerz’s cap hit to give them their well deserved salary augmentation. It’s a win-win, Gomez might not play like an 8 million player, but he sure as hell gives you good minutes on the bottom 2 lines and the penalty kill. Plus, if we cant seem to set up a powerplay break-in, the Gomez option is always there. And I would feel more comfortable going into the playoffs with a veteran guy like Gomez on the roster than without him.

    • Tony McLean says:

      Hats off to Eddie Palchak.

  2. mfDx says:

    Q: now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to let the dust settle, has the good ship Habitant seem to have righted itself since Perry Pearn’s … Re-assignment?
    How are special teams? The D? Bench minors/ game ratio?

  3. immortalhab says:

    Agree with TommyB

  4. TommyB says:

    Don’t count me as one who is “climbing back on the JM bandwagon”. It will take more than a romp over a sadsack bunch, like the Canes, to bring me back around to feeling warm about Martin.

    I have nothing to complain about with last night’s game, and it was so nice to watch the Habs totally dominate for a complete 60 minutes for a change. There was never a moment where I felt the outcome was threatened by the Canes. My only fret was that the Canes would cash a late one and steal Price’s shutout from him. How ironic is it that Price’s first shutout of the season comes with that group of inexperienced Dmen in front of him? I won’t take anything away from the defence, but that fact that the forwards had the play in the other end of the rink most of the night was a big factor. It’s too bad that I had to keep on telling myself how terrible Carolina was, but this morning I’ll accept the game for what it was…a big W. With the Isles up next, I hope the Habs can continue playing exactly as they did last night. It almost looked as if JM had taken the handcuffs off of them and allowed them a bit more freedom to be creative. Either that, or the Canes are that dreadful. I can’t decide which it is, but this morning I’m willing to give credit where it is due. Great game Habs.

  5. immortalhab says:

    I like Emelin too. But JM loves recycled vets. He hates virgins. I’m surprised he hasn’t put Henri Richard or Beliveau in the lineup.

  6. Thomas Le Fan says:

    Yeah right. Threats? Kind of makes you a “garbage” commenter. Where’s the ignore button when you need it?
    4-0 win and the pouters still ain’t happy. Find another team.

  7. Chris F says:

    Emelin was the story. How can he be sitting no matter who’s healthy. Yes, he chases some guys behind his own net, but he’s also the only Hab that keeps the opposition forwards keeping their heads up coming over our blue line. I love it. We need him, he’s young, strong, and he’ll only get better. He has to be in our top six.

  8. Sharks9 says:

    I say trade him for a low draft pick. We picked him up for free, why not get something out of it when he comes back from injury?

    25 before 14

  9. --Habs-- says:

    Agree 100 %. I like Emeiln. He’s solid, plays great body position, dishes out good hits (Meaning opposing teams keep their head up and slow down coming into the zone) when you have player that can hit. Look at last years final. Before Rome was suspended it clearly jarred Lucic and Marchand coming over the line. It kept the Bruins thinking! When teams think on the offensive attack the offense usually falters. After Rome was suspended there were no more Nucks that could hit and the complexion of the game changed. You need those types of hard hitting “jarring” hitters with brains in the lineup. That player doesn’t not have to be a fighter, just tough! On that note the Habs need to pick up a player that can drop em and defend his team with heart. A game changer. A player when Price will get hit will go after anyone to make a point. If the Habs get that type of player Gionta, DD and Cams will play 3 inches taller! Remember what happened when the Habs brought up Nilan! All of a sudden everyone is braver with a battler in the lineup.

  10. Bob_Sacamano says:

    Some here say others should stop hating Gomez. I think it´s time for Jacques Martin to stop hating Emelin now. Even when everyone is back keep playing him. Markov-Emelin, Subban-Gorges. Send Diaz to Hamilton and rotate Gill, Spacek, Campoli and Weber. Problem solved.

