Habs Goalie: Budaj (L)
Opposition Goalie: Bryzgalov (W)
Habs goalscorers: Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Timonen, Briere (2), Read
I thought the lone goal was a beauty. My favourite aspect was the instinctual no-hesitation pass made by Lars Eller to a Plekanec on the break. So often a second of thought can diffuse an opportunity like this one. The right play through the brief window of opportunity allowed Pleks to display his talents as goalscorer one more time this season.
Lars Eller - Game Puck
I really found Eller suited to the Flyers defensive coverage. Their reliance on size was met by determination on his part and he frequently slipped his coverage to get excellent position. His early pass, had it been to Kostitsyn, or anyone but the abysmal Rene Bourque, might have been the highlight goal. There was his play of the game pass and a few more.
Desharnais didn't win the best short guy award in this contest. Neither did he make me want to turn off the TV with over the top celebration and weaselly smirk. Once again, David was on the ball in his play, often dissecting the defence with a quick and precise pass. On the puck, he is prone to bumping, but amazingly seems to end games leaving a better impression of puck protection than his much taller and heavier counterparts.
This game was a microcosm of Plekanec's season. On the whole, one would have to say he's still proficient and a positive contributor to the team. He is generally good on the PK (despite the goals that ended up going in this one). But he can trace his lack of goals this season to the fact that most of his chances seem to come now on breakaways, with few people finding him in established shooting positions, on the PP or not. I look to his return to goalscoring next year, though it probably depends on a winger transplant of fairly significant proportion.
This game wasn't a shining moment for an NHL defence. Emelin did OK in what he does. He ended up with a good number of his custom hits and frustrating the Flyers on several occasions. As he matures, he continues to show glimpses of an offensive instinct that I feel we will be thankful for when he can replace the now almost clueless Gorges on PP assignments.
The PP was not successful, but this was perhaps not Markov's fault. He is still the calm and confident QB that offers hope for something better. Yet again, he made plays that rank so high above anything that we saw before his return. Drawing the penalty on a late PP should have paid off, but for no one willing to stand in front of the net for shots on the 5-on-3 (whether it's their supposed MO or not).
Budaj was alright, but ultimately below the standard necessary to compete against a team like the Flyers. The positive aspect of this for the management and fans is that this is exactly the result we wished for when we heard Carey would rest. Budaj fulfilled the mission by allowing Briere an opening that should never have been there on goal three and sealing his team's fate in doing so. It's not often, a goalie will get kudos from me for being less than even his own best, but on a night his team was risking playing into points, he answered the call.
This is what games would have been like were it not for Hal Gill and the amazing PK this season. The Canadiens lulled into being near Flyers who fell or whose sticks needed a nudge to break would have lost games this way. The game was not as lopsided as the score indicated, but it served the goals of both teams at this point of the season. The Flyers got their points as they stretch themselves to gain home ice against either Pittsburgh or NJ. The Canadiens quietly lose another, cling onto 3rd place in their own race and erase another game in which they might have accidentally hurt their future prospects.
The question has been asked, and was examined again, whether the Canadiens can repeat the feats of the playoff eschewing Flyers from 2007. I would suggest there's a lot of ground to make up. Even if one suggests that the Canadiens stable is the equal of the Flyers youngsters back then, the Habs just never did enough at the trade deadline -- Geoffrion and some second rounders won't surpass Coburn, and the Flyers return for Forsberg that season. The reall proof will be in June and July when we watch to see if the Canadiens can match the haul of Timonen, Hartnell and Briere that Holmgren managed to really overhaul his fortunes. We accept that Markov can be the Timonen piece by virtue of return, but the Habs may still need to show grab a couple more forwards ready to produce now if the Habs hope to accomplish anything close to a Philly turnaround.
Last night was also, as it happens, the night the Habs were formally eliminated from the playoffs (so poor is the East this season). With a full bandwagon now to back the losses, it should be an interesting final 6 games. All that remains in their way are the other teams who are due to fall by the playoff wayside in short order.