I am not entirely surprised that our beloved Habs beat the Penguins tonight. What does raise my eyebrows, though, is that they did so in a shootout. Prior to this evening`s engagement, Montreal was 1-7 in the shootout…well, i guess you can say that they were due…Kudos to the team for pulling off a victory over a very talented Pittsburgh roster. I am sure that i come across as the most incompetent blogger. The Habs lose and I support them beyond reason. Then I give up on the Habs and they start to win. It has been that kind of season folks…one that is certainly hard to make much sense of. Maybe that is precisely why i love sports as much as i do.
In two days, the Montreal Canadiens have risen out of the ashes like a Phoenix from the depths of 15th place to the dizzying heights of 13th spot in the Eastern Conference. Do i have illusions of a complete resurgence leading to playoff contention? Probably not. Do i believe that the team owes it to the fans to demonstrate pride and passion the rest of the way? Definitely! Do i believe that they will? I am unqualified to answer that one…regardless, Nos Glorieux are 10 points behind 8th placed Ottawa which has played two games more than our team…
The numerous line combinations used by Randy Cunneyworth were unrecognisable but the game plan worked so who am i to argue? While i can criticize the coach for not allowing combinations to gel, he can probably argue that you gotta fix what ain’t workin’. Further to that, Travis Moen made his return to the lineup after having missed 5 games with an upper body injury so that likely forced Cunneyworth’s hand as well.
As far as the 3rd period strategy is concerned i remain convinced, despite the victory, that sitting back in an effort to protect a lead is flawed. Montreal registered a mere 3 shots in the final frame and surrendered two goals despite presenting a defensive posture. What, pray tell, i ask is the point? The lead never holds and the game is simply less exciting to watch when played out in this manner. This lose-lose style of play is a trademark of the Canadiens and it is no wonder that they are 29th ranked in the 30 team league at protecting a lead going into the third. Someone has got to be able to get a message across to the bench boss because this is something that he is seemingly unable to figure out for himself
For those who think that Tomas Plekanec is not doing his part for the Canadiens, i invite you to consider what the outcome of the game would had been if Pleks was not a member of this team. He is so sound defensively. Granted, he was on the ice for both Penguin goals but rest assured that the damage would have been far greater without number 14 in the lineup. He played nearly 24 minutes pitted against Malkin and Neal and Kunitz and held the league leading point getter to 1 shot on goal in regulation. Not a bad night’s work. Hey, guess what? Plekanec also scored the winning goal in the shootout. Sweeeeeet!
Louie Leblanc opened the scoring in the 2nd with his 3rd goal in a Habs uniform. Lars Eller scored his 11th in the 3rd period on a shot that should not have found its way to the back of the net. As mentioned in my pre-game blog, Fleury always lets in a weak goal at the Bell Centre. This tally made it 2-1 after Pascal Dupuis had tied the game at 1 apiece on a shorthanded effort that banked off of his skate and behind Price. Montreal has now allowed 6 shorties this season. James Neal evened the score at 2 with 7:32 elapsed in the 3rd. Man Alive has he ever stepped up with Crosby missing so much of this campaign.
The overtime solved nothing so to the shootout we went. It took 16 shooters to determine the final outcome. Rene Bourque opened the sequence with a goal. Evgeni Malkin did his best Lars Eller impersonation and fooled Carey Price. Not to be outdone, the real Lars Eller put one past Fleury. Chris Kunitz scored on Carey Price before Pleks put it away 3-2. Notably Carey foiled 6 of 8 Penguin shooters in the shootout round. While he excelled at the World Juniors in shootout stuations, this has not really translated into success at the NHL level where, at least this season, he only emerged victorious once in 6 games that were decided by the penalty-shot format. Up until this evening he had only managed to stop 10 of 20 shots directed at him in the shootout. Nicely done, Mr. Price!
Next up: Montreal visits the Islanders in the decrepit Nassau Coliseum on Thursday.