Opponent: Maple Leafs
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Gustavsson (L)
Habs goalscorers: Halpern, Cammalleri
Opposition goalscorers: None
I didn't catch the play of the game first hand, but I saw it later on. You have to admire the Canadiens on nights such as these, because for all their faults they really can step up like no other with little notice when it counts. The tribute they put together for Pat Burns was both empassioned and restrained. The tribute was top class. And though Pat Burns was said to eschew attention and special treatment, it must be special for his family to see the wonderful show of support from fans of teams that he left years and tears ago.
Carey Price's evolution may be the shadow that's preventing us from seeing it, but Andrei Kostitsyn has had a stunning quarter season. Stats aside, his play has been much more confident this season. We're getting to the point where people who chose before 10 in the 2003 draft are starting to list him as a missed opportunity. Tonight, he was not always the best forward, but I thought he did create the best chances. A season ago, we'd be worried about yet another change of scenery for him as he gets going, yet this Andrei has his own agenda and playbook.
Jacques Martin "called him out". Tonight Pleks answered. He rekindled his chemistry with Kostitsyn and led a dangerous line of attack for the Habs. 5 shots and 8 attempts of his own give an idea as to how his line wrote the agenda for this one.
Gionta may not be a highlight reel player at all times, but he plays sensible hockey. And good sense will tell a player that a second year goalie from Sweden behind a shaky D just needs to have shots put on him to be broken down. Well there were no breakdowns from Gionta shots tonight, but there will be in the future. Tonight he had 8 on net, and 12 altogether. That's not a rarity with him.
Spacek has got to be one of the best players on the team at repairing his mistakes, and specifically at diving. His second diving stop followed by recovery to feet for a blocked shot was focused D if you've ever seen it. Tonight, he played well against one of the "better" Leafs lines and stood out for defensive reasons. Add to that his solid offensive play and the shot that won the game, and he's won back a dome place.
Price deserves a lot of credit for the Canadiens recent run of stingy scoresheets. But so do the defence. And no one on this team epitomises the Habs evolved defence better than Josh Gorges.
Carey Price - Game Puck
Carey Price in previous years was criticised for a lot of things. One thing I often tallied against him was his overconfidence in simply blocking the puck. In this game, he was showing how he has evolved. That save on Kris Versteeg in the second (which kept the game at 0-0) was a goaltender using more than angles to stop shots. Other than big saves, i think once again that the biggest compliment to Carey Price this season is that players are running out of ideas against him. The shots Toronto took as the game went on went down in quality it seemed, if they didn't miss. That's the reward of getting into players thoughts.
This win against the Leafs tonight is a fun win. It's 2 points again, though I don't think a four pointer. Somehow, I just don't see the Leafs in the mix. Beating the Leafs is always worthwhile, even i it is only for personal bragging rights over friends. Beating them with a second goal from a clean Komisarek pass to Cammalleri is all the sweeter, as that Habs $5+ million could have been spent in the exact opposite way.
Speaking of opposites. Isn't this shutout segment of the season is really strange? Carey Price hadn't had a shutout in nearly 2 years. Now he has 4 in 30 days!?!
I think the team has to get a lot of credit for this. While Carey is undoubtedly making key saves, that simply would not have been enough a year ago (for Price or Halak), there would have been an ugly rebound or 10 3-on-1s or goodness knows what other catastrophic breakdown. This year, though, the defence is starting to resemble something we might call a system. Shots against, though high, do seem to be coming from the outside. I rarely get to the end of a period and say "10 shots, is that all?" More often, it's "10 shots, when?" That's testament to a calming defence keeping my heartbeats low. And Carey for all his improvement personally has to get credit for meshing with this system more than all else. He is holding the puck when it needs to be held and deflecting it to corners where possible. He's playing like he knows where the D are. It's good stuff, it's encouraging stuff, it seems like someone is coaching. I'm encouraged.