Sunday, 8 March 2015

Game 66: Canadiens 2, Coyotes 0

A win is a win, so we're not going to monocle this gift horse in the mouth, but really, this is practically as close as we could come to having an awful road trip, instead of the mediocre one we ended up with.  The 2-0 win gives us three points out of a possible eight on this California jaunt, but as the Antichambre boys went out of their way to point out, we can look to the Nashville Predators, losers of six in a row including four at home, for some needed perspective.

Carey Price is the author of this win, stopping 28 shots for his seventh shutout of the year.  It's at the point where Carey not only gives his teammates, his defencemen confidence, but gives me confidence, all the way out here on my couch.  Sure, that Shane Doan shot off the post in the third was a little too close, but really, if it was destined to go in, Carey would have stopped it.  And made it look easy.

The HNIC crew made much of Max's frustration due to his many shots being stopped by Mike Smith all game long, but that's par for the course for Max.  He's been shooting profligately, and getting his goals on volume.  He always winces, looks skyward and shakes his head when he doesn't quite get the shot off that he wanted, or gets robbed, but he must be doing something right this whole season.

Devante Smith-Pelly got his first point on Lars Eller's goal, a nifty pass that Lars was able to corral and whirl around to slide in beneath Mike Smith's left pad.  Devo is proving to be an asset, his outbursts of hits aren't outliers, but what he brings on a daily basis.  It's great to have a forward who makes a practice of finishing his checks, of laying the body on opposing defencemen and making them a little more skittish.  We can hope that he inspires some of his teammates to do likewise, to not routinely overlook an opportunity to lay a hit on someone.

Lars broke his goalless streak, and spoke encouragingly of his line members in post-game interviews, although he had a bit of an attitude when pressed on his drought.  He needs to take charge, understand that he needs to be part of the solution when it comes to the offensive woes of the team.  He needs to be hungry for points, to take the puck to the net, use his size to bulldoze a path like Gally wishes he could.

The Jeff Petry-Tom Gilbert pairing is doing very well, against my expectations.  As counterproductive as it may seem to seek out righties and then negate that advantage by having one play on the left, they're meshing and completing each other, skating the puck and breaking out of their zone effectively.  While I still think it's a stopgap, that Alexei Emelin will play with one of them when he returns from injury, and Nathan Beaulieu will partner with the other rightie, it's an effective solution for now.

And it makes me wonder if, as much as Sergei Gonchar was serviceable played a much-ballyhooed mentorship role for Nate, he will be the odd man out when Alexei returns.  It's hard to overlook the fact that, as much as he holds the reputation of an offensive catalyst, he hasn't been productive on the powerplay or generally.

Let's just be thankful that it's over, that the Canadiens are headed back home with their position in the standings more or less intact.

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