The defence tightened up, the breakout improved, the offence began to produce.
The result, eventually, was a four-game winning streak, albeit at home against some pretty weak competition. But a four-game win streak is still nothing to sneeze at.
So, what will be the effect of this 6-1 beat down at the hands of the Stanley Cup champs?
Well, there are few areas the Habs can definitely show improvement, and I'm not talking about this game, because frankly, that was a pretty predictable loss.
The Habs have allowed 12 power plays over the past two games and given up four goals. They allowed 14 power plays over the previous four games, allowing one 5-on-3 goal. Sometimes, and this game was a perfect example, taking a penalty can cost your team even if it is killed off, because what it does is either kill your momentum or increase that of the opponent.
I think we saw that when Hal Gill took a pretty boneheaded delay of game penalty right before the end of the first period. It allowed the Pens to start the second on a power play, putting the Habs on their heels, and they never really recovered. Jacques Martin said yesterday that the one area he'd like to see his team improve is special teams, but I would have mentioned discipline as well.
It would be hard for me, or the coach, to call out any individual players for performing poorly after such a collective non-effort, but the group of defencemen in general were over-matched tonight. Of course, when you're facing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin every second shift, that's to be expected.
The Habs shouldn't hang their heads because that wouldn't be very constructive. Instead, they got another opportunity to see what happens when the system is ignored for a night, because this team really has little margin for error, at least when it's not playing the Islanders.
Now for the big question, which is the starting goalie Friday night in Chicago. Jaroslav Halak wasn't horrible in allowing four goals on 23 shots, but he wasn't outstanding either. As great as Crosby's first of the night was, Halak was actually over there in time and just whiffed on it. Crosby's second goal was just a great play by him that I don't think any goalie on earth would have stopped, and Halak had some bad luck on the third one with Crosby in alone.
So, the natural assumption is that Carey Price gets the start in Chicago, and I can't really argue with it except to say that the Habs play Toronto at home the next night. I don't know if teams actually think this way, or even if they should, but shouldn't Martin be focusing his attention on winning Saturday night's game? If Price plays Friday and shuts out the 'Hawks, can you bring him back against the Leafs a night later? If he starts Halak on Friday and saves Price for the Leafs, does Martin drive a further stake into the heart of his franchise goalie?
Chances are Price gets the call Friday night, but I just don't think it's as much of a slam dunk decision as many may think it is.