Game 18: Montreal 4 Carolina 0 (Bell Centre)
MONTREAL, QC. — Have we completely lost the ability to delay gratification? Folks these days spend before they earn, search the Internet for reality TV spoilers, and in the Midwest, suck the filling out of Bismarck’s before eating the donut. And I’m told that some of you, jump to see the All Habs 3-stars before reading the article.
That crazy Stephens guy picked three defenseman tonight, you know, the young ones!
Yes, you’ll notice that I am paying tribute to the performance of the unfairly maligned youth of the Canadiens by honoring three of them with stars. That shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a slight against Carey Price or Tomas Plekanec — more about them later. But with all the pre-game chatter about such weakness on the Habs back-end, it it’s time to given the inexperienced blue-liners some positive ink — not in a gratuitous way, but because they deserve it.
Habs head coach Jacques Martin doesn’t miss an opportunity to saddle his youngsters with the blame for losses, goals against, power-play futility and more. It is so common that the media simply parrots the mantra of the head coach without doing any myth-busting on their own.
It is a fact that the guys on the blueline are lacking big league experience. Here’s a list of the number of NHL games going into tonight’s game:
- Josh Gorges – 381
- P.K. Subban – 96
- Yannick Weber – 66
- Raphael Diaz – 17
- Alexei Emelin – 9
- Frederic St. Denis – 0
So I suppose that we shouldn’t be surprised that media were laying wagers on the number of turnovers, goals against and minutes played. I’m told that consensus was that we would see Gorges and Subban play more than 55 minutes combined and that St. Denis wouldn’t break the five minute barrier.
O ye, of little faith.
Everyone knew that the Gorges – Subban tandem would log major minutes, but keeping them at under 50 minutes combined with a game in Long Island on the sched for Thursday is a major accomplishment. Weber, Diaz and Emelin each clocked in around the 18 minute mark in ice-time while St. Denis was a surprise at 13:42 TOI.
Okay genius, you don’t give out a star for ice-time.
True. But 24:49 for Subban along with a goal, an assist and a plus-2 rating will get him one. Yannick Weber’s team-high five shots and his third power-play goal (to lead the Habs) makes him a very deserving second star. Emelin had seven blocked shots and seven solid ‘you-shall-not-pass’ hits.
And that Gorges guy was pretty good too with three hits, four blocked shots and a plus-2 rating.
That’s damn fine coaching don’t you think Stephens? Martin ripped the youngsters after the last game and they played better.
As demonstrated in previous articles, young players have not been the problem. Weber has been superb, Emelin has done well with limited opportunities, and after a tough start, Subban has turned things around the past two games. Diaz has been the biggest question mark, but strangely has been mostly immune to the coach’s scorn.
But on the night when the young guns delivered beyond all expectations, what did the coach have to say? In the post-game presser Martin was given a chance to praise the defense, the coach said “[their performance] talks about parity in the league.” What praise he offered was diluted, saying, “Lately we have been pretty good committed when playing without the puck.”
Brian Wilde of CTV Montreal pressed a little singling out Emelin for the coach’s assessment.
“I don’t know if it’s finding his game. I think he is adjusting and is getting an opportunity probably more now because of injuries. He seems to feel more confortable and adjusting to the North American game which is really less space and less time to execute.”
I’m not sure what the coach is looking for, but I would take a game every night like the one Emelin played tonight. And if he delivered, Emelin would be playing every night regardless of the injury situation. He brings a missing element to the defense corps.
But I suppose that it’s a whole lot easier to blame the young guys than to fix the power-play. That said, the Canadiens looked better with the man advantage converting on one of their three attempts. Mathieu Darche didn’t receive any power-play time but that was only 53 seconds less than Mike Cammalleri and 26 seconds than Brian Gionta.
Power-play is fixed and the Habs looked unbeatable tonight.
While the Canadiens deserve full credit for the win, in fairness, they were facing Hurricanes dejected players who aren’t on the same page as their coach. Sound familiar? It seems that Carolina has stopped playing for Paul Maurice, and are in need of a change.
Hurricanes Captain Eric Staal was blunt in his assessment, “We didn’t play really. We didn’t show up, we didn’t play and got what we deserved.”
The folks in Carolina speak of a team on a budget. With the Hurricanes unable to spend money to patch holes, and a coach unwilling to play youngsters (sound familiar again?) the team has to make do with castoffs like Alex Ponikarovsky. The ‘Canes are looking like a lottery team.
I have a great deal of respect for the talent Cam Ward, but it wasn’t a Ward-ian performance. With goals scored on shots from behind the goal line you would be excused if you wondered if Brian Boucher was playing wearing Ward’s gear — safe to say Cam won’t be popping the highlights of this game into the DVD at negotiation time. Bottom line is Ward got no help from his team.
At the other end of the ice, Price wasn’t tested early on but was solid in the third period when the Hurricanes outshot the Habs 13-to-4. Price also contributed to the offense with a long pass to Plekanec, setting up the Canadiens first goal by Cammalleri. That put the Habs goaltender in a tie with Scott Gomez for points — something Gomez rectified in the second period with an assist on Travis Moen’s goal.
While there is significant work to do, it was a solid home win in the so-far unfriendly confines of the Bell Centre. More importantly it was confidence-boosting performance by the guys on defense, and they are well-deserving of recognition tonight.
The Canadiens will play the Islanders in New York on Thursday and return for a Saturday game against the Rangers at the Bell Centre.
All Habs game stars
1. P.K. Subban
2. Yannick Weber
3. Alexei Emelin
If you missed it, a must see video clip can be found at our All Habs Tumblr site.
Canadiens’ Erik Cole taunts former teammate Tuomo Ruutu after the Carolina player took a minor penalty for tripping in the third period of Wednesday’s game.
Category: Game review