Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aftermath: He Shoots! He Scores!

Last night was one of those mixed-emotions kind of games. The relief that someone (anyone!) scored a goal was like the air flapping out of a too-tight balloon. Then, eleven seconds later, another goal allowed a return to normal breathing patterns that had been suspended for more than a week. In the moment, it didn't matter who scored as long as someone did. In the moments since, it has to be slightly concerning that the two goals were scored by a pinching Roman Hamrlik on his fifth whack at it, and by the workaday Mathieu Darche.

While it's great to see the Canadiens finally break the persistent goose egg that's been following them around for ten days, the fact that the expected goal scorers are still slumping isn't good. Mike Cammalleri missed a breakaway, James Wisniewski hit the post on the PP and Brian Gionta got robbed by the goalie. Some of those have to start going in, if the team is really to turn things around.

On the plus side, the team looked much, much livelier than it did on Saturday. Andrei Kostitsyn was throwing his considerable weight around effectively and he got rewarded with the empty-netter for his 20th of the year. Tomas Plekanec was skating hard, forechecking effectively and moving the puck well. Lars Eller looked good too, even if he didn't get a point to show for it. Cammalleri and Scott Gomez got assists on Hamrlik's and Darche's garbage goals, and Gionta worked his butt off. There are good signs there, but they won't mean much unless those guys start actually scoring, starting with the game tonight.

The defence looked better than it did on Saturday as well. P.K. Subban made his usual sharp, accurate outlet passes. Wisniewski was better on the breakout as well, and Hamrlik made a nice recovery from one of his least impressive games this season. If not for an errant, uncalled high stick that cut Hal Gill and jerked him out of the play, the D played well enough to support a shutout for Carey Price.

Price was his usual reliable self in goal. He reaffirmed, if there was any doubt, that the team will go as far in the playoffs as he can take it. In a way, that's a comforting thought. His play has been so consistent, we don't worry about what he's doing back there. You do have to worry a bit about how he looks in the room after games, though. Where, early in the season, Price was standing tall in post-game interviews, now he's white-faced and hollow-eyed and generally exhausted-looking. We have to hope there's a well of energy on which these guys can draw before the real season starts.

In the end, the team won a game it really had to win. That's the main thing. If it wasn't a resounding victory or one dictated by the Canadiens' best players, it's still two points after a fairly devastating losing streak. It's easy to say it was "just the Thrashers," but that team has enough weapons to hurt if the Canadiens had let it. Instead, they went out and picked up their game when they needed to. Even on a morning of mixed feelings, there's some comfort in that.


Pete said...

I have to give Atlanta's Pavalec some kudos between the pipes. Some of the guys (Cammy, Gio) were definitely robbed from appearing on the scoring summary by that guy.

Truly in the end, the harder you work, the harder you skate - the more of those 'lucky' bounces/rebounds come your way.

Lets hope the motivation carries into tonight.

dusty said...

Happy that the Habs won last night and am cautiously optimistic. The game tonight will tell us if indeed the Canadiens are on the mend or not. The team needs to play well against a desperate opponent and get at least a point or it's deja vue all over again.

My hope is that the Habs make the playoffs and don't play the Bruins. I'm sick and tired of seeing Chara, Marchand, Recchi and the rest of those posers. Let someone else stick a pin in their balloon.

MC said...

The Habs have a really balanced attack with these 4 lines. I am surprised they are not scoring more. Darche has underrated offensive skills, he is a MUCH better fit on that line than Moen. And Moen seems to be working well with Eller and AK. I would like to see JM leave the current lines together for a few games to see what happens offensively. Getting Spacek back to replace Mara would also be a lift, assuming Spacek isn't packing on the pounds.

Phil G. said...

The problem the last week has been two reasons.Pretty clear to me.First were just getting guys back.Chemistry is a funny thing...I have see in the past for many years one person can disrupt the balance of an entire line.Secondly the fact that many of the players timing was way off because of the introduction back into the lineup of injured players.Takes time to get you mojo back. Personally I believe the Habs deserve to make the playoffs with the litany of injuries they have had to deal with this year has made them a must stronger team then most believe.And most important when they play Boston it will be Habs in 5.Remember what I said. Montreal will win tonight 4-3 Goal-tending will be the difference.

Woodvid said...

I'm sorry to say, but I'd be stunned if Montreal wins tonight. It's a road game. Carolina always has our number when they really need it. And they'll be more desperate. If the Habs can't get up for a division-lead game against the Bruins on behalf of Pax, they've got no heart, and won't be up for this one. Maybe if Carolina played last night too (can't remember) the Habs'll have a chance. And maybe I'm completely wrong about all this, which I wouldn't mind at all.