And if the Islanders had anything resembling NHL-quality goaltending Tuesday night …
But they didn’t.
And the ineptitude of Al Montoya (great name for a bounty hunter or relief pitcher) resulted in unlikely goals by fourth-line pluggers Mathieu Darche and Petteri Nokelainen, who – in the latest example of why democracy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be – was voted the game’s First Star.
But what the heck, guys like Darche and Nokelainen give it everything they’ve got, game in and game out. They’re entitled to some props – although I’d prefer fourth-liners with some sand.
Like Travis Moen, who sustained a mysterious injury that no one in the pressbox noticed. He was gone after four shifts in the first period, and Moen joins Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez on a complete line of injured Canadiens.
Question for discussion: Would you play the aforementioned walking wounded if they were healthy?
And would Gionta-Gomez-Moen be your third line?
It’s been that kind of wacky season, with Gomez an ongoing migraine and the captain underachieving. The game against the Islanders saw solid contributions from the players who have been getting it done lately:
• The David Desharnais line, featuring Erik Cole, who popped his team-leading 11th goal. Cole had six shots on goal, six hits … even a blocked shot. Crashing scarily into the goal post on one of his patented rushes did not deter Cole from making another rink-long dash and power move to the net on his very next shift.
What a stud this guy is! Possibly the Canadiens’ best-ever UFA signing.
• Speaking of horses, Andrei Kostitsyn played another great physical game and scored his ninth, on a play initiated by Tomas Kaberle.
The newly-acquired defenceman followed up his strong debut in New Jersey with another game in which Kaberle quarterbacked the power-play and made it function smoothly, looking as menacing as it has this season.
Driving home listening to the Team 990, I heard the guys ragging on the Kaberle deal because of his contract, which has another two seasons at $4.25 million. The radio guys were fretting, with reason, over how this expenditure will affect the Canadiens ability to re-sign Josh Gorges, who will want Kaberle money, and/or (it may come to a choice, because they both could be UFSs July 1) AK46, who is on his way to 20-plus goals.
Pierre Gauthier pulled the trigger on the deal because he saw his team crippled by power-play inefficiency and in danger of dropping too far out of the playoff chase. Two games do not a season make, but the Canadiens are undefeated with Kaberle in bleu-blanc-rouge.
And they’re 1-1 with Chris Campoli. Playing for the first time since the season opener, Campoli did what he’s good at: he moved the puck efficiently, skated well and was a force in the offensive zone.
Campoli was on with Kaberle for the D-zone chaos that led to the goal that erased the Canadiens’ 3-1 lead. But his gifts illustrated a point former NHL defenceman Bobby Dollas made in a recent discussion when he told me the Canadiens mobile Dmen may as well join the rush on a consistent basis because it’s not like they’re going to accomplish anything by hanging back, since they never hit anyone.
Emelin, who should be part of the Canadiens’ blue line future, is not going to develop on a diet of pressbox hot dogs. The roster against the Islanders suggests the Russian newcomer has slipped down to seventh on the depth chart; with Yannick Weber – who played four minutes of even-strength – slipping down to eighth.
If (I’ve decided to drop “when”) Andrei Markov returns , there will be nine defencemen on the roster and Gauthier certainly will make a move.
How about a third-period specialist?
The Islanders had a 15-8 shot advantage over the last 20 minutes.
That kind of one-way flow has happened to often this season, and it’s cost the Canadiens games.
But not this one, the result of which left the Canadiens in ninth-place – a mere two points out of sixth.
You’d like to see the team take an early lead and just stomp someone.
Maybe that will happen Thursday night, against the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers.
• The Canadiens have not lost in regulation time in December.
• By reaching 33 points through 31 games, they are finally a .500 hockey team.
• Josh Gorges had five hits and four blocked shots.
• David Desharnais was 1-3 on faceoffs after the first period. He finished 9-8.