Thursday, January 14, 2010

Amazing what support can do

I was pretty stunned to learn earlier today that Carey Price was going to get the start in goal against the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre. I just didn't see the logic of sitting Jaroslav Halak after allowing only one goal against the New Jersey Devils and stealing a point in the standings.

When Price allowed a no-look to get by him on a 2-on-1 early and then looked to be pretty deep in his crease when Steve Ott tipped one past him on the Stars' 12th shot of the game, I couldn't help but think Jacques Martin's decision to start Price might cost his team two points against a reeling team.

But Price woke up at that point, stopping all but one of the final 24 shots he faced while his teammates scored five goals on Marty Turco at the other end, one more than they had scored against the four previous goaltenders they had faced.

On a night when everyone's attention was geared towards Georges Laraque scoring his first goal in a Habs uniform and playing 7:42, his highest ice time since the Centennial game over a month ago, the most important thing to happen in this game was that the Habs won without relying 100 per cent on their goalie stealing one.

Price was pretty sharp after those first two goals and gave his team a chance to light it up at the other end, but under normal circumstances, those first two bad goals would have been enough to ensure a Habs loss. But that didn't happen.

Instead, the Canadiens rolled up their sleeves and had their offence do the heavy lifting for a change, again led by the trio of Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Benoit Pouliot with three goals between them, including two by Gionta on Montreal's only two power plays of the game.

However, I thought Tomas Plekanec had his best game of the New Year, despite being kept off the scoreboard, and it's probably no coincidence it came coming off a four-day break and also a game where he played a shade under 18 minutes. That's a far more manageable workload for him, and I think we saw a refreshed player out there compared to the sleepwalking zombie of the past two weeks.

If only Martin were able to find someone to play opposite Mike Cammalleri on that line in the Kostitsyn brothers' absence, it would make the Habs top two lines pretty formidable. As it stands, Travis Moen started the game in that spot and Maxim Lapierre finished it, but neither of those players are ideal.

Speaking of Cammalleri, it was clearly wearing on him not scoring for four games, and he did something about it. His goal reminded me of Michael Jordan's bread and butter move during his championship years, when he would post up a defender, fake a spin one way and then spin back aroound to his strong side for the shot. I don't think I've ever really seen that move in hockey, and though it took an eternity for Cammalleri to pull off, it worked. And it was pretty.

This was a good game to build off for the Habs, and an ideal way to kick off this 16-game drive toward the Olympic break. But the most important aspect of it was not that an enforcer who is watching his ancestral land lie in ruin scoring his first goal as a member of the team, it was that the team finally picked up the goalie and bailed him out for not being perfect.

If they can do that a couple more times this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple more wins.


john deere said...

The Habs have two games this weekend. If they win both it doesn't really help them but if they lose both they will be on the outside looking in. I think it's what you call the dog days of the schedule.

V said...

Not sure how two wins don't help. Would create great momentum and 4 points over Conference rivals is always helpful. Am I missing something?

john deere said...

Dog Days can also define a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress.


I was referring to the dog days of summer. Most of the teams the Canadiens are competing with for the last two playoff places are playing each other and the Habs are playing a game less than most of the other teams. When you lose one of these games it is actually hurts twice as much because the other team gains two points at the same time.