Last night's game against the Pens was one for learning lessons. Carey Price learned NHL players are overly sensitive and have their tender feelings hurt easily, and, if you're playing a sooky team twice in a week, it's probably not a good idea to ham it up after beating them the first time. Price made his victorious arms-folded statment after winning the shootout last week. Most sensible people thought Price was just having some fun after the tension of facing all those breakaways; no harm done. The Pens, however, didn't like it and gloried in piling in the goals on a sub-par Price last night. Lesson: don't rub it in, Carey, or it will come back to bite you in the ass.
Benoit Pouliot learned the difference between hero and goat in the NHL is similar to the difference between taupe and beige. Less than 24 hours after a brilliant first-star performance against the Rangers, including potting the winning goal, he took three stupid minors last night. The Pens scored on two of them. It's all part of the development of a young player, but it's frustrating to watch. Lesson: keep your stick on the ice, kid, and don't stop skating.
David Desharnais learned dreams do come true. The 24-year-old rookie scored his first NHL goal on a lovely tip from the slip, and he just glowed with happiness afterwards. It was the highlight moment of a forgettable game. Lesson: hard work and belief in oneself can overcome physical barriers to achieving ones goal.
Jacques Martin learned a team playing his way, that doesn't score many goals, can't take a half dozen lazy, thoughtless penalties or have sub-par goaltending. The result will be what happened last night. Martin has learned this lesson before and it didn't stick, so those of us hoping he'll change "The System" to allow more aggression by the forwards are probably hoping in vain. You can't really blame him. If Spacek and Gill struggle NOW, imagine how they'd suffer if the forwards were busy forechecking and giving up odd-man rushes instead of dropping back to help out? The sad truth is Martin isn't stupid...he just doesn't have the horses on defence to allow a more open game. Certainly, he'd like to see his forwards score more, but the trade-off on defence would be too costly. As a result, the Habs have to play disciplined hockey and they need stellar goaltending to succeed. When they don't get those, they tend to suck. Lesson: when your team is limited, you do what you have to do and try to ignore the criticism even when it bombs on you.
The whole team learned there's very little separating a playoff team from early golfers. The league is all about parity, which means the slightest advantage, like playing the night before and travelling late while the other team rests, can make a big difference. The lesson here should be when they're the one with the slight advantage, they have to take advantage of it. There will be games like last night when things just aren't working. When conditions are better, they can't give wins away. Lesson: no excuses for losing really matter...just the results.
And we fans (or at least some of us) learned Marc-Andre Fleury is kind of a tool. Here's a guy who's waiting for the clock to run out on a blowout, and chooses to mock Price and the Habs by throwing Price's gesture back at him. Price reacted to an emotional shootout win on the spur of the moment. Fleury waited and planned to make fun of the team he just beat. That was petty of him. It was also stupid, bordering on embarrassing, considering it was the first time he managed to beat the Habs since getting eliminated by them last playoffs. Not to mention, unoriginal. Lesson: Crosby's not the only sook on the Pens.
In the end, that was a game to file away under "sucked" and move on. The pressure's on to come back strong against the Rangers on Saturday because if there's one thing we and the Habs have learned in the last few years, it's that nothing matters except securing a playoff spot. To do that, a team has to be consistent, and that means learning not to fall into bad habits after a game like last night. That's the most important lesson of all.