Carey Price said he didn't feel good before the game against the Senators last night. That he was able to pull it together on a day when he didn't feel his best...and find a way to pitch a shutout...says his newfound maturity isn't a fleeting thing. A real professional puts personal discomfort aside and does his job despite it. Price was good, and nobody would have known he was feeling off if he hadn't admitted it after the game.
He didn't have a whole lot of work to do, though. The team played fairly tight D and allowed only 19 shots. Price got a lot of protection from odd-man rushes and really good Senators' chances. The defence, which Jacques the Knife said was last year's priority in Martin Hockey School, seems to be doing okay without Markov and with Spacek's, Hamrlik's and Gill's senior moments. The problem is, the tight team D is temporarily disguising the fact that the offence is nearly non-existent.
This team has one line out of four scoring goals. On nights, like Thursday against the Devils, when Plekanec/Kostitsyn/Cammalleri don't score, neither does anyone else. Gomez, Gionta and their revolving wingers aren't doing much of anything. The only other real scoring talent, Lars Eller, is stuck with pluggers for linemates. Making the problem worse is the complete lack of a power play.
That can't go on if the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs. Markov's return will help, but it won't fix everything. The PP needs a real shooting threat on the blueline. The second line needs a solid scoring winger, and it needs Gomez and Gionta to start putting up some points. It's still very early in the season and we know the veterans can play better than they have been. Those thoughts let us put worry about the problems aside, especially on nights when the defensive play is sound enough to help Price bring home his first shutout in nearly two years. The problems are still there, though, simmering away underneath.
Gauthier and Martin should be thinking of the offence now, and, while there's a little bit of time to wait, they should be planning what they need to do to fix those issues. Whether it's calling up Yannick Weber for the PP, or giving Pouliot more than a couple of games with Gionta and Gomez, or even letting Eller centre the second line for a few games if Gomez doesn't play better, we have to hope management has a longer-term plan.
After all, Carey Price won't have a shutout every night. There will be times when he allows five goals, and we'd better hope the Habs are able to score six. Right now, that wouldn't happen.