Well,that was a rotten way to start a brand new NHL season. There's nothing quite as galling as watching the leafs win their Stanley Cup in the first game of the season. Make no mistake, that's what it was for them. Their offence was lucky, their defence pretty rotten and their power play dormant. Giguere saved their bacon for one night, but that won't happen all year long. So, the leafs got to jump up and down and pretend they're going to make the playoffs based on their big, exciting home opener against the hated Habs. Good for them.
It was a disappointing showing for the Canadiens. Despite missing Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik (what the heck is really wrong with him, anyway?) and Mike Cammalleri (suspension looks even more stupid now), their lineup is better than Toronto's. Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez are better than most of the leaf forwards. None of them put up a point. The Canadiens' power play was a dismal 0-for-5, carrying on from where it left off in a less-than-stellar pre-season. It felt like the Habs came out strong, hitting and skating. Then, after the first goal, they deflated and sat back.
Speaking of the first goal, O'Byrne and Picard looked horrible on it, and Plekanec deserved an assist for a horrid clearing attempt that ended up on a leaf stick.
Carey Price proved once again last night he's a solid NHL goaltender. He will mostly make the saves he should be making, and he doesn't often do something egregious that costs his team. The only problem is, he rarely makes the saves he shouldn't make. So, every time the Habs' patchy defence broke down last night, it ended up in the net. It wasn't Price's fault. He did what he was supposed to do. Unfortunately, when the defence features a couple of guys who won't crack the lineup next month, he needed to do a little bit more.
Benoit Pouliot looked like a softer Andrei Kostitsyn on those nights when the latter is drifting around in a dense fog. The guy did little to cement himself a place in the top-six. It didn't look good on a night when Guillaume Latendresse went and scored the year's first goal for Minny, even.
though he put up an assist after getting bumped to the third line.
Lack of discipline permeated the Habs game as it did so often last year. Five minor penalties for lazy crimes like hooking and tripping don't help a team trying to get some flow going. On the plus side, the PK worked well.
Among the lowlights, there were certainly some bright spots. The brightest of them was Lars Eller. The kid looked aggressive and showed some nice wheels and hands. If he keeps skating like he did last night, he could be the one to bump Pouliot out of his spot next to Gomez and Gionta.
Maxim Lapierre is going to have a good year. His surgically-repaired ankle finally healed in time for last playoffs, and we saw the results of his good health in markedly improved play. If he stays healthy this season, he's going to be fast, aggressive, opportunistic and annoying. Just the way we like him.
Dustin Boyd has better hands than he gets credit for having. Most people forget he made the Canadian world junior team for a reason. Calgary rushed him and wrote him off when he didn't put up huge numbers in the NHL, but the kid has skills. If he turns out to be a late-blooming 40-point guy, the Habs will have done well.
Josh Gorges is getting better every year. He was the Habs' best defenceman last night, making calm decisions and moving the puck well in his team-high 26 minutes of ice time. If he could only shoot on the PP, he's be a star.
Last night wasn't the best game we'll see this year. It's probably also not the worst. It wasn't a great way to start the season, but the season is long and we can only hope they finish it on a lot better note.