My new pen-name should be Nostradamus. I predicted both a road win in Long Island and a goal by Scott Gomez in that same game. 2 for 2!! Not bad. Not bad at all. Wait a second…if you read my previous entry, you would know that i also projected that Montreal would occupy 11th place by the time that all of the games of the night had come to an end. You thought that 2 for 2 was pretty solid? How does 3 for 3 sound?! Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!!
Well, enough of singing my own praises. I suspect that i should instead be directing the props to the Montreal Canadiens which beat a surging New York Islanders team and put together a three-game winning streak in the process! How many of us are now questioning whether we threw in the towel a touch early with 27 games remaining on the Habs` calendar? On Saturday after a loss to the Caps, Montreal placed dead last in the East. Things are looking up indeed. There might just be some merit in revisiting the question of buying vs. selling at the trade deadline now that Montreal is a mere 9 points out of playoff contention.
While many will say that this night belonged to Max Pacioretty who completed a hat-trick at the final buzzer, my viewpoint is that in the absence of Carey Price ‘ s heroics, Max-Pacs goals (3 on 10 shots…giving him 22 on the season…WOW) would not have been nearly enough to secure this victory. Carey stopped 31 of 33 attempts against him, many of them legitimate scoring opportunities and in several cases shots that appeared to be certain goals. He was especially strong early in the 2nd period when the Habs were killing off a penalty to David Desharnais. The Isle ‘ s power play was extremely threatening and Price stonewalled Moulson, Tavares, Nielsen (twice), and Bailey all in the same sequence. This was goaltending at its best folks and demonstrated just how critical #31 is to the success of the team that he backstops. A couple of plays later, the very same goaltender displayed superhuman lateral movement in denying Niederreiter. Awesome!
So, we know that Price and Pacioretty were both stellar but what about Scott Gomez?! Ya Boyyyyyyyyyy!!! We all know how long his drought was so i needn ‘ t mention it now that it is a thing of the past. Way to go Gomer!!! Not only did he score, but he did so on a power play!!!! Man Alive, when it rains it pours!
On the flip side, the penalty kill was not as effective as it normally is. The Isles Matt Moulson scored in the third period on their second of two opportunities while Lars Eller was sitting in the box for high-sticking. That made it 3-1 Habs. Can someone enlighten me as to what Eller was thinking when he took a penalty of that nature with less than 4 minutes left to play?! Mark Streit, naturally pops one in on a patented slapshot 48 seconds later and we are facing another collapse. Inevitable that we blow it, you say? Hey, so did i at that point!!!! It was 3-2 with nearly two minutes left to play and i was not entirely optimistic!!
How many of you jumped out of your seats, though, when Pacioretty completed his hat trick at the final buzzer?! What a great moment for the man and for the team (his first hat trick and his first empty netter). The Habs have faced their share of adversity throughout the season and it is comforting and exciting to see some of the breaks going their way for a change. Hey, I am not implying that they have played well enough this season to have earned any breaks whatsoever. Certainly much of their bad luck is self-inflicted and well-deserved. In the immortal words of John Connor in Terminator 2 there is no fate but what we make. So while I agree that we are masters of our own destiny…i should also express that a little divine intervention never hurt anyone either!!! Speaking of divine intervention, how about that full page ad in francophone Montreal area newspapers paid for by the Catholic archdiocese???!!!! Extreme! Let us pray for that 8th and final playoff berth!!!!!
All told, I believe that the Habs did earn this victory. They won more faceoffs (39-28), outhit (28-24), and blocked more shots than their counterparts (19-15). They had only 1 shot on goal less than the tenacious Isles (32-33) and played a disciplined game in taking only two minor penalties on the night (the Islanders only took 1 penalty).
I still do not quite understand the incessant line-juggling that has become a trademark of this coaching staff. While I should not be too concerned given that the team is winning, the players must be finding it hard to develop chemistry with their teammates. Randy, at some point the lines have to be given an opportunity to gel.
Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge cannot afford to rest on its laurels following this victory. Momentum must be maintained. Toronto, which occupies the 8th and final playoff berth is up next on Saturday night. By winning that game in regulation time, Nos Glorieux can narrow the gap to a mere 7 points. Looks way more do-able than it did a few days ago, no?
Go Habs Go!!!!
For a viewpoint on the match written from the perspective of an Islanders Fan, check out Eye On Isles.