After the beautiful cenntenial ceremonies and great hockey game, on Friday, I wish I could tell you that tonight's game was one for the ages too. One of those historic, earth shatter games that everyone is talking about for years to come. Sadly, that was not the case. Well, that's not entirely true because this was a historic game in that the shot totals were 15-13 for Philly, or a sum of 28 shots which is a record in Montreal Canadiens history.
A beautiful game it was not but a win it was. And, at the end of the day, that is what counts. In beating the Flyers 3 to 1 tonight, the Habs got a very important 2 points at home during game 2 of 17 over 29 days. Everyone keeps saying that this is the make it or break it month for the Habs so every point counts.
1 - For most of the first period, the Flyers looked like a team that could be had and the Habs looked like a team that had been drinking all weekend. In reality, the Flyers are a team who are in game two of the Peter Laviolette era and it is clear that his system has not yet been implanted. As for the Canadiens, they didn't play a phenomenal game but they also didn't play a terrible game. They came out flat, in the first, but picked it up in the second and ultimately were able to procure the victory by taking advantage of the few scoring chances that they had.
2 - While the shots were 15-13 for the Flyers and Price was clearly not a busy man tonight, he put in another strong performance and limited his opponent to 1 goal against, again. The one goal that the Flyers did score on Price was definitely of the weak variety. As Briere broke in on Price, drapped by two Habs defencemen, Price was not able to grab the puck with his glove as Briere flipped it over his shoulder. Not great, but not the end of the world given the final outcome. That goal aside, it was nice to see Price having an easy night, for a change. Good for you, Carey.
3 - Where is Scott Gomez? Ummm....is it me or did I dream that we traded Higgins and McDonough for a talented but overpaid center, this past summer? I could swear he was on our roster, but watching the game last night I didn't see him anywhere. Oh, except for when he coughed up the puck in the neutral zone leading to a Flyers scoring chance. So, excessive sarcasm aside, where was Gomez last night? Where has he been for most of the season? While he wasn't great before his injury he has been ten times worse since coming back. Invisible. That is the best way to to describe him. Gomez simply looks lost out there, without Gionta on his wing, even though he and SK74 have shown flashes of brilliance together. If Gomez can't turn it around soon, he will start to feel the bone crushing pressure that comes along with playing in Montreal. If he thought he had it bad in NYC, just wait till the media and fans get on his back in THIS city. For his sake, and for the sake of the team, I hope it doesn't come to that.
4 - Speaking of players changing after coming back from injury, Hal Gill looks like a different player over the last two games. Now, two games does not a season make, but after an excellent performance againt the Bruins on Friday, Gill continued his strong play last night. It is almost like Gill was nervous or out of sorts, in some way, before his injury because since coming back he is playing his best hockey of the season. Again, he has only played two games since coming back, but he has been exceptional in each one. Great on the PK, positionally solid - which compensates for his lack of speed - physical, blocking shots, clearing the crease, etc. All of which bodes well for the Habs defensive corp going forward. Keep it up Hal, you're starting for form a fan club!
5 - MaxPac! MaxPac! MaxPac! This kid was FLYING last night! While he was kept off of the scoresheet, MaxPac was the catylst for the third line of Moen, MaxPac and Metro (3M's). He was hitting, forcing plays, screening the goalie in front of the net, making passes and, generally speaking, causing havoc for the Flyers defence corp. Every time the 3M's - led by MaxPac - were on the ice, they had scoring chances. Pacioretty finished the night with 17:31 of ice time, even in the +/- column, had 3 shots on nets and 4 hits. Since had no points and a -2 rating over a s7 game stretch from October to mid-November, MaxPac has turned things around getting 8 points (2 goals and 6 assists) over his last 10 games. Shift in and shift out, MaxPac bring energy, speed, skill and grit to the ice and is well complemented by Moen and Metro. And keep in mind, that this is he second season (first full season) in Montreal and he is only 21 years old. This kid has a bright future.
Now I don't want to get ahead of myself, but it feels, in a lot of ways, like Montreal might be starting to turn a corner here. With news that Markov is taking part in full practices with the team he can't be more than a few weeks, at most, away from returning. In addition, Montreal seems to have a few lines that are jelling namely, Pleks-Cammy-Andrei and the 3M's (MaxPac, Moen, Metro). If Martin can figure out the Gomez line (with Sergei and Gionta? with Pouliot and Gionta?), then we will suddenly have three balanced lines that can score. That triple threat is one of balance that can lead to many wins down the road. Again, we are not there yet, but maybe now that the centennial celebrations are behind us, this team can really come together.
One potentially bad note from last night was Paul Mara leaving the game in the 1st period and not returning for the rest of the evening. Let's hope it is nothing serious because Paul has become a stable, reliable addition to the Habs blue line this season and we've already lost enough defensive man-games. A little break would be appreciated by the hockey gods!
Tonight is Kovy and the Sens. I think that payback is in order. Here's hoping Kovy is held off the score sheet and the Habs' offence can dominate!
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