Sunday, November 21, 2010
10:24 AM Kamal Panesar 6 comments
After a rousing montage and a moment of silence for the departed, the puck dropped in a charged building.
The Canadiens took the play to the Leafs, outshooting them 17-10 in a scoreless first period that saw Toronto's netminder tested on several occasions. Jonas Gustavsson played well for the Leafs but most of the 39 shots he faced were first chances, as the Toronto defenders did a good job of clearing rebounds.
Offensively, the Leafs weren't able to muster much push back, but when they did Carey Price was there to shut the door.
The Canadiens opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Jeff Halpern at 9:17 of the second period. The Canadiens' fast forecheck and smooth transition game allowed them to tilt the ice towards the Leafs end for the rest of the game.
The Habs outshot the Leafs 39-30, won 35 faceoffs to the Leafs' 18, and beat them 2-0 on the scoreboard thanks to a Michael Cammalleri one-knee special on the power play.
While the game was entertaining it wasn't your typical, rough and tumble Habs/Leafs game. Only four penalties were assessed all game and the Canadiens sole power play came at the 5:53 mark of the third period.
Final Score: Habs 2 - Leafs 0
Habs' scorers: Jeff Halpern (5), Michael Cammalleri (6)
Leafs' scorers: None
Three Stars: 1. Carey Price, 2. Jeff Halpern, 3. Michael Cammalleri
1. Price is playing inspired hockey.
Price was delivered a message by Pat Burns via Kirk Muller prior to the beginning of the season. While he refused to divulge the substance of what was said to him, it surely served as an inspiration to the young goaltender last night.
With the 2-0 win, Price now has three shutouts in his last six games and is tied with Boston's Tim Thomas for first overall, with four.
Price also boasts a 2.00 GAA (fourth overall), a .932 save percentage (sixth overall), and 12 wins in 19 games (tied for first with the Caps' Michael Neuvirth).
Is anyone still talking about Jaroslav Halak?
I didn't think so.
2. Lars Eller continued his strong play.
For the second game in a row, Lars Eller was one of the more effective forward for the Canadiens. Eller is clearly a skilled playmaker but he is not playing with players who can complement his talent level, and is still not getting any power play time.
Last night, defenseman Yannick Weber was inserted into the lineup and hard-working Mathieu Darche was a healthy scratch. Instead of playing as the seventh defenseman, Coach Martin had Weber as a winger on Eller's line. This made a fourth line of Weber, Eller and Tom Pyatt.
Really? Pyatt and Weber as his wingers? Zero minutes on the power play, and seven seconds of shorthanded ice time? Ya, that should get his confidence going in no time.
3. Speaking of Weber, he didn't look completely comfortable.
While Weber made the most of his 8:13 of ice time, you could see that he wasn't comfortable playing as a forward. I guess the thinking was that Weber would play on the power play as well as on the fourth line. That plan was foiled as the Habs only had one power play opportunity all game.
Maybe next match Weber will get more than 48 seconds on the pp. That being said, I am not a fan of putting players in positions they are not comfortable with. I would much rather see Weber as a seventh defenseman than playing on Eller's wing.
There is something to be said about putting young players in a position to succeed and, playing Weber on the fourth line, is not the best way to get him involved in the game.
4. P.K. Subban had a momentary lapse of reason.
I am not sure if Mike Richards' rant about Subban got in his head or not, but P.K. seemed to be running around a bit at the beginning of the game. As has become customary when Subban is playing that way, his play calmed down over the second and third periods after the coaching staff likely spoke to him about it. During the first, however, it was like he was going out of his way to be physical.
Early in the game he left his position at center ice to skate into the Leafs zone for a body check. The check was an afterthought to the play, which was turning up ice into the Habs' zone. But P.K. seemed oblivious almost like he was trying to prove something.
Fortunately, the forward on the play came back to cover for him.
Monday night is the big rematch against the Flyers, in Philadelphia, and it will be interesting to see how Subban responds. The Canadiens need him to focus on his game and not get caught up in the drama unnecessarily. Hopefully they will speak to him about it before the game, because with a team as talented as the Flyers, Subban can't afford to be running around on the ice.
5. It was Michael Cammalleri's turn to get the hot potato.
Cammalleri was playing on the second line with Scott Gomez and Travis Moen and, to be honest, he didn't look that happy about it. Watching him return to the bench, shift after shift, he seemed frustrated and uneasy.
And how could you blame him?
Cammalleri has had success with the Canadiens by being paired with Tomas Plekanec. Last night, however, Andrei Kostitsyn was boosted back up to the first line with Cammy getting the bump down to the struggling Gomez line.
I don't quite get the logic behind placing your $6 million, top sniper, on a line with a center who has been firing blanks all season. I understand that Martin is trying to find a combination to get Gomez going, but I think that when the problem is clearly the centerman, maybe it is time to demote him rather than other players who are playing well.
How long a leash is Gomez going to get?
Fortunately, Cammalleri scored a power play marker by picking off an errant Mike Komisarek pass to make it 2-0. Aside from that goal on the power play, his line didn't produce a lot though.
Tune in Monday to see who the next lottery loser is in the "let's try to get Scott Gomez going" game.
Standings and Next Game
The win move the Canadiens' record to 13-6-1 with 27 points in the standings. The victory also allows them to maintain a three point buffer over the Boston Bruins who have two games in hand.
The Canadiens have the day off before flying to Philadelphia for the much anticipated grudge match on Monday evening.
They say that you don't really have a sense of what type of team you have until around the 20-game mark of the season. Well, last night was the Habs 20th game of the season and while the wheels could theoretically fall off at any point, so far, they seem like the real deal.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)