At the second intermission of the Canadiens 5-3 win in Philadelphia on Monday night, I was wondering how I could analyze the Habs performance without being overly negative.
It was, after all, only the third game of the season, so there was no reason to go overly crazy about the fact the Tomas Plekanec line looked completely lost, or that none of the Canadiens forwards ever appeared to be in the right spot, or that the team simply looked disinterested for the first 40 minutes of the game.
As it turns out, there still is no reason to harp on any of those things because the Habs came out of Philly with a 5-3 win, one they clearly did not deserve. But the standings don't reflect undeserved wins.
The victory over the team that knocked the Habs out of the playoffs last year was an important one because it showed that Carey Price will be able to steal his team some points this year. I don't care how good of a team you are, or how potent an offence you have, every team needs its goaltender to win them a game they didn't deserve every now and then, and that's what Price did Monday night.
From that spectacular glove save off Daniel Brière and Plekanec's skate to the impeccable rebound control he displayed on that 5-on-3 penalty kill late in the first, Price gave the Habs exactly what they needed: 40 minutes to wake up. I know people may look at the first two goals he gave up as being softies on shots from far out, and that's a fair point. But it's kind of like saying Gisele Bündchen isn't a great cook.
The Canadiens came out of the locker room for the third period with an entirely new look, and that goal by Roman Hamrlik really put the Flyers on their heels. A perfectly executed breakout, a very nice drop pass from Andrei Kostitsyn to Alex Kovalev, and then an exquisite saucer pass right onto Hamrlik's stick by The Artist. Tie game. If I'm Flyers coach John Stevens at that point, I'm wondering how on earth I can be tied in a game I've pretty well dominated until now.
Scottie Upshall must have been thinking that same thing when he decided, for a reason only he knows, to try and tip Mike Komisarek's harmless point shot away from Martin Biron. He tipped it away from him all right, except he sent it right into the net. I chalk that boneheaded play to the after-effects of the beauty that was scored just prior to it, so really, the fancy breakout goal was essentially worth two.
Despite the win, and despite his goal which came off a beautiful feed from Sergei Kostitsyn - who is getting better with every game - Robert Lang's performance in the faceoff circle is still an issue that needs to be addressed. This was Denis Savard's main man on the Blackhawks last year when it came to faceoffs, taking the most on the team, and he won them at a 53 per cent clip. But so far this year, including Monday's woeful 6-for-16, Lang is only winning 40.4 per cent of his draws. That simply won't cut it for him, and I don't know how much longer Guy Carbonneau will keep sending him out for important faceoffs.
On the positive side, I think Mike Komisarek played his best game of the road trip. He was involved both physically and - most important - mentally, because he didn't have any lapses in his own end like he did in each of the first two games and much of the pre-season. That's got to be an encouraging sign for Carbonneau.
I also thought Ryan O'Byrne played another sound game, and the defence in general was pretty solid in its own end. That should only get better when Francis Bouillon returns from whatever it is he hurt on his leg.
The biggest positive, however, remains Price. The Canadiens obviously can't sleepwalk through 40 minutes too often this year and hope to be successful. But I'm sure it's nice for them to know that whenever they do, they still have a chance to win because of a certain 21-year-old standing between the pipes.