Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Markstrom (W)
Habs goalscorers: Cole
Opposition goalscorers: Fleischmann, Upshall
There was a sequence during which Markstrom had to make a few incredible saves, the best one being a robbery against Cammalleri who batted one out of the air. The save was amazing, the play that led to the chance was one of the Habs' best of the year and showed off the incredible skill that Camms has; surely goals will follow.
He scored a goal tonight, his first, but that wasn't what impressed me most (in fact I am not even sure that he knew he scored). What impressed me was his speed, willingness to go to net and strength on the puck. Presumably these are the qualities that we bought in July; let's hope that this is the first of many similar performances.
Lars continued his good play tonight and his line was once again a strong unit. If we can take anything from these games it may be the learning that Eller is getting. He is our only player who is noticeably improving this year and that should come in handy when (if) the others get going.
I haven't been too impressed with Pleks this year. For some reason his sub-par play has been below the radar as people seem more focused on Gomez, Gionta and Cole. Tom, however, has also not lived up to the expectations that we have for him. Tonight, though, he showed some flashes of brilliance. Let's hope that in his case this slow start was ended by tonight's up-turn.
For those who remember Yan had a bad camp and maybe some bad scrimmages, but luckily he has been able to recognize when it is truly important to play well. He is slowly becoming a top defender on this team and tonight was the best. He was rewarded in this game with the most ice-time of anyone and did his very best to create chances in Florida's end. For a guy that many people wanted to be traded and saw as an 8th D-man/13th forward he has done very well. We couldn't be much worse off than we are now, but surely it would look worse if Weber weren't around.
This is not the Josh Gorges that we all remember, but tonight he was at least solid enough (in both ends I might add) to be a top-2 for us. The problem may be that we unsung his praises for a bit too long and all of a sudden expected more. There is a reason that he has been an unsung hero in the past, the reason is that we never expected much. The pressure is on him now, but when you look deep he is probably giving exactly what he should - decent 4th D-man minutes, with the occasional mistake and occasional flash of offensive power.
Peter Budaj - Game Puck
Budaj finally got a start tonight and did quite alright. He hasn't seen action in nearly a month and did decent enough considering that. He is certainly no Halak (you can rest easy, Price), but may be able to win us a few more than Auld did (although Auld did play exceptionally well as it turned out). He made some great saves, gave up some big rebounds and let in a couple of goals that 90% of goalies would have let in. He has certainly earned more starts, but I am actually more interested, at this point, in finding a goalie that can get us more wins.
The effort was there, but we hit a hot goalie at the wrong time. That, you see, is the problem with losing a lot; you will eventually lose games that you could have won. Eventually you have to be able to win games in which you played well and games in which you played badly. Right now we are doing neither. Let's face it though, this was the Florida Panthers, the goalie was Markstrom. Sure they played well, but a serious team, a team that wants to win 1 or 2 rounds in the playoffs finds ways to beat teams like this, even if they have a hot goalie. The chances were there as were the shots, but it was a lot of perimeter stuff. Sure a bounce or two our way and it is a different story, so I won't go on too much.
This could be a tough week, but could also be a week that shapes this team for the season. 2 games against Boston and one against Philly means that tonight was the easy one, the one we had to win, right? Yes and no. A win would have been nice, but at the end of the day we'll have to beat the Bostons and Phillys of this league. Wins in 2 or 3 of those games would be enough to convince me that we are fine, but more importantly should be enough to convince our players. If we have a good week the belief will grow and one would have to think that we'd be off, ready for the long haul. A losing week, however, would probably mean that change is to come. A bad 11 games to open the season is enough of an indication that something has to give. After this week we'll have 71 games to play, so if we only have 4 points in the bank we'll need to really get it going to hit that 95 (playoff safe) point plateau.