Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Bryzgalov (L)
Habs goalscorers: Weber, Kostitsyn, Pacioretty (2), Cammalleri
Opposition goalscorers: Jagr
Sometimes a very simple play can have such profound effects that it eclipses a breakaway save or a raft of highlight goals for the play of the game. In this case, I thought Erik Cole's burst of speed to try and beat Lilja in the first period was such a play. Cole was looking for a time like the only player alive out there, the team was down and in familiar territory for Fall 2011.
Had they gone into the intermission behind, the locker room break might have taken this on a different tack. Instead, with a minute or so to go in the comeback attempt, Cole tried what he had already tried earlier and burst for the open space inside. Unlike so many Habs forwards, his speed made him look likely to win the foot race when he got rubbed out and a penalty was called. This penalty turned out to be key, the Habs scored and all at once came back in this game, gained some confidence in a PP and broke from the negative mentality they had been under. It was certainly the turning point of the game and to this point, a turning point of the season.
If you can't score the next best thing is creating opportunities. Tonight Cole did that by drawing two very important penalties, playing a massive part on Weber's PP ice breaker and Cammalleri's goal. This was excellent, and among the best games we've seen from any forward this season.
Max Pacioretty - Game Puck
It's a pleasure to watch a game where the Game Puck is being contested throughout. You've read how much I appreciated Cole this evening already. Well, Pacioretty had to do a lot to wrest this award away from Erik, but he did. He did it by being dangerous nearly all the time (after the first anyway). His first goal was goalscorer stuff and his second was the kind of goal it takes to if one wants to reach 30 in this league. A power performance as he easily outshone the highly touted JVR, picked 20 spots ahead of him.
Dome, goalscorer's edition. Cammalleri pips the other forwards to the post with his dangerous play again. His goal was classic poaching and he could have had a couple more like it. What's more, did anyone catch the instances when Mike was backchecking and making good plays in his own end. If the team is going to succeed it will need leaders, and one guy that I find gets overlooked many times in this regard is Cammalleri who seems to me to be both vocal and an example for those who follow.
Weber is growing. To be fair he's grown quite a bit. He isn't yet a bull by the horns player like Subban, nor does he have that defensive end grace, but he is getting slicker and on the PP he is providing that deadly and sly shot option. As I mentioned his goal was a turning point, but the gamewinner was also vital, and he by joining the rush played a large part in that one too. An honourable mention here to Spacek as his partner who is enabling this growth as Gill has done for others. You can see Jaro's summer regime in his stride.
PK was again the maestro from the back. It bears repeating that I think some of the tings he does are being taken for granted. His quick turns in the back end often save the puck, and these alone used to win him the dome. A season on, that's just PK. Tonight, I thought he was special at times in that regard (if not always at the other end) and I was often left admiring his body control and the way he somehow controlled incoming forwards too. This was key in a game that was still within reach for either team until the 44th minute.
The 100th regular season win was well deserved and Carey had to earn his part of it. I can't say that this was his best game, but it was certainly his best lately. As usual, he made his bids for play of the game, and his save on JVR on a breakaway was as integral to this win as any goal.
Last night, I attempted to write a piece for you three times. Each time I scrapped it because it added nothing to the conversation. All I felt like doing was echoing the negativity, but judged that I didn't need to fill the room with one more depressing sermon. Tobalev and I also spoke a few hours before game time about the merits of losing another game. I suggested a win would be better, but only because I didn't trust the dismantlers to get things right.
As it turns out, I was very excited to watch a win. I'm sure most of you were. I like how this team wins and the hockey they play when they grow confident. If last game report (Pittsburgh) for me was a chore, this one has been a pleasure. I relish deciding which good play was better, which good performance outdid another. The Habs tonight not only won, I thought they asserted their case to stay in this race despite injuries and suggested to us they would continue to do it their way when possible.
I'm not fully convinced of anything yet, however. I didn't think the Flyers were very good in this game and it is but one win to 6 straight losses.
I believe the team needs to parlay this into a win tomorrow to convince themselves that they can seriously contend for anything, let alone us fans. But the things to be positive about are better in the glow of victory. Eller being a strong third line presence matters more when Desharnais and Plekanec fill their mandates, similarly the wings and D.
Tomorrow is a great opportunity to show the Bruins that no one in Montreal cares about their rings or their summer pool parties anymore. A victory would be sweet, preferably with multiple goals cleanly past Tim Thomas.