The Montreal Canadiens honored Bob Gainey Saturday night.
His first appearance was as special as the player he was and leader he is. His player outfit on, with the No. 23 on his back, holding his stick, he showed to the fans that he still had all his skating skills with several tours around the Bell Center's ice.
Later, he confessed to the crowd that he now feels more comfortable with a tie and suit rather than in a player uniform.
Closing his speech, he introduced to the crowd his "two superstars," his former teammates and long time co-workers, Doug Jarvis (current Canadiens assistant coach), and Guy Carbonneau (Canadiens head coach).
However, it was the only celebration of the night for the Bleu Blanc Rouge. Sixty minutes and three goals later, the ones who were smiling were the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans.
Rick Nash scored his 33rd goal of the season, after six minutes in the first period. Andrew Murray doubled the Jackets' lead four minutes later. And late in the third, with less than five minutes to go, Manny Malhotra just closed a game that was all about Pascal Leclaire.
It is certainly a coincidence that the four times the Habs have been blanked this season, they were facing a Quebec-native goalie.
Last November, Jocelyn Thibault (Buffalo Sabres) shut down the Habs 3-0, then Dany Sabourin (Pittsburgh Penguins) registered a 2-0 win last January; finally it was Leclaire's turn Saturday with 31 saves. All three goalies had about the same postgame declarations: it is always special to play against Montreal, especially at the Bell Center.
But the fact that Quebecois goalies find it motivating to play against the Tricolore is certainly not an excuse for Guy Carbonneau. The coach wants a few things to be fixed, starting around the blue line and between the pipes.
As we have noticed, Carbonneau has been giving the start to the goalie that keeps wining. However, it seems neither Cristobal Huet nor Carey Price is able to mark his territory.
Against the Rangers, Price gave up three goals in the first eight minutes; the Penguins beat Huet once in the first five; and then, back in the net against the Blue Jackets, Price allowed two goals in the first 10.
The coach was clear: They need to do better, and stop allowing easy goals. I presume Rolland Melanson (the goalie coach) might have needed Kirk Muller to pinch him, watching both of his spiritual kids checking the "what not to do list."
But Price and Huet are not the only ones responsible for Carbo's headaches. His first duo of defensemen formed by Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov have had a rating of minus-4 and minus-3 respectively, over the last two games.
Last Saturday, the coach apparently could not take it anymore, and reduced Komisarek's TOI to 14 minutes (his lowest of the season), as the defenseman was on the ice during both of the Jackets' goals in the first period. He added that it is one thing to get scored on by a hard fighting team; but it is another to allow easy shots and give them all the space they need to score.
Other than that, the league's best power play could not score in the six man advantages given by the Jackets, plus a five-on-three that might have helped.
But heads up! The good news is they do not have to make miracles to get back to the good times (those times when we would talk about the Eastern Conference lead).
Each of what they are looking for was there at different parts of the season: Two amazing goalies, strong defensemen, five-on-five and power play goals, the four lines participations and more.
The team will face the Atlanta Trashers on Tuesday. Sporsnet.ca reported that Don Waddell (Trashers GM) was in Toronto this Sunday afternoon to watch the Toronto Marlies playing the Hamilton Bulldogs (which won 3-1 with Grabovski scoring twice and Jaroslav Halak stopping 14 shots).
He was apparently taking a look at the Habs' prospects, after having done the same with the Senators prospects, last Saturday.
Updates on Monday report that coach Carbonneau will give the net to Carey Price against the Trashers. A surprising decision, considering the GMS (Goalie Management System as I call it) he adopted these last few games. The last time Price faced them, the Habs lost 2-3 in shootouts.
Western updates: The Calgary Flames ended all rumours regarding Alex Tanguay coming to Montreal as Darryl Sutter made the announcement that his player would not be traded anywhere.
Good news for the Colorado Avalanche, Peter Forsberg makes his come back to the game with his former team.
22 hours to go...