Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Rinne (W)
Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Goc (2), O'Reilly
Sometimes, as with results, we get hung up with outcomes and miss the beauty and skill of hockey. Even before this game was 20 minutes old, I thought the play to beat o the night would be a nifty little thing from Tom Pyatt. In the record it won't be a goal and it won't be a shot, but if it were a goal, my goodness. The play was all Pyatt, he got a hopeful, but pretty awful pass into coverage. There he knocked down the puck for complete control broke the coverage and burst in for a shot. His shot beat Rinne, but ultimately not friction or gravity as it never made the goal line. Still, if this went in, it'd be a video to vote on in April.
Lars Eller – Game Puck
There's no point hiding this further down the list. For anyone who watched it was plain to see that Eller was inspired. Olivier will no doubt tell us that he had the softest coverage, but know what, he made a lot of them. He not only skated and danced but he alimented his linemates. He played to own the puck, and you know how much I like that. Only one shot, but a good one. 4 hits as well.
Andrei just played like Andrei in this game. He didn't jump out of the screen for his entire 18:25, yet he ended up with some of the most dangerous chances to score and just happened into a pretty solid looking stats sheet. The main difference between his play last year and this is he is driving the play rather than deferring to another all the time. Even when he doesn't he pops up in the slot with some hard shots on net. He continues to play well and even gets begrudging praise once in a while from RDS (his goal in Carolina doesn't really count though, that was in a game with a lot of goals).
This last choice yo-yo-ed a bit for me. At different points there were different forwards here, all except Halpern, Darche and Pouliot just about. The thing I liked about Cammalleri is that he seemed to be able to break coverage when Nashville were at their most suffocating. He released a few attempts and created a bit of danger during the 0-0 deadlock. That to me was the pivotal point of the game, so that's why I give him the dome.
A quiet game from Gorges. But if this were a 1-0 victory, which it could have been if everyone played like he did, then we'd be singing his sweet praises. He did what Canadiens defenders do nowadays and kept shots from nonthreatening positions.
I was thinking tonight of the differences between this team and the team at this time last season. The player make-up isn't that different, but the feel from watching is changed. There was all that talk of players having to adapt to one another, the focus on Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri. But in reality, there was probably no bigger adjustment for the 2009-10 Habs than the adjustment they had to make to welcome Hal Gill to the lineup. Where previously they had skating defenders, they now had an oaf who could barely turn. At first they expected him to be a standard defender and he failed. Now they seem to have adjusted, both in expectation and play. Gill played Gill's game and because Price now knows Gill and Gorges knows him well, that play can be counted as an asset.
This game was bound to come. It's not that Carey could have or even should have stopped any of those shots. but in recent games, he just did, somehow. Tonight he played in almost the same way and didn't get a shutout. Them's are the bounces as they say. He definitely gave his team ample chance to win and the nail n the coffin that was the second goal, though it wasn't done with a kicking motion was definitely intentionally put in with a foot. The huge positive from Carey was another first period shutout. The team must appreciate this.
Nashville tonight provided reminders to Montrealers of a few things we'd forgotten. The first is that the Central Division is a difficult place to play your hockey, and teams that come with CD practice tend to be pretty battle-tough opponents. The second thing they showed was that Montreal still has a ways to go as a contender. While the team has been thriving against opponents that stroll in, teams that come in with a clear game plan in mind stifle this attack. Nashville had a plan for every line and every player (with the notable exception of a suddenly inspired Eller) and it kept the game scoreless. Even after a goal, they had the numbers of the top two lines until Martin's belated reaction. This, I see as a warning shot. Not because we should worry about Nashville in any more important games, but rather because the playoffs are all about other teams preparing for the other. If Nashville can come in and see the way to defend on two days notice, then a team will surely spot weak points in a seven game series.
Well that's the warning. To close, I should speak to luck, or bounces as players so fondly name it. On a different day, the same shots and chances generated by each side in this game would have gone in the completely opposite direction. Instead of imagining a goal by Pyatt, we'd be praising it. Instead of complaining about a goal kicked in, it would have been disallowed. So what? Well, indeed. Sometimes after these games, these games after we've been spoiled to greater expectations, it becomes all about choosing the Blame Dome. And the heroes from 2 nights earlier are trod upon for sport. I think in this case, there's little need for that. The Habs lost to a team that played them tight and took their chances. It doesn't mean this will be the lot for the future.