Win: 4-3 (SO)
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (L)
Habs goalscorers: Kaberle, Gomez, Campoli, (Pacioretty, Desharnais - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Regehr, Myers, Ennis
I'm somewhat stunned to read the time on ice stats. To me it seemed like Gomez's line was getting prime time minutes. That's probably in most part due to the fact that they caught the eye more than any other. Gomez himself was sharper at things he hasn't necessarily been sharp at in a while - quick passes, battles on the boards, winning races. And to top it off he scored a massive goal when the wind very much needed to be put back in the Habs' sails.
To me, the most dangerous forward all night. For whatever reason he was the forward who escaped the tenacious Buffalo checking best and popped up at least a half dozen times in very dangerous positions. He ended with 3 shots and no points, but there was quality in his attempts.
Using his exuberance to get the two misfits going is proving a minor stroke of genius. Really, it's probably just hitting on some obvious complementary assets that should be well known by now. White makes room and wins loose pucks - something both Gomez the hot potato passer and Kostitsyn the slippery shot maker like to have taken off their own plates. Tonight White looked like a sure bet to be on the team for a while. Not something I ever thought when he was missing for all those games.
We beat up our management a lot, but getting Emelin to come to North America before lapse of his rights was masterful. From learner to reliable to making Gill expendable in less than 60 games. His mark on the game tonight was in scorecard hits and blocked shots. Un-noted were a few good breakout moves and slick passes.
PK Subban - Game Puck
I'm not surprised that the energy of renewed playoff hope is awakening a player within Subban. Being a pro who can elevate his game, he is prone to this kind of effect from pressure. Tonight, he continued to build on what he has been putting together for a few games. We'll all admit that he's not yet found his PP magic. IN the defensive zone, though, the magic is there. A gorgeous 2-on-1 break-up, numerous takeaways, dives for clearance and lots of other good things. Now that his focus is taken from making the highlight hit to matters of the score, he unsurprisingly returns to Game Puck ownership.
The dome was won with a solid recovery from average start. In fact, by keeping the game 3-2 as long as he did, he did the Canadiens a massive turn. He also saved himself an asterisk by being the goalie I'd have in for the dome shootout. The extra point belongs in part to him as he made his saves cleanly and without sliding into the net.
This is a stats geek's dream come true. Regression to some mean. Players that were barren bore fruit, a PP created goals it's deserved for all the chances that it's had, and a shootout victory was sealed with 2 shots a piece (goals and saves, respectively). Smartly, they did not test their PK luck too frequently on the first game without the human bollard.
What we may also be seeing is the tale of the schedule. A schedule where the Canadiens played most of the games against the teams that are doing well this year first (hopefully not only because they played the Habs more...) and play some of the down and outs more now. If the Canadiens had played more shootouts against Buffalo, would their record be so bare? Their PP would certainly be better against such an anemic defence.
Whatever the explanation, the Canadiens have again given light to those who refuse to pack up for the season. The Habs by statistical likelihood, now have a higher than 10.6% chance (for some reason on writing, the site tells me it's still tied in OT) of making the playoffs when their light schedule is accounted for. It's not high, but it's better than that of NYI, Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa. Winnipeg beat Boston and keep floating a little higher. The better news perhaps that teams that may not belong in the playoffs are the ones perched precariously there. A win on Sunday with some other half-way decent results (sans OT) will put even some of the more cynical back on Windsor station platform awaiting the bandwagon to pass.