Habs Goalie: Halak (W)
Opposition Goalie: Lundqvist (L), Zaba
Habs goalscorers: Gomez, Cammalleri (2), Lapierre, Pouliot, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: None
Another embarrassment of riches. Quite a weekend. I wonder what all those people who wrote about tanking are writing now? There were some truly beautiful plays in this game from the esthetic point of view. Sometimes, though, the outwardly hideous play, once the layers are peeled back, can be the most beautiful of all. For me that play was the third goal. It all began with Maxim Lapierre chasing the puck. At some point in his stride, he decided he wouldn't re-author his signature play of 1,000 iterations -- he turned on the gas. The winning of the race was impressive enough, but his resolve went further, he battled hard, won the puck and even found his way out front.and made a great pass to Darche. After the save, Darche persisted and a hungry Lapierre flashed the skill we haven't seen in some time as he picked a puck out of the air. That he was rewarded with the luck that made a goal was justice, and he savoured that. If this goal awakes the player that made this sequence of plays, it may be more than the turning point in this Rangers game, it may be the resurrection of an attack opposition coaches puzzle over.
For some time now, Scott Gomez has been delivering a standard at centre ice. While he started the season soundly, he found a way to be much more dynamic. This game was another example of that. Throughout the contest he made me sit up and think, "Wow, I am starting to see where this salary offer came from". Before you get all snippy, read again "starting". Gomez was amazing on the first goal, always so critical to the Habs morale and in maintaing that goal as the gamewinner. Though he was stripped mostly of Gionta, he continued to aliment Pouliot and make other wingers better. Good game.
Mike Cammalleri - Game Puck
Yesterday we saw what Cammalleri thought of losing. Today we saw how he feels about mercy. This game he smelled blood and circled his prey before indulging in a hearty dinner. If Mike was nothing but a good shot, he would still be top-line material for this team. The fact he also drives the play and fuels the fire that keeps the team running is bonus. This game, he had several amazing efforts, but the best was his first goal. I was happy that RDS picked out the play to highlight, because it exemplified a change in the Canadiens. Whereas once they were robotic in getting back to the bench, Cammalleri turning back to the play when he sniffed opportunity and setting the Rangers cart down the hill for good with his powerful shot was a massive turning point. Oh, did I mention he had 4 points?
Choosing for this position was most difficult. I had to think what the dome was really about. A lot of players played above their efforts of the recent past and merited some recognition. All the best players played well enough, and didn't leave much to desire. In short, there was plenty of choice. My notes led me to Lapierre or Metropolit, both of whom played with hunger and persistence. Lapierre won out in the end because he not only put in the effort to create a third point of attack, but actually succeeded. His goal was the obvious high point, but he also had 5 other attempts on net himself and made chances for his linemates.
I'm often a bit anti-establishment, as you may have noticed. It borders on snobbery. When even the RDS crew noticed Spacek being special on the night, I had to remind myself that they know what they're talking about, it's just sometimes they don't watch. This game they watched, Spacek really was great in this game. With 6 goals, the fact that we shut out a team that not 6 days earlier had scored 6 on us and this goalie is forgotten a bit. Jaro played pretty well in the defensive end, and for once looked better than Hammer, who was average on the night. Spacek served notice of his standout game as he created the second goal from nothing. Battling in the neutral zone, proceeding into the Rangers end puck on stick, despite the line change, he found Cammalleri and opened the floodgates. Our best defenceman on the night.
Markov played a very good game, so to be surpassed is something. Hal Gill's good play hits against me like subtle waves on a beach. There's no thundering crashes, but when he's playing well he can be relentless. This game, like Lapierre and Metro, he just added that extra bit we've been missing for a while, the 3rd pairing on D. Martin noticed too, I think, as instead of desperately scrambling to get Gill and O'Byrne off when Tortorella probed with his top players, Jacques let the defence roll more naturally. Statistically, Hal piled it up this game, he had an assist, plus 2, a takeaway, 3 blocked shots and the most minutes of any player on the team. That unexplained "A" on his chest makes sense after games like these.
A second game in two nights, a team over 0.500, a team we needed to beat. All the reasons to put Price in the net were aligned. Some will say Martin rolled the dice, I think he's seeing what I'm seeing -- Halak is improved and improving with the minutes he gets. Once again, Jaro benefitted overall from the play of his teammates at both ends, and indeed the Rangers miscues. But let's not be silly, there was 20-25 minutes of a contest here, and though most of his saves were of the expected variety, he still fended off the challenge. One great thing about Halak is that he is adaptable, emotional and responsive to the flow of the game. This game, it meant he came in with the same fight as Metropolit and Lapierre and performed with the same voracious hunger for the stat as Cammalleri. I'd play him again in the next game as the coach, not because he represents a more likely chance at winning (I'm no fortune teller), but because the attitude he is showing is infectious. Anyone playing, anyone watching (anyone...), can see it. I hope that he might infect a few more.
What an interesting game. Like the Devils game, it began as a real sparring match -- both teams seeking the weak spots. Halak and the Ranger misses kept it close until goal #1, and then until goal #2, 3 and 4 sealed the fate of the spectacle. This home-and-home with the Rangers provides a lesson. A team can break an opponent, but the opponent won't be broken long. If you want that lesson in table form, have a look at the standings. This game, despite the lopsided appearance, is what parity is about, it's what never throwing in the towel is about.
Apart from the remedy the Canadiens provided their beleaguered followers, the team also took some important steps in their 6-month battle for a real game. First, there are the two points, which as it happens take them ahead of the Islanders and Bruins (Vezina, Norris, Adams, Team Canada and all). Then the 0 points for the Rangers, who now sit in an effective tie, with a game to spare, and a win to find. It was also tie-break help, with a 6 goal push in the right direction and a 6-goal punch in the stomach to a likely tie candidate. Not to mention, the season series. where the Habs now hold the edge and would win with an OTL or more. As Mike Boone talks about every game being a 4-pointer, this was a 5-pointer. To win with emphasis was amazing.
Here's the thing, though. Going forward, this win means no more than a loss to Ottawa a week ago did. It was a big pendulum swing, but Florida won't care about that. The task for the coaches is to start bottling what is working and keeping it on the bench and locker-room for when lucky bounces go against. Like everyone on the high this morning, I can't see why the team tha played in red won't take the points on the melting ice in Miami and Tampa. However, I hope there isn't a player among the group who believes the hype like I do.