Montreal - Nov. 24, 2011 - A much needed come form behind victory that featured several bounce back performances after a horrid first period. Montreal is clearly a better team yet, very much like what happened on Long Island, they came out sleep walking. If the coach can't-won't get them ready to establish their superiority early, then maybe they ought to take whatever is on PK Subban's ipod and blast it into the dressing room at maximum volume. Might even drown out some of the PK bashers who, strangely, have close ties to Jacques Martin.
Brian Gionta. Best Montreal skater from start to finish. Didn't stop skating for 65 minutes and was much deserving of the shootout winner. Shocked when I checked the stat sheet and discovered he was -3 on the night. Certainly can't be faulted for the goals Carolina scored.
Lars Eller. Two point night and +2. Took advantage of the injury to Scott Gomez and kicked the door down. His goal got the comeback started. Now we know that Eller can finish when he has the puck on his stick and there's nobody in the net.
Travis Moen. Just when it looked like he left his legs in Brossard, Moen started to move better with Eller in the middle. His 7 goals are one more than he had all of last season and 4 shy of his career high scored during Anaheim's cup winning season of 2006-07.
Mike Cammalleri. Finally hit the back of the net - on a deflection, naturally - after all his recent goal posts and missed shots. Also did great work to keep puck in Carolina's end which eventually led to Eller's short handed goal. Let's see if this gets Cammalleri going on one of his typical goal scoring streaks. Couldn't happen at a better time with upcoming games against Flyers & Penguins.
Alexei Emelin. Another solid outing with 6 hits and seems to be gaining more and more confidence. Like Cammalleri, Emelin did a lot of grunt work prior to Eller's goal, pinching low to keep puck in Carolina end.
Erik Cole. Solid in his return to Carolina. Who was last Montreal winger with the constant explosiveness to blow by opposing defensemen and drive hard to the net?
Max Pacioretty. Led all skaters with 7 shots on goal. Still seems to be missing a gear but that's being picky at this point. He set the bar really high to start the season.
David Desharnais. Not a real good night overall but was terrific in face off circle (71%).
Carey Price. Same as Desharnais. Still don't know how that first goal got in and didn't have his pads together on Carolina's third goal but he battled. Only a matter of time before his ridiculously poor shootout numbers started to even out. Very important to get his first shootout victory after those two losses. Looks like he's still trying to figure out the boards in Carolina. Also loved the way Price patted his right goal post after Jeff Skinner's shot bounced off it.
PK Subban. See below.
PK Unit led by Hal Gill (5:04) and Josh Gorges (4:02) with additional help from Subban (2:43), Gionta (3:31), Thomas Plekanic (2:44), Petteri Nokelainen (2:37) & Raphael Diaz (2:16). Habs PK efficiency rate is just under 90% behind only New Jersey (93.8%) & Pittsburgh ( 90.3%).
Hearing that Andrei Markov might actually be ready to play by Saturday.
Montreal power play. Waiting for Markov.
Aaron Palushaj. Nothing against the guy but why is he with them? This is Tom Pyatt all over again but not as good. Pyatt could kill penalties and take the odd face off. Wasn't Montreal's 4th line better with Michael Blunden on the right side? I don't care how pretty he looks when he skates, the guy is getting 4-6 minutes of ice time. Can't the Habs find a cheap, bruising winger?
Scott Gomez. Frankly I feel guilty writing this. Too easy. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest he re-injured himself early but tried to play through it. But it's apparent the Habs are better with Lars Eller playing his natural position. Gomez to LTI?
Carolina's opening goal by Jiri Tlusty 34 seconds in. From Cammalleri not getting puck out along the boards to Emelin getting a glove on the shot to Price reacting in slow motion this one ranks as the ugliest goal of the season scored against the Canadiens since Patrice Bergeron "scored" on Price off a face off in Boston.
Carolina's second goal. Plekanic got beat badly behind the net while Gorges twisted himself inside out as the puck seemed dead on top of the net, until Plekanic made the first attempt to play it which kept it alive.
L'Antichambre crapping on PK Subban. What's going on here? The guy plays 25 minutes, helps shut down Jeff Skinner in two straight games against Carolina, helps set up a goal, continues to do terrific work on the PK unit yet all they do is dump on the guy. I thought Michel Bergeron's suggestion that the Habs should trade Subban was a flat out joke until Francois Gagnon reiterated the lunacy with Elliott Price & Shaun Starr on our morning show because, among other things, the "Canadiens can't find a strong centerman (Eric Staal)" and "Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu (aren't that far away)". Now everybody can see that Subban is not the same offensive force (yet) as a year ago but it's important to keep in mind that you NEVER see him rush the puck unless the Habs are trailing in the third period or the game is in overtime. He's also not on the first power play unit - a unit that is hardly flourishing without him. Maybe, as @HeyMyNameIsWill suggested during the game after Subban again passed on an opportunity to fire the puck, his shoulder is still hurting him. Or maybe he's simply lost confidence with the puck because it appears his coach has. Or maybe it's all just part of a conscious effort to reel in his game with Markov and Jaro Spacek out - at least until Markov returns. But I do find it troubling that a reporter who is extremely close to the head coach is seriously questioning anything to do with Subban's game, let alone urging the Canadiens to trade him. Last time I checked, this second year defenseman was averaging more than two minutes more ice time per game than any of his teammates, while forming a terrific tandem with his new partner. A pairing that has so far combined for two goals and 16 assists in 44 games (also keep in mind that 9 of Subban's 14 goals a year ago came after the all star break). As for Gagnon's assertion that Tinordi and Beaulieu are up and comers? Get back to me when they're both logging 24 minutes of ice time at the NHL level. Last time I heard such nonsense, it came from Serge Savard who said one of the reasons he felt comfortable trading Chris Chelios for Denis Savard was that Mathieu Schneider was ready to step in and replace Chelios.
If the Montreal Canadiens can't find that elusive big man down the middle then they have to work harder to acquire him. Not having Scott Gomez around would have made that job easier. (And don't count me among the group out there that believes it was necessary to acquire Gomez in order to sign Gionta & Cammalleri. My experience is always to follow the money. Both Cammalleri & Gionta got very healthy money and even healthier term.)
How does an organization go from openly coveting Vincent Lecavalier to trading a top prospect and taking on one of the worst contracts in NHL history belonging to the complete opposite type player while at the same time freeing up enough cap space for that very same team to sign a dynamic offensive player (Marian Gaborik) and, eventually, the very essence of the debate we're having (Brad Richards)? And in case the gang at RDS haven't noticed, in today's NHL there's a premium on the kind of talented, strong, mobile defensemen that PK Subban is. Even more important, one might argue, then a big centerman. Think the Sabres are getting ready to trade Tyler Myers? Think the Kings are going to move Drew Doughty? Think the Flames don't realize they made a huge mistake in trading Dion Phaneuf? Think Chicago wins a cup without Duncan Keith? Everybody has a right to an opinion and if Bergeron/Gagnon are just being provocateurs I get it.
But Francois Gagnon has publicly stated that he and Jacques Martin are good friends. He invites the kind of scrutiny that this Subban bashing has led to. If - that's IF - this sudden campaign to pick on Subban (while the team is playing better) and suggest Montreal would be better off without him is actually an idea spawned by the head coach, then Jacques Martin must go. Immediately. If it's Gagnon/Bergeron acting on a suggestion or two from a disgruntled player then I'd sure like to know who the player is and his value to the team. If they're just sprouting off then maybe they can pick on somebody else. Somebody who doesn't have 20,000 fans chanting his name every night.