Half empty building. Quiet as a tomb.
As the third period ticked down, the Nashville Predators must have thought they were playing a home game.
As it was, the visitors played a perfect road game; they skated, they battled for every inch of ice, they did not let the Canadiens skill players get untracked.
And when it was over, Jacques Martin was uncharacteristically calling out his stars.
“Our better players weren’t good enough,” the habitually sphinx-like coach said. To illustrate his point, Martin suggested the media check plus/minus figures.
Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri: each minus-3.
Brian Gionta: minus-2
The top defence pairing, Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek: minus-3 and minus-2 respectively … although Spatch’s total could change because a late-game collision on the boards may have left him minus a few teeth.
Martin credited Nashville with being “more determined” and winning more puck battles.
“We needed to go to the net for rebounds and deflections,” Martin added. “We didn’t.”
When asked if the occasional dip were inevitable in a long, hard, 82-game road, Martin refused to bite on that particular excuse.
“I can accept losing when we have a strong effort,” the coach said. “But we just weren’t good enough in a couple areas.”
“The biggest thing against the Predators,” Mike Cammalleri said, “is they’re going to skate and they’re going to compete.”
Those aspects of the Canadiens’ game were not much in evidence.
Against Nashville,” Hal Gill said, “you have to be sharp, move the puck, move our feet.
The aforementioned struggling stars got their ice time, but Martin shortened his bench in the third period. Reduced to single-digit ToI were Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche.
Lars Eller played 12:48 and was one of the few Canadiens to display energy and grit. Eller elevated the play of his linemates, Tom Pyatt and Travis Moen, and his skills continue to offer tantalizing hints that he will find himself among the team’s Top 9 forwards, and maybe soon.
More from the stat sheet:
• Frankie the Bull played 22:20, had two assists and six hits.
• Sergei Kostistyn played 11:28, including 2:28 on the PP and 1:49 shorthanded
• Tomas Plekanec could not get untracked, but won 14 of 22 faceoffs.
• The PP took another 0-for.
So what is it with Nashville, which has hung goose eggs on the Canadiens in two straight meetings?
“it’s not Xs and Os,” Martin said. The difference, the coach said, was intensity and the willingness to go to war and win individual battles.
Barry Trotz’s team is very good at that, year in and year out.
More tomorrow … maybe.
It was a totally crap game.
• • •
Barry Trotz ties Scotty Bowman in wins with one team: 419.
• • •
Pekka Rinne’s SO streak against the Canadiens: 138:55.
Maybe he’ll extend it when the Canadiens play Nashville in the Cup final.
• • •
Steven Stamkos against the Flyers:
Three SoG, three goals.
The kid has 19 goals in 19 games.
You don’t need a calculator to see that projects to 82.