Opponent: Red Wings
Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Howard (L)
Habs goalscorers: Bourque, Emelin, Desharnais (2), Plekanec, Pacioretty, Cole
Opposition goalscorers: Hudler (2)
It's rare I'll ever say this, but this game was full of plays worthy of this spot. The Habs completely and utterly dominated when the game was on the line and then forced home the issue after that. The play I ended up selecting was the one I was sure would be the play to describe right from when it happened. The first goal came early and set the tone for what was to come. Gomez got the puck from his all-star teammate (Diaz) and proceeded to take it from goal line to goal line. He was flying by his own blueline and found his way easily around two defenders. Thanks to the wonder of replay, we also got to see what Rene Bourque was doing as this was happening. pacing Gomez to the blueline, he had to put on an amazing burst to make the distance by the time any pass came. He did and ended up scoring a scruffy, but important goal. Why the play of the game? Because the play demonstrates the depth that is there, and how matching players properly makes that depth a factor.
What can we say that hasn't already been said. He put in a signature effort and game and came out with three points. The all-star of the half season is getting a well-deserved rest instead of making his way to Ottawa. We'll miss his power moves if we watch the game.
David Desharnais - Game Puck
After he dominated the ECHL playoffs to pop up on our radar, I doubt we'd ever consider that the words "commanded the game" would fit his effort against the Red Wings. By his effort, by his vision and by his quick execution he confused the Red Wings leaderless defenders and did indeed command the offensive zone whenever he was in it. I thought the Habs were only continuing the press in the third to get him his goal. That says a lot about how his teammates feel about David.
Speaking of command, was there an ES shift that Eller and Kostitsyn did not hem in their opponents? The pair were outstanding at keeping the momentum going, and of course chipping in on the Emelin goal. I give the edge in the end to Kostitsyn who didn't take the penalty and continues to show determination and discipline this past little while.
Like Cole, he doesn't need much introduction. he put in a good Gorges-like effort and quited player like Zetterberg and Datsyuk all night. The forwards ran the show tonight, but they could do so because their defending colleagues showed the way early. Gorges as their leader did very well again.
The guy was on for 7 goals! OK, 2 were against, but let's not dwell on that. Things happen when Alexei is on the ice because he tends to instigate. Tonight was the first career goal and probably the first game where his shots were more memorable than his hits (and more numerous). I think he showed Montreal management a few things. Heck, I think the whole NHL (on break and perhaps watching) saw a lot on display from number 74.
You could tell he wanted to join in the fun up front. At the very least, he wanted to grab some spotlight for himself, perhaps with a shutout. It didn't happen, but he played well. His steadiness early on and on the PK were a big help to setting the stage for an offensive explosion. He made sure we didn't have to watch a very different team -- the Red Wings with a lead.
I thought the Habs were the most efficient as team killers as I've seen in recent memory. The tone set in the first was that of a diligent penalty kill all over the ice. For once the Canadiens exercised the determination on display in shorthanded situations to control the puck, not just shepherd it. It paid too, because before a period was killed off, so was the game.
Perhaps even more encouraging was that each subsequent goal came as the result of continued pressure as opposed to satisfied puck concession.
Is this Cunneyworth hockey? Maybe. Perhaps the system that is so drastically different from that of Martin's permanent passive box just took a while to be taken up by players, and then executed with any demonstrable success.
One thing we know is that discipline will be important, and priority of team over self. We know this because Cunneyworth and Ladouceur benched PK Subban throughout a period after his errant elbow followed a $2500 fine. This my friends is a simple but effective coaching method. Ice time as reward. Ice time on merit. The opportunity was there in the circumstance. Will the method remain when PK's skills are required more urgently? We'll have to see. I think I like their approach, however, as Subban seems to get these messages. Rather than sulk, he looked more eager than anyone to hit the ice after 40 minutes and played with a renewed commitment to team cause.
So. 5 points in 3 games and here we are at the All-Star break? Not ideal to be carrying less in the Pts column than in the GP at this point. But in a very strange year (teams close at 8th and no one counted out) who knows what may happen. The Habs aren't in the position they imagined they would be in, yet it's not as dire as it could be. The schedule from next week tightens and important games come thick and fast. It should be a very interesting month going into decision points and trade deadlines.
Until then relish a couple of big wins. Enjoy some All-Star fluff. Speak soon.
Go Habs Go.