Historic start for the Canadiens. But a little perspective before you make plans for a parade: Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dickie Moore, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Henri Richard, Bert Olmstead, Tom Johnson, Butch Bouchard, Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire, Frank Mahovlich, Jacques Laperriere, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey. These are just the Hall of Famers who played on three previous editions of the Canadiens to start 4-0 (1955-56, 1970-71, 1976-77) en route to an eventual Stanley Cup.
Yes the Habs look good. Very good (imagine if their captain wasn’t ready to start the season). It was a major challenge to begin a new season with four games on the road including a back to back and three home openers. But now comes the hard (harder) part. Yes, they’re at home for the next three games but hosting opponents (Rangers, Red Wings, Blues) who figure to better this season than any of the four teams they just took care of.
Sorry to rain on your parade but let’s see more of this. A lot more.
- Max Pacioretty. Set the tone early. Badly outplayed the other captain. His line mates were pretty good too.
- Brendan Gallagher. Off to a great start – even without scoring. In front of the net on Pacioretty’s second goal. So much for “The biggest disappointment of training camp” (Vinny Damphousse. I suppose because he had to answer a dumb question.)
- Tomas Plekanec. Off to a great start. In front of the net on Pacioretty’s first goal. The trio combined for 14 of Montreal’s 30 shots on goal (47%). More importantly, it appears the process that will eventually lead to a new contract is about to begin. From Pierre LeBrun’s most recent Rumblings Blog at espn.com:
His agent, veteran Rick Curran, said Monday that he recently chatted with general manager Marc Bergevin on a separate matter, but Plekanec was mentioned before the conversation ended and both agreed to talk again soon. Curran added that there is no timeline. In other words, everyone involved seems quite chill about it. July 1 is a long time away.
Plekanec, who turns 33 on Oct. 31, remains a steady performer for the Canadiens (26 goals and 60 points last season) as a two-way player who does a bit of everything. He faded in the playoffs last spring with four points (one goal, three assists) in 12 games. He’s off to a quick start with three goals in his first three games this season.
He’s earning $5 million in the last year of his deal. So, what is he worth to Montreal to keep around? He’s an aging player, although very durable, so my sense is term length will be the key discussion. If he signs, I’m guessing it’s for two or three years.
If the Alex Galchenyuk experiment at center is a success this season — and really, the Habs have no choice but to have it be a success — then by next season he will be the No. 1 center, one would assume.
Plekanec’s future, if he re-signs, is as a No. 2, and eventually as a No. 3 in a few seasons.
I think he loves it in Montreal and it appeals to him to play his entire career there. But the contract still has to make sense. I think the Canadiens like him at the right price. We shall see.
- Carey Price. Rod Francis is a big numbers guy. He likes to tee up match ups by tossing out some meaningful stats. But when he mentioned on the air that Price is 10-13 (10-10-3) lifetime against the Penguins with a 2.98 goals against average I had to jump in. “No save percentage? What about in Pittsburgh? What about most recently?” Rod apparently was still in full football mode, so let me update Price’s pertinent, most recent stats against the Penguins – In his last two games in Pittsburgh he has stopped 61 of 64 shots for a save percentage of .953.
- Alexei Emelin. Is he following the same program as Devante Smith-Pelley? Suddenly looks a lot quicker. Stepped up on Evgeni Malkin early in the second period inside the Montreal blue line and knocked the big guy on his rear end. Emelin ended the night with a game high 7 hits but the only time he was caught out of position was when he joined Pacioretty and Plekanec on a rush while killing a penalty to make it a 3 on 1. But he did manage to hustle back to his own end on the Penguins subsequent two on one which ended when Price smothered a Chris Kunitz shot. This looks like the Emelin we saw prior to his knee surgery three seasons ago.
- Jeff Petry. Having Petry on his right side to start the season might be another reason Emelin looks more confident. To date, Petry is easily GM Marc Bergevin’s best trade and best free agent signing.
- Tomas Fleischmann. First goal as a Hab. Who had him scoring before Semin?
- Dale Weise. 100th game as a Hab. Helped set up the Fleischmann insurance goal by making a terrible pass to an in-the-clear David Desharnais. Fortunately for the Habs, Desharnais had plenty of time to catch up to the puck and make a perfect feed to Fleischmann who hesitated just enough to make Marc Andre Fleury think pass before burying his shot high on the stick side. Weise had been robbed by Fleury from in close just a few minutes earlier.
- P.K. Subban & Andrei Markov. This was one of those controlled, shut down performances by one of the league’s best defense pairs.
- Power Play. Finally. With Subban and Markov on the bench and the points patrolled by Petry and Nathan Beaulieu. Pacioretty said after the game that the plan was to get everybody on the ice to touch the puck. But throwing it around does little unless there is some actual body movement. And it was Pacioretty who finally moved into position to fire.
- Michel Therrien. C’mon you can do it. Not a big hug but just a little love.
- Alex Semin. Ok, so he is waiting for opening night at the Bell Centre. No shots on goal. Once again hesitated before shooting the puck, giving the Penguins an opportunity to get in the way. Therrien clearly didn’t like Semin’s approach in this one – cutting his ice time down to 11:13, a full two to three minutes less than line mates Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. In fact the only skaters to see less ice time were Desharnais and Weise. At this point the question on Semin is not whether he will score but when he does will more follow a la Pacioretty?
- This could get very ugly. Following the game RDS had a shot of Malkin waving his arms and yelling at Patric Hornqvist who was sitting next to him at the end of the Penguins bench. Maybe it was the Emelin hit. More likely it’s three straight losses with a total of three goals scored for a team that was supposed to offensively burn opponents. Sidney Crosby was in full playoff frustration mode but at least he finally hit the net (4 shots on goal), only to be robbed each time by Price. The Penguins will get their offense going, especially if coach Mike Johnston does what he waited too long to do in this one – put Crosby and Malkin on the ice at the same time with Phil Kessel. But that blue line is going to bite them. GM Jim Rutherford is already feeling some heat. Wouldn’t it be amusing to listen in on a conversation right now between Rutherford and Bruins GM Don Sweeney?