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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Canadiens-Penguins: Habs Win Battle of Battered Teams

Recently, Stu Hackel pointed out that Pittsburgh and Montreal sit respectively first and third in man games lost to injury this year.

With the skill and compete level on display Tuesday night, one would have never guessed each team was missing so many key pieces.

An exciting, back-and-forth affair, the Canadiens would eventually win the game thanks to a Tomas Plekanec goal in the eighth round of a shootout.

Rene Bourque and Lars Eller also scored in the tie-breaker.

It was only the Habs' second win this season in the skills competition and undoubtedly a much needed boost to the team's collective confidence.

Final Score: Canadiens 3 - Penguins 2 (SO)

Game Notes

Louis Louis
- Between his NCAA and QMJHL career, Louis Leblanc accumulated 81 points in 82 games. Good numbers, but not earth shattering, especially considering the offensive nature of the Quebec League.

Yet, watching him compete at the NHL level, you would expect him to have produced twice that over his junior career. 

His effort is relentless, he is physical and knows how to get into prime scoring areas, as illustrated by his goal tonight.

So far, he is definitely living up to his billing as a first round pick.

Hot Play - It was nice to see Tomas Plekanec and Carey Price's hot play carry over from Sunday's game.

Too often this season, players have disappeared after putting up excellent showings the previous game.

This time, though, the Czech centre was clearly the team's best forward. Plekanec obtained innumerable chances shorthanded and sealed the game with a clever shootout goal.

Meanwhile, Carey Price was again sensational, stopping 32 of 34 Penguins shots and finally getting a much needed win in the shootout.

Mind you, he had help from his posts and from P.K Subban, who dove to block a shot after Price was caught out of his net.

But, as the saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky. And Price is good.

Oops! - Lars Eller scored one of the oddest goals of the season.

Coming along the near boards, he faked a dump in and instead shot the puck on net. His shot then hit the post, went off Marc-Andre Fleury's back and into the goal.

Fleury has proven he can win big games, but boy does he have a rich history of goofy goals, dating all the way back to his infamous World Juniors poke check.

Pittsburgh Needs Wingers - The Penguins are clearly an excellent team. The fact they have survived, even thrived, in spite of injuries to key players such as Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Kris Letang is testament to that.

But this team is starved for wingers.

James Neal is a stud, but after that there is a rather precipitous drop in quality.

Chris Kunitz, Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis are all on track for over 50 points, but a quick look at their playoff numbers demonstrates that neither of them are post-season stars.

Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and Richard Park are certainly not going to provide the bulk of the scoring come spring time.

As good as Pittsburgh is up the middle, their wingers are a weakness that could lead to their demise. Two years ago, Montreal proved that even a group of the world's most talented centres could be contained and defeated. 

Without a significant upgrade on the wings, another team may prove it again this year.

Darche in OT? - Clearly, Randy Cunnneyworth can do no wrong in the eyes of many in the blogosphere.

Many appreciate his more aggressive style and his more extensive use of youngsters. A lot of people are willing to forgive his less than stellar record since taking over, especially since he was clearly put in a no-win situation.

Regardless, I still don't much care for his dismal win-loss record.

Nor do I particularly love three-goal scorer Mathieu Darche playing 2:21 in overtime.

I understand he brings a consistent level of energy and effort, but when the game hangs on the result of a single shot, perhaps he is not the wisest choice.

This is the kind of thing that bloggers and the Twitter-verse would certainly hammer Jacques Martin about.

Randy Cunneyworth should be called out too. 

---
Louis is an Associate Editor at HabsAddict.com and an Editor at HabsWorld.net. Born in Chicago, Louis grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval.

He currently resides in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. Find him on twitter @LouisMoustakas

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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