Saturday, April 11, 2009

Keeping up appearances

I don't think anyone could accuse the Montreal Canadiens of tanking their final game of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, because the guys wearing the CH did try to win.

But honestly, only the Canadiens top lineup was going to win this game, and with Saku Koivu spending parts of the game on a line with Georges Laraque and Gregory Stewart I think the message was sent loud and clear that a victory was not vital in this one.

Still, the Habs played a pretty decent game despite being outshot 34-13 through two periods, and they had every chance to win it until allowing two shorthanded goals on the same power play in the third period.

Number one disappointment? Tomas Plekanec's line with Andrei Kostitsyn and Matt D'Agostini, who failed to leave a lasting impression that they will be the least bit effective when the playoffs begin in Boston next week. Kostitsyn had a couple of chances and Plekanec once again tried his hardest, but those two just look like they have no clue right now, and I have a hard time believing they're going to suddenly get it over the coming days.

But otherwise there were some encouraging signs, starting with Carey Price. He looked shaky to start the game, giving up two straight softy rebounds in the opening minute of the game, with the second one pounded in by Evgeni Malkin from the doorstep.

But he made up for it in a big way by keeping the Penguins at bay until that fateful power play in the third, including too incredible glove saves on Matt Cooke and Bill Guerin in the final two minutes of the second period that are sure to make the late-night highlight reels. Yes, he shouldn't have allowed the third goal, but I think he had a pretty solid night overall.

I also thought Yannick Weber had a pretty good audition on defence, and even though the intensity Saturday night was nowhere near playoff levels (despite Pittsburgh playing for the chance to host a first round series) I think Weber proved something by holding his own defensively.

But the important thing to come out of this game for the Habs was that no one got hurt, and now everyone can look forward to the 32nd playoff meeting between the Bruins and Habs. Based on what we saw Thursday night in Boston, it should be riveting drama and while the Canadiens are definitely underdogs, I wouldn't necessarily bet the house on the Bruins.

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