Friday, October 2, 2009

Price hides lots of warts

So, do you want the good news or the bad?

Let's start with the good, shall we?

Carey Price looked like Carey Price again in Montreal's 4-3 overtime win in Toronto on opening night, and that is tremendous news for the Canadiens. Yes it was only one game, but if ever there was a game where Price could have let his team lose, it was this one.

But he didn't.

He stopped 43 shots, allowing three goals that he really could not be faulted on, and that is an incredibly good sign for this team. If Price is on his game the way he was Thursday night in Toronto on a consistent basis, the Canadiens could stay pretty high up on the Eastern Conference standings.

I personally thought towards the beginning of the game that Price was fighting the puck a little, especially when Mike Komisarek nearly beat him on a soft wrister from far out early in the first period of the game. can you imagine if that had gone in, considering the shooter? But Price recovered, found his game, and from the midway point of the first period onward was as solid as he gets.

Then there was Glen Metropolit, perhaps Montreal's best skater on the night, and also Mike Cammalleri pitching in two assists and almost single-handedly creating the overtime winner by Josh Gorges with an aggressive attack into the offensive zone.

But there was a lot of bad news hiding behind that banner headline good news.

First and foremost, Andrei Markov limping off the ice and then being carried into the dressing room is a whole other level of bad news for the Habs. I was at The Team 990 after the game to do my radio show after the game, and resident Habs guy Tony Marinaro apparently talked to someone on the team who said Markov had been cut by a skate, taken to a Toronto hospital and was not of the team bus to Buffalo. Not sure how severe the cut was, or even how accurate the information was, but if that's all it is then it shouldn't be anything to worry about. If it were something structural that would cost Markov a month or more, then it's quite possible it could cost the Habs a playoff spot.

That's not exaggerating folks, because Markov is that important. And missing a month in this compressed Olympic year would hurt like nobody's business.

Other than that obvious one, I saw little evidence of this fabled "puck possession" game Jacques Martin is trying to implant with this team. That meant forechecking to force errors from the defence, not sitting back and waiting for them in the neutral zone. That meant tap-to-tape passes out of the defensive zone, not blind passes and failed clearing attempts. That meant carrying the puck over the blue line, not dumping-and-chasing, or passing to space rather than a player.

To be honest, the system the Habs played in Toronto tonight reminded me more of last spring's team than some revamped unit playing with a new formula under Martin.

Yes, Hal Gill did not look great. I can hear you all panicking already. But I think he'll still be fine, as long as his minutes are controlled and once he gets comfortable with a partner that complements him well. Once he and Rob Scuderi clicked last year in Pittsburgh, they became the Pens shutdown pairing. I still think the same could happen hear, especially with a guy like Paul Mara on his right side. But for an opening game, neither Gill nor Mara will be bragging about this one.

In fact, none of the Habs should be bragging about being outshot 46-27 against a pretty sad Leafs team, and I can't imagine the congratulatory speech by Jacques Martin after the game was all that long before he pointed out everything the Habs did wrong in the game.

Thank God it was the Leafs and it was Price in goal, or else that could have gotten really ugly.


B B said...

I thought Josh Gorges' play was outstanding. Should Markov require a lengthy absence from the ice, Gorges will be more than capable to fill the void.

I was surprised at the dumb play of Komisarek. One would think our guys were the Bruins by the manner Komi attacked.

Any chance we'll see Metropolit on the 3rd line?

Paul said...

Price saved their bacon and displayed the talent that his high draft position predicted. Let us hope for a consistent display (though not a consistent 40 plus save or he'll burn out).

Komisarek looked more like "Dr. Hook" in Slap Shot than the player I watched and liked in Montreal. I chalk up his aggressive but uneven play to over-excitement. I wonder if he'll be as aggressive when the Bruins are in Toronto.

Jean Perron said it would take about 8 weeks for so many new players to gel into as structured as system as Martin's. Even he gets it right every once in a while. I agree with him. It's up to the goalies to keep the team afloat during that time but by late November, the Habs will either work as a smooth team or be a disaster (if they don't gel).

Everything, though, hinges on Markov recovering quickly. If the MVP award was truly handed out to the most valuable player to his team, rather than the most popular player in the league, Markov would be a finalist every year.

pmk said...

Sportsnet is reporting possible tendon (!) damage to markovs foot.

horrible news.