Last night, the banged-up Pittsburgh Penguins beat the even more banged-up Montreal Canadiens 3 - 1, in regulation. The streak is dead. Long live the streak! Ok, it was a meager streak but the way things have gone so far this year, you have to make each baby step a celebration or you'll be waiting too long to rejoice! So without further ado, here are a few observations from last night's game:
1 - Despite losing the game and being outshot 30 - 19 and outhit 45 to 34, Montreal didn't actually play that bad a game. This team - which looked more like the Hamilton Bulldogs than the Montreal Canadiens - competed on every shift despite having played the night before. However, they looked over match and tired. You could see the effects of missing 8 regulars from their lineup and having played the night before. By the third period, they looked like they needed a collective nap!
2 - Pittsburgh did an amazing job of keeping the Plekanec (with Sergei K and Cammy) off of the scoresheet. Starting with Jordan Staal's line - who was on the ice almost every time Pleky stepped out there - and following through the rest of the lineup, the Pens used the home ice advanatage effectively to get that last line change and hence, the match-ups they needed.
3 - Plekanec continues to establish himself as a top notch center in the NHL. Despite being shut off of the score sheet, Plekanec played inspired hockey all night. He made hits, dug the puck out of the corner, setup plays and was generally combative. Despite having the larger Pittsburgh forwards leaning on him heavily, he was still able to create some chances and even gave Crosby a shot in the chops while battling for the puck.
4 - Price strong play continues. Despite only having a .900 save percentage last night, Price looked confident and firm in the net. He is handling the puck masterfully - which is always a sign of good confidence with Price - he is fighting through screens and traffic to track the puck, and he is moving nicely in his crease. The only blemish on his game last night was the second goal. On that play, Price had stopped a shot from the side of the net but didn't cover the puck up properly. It was loose enough that when Guerin poked at it, it squeezed through his pads and in to make the score 2 - 0. That is one that I am sure Price would like to have back.
5 - The oft heralded organizational depth of the Montreal Canadiens is starting to show. With a bunch of AHL players replacing the missing regulars, in the lineup, we can see that this organization has a bunch of NHL capablity guys. There are not really any superstars among them but they are definitely servicable NHL players. If you look at Pyatt, White, Desharnais and Wyman, these are all guys who are showing that they have the ability, smarts and right attitude to be players in the NHL. Going forward, this could be good for Montreal on the trade front. While these guys can all play in the NHL, most of them are the same or very similar type players. This means that some of them can become expendable.
6 - Sergei Kostitsyn looks like a new man. From his humble interviews with the press to his 'put your head down and work' attitude, he seems, and I do emphasize the word 'seems', to be a player reborn. With two assists and a +3 rating over two games, Sergei looks like he means business. Give him a week or so to further acclimate, and I believe the Montreal might get back a much better player than the one they sent down at the beginning of the season, in Sergei. If he continues to show the right attitude, contribute and play smart hockey, he should definitely have a spot somewhere on this team.
Overall, this past week has shown that, in my opinion, Jacques Martin is a really good coach. Love or hate him or his style there is no questioning the results. Martin has taken a team decimated by injuries and drilled a system into their heads that has resulted in wins over Washington, a shootout loss to Detroit and an insipred comeback win versus Columbus. That was 5 out of a possible 6 points. With the Pittburgh game, that gives them 5 out of 8 points. With one more game - in Montreal on Saturday vs. the Caps - to close out the month of November, Montreal still has a chance to get 7 out of 10 point in five games where I, personally, thought they would get none. Montreal can use the two day break before facing Washington on Saturday, to lick thier wounds. Hopefully they can get back some of their walking wounded from Team Clinic!
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