Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (W)
Habs goalscorers: Diaz
Opposition goalscorers: Leopold, Vanek, Ehrhoff
Sort of a no-brainer tonight, although Price's save on Ennis late in the third almost made the cut. I'm still going to go with a beautiful goal that starts with Kostitsyn skating out of his own end, and dropping the puck off to Pacioretty just before he crashes into a defenseman to open up some space. Pacioretty spots Diaz coming in alone on the other side and snaps a pass right onto Diaz's tape. Miller was far out of his net, and Diaz showed great speed and patience getting almost past him to slip one in easily from a bit of a hard angle.
Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
Once again, Max was everywhere all at once making slick passes and taking opportunistic shots. He led the most dangerous line again tonight, and I fully expected him to score—and if he hadn't been facing a goalie like Miller, I'm sure he would have. 9 shots and earning first-line minutes with a somewhat surprising trio for the Habs.
At one point towards the end of the second I said to myself "Gomez, you're a machine!" He was solid in his own end and frankly amazing in transition play tonight. He carried the puck well, mad smart passes, got into and won a lot of battles, had good forechecking, and even showed signs of offensive competence at times.
Could just as easily been AK46, since this line really seems to work as a unit. I love the way Desharnais plays without the puck: he's always going to the net for a quick pass or to screen the goalie and pick up a rebound. I think this is something that's been missing from the Habs for quite some time and I hope to see it continue.
Great game for the new guy. Saw him join the rush at some very opportune times and it was patience and a cool head that allowed him to beat Miller with such seeming ease. I really liked the way he took a wicked shot with Price out in the dying minutes of the third, and read the play well enough to be in perfect position to cover the net as Buffalo cleared the puck.
Wasn't that easy picking a second D tonight, as I felt most of the defensive crew played decently but there wasn't much that stood out. I liked Subban making a couple diving plays to break up shots from the side of the net, and using his legendary windup on the power play as a fake before snapping a quick-release one-timer right on Miller the next time the puck came his way.
Well, I don't think Price was really to blame for the goals tonight. The set play off the icing faceoff that earned Buffalo's second goal was a little disappointing, but it was well-executed and Vanek has one hell of a shot. Price had a wicked and timely save on a Taylor Ennis breakaway late in the third, and did some really smart things with the puck throughout the game. He's getting better, though at times I see him doing things fancier than they need to be done. Hopefully that means he's getting more confident with his puckhandling, and has reason to be...
Despite the loss, I saw a lot of things I liked this evening. We were excellent in transition play, with speed, chemistry and smart passing. We took a lot of shots from some decent places, created good traffic front of the net, and played some fast and aggressive offense. You have to give Buffalo credit for doing a good job of covering shooting and passing lanes and not letting us get too many extended chances despite our domination of the neutral zone.
The defense didn't really stand out tonight even though Buffalo had few opportunities for prolonged pressure. There were some changes I was unhappy with tonight: I didn't like us changing on an odd-man offensive rush in the first period while on our second power play, and it might have been an ill-advised change (or stupid attempt at one) that led to someone not getting on Leopold to make that goal at least difficult for him. Our power play was once again uncharacteristically pathetic, and we're now 2/21. The encouraging thing is that we've been great at even-strength, but clearly we have to find a way to make the man advantage work for us.
Overall, it was an encouraging game in many ways and I liked a lot of what I saw, but I didn't like like what I didn't see: some solid finishing. Still, if we can continue to play like that, I can see us with 3 dangerous lines for the first time in a long while, and we can hope that will translate to a few more goals—and a few more wins—this season.