The main reason I didn't think Price was the right candidate to start that game was that I figured the Sharks would be all over the Habs from the get go, and that there was no point ripping to shreds the seemingly fragile confidence of a young goalie so soon after a performance that was so promising in Boston. I also figured Halak gave the Habs a better chance to win.
Turns out I was wrong. Blatantly so.
Price turned back the clock last night to that rookie goalie Montreal was so enamoured with, the one that made near impossible saves look downright easy, the one that rarely, if ever, looked the least bit rattled, the one that looked to be the Canadiens franchise player for years to come.
I don't want to make too much out of one game, but Price's performance is a great sign for the Habs going forward into the final 17 games of the regular season because he nearly stole a win against a far superior team. Yes, I know, he didn't steal the win, and ultimately that's what counts in the standings. But I think that's a game Price can build on.
Having said that, I would still come back with Halak on Saturday night in L.A., only because he has to play one of the two games on the weekend. I don't think Halak is a very happy camper after having to fly clear across the country to sit on the bench in Boston only to fly back again a few days later, and I see no reason to have him sit three games in a row. But if Martin decides to keep the momentum going with Price, I wouldn't be stunned either. How's that for a flip-flop?
I also don't want to put the tight nature of last night's game solely on Price, because for a second game in a row the Habs played a great team game. Yes, they gave up a ton of scoring chances. Yes, the Sharks attempted 34 more shots than the Canadiens did. So there was a lot not to like about how the Habs played in front of Price. But what I did like was that they competed in a game where they had no business being competitive, and they did it for a second straight game. I particularly liked Hal Gill, solid defensively, blocking a game-high five shots and being an all-around stabilizing factor in the Habs end. It was indicative of the compete level for nearly everyone on the team, and that bodes very well for this final stretch of 17 games.
Speaking of which, the Canadiens find themselves outside of the playoffs as we speak, in a three-way tie for eighth spot but with the fewest games remaining of those three teams. With 17 games left, the Canadiens don't have too many left against the teams they are competing with for a playoff spot. They play Tampa next Tuesday, Boston next Saturday, the Rangers on March 16 and Philadelphia on April 2. I'm not counting Florida or the Islanders as playoff competitors, but that can change by the time Montreal plays them on March 25 and April 6, respectively.
Looking at the schedule, I'd say the Habs have to win 12 of their final 17 games to make the playoffs, which jives perfectly with what Josh Gorges said during the Olympic break that they should be aiming to win two out of every three games. If the Canadiens manage to beat the Kings on Saturday, they'll be on pace. But it's a tall order, one that the return of Mike Cammalleri sometime in the next 10 days should help to fill.
In closing, I leave you with this hit by Maxim Lapierre on Scott Nichol, one that nearly made TSN's Ray Ferraro vomit. I agree the play was dirty and he deserves to be suspended, and definitely deserved a penalty. Though I'm not sure if Ferraro looked at the play objectively. He clearly has issues with Lapierre, and that was the source of his discontent.