Well, it's really nice to see Habs fans a happier bunch this Sunday than last. And it's extra nice that the reason for today's giddiness is the elimination of the Devils from playoff contention by losing decisively to the Canadiens in their own rink. It's kind of emblematic, though, of how most fans watch a game and see only their own team.
The Canadiens won because they did a lot of things right. They skated hard and backchecked conscientiously. Mathieu Darche was the poster child for going to the net with your stick on the ice. P.K.Subban was brilliant in his puck handling and first pass. He also made a couple of very timely shot blocks that helped avoid trouble. Tomas Plekanec was brilliant on faceoffs and showed promising signs of getting his legs back. Brian Gionta drove the net, Mike Cammalleri shot everything that moved and Carey Price had his most solid road game in ages. Overall, the team was disciplined and didn't resort to the half-dozen boneheaded penalties the players take on a bad night. All of this was balm for the battered Habs-fan psyche.
Now fans, while you're wallowing in delight at a good performance, stop and think back for a minute. Think about the Devils and how they played. Right. The Devils last night were last Saturday's Canadiens. They were the ones taking the penalties and getting to the puck second. They barely pressured the Canadiens defence, and even Hal Gill had time to move the puck. Sopel and Mara, well, they looked like the third pair they are, but the Devils didn't really take advantage. Carey Price saw most of the shots against him and there were few second opportunities, other than when Price himself dropped the puck. The Devils looked like a team that just had nothing left to give after their amazing post-All Star race for the playoffs. The only goal they scored came when Gill got caught out of position and everyone else kind of chased Kovalchuk around the net. They were the team that could come up with only 21 shots in a game they needed to win to stay alive.
So when you put things in perspective, the Canadiens certainly played a strong road game and were full value for the win, but their opponent just wasn't very competitive. If the Devils had played a Bruins or Flyers-like heavy forecheck and really harassed the Mopel pairing, the Canadiens might not have gotten off so easily. If the Jersey D could have held the puck in at the blueline while the forwards were pressing, there might have been a different, or much closer, result. As it turned out, the Devils were completely flat and the Canadiens came at them with discipline and resolve. This doesn't mean the Habs' weaknesses are all gone.
I'm not trying to be a downer here, but until the Canadiens start getting some injured players back, they don't have the resources they need to compete against a good team that really wants to win. So, let's enjoy the day and the win over the hated Devils, but let's keep our hopes and expectations to reasonable levels. Of course, in the playoffs, anything can happen. We just can't expect it to, even after a good game against a fading opponent.