Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.”
If you are anything like me, you weren't in a celebratory mood after tonight's win by the Canadiens.
Make no mistake. Picking up two points against the Flyers in their own building was huge. The Habs are now in sixth place with four games remaining.
But Gandhi is correct.
It was a game in which most of the team—with the exception of the goaltender—gave much less than a "full effort." And it left most fans far from satisfied.
This game was very similar to Wednesday night's contest with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In both games, the Canadiens scored only one goal, and it came before the 10-minute mark of the first period.
It appears that the plan was simply to hold on. The Habs should consider themselves fortunate that the strategy actually worked 50 percent of the time.
Such an approach exposes all of the team's weaknesses—and it hangs the goaltenders out to dry.
In both games, Habs goalies were the best players on their team. Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak stood on their heads, particularly in the third periods, to keep the Canadiens in the games.
Two games. Two phenomenal third-period performances. Price made 16 saves and Halak made 14 saves in the final frames.
Kudos to both of them!
But if Habs fans can suspend their obsessive focus on goaltenders for a moment, they may be horrified that a season-long funk to score even-strength goals shows no sign of improving.
The Canadiens are dead last in the NHL in five-on-five scoring.
The Canadiens managed only three shots on goal in the third period tonight. This pathetic effort was against goaltender Brian Boucher, who has only one win in his last seven starts, and the Flyers, who have lost seven of their last eight games.
Boucher was giving up rebounds galore in the first period, but the Canadiens couldn't get second-shot opportunities. In the third period, they weren't getting first shots.
In addition, the once-vaunted Habs' power play is a dud.
So much for the instant fix (predicted by other analysts) that Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron were supposed to provide when they returned from injury.
Starting the third period tonight, the Canadiens had 90 seconds on the power play to score and extend their lead. But they didn't get a shot on goal and gave the Flyers the momentum to mount a dominating third-period attack.
It is incumbent on the Habs' coaching staff to fix the power play and change the game plan to prepare for the playoffs.
In addition, there are players who are struggling mightily. Chris Pronger effectively neutralized Cammalleri tonight. Cammalleri hasn't scored in five games since his return.
Hal Gill was getting turned in knots by Flyers' forwards.
Benoit Pouliot has lost his way.
And Marc-Andre Bergeron was a disaster playing defense.
Bergeron filled in for Jaroslav Spacek, who was scratched due to illness. The substitution allowed us to see proof positive that RDS' Norman Fynn is delusional when he says that Bergeron is a better defenseman than Spacek.
Besides the shutout performance of Halak, on the positive side of the ledger, Tomas Plekanec had his usual strong game at both ends of the ice.
Defending the Flyers big forwards was an ideal showcase for the value of Ryan O'Byrne. He had a superb game.
Andrei Kostitsyn made a great play along the boards to muscle the puck away from the Flyers' defender and set up Plekanec for the Canadiens' goal.
Ben Maxwell had one of his better games with the big club. He and his line-mates, Mathieu Darche and Max Lapierre, put in solid shifts when called upon.
It is amusing to me when broadcasters talk about Lapierre getting under the skin/into the heads of the opposition.
Is there anyone in the league that fears him?
Lapierre can be effective when he uses his speed and is physical.
Lapierre had two good shifts against Carolina and more tonight. He needs to continue to improve to maintain his spot in the lineup for the playoffs.
So, the Canadiens can be thankful again that their goaltender was a star, and that they faced the team Flyers fans call "the gang that can't shoot straight".
But the mediocre efforts of the past two games aren't going to be good enough against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
The Canadiens' pop-gun offense won't just be making the opposition goaltender look good. Ryan Miller is already a Vezina-candidate.
Let's hope that the Habs can bring a full effort for a full victory to give their fans true satisfaction.
Rocket's Three Stars
1. Jaroslav Halak
2. James Van Riemsdyk
3. Thomas Plekanec
Special mention: Ryan O'Byrne, Tom Pyatt
Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.