Following a sluggish start to the new season on the road, the Habs passed their first major test by shutting out the Penguins. Spare me the no-Crosby factor. With the Habs missing Carey Price, that’s a wash. That wasn’t Price in goal, was it?
- Al Montoya. Brilliant. Again. Has he made a single mistake yet? Positively Price-like Olympic/World Cup save percentage of .962 to lead the NHL. Hard to imagine he’s had a better night in his career – first home game as a Hab in their home opener filling in for the best goalie in the world and he records a 36 save shutout against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Hopefully when Price does return, Stephane Waite will not let Montoya get too cold.
- Max Pacioretty. This is what captains do. Took charge on the opening shift and never let up, except when he was forced to the dressing room early in the third period with a scary looking cramp in his left leg. A more Pacioretty-like six shots on goal – all dangerous. Pushed back in a goalmouth scrum. Got into Eric Fehr’s face after the veteran Pittsburgh forward boarded his centreman. You don’t have to start swinging wildly to make a statement to your teammates that you are there for them. Wearing the ‘C’ during the game is not just symbolic. Let’s be clear about this – even though it was P.K. Subban who was traded it was the entire leadership group – led by Pacioretty – that failed miserably a season ago. If it didn’t cost so much to replace 30-35 goals it might have been Pacioretty on his way out of town, in addition to Subban. He got a reprieve. Looks like he learned something.
- Jeff Petry. Just think of him – for now – as Subban. Because unless Petry has a career year the Habs are going to need to bring in a proven, mobile, puck moving defenseman. Excellent start.
- Alex Galchenyuk & Brendan Gallagher. Pacioretty’s line mates were also a force, robbed several times from in close by Marc Andre Fleury (who wasn’t?). Galchenyuk won a few more face offs (45%) while Gallagher helped him out in the right face off circle most of the night (50% on eight draws).
- David Desharnais. Man, he needed that. To those “fans” who crapped all over him following the shootout loss in Ottawa – do you possess any empathy at all?
- Alexander Radulov. “A special player” said his coach post game. The Habs haven’t had a forward like this since….since…since…? (No, he’s grittier than Kovalev)
- PK Unit. Led by Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin and Torrey Mitchell.
- Nathan Beaulieu. Looks like a seasoned vet. His partner might have something to do with it.
- Andrew Shaw. Looked good in his Montreal debut. Desharnais’s first goal, via an amazing no-look set up from Pacioretty, doesn’t happen without Shaw forcing a turnover along the boards. And he behaved himself following a chat with Stephane Quintal, the head of the NHL Player Safety department.
- Mikhail Sergachev. I thought he looked pretty good. Was challenged early on by an onrushing Phil Kessel and managed to keep the speedy Pittsburgh winger to the outside. Better than his NHL debut in Buffalo but still must have been full of nerves playing in front of his family who came in from Russia to watch. But their eyes must have been glued to the bench in the third period.
- Michel Therrien. Made the right moves to go quicker with Sergachev instead of Greg Pateryn and Brian Flynn instead of Daniel Carr. (Carr is a better player. But I won’t argue with a shutout victory even as Flynn was one of just two forwards – with Phillip Danault – who failed to register a shot on goal) Therrien recognizes he has something special in Radulov (Semin? Anybody still on that silly Alex Semin comparison train?). He moved him up in Ottawa when it was apparent Radulov was the only member of the top 6 who was dangerous. He also double shifted him. In this one we saw Radulov on the left point for a 5 on 3 power play which lasted just 15 seconds before Weber took a tripping penalty. And he kept a (mostly) strong looking Andrei Markov to a more reasonable 20:18.
- Kirk Muller. Welcome home.
- Opening ceremonies. Special. Again. And touching. So good to see Jacques Demers.
- Tomas Plekanec. For a really smart player he made a lot of strange decisions with the puck. Clearly out of sync to start. No surprise his right winger scored but only after moving up to play with Galchenyuk once Pacioretty had to leave the ice for a shift. Anybody else suffering from a World Cup hangover?
- Tom Kuhnackl. Poor guy was levelled by a Petry slapshot early in the first period. Could barely make it back to the Pittsburgh bench. Barely five minutes later he was at it again, this time blocking a Weber missile. Later in the game it was Brendan Gallagher who got hit with friendly Weber fire in front of the Pittsburgh net. How long before Weber breaks a bone or two with that shot?
- Clement Jodoin. Nothing against the career coach but doesn’t he always look like he’s about to cry?