I understand Bob Gainey is not someone who throws around compliments all willy-nilly, and that he is a man who chooses his words carefully.
But when he said that to describe the play of the Habs Saturday night through the first two periods and change, Gainey was in fact using it as a compliment, even though it sounds like anything but that.
In one sense, I guess you could see it as a compliment because there was no way anyone could have expected the Canadiens to be in the game against the Devils for so long. But who in their right mind would have believed at the beginning of the year that the coach of the Canadiens would be using the word "participant" in March to vaunt the effort of his team?
Gainey also finally admitted something many people have seen clearly for quite some time in explaining why his team is giving up so many shots, to the tune of being outshot in 13 of their last 14 games.
"We have some defencemen who we rely on to be good defensive defencemen who are struggling around the net," Gainey said.
He didn't mention any names, but Mike Komisarek played a shade under 19 minutes Saturday night in a game where the Habs spent over 10 minutes in the penalty box, while Roman Hamrlik played 25:24. Komisarek's ice time at 5-on-5 was the lowest among the six Canadiens defencemen, nearly four minutes less than Patrice Brisebois. That basically says it all.
The Bell Centre faithful chanting "Carbo, Carbo, Carbo" at the end had to be music to the ears of Guy Carbonneau if he was actually watching the game, which I would think he was. What he saw was a team that still has many of the same problems that were baffling him, and are still baffling his former players.
"I'm sure you guys have heard it a million times," Saku Koivu said, "but it’s still not the 60-minute consistency that we’re looking for."
Are the players simply nervous, I asked, because that's what it looks like to me when tape-to-tape passes bounce off sticks and defencemen just fling pucks aimlessly out of their own end.
Koivu paused for a moment and thought about it, but then wouldn't admit nerves are playing a role, but didn't deny it either.
"I hope not," he said. "We're in March, so you should be able to handle the pressure at this point. Maybe we're not as confident as when a team is winning and things are going our way. But when you're not confident you try to simplify your game and control the things that you can. It can happen, it can turn around real quickly, we just have to stick together and believe that we can do it."
Getting back to Brisebois, I witnessed a nice moment for him in the dressing room that I wanted to share with you. After the game had ended and Martin Brodeur had matched Patrick Roy's all-time wins record, one of his teammates flipped him the puck, further driving home the point that Brisebois' 1000th game was the tiniest of footnotes to this game.
But after he was done doing his interviews in the Habs room, talking about how he would have loved a win in the milestone game and how happy he was for his buddy Brodeur, the Bell Centre public address announcer Michel Lacroix went up to him and handed him a puck.
"This is the real game puck," Lacroix said, and received a sincere thanks from Brisebois.
I was sure I'd seen Brodeur grab the puck at the end of the game, so I asked Lacroix which puck he just gave Brisebois.
"That was the first puck," he said.
Quite a gesture on his part, knowing full well the last puck would most likely be used by someone else that night.