Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Pavelec (L)
Habs goalscorers: Hamrlik, Darche, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Antropov
Price made a great save on Byfuglien in the first minute of play. The Habs came out a bit slow and Atlanta came out strong. That chance was a result of us not quite being ready for their urgency. The save, however, calmed things right down and perhaps saved the game for us. After that the Habs took control of the game and it was much nicer to be able to do that being tied at 0-0 than being down 0-1.
He played a good solid game and was very involved physically. The chances weren't there as much as they have been, but I felt that it was always a positive shift when he and his linemates were on. He did, however, get a goal right at the end, a goal that sealed it; it was an empty-netter from his own blue-line, his 20th of the year.
Darche was at his best tonight. It was for games like this that we re-signed in and why we let Lapierre go. It had been a tough return from injury, but after missing 5 weeks I can't say that I am surprised. Tonight he was a weapon to be reckoned with in the offensive zone and, once again, played smart hockey.
Scott was our best centre tonight, just ahead of Desharnais (didn't see anything too special from Pleks). He was on right from his first shift and set a good example for others to follow. This is the type of play that will help us in the playoffs - speed, aggression, passes and the ability to get under his opponents' skin.
I had a feeling that someone like Hammer (my instinct, for some reason, said Sopel) would score the goal that we had all been waiting for. It was a good team goal and with four people in as close as they were you could tell how badly we wanted it. Aside from the goal Hammer played a solid, reliable game as he logged the second most ice on the team. Tonight may have been a reminder from him and to us fans that he is still our #1. Who knows what will happen in the future, but for now it seems like he will do his best to lead us throughout the remainder of the season.
Wide-open games against a weak defensive team is the type of game that James must love - at least it looks that way. I am not sure if he will be as effective as he was tonight against tighter (playoff) competition, but I am sure he'll still find a way to contribute. The good thing is we have Hammer, Subban and Gill ahead of him who are ready to carry huge loads. Add to that the fact that Mara and Sopel have been decent, Weber and Picard can do the job and Spacek will, if he is healthy, be well rested and all of a sudden our D seems to be in good shape (just imagine Markov and Gorges were around).
Carey Price - Game Puck
On a normal night beating the Thrashers 3-1 at home wouldn't be a big deal. But, after 3 straight shutouts and in need of points for the plyoffs this game was huge. Carey knew this and did not let anyone down. In fact, this game was a shutout whether the NHL believes it was or not (once again 4 men miss an obvious play by the puck-carrier) and that just shows how key Price is. We have 5 more games and with 3 points likely being enough I would like to see Carey sit 1, maybe 2 of those just to be safe.
I am not going to say that all is good and that we are back on track, but there are certainly some positives here. First off, however, Atlanta are a pretty weak team (when compared with the current competition in the East), maybe only slightly better than Florida, Ottawa and the Islanders. So, beating them, at home, is more like a must than a big deal. Add to that the fact that they played like a team that was already on vacation and that makes this win not that special. What is important to note, however, is that the Habs did play a good game and I think that this was true despite Atlanta. The significance of this isn't the win, but the fact that we had played 2, maybe 3, pretty passionless games over the past week. We had looked tired, out of ideas and sloppy, but tonight looked re-energized and ready for what lay ahead. So, it doesn't matter who the opponent was or what the score was as it was the effort that mattered.
Tomorrow is our last back-to-back game of the season and after that we'll have 4 games in 10 nights. Hopefully we'll get enough points to breathe even easier next week so that we'll be able to rest (either by press-box, limiting ice-time or giving easier assignments) some key players. It is looking like our last two games (in Ottawa and in Toronto) will (thanks to all the other games that will be played by then) simply be for form and placement as I anticipate us being in and both of them being out by then. That means we have one week to make it count and then a pretty easy 7-9 days as we wait for the real season to get going.