Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Garon (L)
Habs goalscorers: Blunden, Pacioretty, Cole
Opposition goalscorers: Lecavalier
Getting back in the game once down was critical, but I did expect it would happen. What I didn't expect was that we would get contribution from our 4th line. It was Blunden, in fact, that scored the goal, his first as a Hab. I would have maybe kept Nokelainen in over Blunden, but Cunneyworth obviously knows better than me. The move paid off with a timely goal and it was a nice goal to boot. I don't expect too many more from Mike, but his goal is a reminder of just how skilled all NHLers are when they have space and time to do what they want.
Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
Max had a great goal and picked up an assist on Cole's goal at the end. Beyond that, however, there was so much offence; he led the team in shots (7), attampts (11) and take-aways (2). He also drew the penalty at the end of the game which meant the Habs avoided a potentially frantic final 30 seconds. We needed a better effort from him and we got it tonight. His line was one of the big reasons that Tampa got little going all night as they were, more often than not, in the Lightning's end. I like that lines have formed and that people know their roles, I think that that is helping us right now.
It was between him and Desharnais. Both players played well, but I thought that Cole had the slight edge tonight. Stealing David's goal at the end of the game, of course, plays in his favour! Not his most dominant game, but he showed that good players can have quieter nights, yet still be better than most of their opposition.
Despite Cole's line being in the dome almost entirely I felt that Eller's line was the most dangerous all night. They didn't score, but came oh so close on so many different occasions. The best element on that line was Kostitsyn as he continued his very strong play. When your top line is your third best on most nights and they aren't playing that badly you know that things must be going well.
Gorges came back hard after Subban lost the puck in the offensive zone and took the puck away from Downie beautifully. That was his best play all game, a game in which he was solid throughout. As Gill fades away as a regular it is Gorges who is becoming the shot-blocking machine; tonight he added five to his tally.
Three of our seven guys are being used sparingly and I think that it is brilliant. So, it is like we have four regular D and Emelin is now firmly in that group. It was more of the same tonight as there were more hits and more rushes. I believe that it is only a matter of time till his rushes and shots turn into assists and goals. The more I watch this player, the more I like what we have here. He could very well end up being a fixture on our back end for many years to come.
Price played a very good game and could have easily had a shutout. The goal was a bit unlucky (or very skilled from Lecavalier), but wouldn't go in 9 times out of 10. When the team plays well for a full 60 minutes it makes Carey's life a whole lot easier. Tonight they only allowed 24 shots and that makes it much more realistic to expect him to let in 2 or less than when we let up 35 or more.
The knock on the Habs earlier this season (like in December) was that if we went down we were out of it. Well, for a second straight game we showed that there is fight in us and that, given time, we can find a way back in. Tampa managed to get the lead, but weren't necessarily playing that much better than us. In fact here was a team just like us in their fragility. For some reason they are another team that lost to Boston in 7 and is having a hard time this year. So, the Habs did well to come back, but I can't say that it was too hard. We just kept plugging away and the chances came and within them a couple of goals. And, once we were back in it we kept playing that same way. It seemed that we had a plan and our goal was to execute that plan for a full 60 minutes. When that happens and the players are on we show our depth, speed and tenacity. This 'small' team is winning a lot of battles right now as players like Cole, Emelin and Kostitsyn are providing the muscle that most people don't think we even have.
I wanted to see us play seven defencemen for a long time. Not seven D like Carbo, Martin or Julien did, though, but to use them all as D. For the past two games we have done just that and it is working rather well. The cost to the forwards is that we have a player from a top-3 line play on the 4th rather than a D-man . That means we get a better player on the ice more and our 4th line is better than if we used a 4th-liner or a D in that spot. The benefit can also be seen at the back end. Gorges, Subban, Emelin and Diaz (and eventually Markov) are all-around guys, guys that can log 20+ minutes and play in all situations. But, I think that it is clear that, ideally, Gill, Kaberle and Campoli (and Weber) aren't. So, what we do is we take that 34-38 minutes of ice-time and divide it by three instead of two. It doesn't hurt the team as those guys are only still on for about 17-19 minutes as a pair (about 12 minutes on average each) and it also keeps them fresher. It also keeps each individual off the ice (which isn't a bad thing) more. You can then use those three when the timing suits them - Kaberle and Campoli when more offence is needed and Gill when we need a bit more of a stay-at-home presence. I really like the concept and hope that we keep it up, especially when Andrei gets back.