Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Luongo (L)
Habs goalscorers: Markov, Hamrlik
Opposition goalscorers: None
A Montrealer comes to town and its a shutout. Not exactly a new script. Yet the play of the game is not a play that sustained a shutout, but the play that broke the other one that loomed.
The play was a collection of good plays, as goals often are, culminating in the simplest of put ins. The breakout pass to Cammalleri, his wonderful vision to find Plekanec, Pleks great control and then patience to open the defence, Gionta to the net, and Markov to the net for a goal. Complex parts, simply beautiful. And no shutout.
Probably the best skater on either team this night. He controlled play when he was on, he found his way into chances on occasions, he killed penalties thoughtfully, 4 takeaways, he impressed this guy who can barely lift a puck by clearing the rink, and he played the most important part in that goal.
This game took quite a resolve from the Canadiens players. The discipline to backcheck was key to keeping the Canucks shots peripheral until near the end of the game. The dedication to the forecheck meant Carey Price had long rests at times. For me, Pouliot and his line did a great job on the forecheck. I choose Ben here because I really noticed his jump whenever he was on. Desire to win the puck isn't recorded on the scoresheet, but his play to barge through defender and boards to win a puck early in the first won him a rare dome.
When he was signed, the idea was that he would give Plekanec a bit of a rest. Well, perhaps that hasn't happened yet, but that's not due to any lack of penalty killing prowess. Of the defensive plays tonight, the PK was first and foremost and in pressuring the Canucks point men, Halpern was foremost. His play the rest of the time, in the same vein as Pouliot, was also impressive.
Spacek and Hamrlik played a blinder on the Sedins. Two of the hottest scorers of last season and this one were held to 2 shots between them. And despite RDS going on and on to the contrary, they did not look the Canucks biggest threat to me. Spacek again had his slips, but on the whole showed why he is the professional choice for the defence with a credible shielding of Price.
A blinder, as I mentioned. Hamrlik was my best defender on the evening. When Carey was in need of some calm, it seemed that more often than not, Roman had the puck on his stick. This game, he took the responsibility for it and it showed. The post would not be complete without mention of his pinpoint goal which was provided in glorious juxtaposition with our goalscorers off-kilter aim.
Carey Price - Game Puck
Tobalev must think I'm going soft. All my reports seem to end with a Price Game Puck. This game will look like a stunner for Price in the future, trust me. When all memory of first and second periods are gone and all we have are stats, it will be pulled up as an example of being hung out to dry. Not quite so. Yet that doesn't mean Price wasn't stellar. The thing is, he didn't do it with highlight saves, he did it with synced up play. ON a night where the team did very well together at many elements, Carey fit right in. He let up rebounds when his defenders were near and he didn't when they weren't. He let the puck out when the team was in swing and held it when they needed a break. Just a well thought out effort from what has been a maturing young goalie.
Beating the Canucks is nothing to sneeze at. Shutting them out is impressive. The game had elements to draw lots of encouragement from: the no-nonsense PK, the even strength balance of play, the play of Carey Price who put to bed a VCR bugaboo (7-1 last time, remember?). But as Habs fans we live to fret, and there's material there for that too. Gomez didn't score (though he did unleash 3 or 4 magnificent unclaimed passes), the 4-minute PP was pathetic, Kostitsyn's early season momentum is being sapped, Lapierre still sucked the life out his linemates and other nitpicking.
It's the luxury of winning that leads to concern over these little things. You know what though? Like that future take on this shutout, all the events of this game will be forgotten but the two points when new stories emerge. Joel Bouchard summed it up nicely when asked about Jacques Martin's concerns: "Would he be concerned about starting Eller given Halak's depart canon?" Well, no he won't, because what he cares about is winning, and he showed it by essentially benching Eller despite him looking great. Winning is what matters to the coach, it should be what matters to the team and its fans. Take this luxury of winning and enjoy it, someone will slump during a losing streak, we can all complain then.