It was a very good night for the Montreal Canadiens. As long as the 4th line was not on the ice. Habs 4th line of Ryan White - George Parros - Mike Blundedn was beyond ugly. They were a combined -9 in just 15:05 of equal strength ice time. That's hard to do. Look at it this way - you'll be able to say you watched the only game these guys ever played together.
Montreal - November 2, 2013 - It was a very good night for the Canadiens. As long as the 4th line was not on the ice.
- Andrei Markov. More than made up for a couple of defensive gaffes - including allowing Jason Pominville to slip behind him for a breakaway goal - by assisting on all three Montreal goals. Just missed scoring as well when he cranked a shot off the crossbar. As GM Marc Bergevin defines his corp group of players going forward (and right now on the blue line that would be P.K. Subban, Alexei Emelin, Josh Gorges and Jarred Tinordi.) where does that leave Markov? The 35 year old vet is moving a lot better than he did a year ago. Yes it's early. And the Olympics, with Markov a fixture on defense for the host nation, is still 98 days away. So a lot can happen. But unless there's a complete collapse ahead Bergevin has just two options. Resign him. Or trade him out west. Announcing the signing of Emelin as early as they did would lead you to believe they want Markov beyond this season. But at what price (term)?
- P.K. Subban. Defensive deficiencies aside (whatever they might be are they hurting the Habs more than he helps them?) Subban has mastered the shot from the blue line. After a season or so of wayward blasts over and around the net Subban now hits the net with precision. Almost every time. Nobody in the NHL does it better. Led all players with seven shots on goal. Tied with Erik Karlsson for the scoring lead among NHL defenseman. In the words of Pierre McGuire on Thursday "If P.K. Subban is the leading scorer among NHL defenseman and he's not on Team Canada that would be a joke."
- Brendan Gallagher. Good night for his trio again but Gallagher really stood out earning his 6th goal of the season buy doing what he does best - going hard to the net. Almost unstoppable.
- Brian Gionta. Led all forwards with 5 shots on goal. Perfect re-direct of a Markov shot tied the game midway through the third giving Montreal the opportunity to head to Denver with at least a point. Continues to flash the best hand-eye coordination of any Montreal player since Steve Shutt. Looks younger without his facial hair (Don't we all?)
- Tomas Plekanec. Not quite as strong as his last couple of games. Really thought he had the game tying goal on his stick deep in Minnesota territory with time running out against a very weary group of Wild players. But shooting through the legs of a Minnesota defenseman Plekanec missed the net.
- Louis Leblanc. Continues to work hard. Has seen his ice time increase in each of his three games (10:16, 14:39, 16:23). More on Leblanc below.
- The Habs' fathers and some sons in their own section. That was cool.
- Brian Wilde's blog on Subban: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/the-curious-case-of-p-k-subban-1.1524316
- Michel Therrien. I realize his former assistant coach in Pittsburgh - Mike Yeo - had last change at home. But you can't allow Minnesota to ice it's top line while your 4th line was struggling as it was. It takes a lot of hard work and focus to get away from match ups. It's about attention to detail. Therrien simply didn't work hard enough to get his worst players away from Minnesota's best.
-Francis Bouillon. So good against Dallas at Bell Centre Bouillon looked his age again. Allowed Pominville - Minnesota's top goal scorer - to sneak in behind him to score the winning goal with just 5:28 to play.
- David Desharnais. It's gotten so bad that Desharnais is now literally passing up Grade A scoring chances. Early on, alone in the slot with the puck and a clear shot at Minnesota goalie Josh Harding, Deshnarnais inexplicably passed it back to the blue line while at the same time allowing the Wild to recover defensively. Late in the game with the score tied at three and on what looked like a promising rush Desharnais fanned on a shot. Less than three minutes later the tie was broken. He ended up with no shots on goal. And won only 41% of his face offs. Last chance for Desharnais to remain with the Habs might be the return of his LW pal Max Pacioretty to the line up in Denver. And if that doesn't work - how much longer does he get? When Daniel Briere is ready to return he can easily slide into Desharnais's slot. Sit $3.5 million in the press box? No. Next stop - Hamilton. Which might actually be the best case scenario for all involved. Desharnais needs to get out of the pressure cooker. Let him breathe again in the AHL. And if Bulldogs assistant coach Stephane Lebeau can make a difference with a player like Leblanc (as Louis stated upon his return to Montreal) maybe he can work some magic with Desharnais and help the little guy get his game back. And then after a stretch of piling up some points down there he might be ready to return and do more than just eat up minutes. Or maybe somebody else notices and decides that the risk of picking up his contract is worth the possibility he might actually be able to revive his NHL career.
- Habs 4th line of Ryan White - George Parros - Mike Blundedn was beyond ugly. They were a combined -9 in just 15:05 of equal strength ice time. That's hard to do. Parros didn't look out of place on opening night against the Leafs before he went down. But to say he looked rusty is like saying Rob Ford is carrying a few extra pounds. White blindly gave the puck away a couple of times including a neutral zone turnover that led to Pominville's first goal of the night. Yeah it was ugly. But look at it this way - you'll be able to say you watched the only game these guys ever played together.
Mitch Melnick is the host of Melnick in the Afternoon on TSN 690 - Montreal's Sports Authority. Mitch also has his own website at MitchMelnick.com where you can find his blog, music links, upcoming events, neat photos and more. Listen Live to Melnick - weekdays from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. If you have questions or wish to contact Mitch, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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