About five weeks ago the Montreal Canadiens played an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the first game of the pre-season that resembled a NHL-calibre game. The Canadiens dressed 14 regulars.
The Canadiens were down early and needed three goals in the third period to come from behind and beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 4-3. The turnaround started started when the line of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri skated together for the first time. This line along with Andrei Markov were dangerous every time they were on the ice. Gionta finished the night with two goals and an assist.
Tonight, the Penguins got an early lead. But tonight, there was no Andrei Markov. The big line did not score. There would be no comeback. In fact, only rarely did the Canadiens look like a team who could compete with the Penguins.
Against one of the better teams in the league, all of the Canadiens faults were exposed. You know the ones. The ones that the Habs, as a team, had worked on and improved. Despite some saying that the recent winning streak was due to goaltending, it was quite obvious that wasn’t true. The bubble of Jaroslav Halak as a savior was burst.
When the Habs didn’t play well as a team tonight, Halak wasn’t able to do anything to turn the tide. That’s not to say that Halak played poorly. The faults reside with the usual suspects: defensive turnovers, inability to clear the zone, giving up too many shots, not competing along the boards, dumb penalties, and ineffective special teams.
These were two fast-skating, non-hitting teams. The Habs had eight hits total in the game with only one by a defenseman.
Every player on the Canadiens was at least a minus one tonight. Gomez must have wondered why he dragged his flu-ridden body out of bed to be part of this game.
There wasn’t much to be positive about tonight. The Habs kept it close for a period and created some good chances to score in the first period. But Marc-Andre Fleury was better.
The second line of Tomas Plekanec, Andre Kostitsyn and Max Lapierre looked good. Plekanec had a goal to bring his point total to 11 in 12 games.
But it was Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin who would tally 10 points and dominate the game.
The Canadiens play another top team on Friday night in Chicago. While Blackhawks are far less talented in goal, the Habs can expect a much more physical game.
Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri
Plekanec, Lapierre, Andrei Kostitsyn
Metropolit, Moen, Pacioretty
Chipchura, D’Agostini, Latendresse
Jaroslav Halak starts in goal for the Canadiens; Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.
scratches: Laraque, Stewart, Markov (ankle), O’Byrne (knee)
Rocket’s three stars
1. Sidney Crosby
2. Bill Guerin
3. Chris Kunitz
(photo credit: AP)