Canadiens-Flames: Is there a silver lining in Habs loss to Calgary?

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2009

Montreal 3 Calgary 4 (Pengrowth Saddledome)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

There's never a good reason to celebrate a loss, but Jacques Martin must be quietly pleased about the way his team played tonight. There's still work to do (they were outshot 16-to-6 in the second period), but the Canadiens are starting to show signs of their potential.

The Habs' top three lines all played very well. They outshot the opposition for the first time this season. Canadiens forwards even dominated in the faceoff circle with the exception of Maxim Lapierre at 45 percent.

Tomas Plekanec continues to outwork his opponents on every shift. He scored the Canadiens third goal on a great individual effort. His linemate, Andrei Kostitsyn had his best game of the season. Kostitsyn was dangerous with his speed and shot. He also led the team with four hits. Max Pacioretty had three blocked shots.

Prior to the game, a prominent Montreal sports radio personality was so fearful of the Calgary defense (and the size of the Canadiens first line) that he bizarrely recommended putting Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez on three separate lines. Despite the advice, the first line remained intact and were flying all night. Cammalleri set up Gomez for a goal from a one-timer after stealing the puck from Jerome Iginla along the boards. Gionta had six shots on goal.

Incidentally, the Calgary defense pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr were each minus three.

Guillaume Latendresse finally broke out of his funk with a goal on three shots. Travis Moen now has three points in three games with an assist tonight.

The Canadiens' fourth line didn't play much and didn't play well. Greg Stewart continues to struggle and doesn't look like he belongs at the NHL level. Georges Laraque was minus three for his eight minutes on the ice. Kyle Chipchura had a rare fight but was also minus three. Its probably too soon to evaluate Chipchura's performance given that it was his first game back after shoulder surgery.

While adding Marc-Andre Bergeron as insurance earlier in the day, Bob Gainey must have been pleased with the play of his defense. Yannick Weber and Paul Mara were the Canadiens best defense pairing. Mara had two assists while Weber played with confidence.

Hal Gill looked much better tonight. Gill made up for his lack of footspeed with smart defensive play. Gill has been the target of the francophone media for his play in the first two games. One wonders what they would have to say about the play of Francois Beauchemin if he was wearing bleu, blanc et rouge. Beauchemin has been dreadful in his first two games with Toronto.

It was a quiet night with only one minor penalty being called in the entire game. The Canadiens didn't have a power-play opportunity.

Jaroslav Halak made some good saves but did not have his strongest game. Halak gave up four goals on 28 shots for a .857 save percentage. He was down early and slow to react at times.

After the game the Canadiens headed for Vancouver where they play the Canucks on Wednesday night.

Pregame expected lineup:

Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri
Plekanec, Pacioretty, Andrei Kostitsyn
Lapierre, Latendresse, Moen
Chipchura, Stewart, Laraque

Hamrlik, Spacek
Gill, Gorges
Weber, Mara

Jaroslav Halak starts in goal for the Canadiens, Miikka Kiprusoff for the Flames

scratches: D'Agostini, Markov (ankle, four months), Metropolit (ribs, day-to-day), O'Byrne (knee, eight weeks)

Rocket's three stars

1. Eric Nystrom
2. Tomas Plekanec
3. Adam Pardy

(photo credit: AP)


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