    • Arrow77 says:

      That is still a lot of defensemen to rotate. If I were Weber, I’d be pissed if I weren’t a regular by now, and Gill and Spacek should play more games than they miss. There’s no place for Campoli anymore.

      Gauthier might be forced to trade Weber just because there is no room for him and I would hate it. He’s by far the best offensive-d this season and I don’t want to put all our eggs in the Markov basket.

  11. immortalhab says:

    Not trying to be negative but I just don’t see how JMs strategies are responsible for these wins. There is no logic to what he does and now that we’re winning, people are climbing back on the JM bandwagon. It’s like the playoffs two years ago when Halak stood on his head. The players have played solid as of late (I’d love to know where they get their motivation. Maybe Im simplifying but it seems a lot of his decisions do relate to play: mixed up lines=too many men penalties; benching the youth=demoralization and mediocre play from favored vets, etc, etc. I don’t know what’s happening now but I’m not ready to credit him with this.

  12. Timo says:

    I gotta say, Gomer is in some good company in his goal production this year – Gill, Palushaj, Emelin, St Denis, Blunden… My prediction is that Gomer won’t score in 2011 anymore. I mean, I am almost rooting for him not to score to see how long it will go.

    • VancouverHab says:

      Remember that I said last year that “H-I/O is Timo’s world: the rest just live in it”

      Well you have here just proved my point: your Timo-esque attitude to Scott Gomez is now the (mob-mentality) default view on H-I/O.

      This site — journalists included — is (except me and a small but happy few) Timo’s World.

      (And you know I think you rock ;–)

    • Habfan10912 says:

      I agree. Isn’t it great to be on the giving end of a hit instead of the receiving end. It’s obvious that playing time is whats needed for Emelin to be a quality NHL D man.

    • habs-hampton says:

      If he does score, it’ll be with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

      Time’s up, JM must go!

  13. Timo says:

    Am i the only one who thinks Emelin played and absolutely awesome game. Too bad he didn’t get a start but the dude was rock solid top to bottom. Of course, something like that would typically earn you a few night in a press box, which is probably where he is headed once Gill and Spach return. JM can’t possibly be impressed with Emelin’s tough and steady game.

  14. HabsProf says:

    Yeah, we will have an abundance of defecemen when Markov and Campoli come back (as well as Gill and Spatch). But don’t forget, there are more injuries looming (not trying to be negative – its just a fact of life, especially given how brittle Spatch has proven to be).

    I’d keep a fair number of the D up and rotate ’em. Let them gain experience and playing time at the NHL level. Emelin and Diaz are not wide-eyed youths in their late teens still filling out their frames. They are both seasoned pros in their mid-20s. Play them at the NHL level. Coach them when they’re in the press box. Only reason to send one down is if he fails to improve or just plain stinks.


    They brought their f____ing toys with them!

  15. slychard says:

    Ya, have been impressed by Palushaj myself since his latest call up. Announcers on RDS had a chuckle at his expense for falling a few times tonight which I found out of character for them. But they are right. With some leg conditioning hell be extremely effective. Not to compare him to Pouliot who needs a skate on his rear side 😉

  16. MilaKunis says:

    Pic looks like Gorges is doing his best Avery impression on his own goalie!

  17. HabsChris says:

    The first few games I saw Palushaj play I was very iffy about him. But has he ever found his game. Lays hits, gets chances, and every game since his last call up someone has gotten a penalty on him, and he skates hard every shift. Very impressed.


    I always also impressed with St.Denis, smooth skater who seemed to always make the smart play. Overall it was finally fun to watch a game. The boys owed that one to Carey, great game!

  18. C_exacte says:

    the vets like to cash big cheques

  19. habsblood82 says:

    I’m liking Emelin!! I’d keep him over diaz and weber once Markov/Sacek/Campoli comes back. We need someone who can lay heavy hits on D. And he’s not affraid of blocking shots!

  20. slychard says:

    What a great pic!

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