Montreal - Nov. 27, 2011 - Can't blame the Habs or their fans for the age old cry after losing in the worst possible way to the Penguins (aka the odds on favourite to win the stanley cup). Looking ahead to the back to back with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh you're probably thinking two points minimum. The Flyers, as explained in the previous post, were ready to be taken (see Saturday's loss to the NY Rangers). That the Canadiens were so miserable in Philly left them having to beat Pittsburgh for those precious two points. The way the Penguins have looked since Crosby's return was going to take an A1 performance from Carey Price to help steal those points. And he almost did, until a referee gagged on his whistle.
David Desharnais - Erik Cole - Max Pacioretty. Combined for 5 points and +4. Dominant all night. Penguins had no answer. So why does Jacques Martin break them up while trying to figure out how to jump start a dormant power play?
Lars Eller - Andrei Kostitsyn - Travis Moen. Took exactly one shift for the trio to click, picking up right where they left off prior to the Kostitsyn injury. With Habs trailing early, Eller wisely chipped puck in for Kostitsyn who ran some legal interference leaving a loose puck for Moen who made like Erik Cole and beat Marc Andre Fleury high glove. 24 game sinto the season and Travis Moen has more goals than everybody on Habs not named Max Pacioretty.
Carey Price. Deserved a far better outcome. Made several truly spectacular saves but none bigger or better when he robbed James Neal with his glove after Neal received a sick backhanded pass from Sidney Crosby.
Defense pairing of Josh Gorges & PK Subban. Did a damn good job all night against the most talented group of forwards they have yet to face.
Alexei Emelin. Once again led Habs in hits while playing a steady 18:00.
PK Unit. Perfect again, led by Hal Gill (4:38). Seems like last time Habs surrendered a power play goal the Buffalo Bills were 5 - 0.
Face offs. One of Montreal's best nights of the year (63%) led by Eller (71%).
Cole and old nemesis Brooks Orpik going nose to nose in front of Fleury.
Montreal and Pittsburgh on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. We want more. Please, sir.
Thomas Plekanic - Brian Gionta - Mike Cammalleri. I can't remember a night in which all three key veterans looked so lousy. It started on the opening shift. I understand Plekanic on Crosby -if that's Plekanic's assignment he's done it before (although it should be pointed out that Crosby is a lot stronger physically right now than was the case in the spring of 2010 when Plekanic did a nice checking job on him) - but Gionta/Cammalleri vs Gino Malkin?? Not a fair fight. Late in the third, Gionta bounced off Malkin moments before Jordan Staal pounded on a loose puck and tied the game. Plekanic, as noted, still brings other elements to the game if he's not producing. Gionta, an almost unbelievable -9 in the last 9 periods, cannot play 25:00 of any game let alone the first of a back to back as he did Friday in Philly. Cammalleri? Maybe his worst night as a Hab? Couldn't control the puck, couldn't shoot, couldn't check, put himself off side after a perfect set by Eller, just an atrocious night all the way around. The trio combined for just 3 shots and were -9. Rock bottom for Cammalleri.
Yannick Weber. Not getting better. -3. Once again, why is he getting more PP time than PK Subban?
Hal Gill on the ice in overtime. I thought the big man was having a terrific night against his old team but it kind of fell apart in the 3rd, though it was Weber's side of the ice that opened for Staal on the game tying goal. But as much as he battles he should not make it on the ice, save for a penalty kill or some emergency, when it's 4 on 4. Way too much space to cover and just too little speed. Or none at all.
Montreal power play. Killing them. Put Desharnais - Cole - Pacioretty out as a unit. Subban on the point with either Weber or Cammalleri (he played on the point in Calgary and LA). Next wave-Plekanic - Gionta - Kostisyn (not one second of PP time). with either Weber/Cammalleri and Gorges/Emelin/Diaz.
Jacques Martin. Merely saying he was "disappointed" for his players simply isn't enough. Not that I was expecting anything else but after a loss like that he might allow himself the opportunity to be a little emotional and analytical at the same time.
Max Pacioretty hit on Kris Letang. Looked like a head shot to me. One of the reasons Letang has become a Norris trophy candidate is because he plays with a physical edge. Many forwards around the league have noticed #58 has just enough of a mean streak to keep their head up when he's on the ice. Dont know if Pacioretty was thinking payback or just to knock him off the puck but apology or not, it didn't look good and might have actually led to Letang's game winner.
The winning goal by Letang. What happened? "I had the fucking thing covered, that's what happened" steamed Price afterwards. And what did referee Mike Hasenfratz say? "He didn't say anything. He ran off the ice". Beautiful. Hasenfratz and partner Dan O'Rourke might have been feeling guilty about what happened to Letang and their non - call (after already waving off one Chris Kunitz goal and having NHL Hockey Ops properly wave off another after Kunitz clearly pushed the puck past Price with his glove) so he decided to allow the Penguins to do something he couldn't do - find the puck. How else do you explain it? "He choked" said Bobby Dollas on our post game show. Maybe the stage was too big. Hasenfratz was working his first game in Montreal in over two years after undergoing open heart surgery.