Habs Win Impressive Victory In Winnipeg; Lose Two More To Injury
It was an odd night for the Montreal Canadiens. Not only were they taking part of history at the MTS Center in Winnipeg, as the first opponents of the newly reinstated Winnipeg Jets, but they were also looking for their first win of the season, after dropping a 2-0 decision in Toronto on Thursday night.
Impressions weren't exactly at their highest after that first game, but that was only one game for the Canadiens. Cobwebs were being swept away and the team was searching for chemistry after a tumultuous pre-season, which included injuries, new players, and even a couple of late acquisitions
Things didn't seem like they were going to get easier for the Habs in their second game Sunday night, seeing as they were headed into a dangerous rival environment in Winnipeg. The game versus the Jets was a night nearly two decades in the making, and the first game at the MTS Center. By now, we've all heard about how long Jets fans have been waiting to get their team back, how much they deserve it, as well as about all the expectations surrounding their team in their first season back. Regardless of all the fuss and excitement, there was a hockey game to be played this night. A hockey game that would surprisingly end up going in the favor of the Habs.
After some early pressure from the Jets, following a good ceremony before the start of the game, the Canadiens would get on the board first, early in the first period off a nice sniped shot from Mike Cammalleri. The goal seemed to deflate a crowd that was looking to be a deciding factor in this one. The game would go back and forth for the rest of the period, but things got a little gloomy for the Canadiens before the opening frame would end, as the team lost both Mike Cammalleri and Jaroslav Spacek to injuries (more on that later).
The Canadiens would extend their lead in the second off a goal from Tomas Plekanec, but the team was looking a little disorganized. Unlike Thursday night, their near-second period collapse wasn't really their fault, as the coaching staff had to move Yannick Weber back to the point, and reorganize all their lines thanks to the injuries.
Things would really come pouring out of the faucet in the third. Nik Antropov would score on what could be argued was interference on Price at 2:27 of the last frame, but Yannick Weber would quickly reply with the Canadiens' first powerplay goal of the season two minutes later. Travis Moen would score on a very rare breakaway halfway through the period, and Max Pacioretty would put the nail in the coffin with his first with less than 8 minutes to go in the game.
The Canadiens would walk away from this one with an impressive 5-1 victory over the Jets, but there were no smiles on the Habs' side of the ice. The injuries, the disorganization, the problems are already getting to this team, and it can't be good. The fans in Winnipeg cheered their team as they lost their first game of the season, because even though they allowed five goals and couldn't solve Carey Price, it was the Jets that led every period in shooting, to finish the game with a 28-21 advantage in shots, and let much of the game offensively.
Let's be honest here, the Jets are pretty much just the Atlanta Thrashers in dark blue sweaters. While no one would have been too upset in Montreal of the Canadiens lost this one, in all honesty, they should be the better team on paper, and even with all their injuries, that definitely showed throughout the game. All the negatives tonight are things that should be ironed out in upcoming games.
That said, the team has some work to do before the head back to Montreal for their home opener Thursday night against the Calgary Flames, a game which they might play with even less regulars.
Wondering why a 5-1 victory isn't as exciting as it should be?
The Canadiens can't seem to go a single period without suffering another injury. Before pre-season even started, it was Andrei Markov suffering a setback to his knee injury. The team would also go most of training camp, and now two games, without forwards Lars Eller and Ryan White. Then, newly-signed defenseman Chris Campoli would leave not one, but two games, thanks to two different incidents in his one and only pre-season game, as well as the first game of the season in Toronto. As it turns out, Campoli hyper-extended his hamstring, and that injury will leave him out of the line-up possibly all the way through Christmas. Finally, today, the Canadiens actually returned Blair Betts to the Philadelphia Flyers after he failed his physical (kind of a douche move by the Flyers to put him on waivers in the first place but that's a story for another day).
Tonight, two more would be added to that growing list of injured players, as both Mike Cammalleri and Jaroslav Spacek would have to leave the game in the first period.
Cammalleri would be on the receiving end of a cut from teammate Yannick Weber's skate, and Spacek would leave the game after an awkward hit from Evander Kane in front of the bench that got him right in the ribs. Neither player would return, but the Cammalleri injury would be especially frightening for Habs fans. We've all seen how serious skate cuts can be, especially when legs and ligaments are involved. Thankfully, Cammalleri will only be out for two weeks with a laceration to his leg, according to reports, but both his and Spacek's injuries are just further frustration for this team, who can't seem to go a game without sustaining another injury.
It's only been two games, and things might be looking as bad as they were last year in the injury department. It's frustrating that this team can't seem to ice a healthy team and show what they're truly capable of.
Pierre Gauthier, Jacques Martin and the rest of the team now have three full days to figure out what kind of line-up they'll be able to put on the ice Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Will Gauthier work the phones and make a trade, or sign another free agent? Will the Habs go with what they have and call someone up from Hamilton? These are questions that the team shouldn't have to ask with 80 games left on the schedule.
For now, we'll enjoy the 5-1 win, where the Canadiens finally showed some scoring prowess, and look ahead to the home opener against the Calgary Flames. To focus on the good, Tomas Plekanec looked great, even without Mike Cammalleri on his wing, and Carey Price looks to be just as good as he was last season, and those are things that Habs fans should be happy about.