And then it was six.
What’s been the secret formula for the best start in franchise history? A relentless forecheck which doesn’t stop even in a tight game late in the third period. Or as Pierre Mcguire once implored the Habs to do during the Jacques Martin era: “Attack! Attack! Attack!” (Asking a Jacques Martin coached team to play in attack mode is like asking Donald Trump to play bashful.) Watching P.K. Subban pinch in an effort to keep the puck in the Detroit zone with less than a minute to play and the game already decided put an exclamation point on the Habs philosophical change (Subban sized up the play well as he moved down to the face off circle). There is a confidence to the way they’re playing which, at the moment, seems unshakeable. Everybody is involved as Michel Therrien continues to roll four lines in a Bernie Sanders kind of way. Only one player saw less than 12:00 of ice time.
How good are these Habs? Since starting the season 4-0 they’ve actually looked even better against two of the best teams in the East, outscoring the Rangers and Red Wings 7-1 while outshooting them 73-47. Yes, the Red Wings played the night before (spanked by Carolina) so it played into the Habs’ game plan, “We knew they played last night so we wanted to get pucks behind them and wear them out” said the game’s first star. But, it’s kind of early in the season to plead fatigue and Detroit did have a couple of key young players in the line up for the first time this season as Darren Helm and Danny Dekeyser returned from injuries. And anyway, didn’t the Habs beat the Senators in Ottawa the night after they had played in Boston?
These guys are very good. Bring on the Blues.
- Jeff Petry. You know how much this meant to the Detroit native. He was all over the ice – skating, hitting, defending, shooting, scoring. What else can you ask for? And what exactly was the problem in Edmonton again?
- Brendan Gallagher. Memo to NHL.com: Instead of getting a photo of Gallagher’s face when clicking on his profile why not just feature a shot of him inside the Detroit net underneath Peter Mrazek after his goal? Better yet was the cross crease pass he made to his centreman to put the game out of reach. Montreal’s third goal came after Gallagher easily stripped the puck away from Mike Green – the Red Wings consolation prize after they failed to get a shot at landing native son Petry.
- Tomas Plekanec. Celebrated his new contract with a key goal. This quick start (5 goals) is nothing new. Through his first six games a year ago Plekanec had 4 goals and 7 points.
- Alex Galchenyuk-Alex Semin-Lars Eller. Best game to date as a trio. Galchenyuk looks unstoppable when he enters the zone with speed. Eller skated miles. And Semin was a magician with the puck. It feels like the goals are going to come. In bunches.
- David Desharnais. This Desharnais-as-third-line-C move just might work. At least until the spring.
- Dale Weise. Set up in the slot on three separate occasions only to be stopped each time by Mrazek who, like Henrik Lundqvist but not quite as spectacular, kept his team in the game with a strong performance. It was Weise who clocked in at a game low 11:32 but he packed a lot of serious play into those minutes. And he was a perfect 5-0 in the face off circle taking draws for an ailing Desharnais.
- Brian Flynn. A beat-the-buzzer empty netter capped off another impressive night for the 4th line. Now the only Habs right winger without a goal is Semin.
- P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov. What do you mean they haven’t scored yet?
- Tom Gilbert and Nathan Beaulieu. I thought this was their best game.
- Special Teams. Habs power play, which actually looked good without scoring in game five (see previous blog), clicked twice. It’ll be interesting to note if Therrien continues to pair Petry and Subban on the point as he did on the successful power play early in the third period. And the Penalty Kill unit was perfect.
- Carey Price. Oh yeah, him too.
- Marc Joannette. Referee worked his 1,000th career game.
- Dave Jackson. Joannette’s partner and long time friend confused a lot of us on the Gallagher “goal”. He didn’t signal goal nor did he wave it off. He just put his hands in the air as if to say “I have no clue what to call here.” (Unless there was an imaginary football game being played in his mind and somebody had just scored a touchdown.) I get it that the refs now have a backup plan in place and with Mrazek not able to play the puck his instinct might have been to disallow the goal because of incidental contact (Gallagher clearly stumbled into Mrazek, he didn’t run him) but you gotta make a call in that situation, no? Anyway, it was good to see four graduates of the Q (Jackson, Joannette and linesemen Pierre Racicot and Michel Cormier) share in Joanette’s milestone night. Proudest guy in the rink was their mentor, the former longtime referee-in-chief of the QMJHL, Doug Hayward.
- Alexei Emelin. The defenseman-on-a-mission played well but I gotta put something here. When he hunted down Justin Abdelkader on his first shift he was sending out a message loud and clear but not nearly as loud as the thud he created when he missed the Detroit winger and slammed into the boards/glass. For an instant Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn thought they might actually get to play. But it was just an instant. Then they went back to finishing their hot dogs.