Location: New Jersey
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Brodeur (L)
Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty, Cole
Opposition goalscorers: Palmieri
There wasn't a bigger moment in this game for the fragile Canadiens than when Zach Parise stood at centre ice facing down Carey Price. Carey, to this point, not where he wanted to be on penalty shot proficiency had something to prove. On the line: the game, of course; but perhaps also some of the unconditional faith his players and fans have in him. It takes a big character to stand facing those things, not to mention one of the better shooters in the league, and walk (nay leap) away with the prize. Carey did it by doing what he does best -- staying with the shooter in the ready position, making the save look easy in the end.
What can you say about this guy? I thought he was good when he skated rings around the Habs in 2002, but I think he might be better now. There is spark in his game, a real desire to get the puck on his stick and make something of it. Whether it's cutting to the net (and drawing the critical penalty), saucering the incisive PP pass that opened the scoring or making sure the Habs would have enough in the bank to get away with points.
A couple of great shots (one a goal of course) and some other good ones. There was a time when the Habs were at risk of testing the 1-0 goal lead for the win, but it was Pacioretty and his line that retook the momentum and put that idea to bed.
Right there with his linemates, Desharnais was on for the best Canadiens attacking moments. Perhaps unexpectedly, it was also his line that got the bulk of the time against Kovalchuk and Parise, the recently hot Devils unit. Desharnais played the good centre, winning many faceoffs, dishing passes to his hot wingers and staying aware of his opposition.
I think we'll have to get used to things happening when Kaberle is on the ice. He was on for each of the goals this afternoon and played a part for all. While he was way out of sync in the defensive end (to be expected a day into a new system and partnership with a rookie), he provided plenty of glimpses into who Kaberle at his best is too. The first goal was a simple pass to an open Cole. The second goal was a simple press then lay off to an open Darche. Finding open players with simple passes on the PP? Sounds so simple. Yet... well let's not get into it. His plays of the game for me both entailed keeping it in at the line -- once on something that would previously have gone to Price, and on the second goal where he pinched to keep PP possession past the expiry of the punishment. No full verdict is in here, but it's a nice start.
I thought this was a pretty good defensive game from the Habs. To me they kept shots to the outside and tidied up messes pretty well. Josh played all the important defensive minutes in this one and with a lessened PP burden could really concentrate on doing that job which he does best.
Carey Price - Game Puck
No doubt about this one. The Canadiens system is dependent on their lynch pin making all the saves. There's no sense in allowing wide and distant shots if they result in rebounds or occasional goals. With Price orchestrating from the back, the system as it is conceived worked the way it should. He solidifies the Game Puck today for me with that very clutch save described above.
There are always different ways to interpret the same events.
The Habs since they beat the New York Rangers 10 games ago have not sealed an easy regulation victory for themselves. In all the games since the Anaheim debacle, they have led and tried to hang on with greater or lesser success. Some choose to focus on the imperfection of their game and their propensity to allow other teams in. Those people seem to miss the 7 points from 5 games (that's 0.700 hockey), no regulation losses, and 5 games where they were able to jump to leads by some means or another.
I'm not going to pretend I wouldn't like the team to be the perfect executioners of every aspect of the game. I long for the day the Art Ross trophy winner gets us the lead to hand over to the Norris, Selke and Vezina trophy winners to hold on. I wait for the time when the team will not only astound with the PK, but once again with the PP. However, I think the team is owed credit for getting these points in sometimes difficult circumstances.
A win changes the perspective, of course, and the write-up. But so it should. The Canadiens after all didn't lose the lead, they kept it. They did some good things to keep scoring chances to a minimum after the first period and Carey Price turned the game while time was stopped for a penalty shot.
It's easy to see the negative, so far are the Canadiens from the perfect team. But it's worth noting in a league where first is still only 5 wins away, there is no perfect team. Better then to consider this team vs. their actual peers -- one of which we saw this afternoon. Against 5 straight peers, the Habs have competed and been winning or tying at 60 or 65 minutes. There far from perfect, but not far from competitive.
What's more, the PP looked improved. The memories of Anaheim and repeated chases back behind their own net neatly banished by a few Kaberle zone saves and simple passes. Gauthier has said this was the only thing that needed fixing. An understatement to be sure. but he was right that it needed fixing at least. Now when the Tedenbys of the world break the rules to take away golden scoring opportunities, they may once again pay for it.
The games the come next are critical for solidifying this "streak". The Islanders haven't thrown in the towel yet, but need to be shown that is the way. The Flyers are a resilient bunch too, and can score from all over, a win against them would be a nice prize. Then it's the Devils you know again next Saturday (evening, thankfully).