Last night's game was the kind of game that makes us think "if only." If only there hadn't been so many injuries. If only they could find some consistency. We get teased by what might be when we see the kind of game this team is capable of playing. It makes it tough to accept the nights when the Canadiens look like they couldn't beat the Bulldogs.
I loved last night though. I thought the defence played a truly sacrificial game; the kind in which they know a big forward like Dustin Brown is coming at them at top speed, but they take the hit to make the play. It was the kind of game in which everybody dropped to block a shot rather than let it get to the net. The entire team looked organized, purposeful and well-instructed.
The Gomez line was clicking along as though their moves were choreographed. Those three give us tantalizing hope that when Mike Cammelleri returns, we could have TWO lines that can do that. It's enough to raise foolish hopes of hockey in late April or May. In the meantime, it was great to see Plekanec get the empty netter as a reward for the hard work he did all night. His work on the PK really should make him a Selke candidate this year.
The thing that really made the difference, however, was the improved execution in the two areas that have killed the team all year: defence and the bottom two forward lines. I already talked about the heroic D, but equally important was the secondary scoring from the third line with the Moore shorthanded goal. I still don't like the second-round price for him, but he's doing his job and is better than I expected. The writing may be on the wall for Glen Metropolit. That's a shame too, because he's so happy to be a Hab and he tries so hard. But he got burned on the Kopitar goal last night and warmed the bench for most of the night.
The fourth line was actually the only weak link in the chain of events that lead to the win. Shortening the bench meant that the largely-ineffective Ben Maxwell didn't see much ice, but it also means the forwards will be that much more tired tonight in Anaheim. Lapierre, for all his issues this year, is a much more solid fourth-liner than Maxwell. I'd hope his return will mean more balanced ice time for all the lines down the stretch.
It's very tempting to dwell on the "if onlys" when we see a game like that one. With only sixteen games to go, though, there's not much point in that for us or for the team. We all have to look ahead to the next one and think, if only they can do it again.