Monday, October 10, 2011

09/10/11: Montreal 5, Winnipeg 1; stay classy, Jets fans

So it was still far from a perfect game for your Montreal Canadiens, but it certainly was a relief to score some goals and get in the win column before hitting the Bell Centre ice this coming Thursday for the team's home opener. Sorry for spoiling your party, Winnipeg, but a huge round of applause to the fans that packed the noisy stadium for sticking around to the end of this one-sided affair (though just on the scoreboard) and then giving your boys an ovation to welcome them home at game's end.

Despite the score, the Habs owe this one to Carey Price who was simply sensational. With the exception of one banged in rebound, he kept buzzing Jets forwards at bay all night, including a number of ten bell saves.

Unlike the game against the Leafs, however, Price got run support this time. The Canadiens were opportunistic, cashing in on their chances with a number of pretty markers as Tomas Plekanec paced the offense with a goal and 2 helpers. Yannick Weber broke the team's powerplay goose egg on a 4-on-3 advantage and also added an assist, taking on a bigger role after Jaroslav Spacek was forced to leave due to an upper body injury early on in the game.

Mike Cammalleri scored the Canadiens first goal of the 2011-12 campaign early on, making him the answer to the trivia question of who scored the first marker in the first game back in Winnipeg. Habs fans will care more, however, about the fact that he was forced out of the game after having his left leg accidentally cut open by the blade of Weber's skate. The report is a leg laceration will keep him out about 2 weeks.

A lot of Habs had pretty good nights. Yannick Weber looked much better than his training camp self after moving back to the point. Raphael Diaz's maturation continues. Alexei Emelin was rather sound for his NHL debut despite a poor penalty.

Others not so much. Erik Cole looks out of synch right now, something obviously not lost on Jacques Martin seen in his greatly reduced ice time. Brian Gionta fanned on a number of in-close scoring chances. P.K. Subban still looks awkward leading the top powerplay and is often caught out of position defensively.

But it was a win. And it felt good. It will be interesting to see how the Canadiens manage to replace Cammalleri and Spacek in the short term, likely by shifting Weber back to D and calling up Aaron Palushaj, while hoping Lars Eller is ready to face the Calgary Flames on Thursday. But perhaps Pierre Gauthier opts to test the trade market or sign a remaining free agent (Bryan McCabe, Paul Mara, and John Madden are some of the more intriguing - and I use that word loosely - names out there).

One thing I am sincerely hoping for is an end to the Plekanec on the powerplay point experiment. Last season, the PP struggles ended when Montreal put two shooters on the blueline (Subban and James Wisniewski), so it would be natural to try Weber with Subban to again give the team two shot options. Until Andrei Markov can re-join the group, this looks like the best choice for the top unit.

With the Canadiens having the day off for Thanksgiving today, don't expect any real updates on Spacek or Cammalleri until tomorrow's practice. The team says the injuries are minor, and Cammalleri said he's "fine," but then again, so was Blair Betts.

In any case, there remains lots of work to do and possible chances to come in the three days off until the next game. But when Thursday does come, I am excited to join in as we Hab fans raise the Bell Centre roof just as Jets fans got to do last night.

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