by Kamal Panesar
The reality is that while it is always great to see your team win, a preseason victory means about as much as a preseason loss, which is to say not very much. But it is still good practice!
Last night, as the Canadiens cut 16-plus players from their roster, the lineup started to look a little more like what we will see once the regular season starts.
As the Canadiens dominated play for large stretches of the evening, their speed and youthful exuberance were on display and their young guns continued to impress.
A few fights, a lot of hits, and a high level of intensity made for an enjoyable event for all.
If this is the pace of preseason, I can't wait to see the intensity that the regular season brings!
Special teams were the story of the night as the Canadiens scored one shorthanded goal but failed to convert on any of their eight PP chances—including going oh-fer in a couple of minutes of 5-on-3 time.
Andrei Markov can't come back soon enough!
Final Score: Habs 6 - Panthers 2
Canadiens’ scorers: Jaroslav Spacek (1), Tomas Plekanec (3, 4), Tom Pyatt (1), Ryan White (2), Michael Cammalleri (1).
Panthers' scorers: David Booth (3), Stephan Weiss (2).
1. Carey Price stood his ground.
Price looked confident and calm in the net last night but didn't need to be the savior.
Despite his relatively easy workload—Price face 21 shots total—he was called upon to make several difficult saves and made them look relatively easy with his strong lateral movement.
It was also nice to see that the crowd was behind Carey last night, as we heard chants of "Ca-rey! Ca-rey!" after each of the Panthers' goals—rather than the boos of game one.
Perhaps all the talk about the booing has/will cause a backlash against booing.
We can only hope!
2. White should be on this team.
Ryan White continued to show why he has a place on this team, last night. He was again one of the most aggressive players in the bottom-six, and his energy seemed to rub off on those around him.
White scored another goal last night—his second of the preseason—and rang the puck off of the post on another occasion. More importantly, White continued to be a plus player as he was plus-2 for the night—a stat that will undoubtedly please defensive-minded Coach Martin.
White continues to be the standout of training camp and must be on this team come October. The problem is that the Canadiens foolishly resigned Mathieu Darche to a one-year, one-way contract this summer. That means that the team has to pay him his full salary whether he plays in the NHL or the AHL.
As such, and given Martin's seeming love for the lead-footed Darche, there is a chance the White will get squeezed out of the lineup.
I, personally, would love to see White on the team and Darche put on waivers after training camp, but I somehow thing the latter is unlikely.
They have to find place for him somehow, and maybe a player like Jeff Halpern becomes a casualty instead.
Time will tell.
3. Lars Eller is going to be a big-time player.
Playing on a line with Plekanec and Cammalleri last night, Eller did not look at all out of place.
He uses his 6'1", 200 pound frame effectively to dig the puck out of the corners, to cause havoc in front of the goaltenders, and to add a physical dimension to whatever line he plays on.
It seems unlikely that Eller will start the season as a top-6 winger as he is more likely to be the third line center. That being said, Martin is wisely getting a look at what he can do on the wing just in case things don't work out with Benoit Pouliot and/or Andrei Kostitsyn.
Don't be surprised to see Eller move up the depth charts over the course of the season.
Once he gets settled in with some consistent linemates, watch for good things from this young player. I think the fans are going to love this kid by the end of the season.
4. Plekanec is a man-possessed.
How many times have you seen a player have a career year, sign a big-time contract, and then fail to deliver?
In the modern inflation-based salary-cap era, it seems like that kind of thing is happening more and more frequently.
Not with Plekanec, though.
Tomas seems to be picking up where he left off last year as he one of the best players on the ice, night in and night out.
Last night was no different, as he scored a beautiful short handed breakaway goal, was dangerous every time he was on the PK, and was the offensive catalyst on the team's top line.
No, Plekanec is not wilting under the pressure of his $6-million contract. Rather, he is rising to the challenge and showing that he is the real deal.
With the addition of players like Halpern—who can eat up PK minutes and win faceoffs—and a strong contingent of young, tough players, I expect Plekanec to score in the 65-plus point range this season, and to challenge for the Selke Trophy as one of the best two-way forwards league.
After making five more cuts this morning, the Canadiens are getting closer and closer to their opening day lineup.
The Canadiens now have two days off before playing their final preseason game on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Things are getting tight and the fights for roster spots are getting more and more complicated.
Tune in to see how it all plays out.
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)