The highlight reels today are going to show Carey Price making a dozen gorgeous saves to shut down the potent Flyers offence last night. He'll be there in HD, perfectly playing his angles, kicking out a pad or flashing the glove to frustrate the hottest team in the league. It's not an illusion. Price is on fire, in a zone he's not visited since sometime before the All-Star game two years ago. He's not alone, though.
Brian Gionta, last night's third star with three points, when asked about Tomas Plekanec's goal, said, "Moen went hard to the net, which a lot of people won't see." It's true. Moen might have hands like oars, but his effort gave Plekanec an option. Pleks was able to look to Moen and freeze Bobrovsky before blasting a laser by him. Moen's play on that sequence typifies the way every guy in a red sweater pushed for the win last night.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the horrible news that Andrei Markov would be out indefinitely would have meant the Habs missing the playoffs. Now, the Canadiens have a new identity that's founded in a belief that hard work can beat anyone, and every player is buying in. Remember early last year, and for many seasons before that, when the post-loss comments invariably began with "We have to play for 60 minutes?" We don't hear that anymore because the team comes out flying and continues to fly for the whole three periods. While it's true there have been a couple of stinkers this season, there's usually some explanation that doesn't involve lack of effort. The best part of this team approach is that nobody's above it. Alexandre Picard stepped in and helped fill part of the gap left by Markov on the blueline. P.K.Subban stepped up his game and filled the rest of it. We can live in fear of Plekanec or Price getting hurt, but it's becoming easier to believe that if it happened, the others would find a way to go on. They learned that lesson during last year's injury-ravaged season, and they learned it well.
This is not just a hard-working, versatile team, either. It's a talented one. With Cammalleri and Gionta coming to life on Plekanec's line, the offence is picking up, including on the power play. The PK, which is a talent in itself, is tops in the league. And, in goal, there's not a thing you can say about Carey Price that the NHL didn't say when announcing him as last week's first star. He's not just shut up his critics; he's made them some cement sneakers and dropped them off a pier.
There are weaknesses, without a doubt. Spacek and Hamrlik played 23 and 24 minutes respectively. That can't happen every night at their age, so Martin is going to have to manage their ice-time carefully and trust Subban and Picard more. That's going to be tough for a coach who prefers to let young players come along slowly, but unless Gauthier plans to bring in a horse of a veteran D, Martin will have to relax the reins on the kids.
The Habs really don't have an answer for the pushing and shoving and general dirty play the Flyers engaged in later in the third (you tool, Powe.) Lapierre just can't fight, you don't want Subban to fight and Moen can't do it all. The Habs need to add a bit of intimidation to the bottom-six. It may come in the person of Ryan White if Jeff Halpern is going to miss some time. We know it won't be Dustin Boyd. I'd never advocate hiring a goon in the modern NHL, but grit is important.
So, while there are weaknesses, they're fixable weaknesses, rather than glaring holes. In the last week, the Canadiens have answered a lot of questions about their identity and about whether last year's playoffs were a fluke. Just about every player in the lineup has contributed to the cause...even if they didn't show up in the morning highlights.