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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Canadiens are making a habit of coming out flying in their own building
TSN 690 and MitchMelnick.com
There was a giddiness to the crowd at the Bell Centre which seemed apropos with so many kids in the seats, so many impressive young players on the Habs roster and a second period explosion that sent Buffalo SabresRyan Miller to the bench for the first time in nearly 40 career starts against the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal - February 3, 2013 - There was a giddiness to the crowd at the Bell Centre which seemed apropos with so many kids in the seats, so many impressive young players on the Habs roster and a second period explosion that sent Ryan Miller to the bench for the first time in nearly 40 career starts against the Habs.
The Canadiens are making a habit of coming out flying in their own building, a welcome change from a season ago. Yes, they were up against a Buffalo Sabres team that seemed to leave a lot of it's emotion in Boston but it was even more important for the Canadiens to rebound from their first sub par performance of the season Wednesday night in Ottawa. Two players who's immediate future in the line up seemed to be in doubt responded with their best games since last season. A third player on the bubble, Tomas Kaberle, hit the scoresheet but played under 7:30 including barely a minute in the third period. Or more than your typical 7th defenseman who might be dressed for a game.
With everybody now healthy it appears this edition of the Canadiens is deeper than many originally thought. It now appears there is going to be at least a couple of good NHL players sitting out every game.
Lars Eller. Out of the doghouse. At least until his next bad penalty. Or bad shift. Rewarded for hard work and production (3 points) with ice time on both PK & PP units. Now let's see if he can sustain this momentum through more then the next game or two.
David Desharnais. Looked more like the Desharnais of a season ago. Jumping into the play, passes on the mark, nose around the net and a true mark of a player who was physically involved - cut around the mouth. His first goal of the season - a beauty of a snap shot to the glove side - was the back breaker for Miller and the Sabres.
Tomas Plekanec. I thought he was the best player on the ice. With the game still scoreless late in the first period - even though the Habs were dominating - Plekanec jumped off the bench into the power play while taking a quick look at the clock which showed 16 seconds to play. Andrei Markov hit Plekanec with a long outlet pass but Plekanec promptly redirected the puck into the Buffalo zone for a streaking Brian Gionta who caught up with it in time to feed Rene Bourque in front of the net who beat Miller with 8 seconds to play. A real thinking man's play. It was important for Habs to get out of the period with a lead. Plekanec is back in his comfort zone.
Rene Bourque. What a revelation. Not only with two more goals but continuing to drive hard to the net to draw penalties and make life miserable for opposing defensemen. Wonder if Kelly Hrudey is watching.
Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher - Brandon Prust. Combined for a goal, three points and +5. Ho hum. Galchenyuk just missed scoring on a breakaway (after a brilliant set up by a sprawling Colby Armstrong) and was an impressive 9-2 in face off circle. Prust, meantime, apparently warming up for a rematch with Chris Neil, pounded Steve Ott at centre ice after Ott decided it was time for the Sabres to wake up. Prust nearly put Ott back to sleep.
Carey Price. Woke up after having to handle just one shot in the first period by making several key saves in the second while the game was still close.
Francis Bouillon. Led all Montreal skaters with +3.
Michel Therrien. Had an off night in Ottawa - as his team did - but pushed all the right buttons for this one. Scratched Ryan White, giving both Lars Eller and David Desharnais another opportunity to do something. Kept Tomas Kaberle in as a 7th defenseman but used him properly (sparingly). Cut Bouillon's ice time down to a more reasonable 14:30 by taking him off the PK unit entirely. (Not coincidently the Habs were perfect in shorthanded situations). Therrien has created an almost perfect environment to begin a new season. Team concept in every area. Accountability. Internal competition. Now who does he scratch?
PK Subban. Expect anything different? Logged 18:00. Picked up a point on the power play. Drew a penalty which led to that power play. Helped kill penalties. A shame the shot he took that beat Jonas Enroth clanked off the goal post instead of the back of the net. The Bell Centre would have erupted.
Max Pacioretty. Enjoying his view in the press box apparently ready to play after an astonishing recovery from an appendix attack. As Travis Moen might have said on his way out, "Ah, youth. It's wasted on the young".
Nothing really. Other than the Raphael Diaz give away on a PP at the Buffalo blue line which led to Thomas Vanek's breakaway and the only shot to beat (barely) Carey Price.
Linesmen Ryan Galloway and Brian Murphy. They might be wonderful lads on St. Patrick's Day but drop the f$%^ing puck. Don Cherry is right about this. It's an epidemic. Especially when the game is on HNIC.
Tyler Myers. He's supposed to be Buffalo's best defenseman. But he'd better pick his game up in a hurry. Was awful in his own zone, finished at -3 and tossed a no-hitter. Notwithstanding that victory in Boston, the Sabres won't be going anywhere if Myers can't recapture some of the magic of his rookie season.
John Scott. Yes I know I urged the Habs to sign him, to do precisely what he did in Boston this past week. I understand Lindy Ruff rewarding Scott for destroying Shawn Thornton at a pivotal point in the Sabres season but he can't play against a team as swift as the Canadiens, especially with Nathan Gerbe watching as a healthy scratch. Look for a different Sabres line up Thursday in Buffalo. Loved the fact that PK Subban had the temerity to knock Scott off balance 11 minutes into the third period. Scott's reaction? To swat PK in the face and then feel shame in the penalty box as Subban helped set up the Habs 6th goal.
Jacques Martin. In the press box. Wonder if he's aware that the Habs did not win their fourth home game of the 2011-12 season until November 19th, 20 games into the season. When asked about Habs quick start at home this season Michel Therrien's response was to chuckle and proclaim, "We believe this is the greatest place to play. We believe outshooting Buffalo 15-1 in the first period was making a statement. We want to push the pace". The anti - Martin. Meantime, Martin is still trying to figure out how Therrien managed to successfully dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen without using any of his Dmen as a 12th forward.
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