Two In A Row: Habs Avenge Themselves In Beantown

So, how has your week been so far?

In what can only be described as another week in Habs-land, the fans in this city have gone from having to be talked off the ledge, to pure elation, to a real glass cage of emotions that can't really be explained, in the process of no less than four days.

Backtrack to Monday night. The Canadiens had just lost their fifth game in a row, and were looking at one of, if not the worst start in the history of their organization. The Florida Panthers were hitting the Bell Centre ice, and the coaching and management staff was starting to feel the pressure around their necks. The end result? A 2-1 loss, thanks to a hot goalie in Jacob Markstrom, but a strong performance from a Canadiens team that couldn't seem to buy a win.

What happened the next day? Well, I'll just let you read this piece that I wrote, and you should have a clear idea of what Tuesday was like for most Habs fans.

From there, the Canadiens were facing three incredibly difficult match-ups the rest of the week, against teams that have had their number as of late (especially in the playoffs).

Then, something happened. Maybe it was the inspiration the team received from seeing Mac Pacioretty battle back from yet another freak injury, without missing a game, this team what seemed to be a broken wrist. Maybe it was the performance they put forth against the Panthers, much deserving of a win, in all honesty, that finally allowed them to put the puzzle together. Maybe it was the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn 90 minutes before Wednesday's game against the Flyers (don't get me started).

Whatever it was, the Habs decided they were due for a win. Well, at least, some time between the first and second periods. The Canadiens would come out with an inexplicable 5-1 win against a Flyers team that probably had no business losing to the Montreal Canadiens (although their loss to the Jets might suggest otherwise).

So, less than 24 hours after the Canadiens finally broke their winless streak at the Bell Centre (or anywhere, frankly), we were left wondering who this team really was. Were they just slumping? Did they just need the kick in the ass that a coaching change -- however minor -- may have offered? Or rather, was Wednesday's dominant win against the Flyers just a blip on the radar, a fluke?

Thursday's night's game against the Boston Bruins, in hostile territory, set out to prove -- or rather disprove -- any or all of the above.

Three periods later, I'm still not sure what to make of this team.

It wasn't easy, it wasn't for the faint of heart, but after another night and another game, the Canadiens sit with another two points in the bank, three total wins, and more points than the defending Stanley Cup champions -- who, incidentally, took the spot at the bottom of the Eastern conference that no earlier than a day before belonged to the Habs.

This eventual 2-1 win for the Canadiens has the Bruins take an early lead, thanks to one of the weirder goals of the season late in the first. Petteri Nokelainen would take an interference penalty at 14:04, and at 14:05, it would be 1-0 Bruins off the draw. The puck would literally slide half speed to a frozen, standing Price, right between his legs and into the net, after Tomas Plekanec would win the draw cleanly. You really have to see it to believe it:

 

 Any Habs fan watching at that moment was thinking "here we go again". 

Thankfully, the Canadiens would be able to hang on for the rest of the period, after being out-muscled, out-shot and of course out-scored by the champs. The tables would turn nearly 180 degrees in period number two, with the Habs pounding 18 shots on goaltender Tim Thomas. One would get by the Vezina winner, thanks to a tip-in from Erik Cole.

The highlight of the period, however, and maybe of the game would come thanks to the antics of two long-time rivals, P.K. Subban and Mr. Insert-Picture-Of-Person-With-Big-Nose-Here himself, Brad Marchand! The two would jaw at each other halfway through the period, receiving double-minors for holding. Two minutes later, they would attempt to fight, but the linesmen would break it up, and each would receive two more minutes for delay of game. The two would try again right out of the box, and this would be the end result:

 

 

The general consensus is, well, a draw. Neither of these players is a fighter, Subban had the early advantage, Marchand got a few in at the end of the fight, but in the end, dat nose was left unfortunately unscathed (although some would argue that the Bruins would gladdly take 9 minutes of Subban in the penalty box along with Marchand, which in and of itself is a win).

In any case, there was still a period of hockey to be played. Things would even out for the most part on the ice, but it would be the Canadiens you would score halfway through the period, specifically, Tomas Plekanec.

Sure, the Habs would recede into their 1-goal game shell, sure the Bruins would turn up the heat, and sure the Habs would have to rely on Carey Price to keep them in this one -- despite the fact that, in his own words, he "Bill Buchner'd" the 1st period goal -- but hey, a win's a win, and considering what's been going on in Habsland as of late, I'm sure most of you will take it.

So, where does this 2-1 victory leave us? Are the jobs of Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier safe? For another night, possibly another couple of weeks, yes. And we're still not certain that's a good thing, no matter the fact that we've seen this team play progressively better in this, the toughest week of the young season. Martin or no Martin, a win is a win, is a win, and hey, we'll take it.

Next up, the Boston Bruins look for revenge, and look to come out of the Eastern cellar in a Saturday night classic at the Bell Centre, make sure to tune into TCL as we cover all the fun, and follow us on facebook for all the updates!

Thursday's 3 Stars:

  1. Carey Price: Despite the early fumble, Price kept the Habs in it to the very end.
  2. Josh Gorges: Hey, guess what? Gorges not only led the team in ice time, but offered his 6th assist of the season, as well as 3 shots, and 3 blocked shots. Andrei who?
  3. David Desharnais: Assist on Cole's goal (his 5th), 17:10  of ice time, 53% in the faceoff circle. Gomez who?

 

4 Comments

Glen Miller's picture

That had to be a satisfying sweep. Let me ask you a few questions; do you really think Perry Pearn was a cause of the Canadiens struggles early on? Or was he a scapegoat? Is Martin in trouble as head coach? If so, who might be in line to replace him? Kirk Muller?

George Prax's picture

I don't think Pearn was at fault necessarily. I have a blog coming up about it but in short, let's just say that it's like a goon staging a fight to rile up the crowd or the coach changing goalies to change the flow of a game. It'll wear off. That said, while he was sort of a scapegoat, he wasn't exactly innocent in the matter either. Every time the man touches the special teams they go to shit and he seems to be unable to get any proper match-ups going on defense (which he's in charge of changing). So he definitely deserved to be fired, if you want me to say that, but Martin is still a problem. He's been coaching outside of his comfort zone the last three games and it's worked, but it's only a matter of time before we'll see things regress again in my opinion. That said, he won 3 games against big rivals, even if they were both having struggles, so his job is safe for now.

IF he were to be fired, it's hard to say who would replace him, but you'd have to think the shortlist would include Bob Hartley, Jacques Lemaire, maybe Larry Robinson and Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller if he has an out clause with the Preds. But I don't think those questions have to be answered for at least a few weeks.

Drills Etc's picture

It was good to see the sweep, but you are still left to wonder about the impact of not having Kirk Muller on the staff. I think he did a lot of coaching and was strong in his communicating to players.

George Prax's picture

You're right. In my opinion Pearn inherited a lot of the responsibilities that Muller took away from him over the last couple of years.