Carey Price probably isn't spending much of this young season scrutinizing the morning sports report and obsessing about what Jaro Halak did the night before, unlike a lot of Habs fans. If he did, though, he'd probably be feeling pretty vindicated today.
Price was positionally sound, alert and quick aginst the team for which he grew up cheering; the team that rolled into Montreal on a six-game win streak with the league's number-one PP. For a guy who got blown out of the water in his only other game against the Canucks, and who couldn't buy a shutout if he robbed a Brinks truck last year, the win had to be sweet.
Price, of course, didn't pull it off by himself, even if he played the biggest part in the win. (And almost scored a goal, in which case he'd have negated the old saying that it's impossible for a goalie to win a game all by himself.) It's funny how the Canadiens raise their game to match a good opponent. Give them Columbus on a Tuesday night or Ottawa for the third straight Saturday and they look bored and resigned. Bring in one of the hottest teams in the west and the Habs look like they're geared up for a playoff game.
Roman Hamrlik turned the clock back ten years and played a solid, smart game on the blueline. Partner Jaro Spacek wasn't as lost as he's been since the season started. Hal Gill was at his PK-ing best and Andrei Markov finally started to look like himself again after his long layoff. Habs fans everywhere began to exhale again when they saw the General showing real signs of recovering from that surgery.
Up front, Max Lapierre showed signs of actually being alive for the first time this year, and Scott Gomez took his coach's criticism to heart and used his speed to help push the Vancouver D back in their own zone. Tomas Plekanec was godly on the PK and played his best game since coming down with the flu last week. Lars Eller had some great chances and looks ready to pop his first at any moment.
The win was satisfying for fans because it was a real team effort, and every player on the ice was important. It also dampens some of the panic that follows every bad game the team plays, but the panic, unfortunately, isn't completely banished today, even after convincingly locking up another two points. That's because both goals came from defencemen, and the top-six forwards continue to get shut out. Gomez played a better game than he has on many nights this season, but the constant shuffling of linemates designed to get him producing is handicapping the rest of the forwards. Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn were the only top-liners who could score for the first ten games. Now, with Kostitsyn moved to Gomez' line, nobody's able to pot one. It would be great (by "great," we mean "necessary") to get Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri scoring, but not at the expense of the productive Pleks/AK pairing.
Still, after a game like last night's, worries about such things are a little less urgent than they'd be if the score were reversed. It buys the team another day to work on some things and another two points' grace in the standings. It buys Carey Price a very pleasant morning, and, perhaps, a satisfied peek at the morning sports page.