Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins: Carey Price and the Power Play KO Bruins
For the Canadiens' 16th game of the 2010 NHL season, they were in Boston to take on the rival Bruins.
Not only was this the first meeting of the season between the two teams, but it was an ever-important "four point" matchup between two inter-division competitors.
While the rivalry was renewed the game didn't quite rank as a classic as the Bruins looked tired at certain moments during the game. That's not really surprising considering the B's had played the night before in Pittsburgh.
But, none the less, there was a game to be played that featured a homecoming for Boston-native, Hal Gill, and an 800th career NHL game for Scott Gomez.
On the ice, the Habs took the play to the Bruins early in the game and opened the scoring on P.K. Subban's first NHL goal, on the power play.
The Bruins came to life after they had tied things up on Zdeno Chara's fourth of the season. The game was a tightly contested matchup that featured excellent goaltending at both ends of the ice from Tuukka Rask and Carey Price.
Locked in a 1-1 battle heading to start the third, the Habs broke the deadlock with their second power play marker of the game. After that, the Habs clamped down the neutral zone and stifled any attempt to tie the game by the Bruins.
Price again made a myriad of excellent saves and were it not for Brian Gionta losing his man on the Bruins lone goal, this might have been another shutout.
All in all, the Habs played a perfect road game. They scored two power play goals, Price was outstanding, and they had four effective lines rolling all game.
Final score: Habs 3-Bruins 1
Habs' scorers: P.K. Subban (1), Brian Gionta (3), Scott Gomez (2)
Bruins' scorers: Zdeno Chara (4)
Three stars: 1. Carey Price 2. Michael Cammalleri 3. Zdeno Chara
1. Price has truly taken his game to another level.
Price's stellar play was never more evident than when he made three quick saves, with about eight minutes left in the first period, to preserve a 1-0 lead.
On the play, the first shot came from in front of him, the second from the right side, and the third from in front again. Price's lateral movement is so sound that he moved back-and-forth to stop all three shots while making it look like a walk in the park.
When Price is on his game, as he has been in every game so far this season, he makes everything look so easy and effortless.
Price finished the night stopping 34 of 35 shots for a .971 save percentage and his record now stands at 9-5-1 with a 2.19 GAA and a .923 save percentage, through 15 games.
2. Don't look now, but the Habs' PP might be waking up.
Two of the three goals the Canadiens scored last night were power play markers, as they went 2-for-5 on the pp for an excellent 40 percent efficiency rate. Moreover, three out of the last four goals that the Canadiens have scored—over the last two games—have been power play goals.
Subban potted the first one last night—and his first NHL goal—by wiring an Andrei Markov pass to the right of Rask for a 1-0 lead. This kid has a ton of power on his shot and when he gets it on net, good things happen.
The other power play goal was a sigh-of-relief-inducing goal by Brian Gionta—his third of the season—on a sweet saucer pass from Cammalleri. Gionta, as always, was positioned right in front of the net and open to swat the slightly bouncy pass behind Rask for a 2-1 Habs lead.
Keep in mind that while it is only 16 games into the season, the Habs had marched out to a 9-4-1 record with a pp that was firing blanks and a second line that was sputtering. Last night, both the power play and the second line contributed and, if the Canadiens can keep all facets of their game rolling, they could become a force to contend with.
I think their match against the rough and tumble Flyers on Tuesday will go a long way towards demonstrating what kind of team the Habs really are.
3. Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and Tom Pyatt looked good together.
During the previous game against the Canucks, this line looked disorganized and out of sync. Last night against the Bruins, however, they seemed to find their rhythm and were solid contributors as a result.
While they didn't score any goals their tenacious forecheck and excellent cycle caused problems for the Bruins every time they were on the ice. Early in the first, their offensive zone puck possession caused Tyler Seguin to haul down Moen with Subban scoring on the ensuing power play.
Scoring goals is not the only way for a line to contribute to the success of a team. Often, with a line like Eller's, drawing a penalty, or gaining the momentum and then transferring it to the next line can be just as important in winning hockey games.
Eller was much more effective last night. Playing 10:24 with 1:14 on the penalty kill, he saw enough ice time to allow him to feel like he was part of the game.
Jacques Martin gave Eller some PK time in order for him to gain some confidence, but I have to agree with Arpon Basu of CTV's the Daily Hab-it, on this one in saying that I think time on the PP would probably do more for his confidence.
That aside, it seems like maybe the coach is finally finding a balance for Eller as playing 10 minutes a game—versus the five of so minutes he's been getting lately—should help him to continue his progression.
4. Subban is one of the best young defenseman in the league.
A bold statement? Perhaps. But look around the league. How many defenseman are there that have the kind of mobility that Subban does? Very few.
Can you think of any? The only name or comparable that I can think of is Drew Doughty in Los Angeles.
So far, Subban seems to be the complete package as he is big, strong, an excellent skater, has a hard shot, makes a great first pass, has excellent stick-handling skills, and is incredibly tough to knock off of the puck.
There were two sequences last night where Subban's considerable skills were on display, as he carried the puck through the Bruins zone with one hand on his stick and the other keeping the checker at bay. On both plays, the Bruins' player was neither able to knock Subban over nor take the puck away for him.
I think they hit the nail on the head on RDS's l'Antichambre last night when they said that Subban looks more like a high first round pick right now, than a second rounder.
5. Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn all contributed.
Perhaps it is a matter of chemistry, but AK46 looked pretty good on Gomez's wing and Gomez, who has been a one-man show of late, was making good use of his winger.
Keep in mind that it was Gomez's 800th career game in the NHL and maybe he did some reflection on what has made him successful so far in his career, because he played his best game of the season.
He was involved in the play, made some great passes, and even scored his second goal of the season. On the play, he went to the slot after passing the puck to Kostitsyn and backhanded in the rebound off of AK46's shot for a 3-1 Habs lead.
The goal was one of many examples where Gomez effectively used his linemate by letting AK carry the puck to the net and shoot. Where Gomez has been frustratingly turning pucks over at the offensive blueline in recent weeks, he was instead passing it off to Kostitsyn or Maxim Lapierre last night.
The result was that their line was able to gain the offensive zone much more easily, exerted considerable offensive pressure, and had several scoring chances as a result.
Moving up the lineup, Cammalleri, who is not scoring goals right now, made several excellent passes and picked up two assists in the process. Despite his lack of goal scoring, Cammalleri continues to make things happen on the ice and contribute. He now has 11 points (3G, 8A) and leads all Canadiens with a plus-9 rating.
Brian Gionta too has had problems scoring lately but he was flying on a line with Cammalleri and Plekanec. His power play marker ended up being the game winning goal and he now had a goal and an assist in his last two games.
Standings and Next Game
The win moves that Canadiens record to 10-5-1 record with 21 points in the standings. While many are still waiting for the other shoe to drop, the Canadiens have so far dispatched of two opponents this week that pundits said were true tests for the team.
The Canadiens fly back to Montreal, where they will start a four-game home stand Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
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