As we wait for puck drop on Game Four, a few thoughts:
-This game will decide the series. The more I think about the mental aspects of this, the more I'm convinced the momentum gained by a win tonight will propel the victor to take the whole thing. The Canadiens need to play this one like it's Game Seven, because, for them, it might just be that important.
-On the Benoit Pouliot situation: I think Pouliot's been no more or less ineffective than a guy like Ryder's been for Boston. However, with Jeff Halpern ready to come back, somebody had to sit. Unfortunately for Pouliot, he's contributed the least to the series so far. Halpern does the things the team needs to do if it hopes to win: playing sound defence, going to the net hard, winning faceoffs. Pouliot doesn't really do any of those things better than Halpern, and Halpern also puts himself in a better position to score than Pouliot does. It's too bad. Pouliot's combination of size and talent is so tantalizing, but he just can't seem to put it together with any kind of consistency. Maybe it's because he doesn't see eye-to-eye with the coaching staff, or maybe it's just a fatal flaw in his own makeup. Either way, it's disappointing to see so much unused potential.
-Pouliot may be scratched for Halpern, but David Desharnais would have been next on the list. This isn't the same sparkplug we saw earlier in the year. Maybe he's playing hurt, or maybe he's tired, or teams have just figured him out. He's doing some things well, but he's not in the crease as often as he was when he started with the Habs. Perhaps it's tied to Pouliot's drop in play. If he's going to win himself a spot for next year, though, Desharnais has to become more of a factor.
-What a change in circumstances for Carey Price! This time last year, he was opening the gate for teammates coming back to the bench while Jaro Halak owned the goal crease. Fellow Habs were talking about how Price was learning how to be a better professional and working hard during his exile. This year, Price is the one calling out teammates for a lack of professionalism before Game Three. Amazingly, the veterans are agreeing with him. Price has gone from cocky kid to respected leader in the room, and it's great to see. He's earned it.
-Lots of Habs fans are crying about P.K.Subban getting passed over for the Calder Trophy. They shouldn't, because the voters always tend to look at pure numbers rather than the intangibles like what a particular player means to his team. When it came down to it, the three guys who got nominated scored thirty goals apiece, which is pretty impressive. In the meantime, the Canadiens have a 21-year-old who's become not only his team's number-one defenceman, but played a big part in getting that team to the playoffs; something the young nominees can't claim. Subban will be a powerhouse on defence for the Canadiens for many years to come, and I wouldn't trade him for any of the guys with Calder nods. We should remember, too, that Sidney Crosby got passed over for the Calder, and he's done okay for himself.
-I don't usually agree with Jack Todd. He's too much of a bandwagon-jumper, is too harsh a critic and gives too little credit for the kinds of subtle player contributions that don't smack you in the face with their obviousness. I have to say, though, I didn't realize Scott Gomez had spent a minute and a half on the ice when the Habs were trying to tie the game the other night. I remember the Gomez missed chance right at the end and thinking if only Plekanec had that shot. Turns out he probably should have had it, but Gomez wouldn't get off the ice. It's good he wants to help the team, but if he's going to actually do it, he has to understand his limitations and let better-quality teammates do what they can. I thought Gomez was great in Game One, but not quite as good since. He'll have to pick it up and be smarter if the Habs are to advance.
-Bruins fans, en masse, are pretty horrible. I don't remember reading Habs fans wishing death on Chara when he was sick and couldn't play, but Bruins fans are posting horrible things all over the 'net about the Habs. They want Chara to do to someone else what he did to Max Pacioretty. They want Lucic to maul Gionta or Thornton to take out Subban's knees. They're a bloodthirsty bunch, and they, more than anything, make me pray the Habs put their team out of the playoffs. Again.