Today, the talk turned to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, now only six weeks away.
Montreal will be well represented by six players: Andrei Markov, Russia; Tomas Plekanec, Czech Republic; Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, Belarus; Jaroslav Halak, Slovakia; and Yannick Weber, Switzerland. All are deserving selections.
There were some murmurs of protest from the Mike Cammalleri fan club. But with all the talent to choose from, Team Canada's general manager Steve Yzerman can pass on snipers who can't play defense and struggle to score on the road. Vancouver is a long way from the Bell Centre.
RDS didn't have time to worry about any Canadiens left off the team. The RDS commentators whined non-stop about the non-inclusion of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis despite the fact that there were far better players let off the Team Canada roster. It didn't come to their attention that neither St Louis nor LeCavalier is the best player on a mediocre Tampa team.
It was a sad pathetic display of tabloid-type journalism by RDS who have lost all objectivity and credibility as a sports network. Instead they employ a a group of crotchey old men who act as political cheerleaders. It's a truly pathetic sight!
On a day of Olympic discussion, what I found interesting were the words of Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. "I like the ability of our four lines to really come at you," Babcock said, in a TSN interview. "I think we're going to have the ability to be physical, play with and without the puck and just be relentless."
While Babcock will be working with some of the most talented forwards in the world in Vancouver, I get the sense that the word "relentless" is part of his philosophy whether coaching with Team Canada, Detroit or Spokane.
Babcock and Jacques Martin are both professional, experienced coaches. But a coaching strategy that pushes his team to be relentless is part of what determines that Babcock is successful in the post-lockout NHL, and Martin is not.
In tonight's game, the Canadiens forechecked and were aggressive in the Tampa Bay zone for the better part of two periods. In the third, coach Martin threw up the All Stop sign to protect a 1-0 lead. The Habs exerted no offensive zone pressure and easily let Tampa gain the Montreal zone.
As a result, the Lightning outshot the Canadiens 13-to-4 and tied the game.
Carey Price was superb in the third period, keeping the game close. It was an impressive effort by Price who was under pressure to perform.
It would seem that coach Martin was satisfied to end the game with a tie hoping that the Canadiens strong overtime/shootout record would prevail. It did so again tonight.
Tomas Plekanec scored the winner in overtime. Plekanec is without question, the best forward for the Canadiens even when he has a linemate who is struggling. Mike Cammalleri isn't playing well offensively or defensively on this road trip. Tonight, he was held without a shot on goal.
Brian Gionta scored tonight and once again led by example on the ice, driving the puck to the net on numerous occasions.
Matt D'Agostini got a chance on the third line tonight. While it was his best game in a very long time, he is still prone to inconsistency and weak shifts. Max Pacioretty is a much better fit with Glen Metropolit and Travis Moen. It was a surprise that Pacioretty was scratched tonight instead of D'Agostini or Max Lapierre.
While Benoit Pouliot has done many things right since being inserted in the lineup, he is not an effective penalty-killer. Sergei Kostitsyn and Scott Gomez have developed the chemistry to be a very effective shut-down pair.
Roman Hamrlik played almost 23 minutes and was very good tonight in his return from injury. It was wise to see Hamrlik play once again with Jaroslav Spacek. The two had formed an effective tandem during Markov's injury.
Unfortunately coach Martin chose to match Josh Gorges with Markov. While likable, Gorges has had a poor season and as history as proved, only gets worse when he plays over 20 minutes. Gorges should have remained with Hal Gill.
Ryan O'Byrne once again led the team in hits, and his physical presence is needed beside Markov. O'Byrne is most like Komisarek who was a good complement to Markov.
The Habs went 0-for-3 with the man advantage and did not look like the number one power-play in the league.
The Canadiens will play the Florida Panthers on New Year's eve to end their seven game road trip.
Rocket's three stars
1. Carey Price
2. Mike Smith
3. Tomas Plekanec
Special mention: Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov
Material from wire services was used in this report.
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