See what a little bit of rest can do? Or – in the case of long-injured players – a lot of rest.

Earlier in the day, when asked about the return of David Desharnais, Phillip Danault – who has clearly passed Desharnais and almost everybody else on the depth chart at centre – talked of how he and the Habs were looking forward to having the veteran return to the line up after a lengthy knee injury. “We’re the two Frenchmen in here…” said Danault in a refreshingly innocent manner.

Three days after the NHL paid tribute to its’ 100 greatest players it was kind of cool to watch a game that featured some old school flash and dash by Les Habitants. In fact, it was very reminiscent of the days of The Flying Frenchmen.

THE GOOD

  • Max Pacioretty. That’s how you return from the All Star Break. Just when you thought Robin Lehner was going to follow up his Bell Centre performance of two weeks ago, there was Pacioretty late in the first period, holding onto the puck just long enough to wait out the Sabres goaltender and beat him upstairs with a perfect shot to open the scoring and set in motion his second hat trick of the season. Only one player in the NHL has scored more goals than the Habs captain. His name is Sidney Crosby.
  • Alexander Radulov. It’s no longer just the way he controls the puck and finds his open teammates with perfect passes, whether there is traffic or not. Nor is it the way he takes the puck to the net, often with a coupe of opponents hanging off his back. It’s the way he celebrates a goal that is now part of who and what the Habs are. I’ve never seen anything like it in over 50 years of watching this team. Mats Naslund celebrated goals in style. But they were his goals. The pure joy exhibited by Radulov when somebody else scores while he is on the ice is such a telling factor into the kind of teammate he is. And it sure does energize the joint.

    • Phillip Danault. Not quite as proficient with his passing as Radulov (who is?) but that was such a big time play he made which led to Pacioretty’s second goal when his smart back pass sent the puck to Radulov who got it to Pacioretty in the slot whose shot was too quick for Lehner. Took a cross check in the back from Justin Falk to distract Lehner just enough for Pacioretty to complete the hat trick. And what was he doing in his own end with the Habs up 5-0? Blocking a shot. I think this guy’s a keeper.
    • David Desharnais. Perfect team to return against and Desharnais took advantage of all the open ice the Habs created. We know Desharnais is always in pass-first mode. But not when he has the puck in the slot where he is deadly accurate. Desharnais is a career 15% shooter. Only the last angry anglo standing at the Ontario border couldn’t feel happy for the guy who was back in the line up after missing over seven weeks.
    • Andrei Markov. Long before his perfect set up to help give the Habs a four goal lead, Markov announced his return with a nifty pass up the middle of the ice to spring Tomas Plekanec on a breakaway. Prior to Markov’s first game in six weeks, Mitch Gallo listed the over/under on Markov’s ice time at 16 (minutes). Did you go high or low? Of course he went over. He played 17:43. And it looked like he could have kept going for another period or two.
    • Nikita Nesterov. Welcome to Montreal. Looked good. Couldn’t ask for a better partner to have for his Bell Centre debut than Markov. Definitely not shy to join the rush.

  • Paul Byron. Everybody benefitted from a few days off, but especially smaller guys like Byron. His goal to give Montreal a 4-0 lead was just his second in the last 13 games. It sure was a pretty passing play featuring wily old vets Plekanec and Markov.
  • Pretty Passing Plays. All over the ice. For the second time in 10 days the Habs and Sabres combined for over 70 shots on goal. Not only did the Habs feature a relentless forecheck – at least until they took a 5 goal lead early in the third period – but they flashed a whole of old style fire wagon hockey. More please.
  • Shea Weber & Alexei Emelin. To be expected at this point. Fresh off winning the hardest shot competition All Star weekend, Weber fired plenty of pucks at Lehner. But he wasn’t Montreal’s top shooter from the blue line.
  • Greg Pateryn. Made the most of his opportunity to fill in for an ailing Jeff Petry. Following an expected rough first couple of shifts which included a holding penalty, Pateryn settled down and looked downright scary – for the right reasons – in his first game in eight weeks. Fired 5 shots on goal to lead the Habs and they were all hard, low, accurate blasts that tested Lehner. He also delivered a couple of heavy hits. Does he get to play in Philadelphia?
  • Carey Price. Anybody still concerned that the real Carey Price is MIA? In his last 4 starts his save percentage is .940. To repeat, Price’s game always dips in December and January. Welcome to February.

THE BAD

  • Third Period. For the second consecutive start at home Price looked to be in full shutout mode. Not quite as painful as losing a shutout bid with less than 2 seconds to play but his teammates owe him a couple. And they know it. One of the reasons Danault sprawled to the ice to block a shot with a five goal lead in the third period.

THE UGLY

  • I hope those who paid tribute to the people who lost their lives while praying in a Quebec City mosque did so during their moment of silence while coming to the realization that the most dangerous threat to peace and security in our country usually arrives in the form of a white person with extreme political views.

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6 Responses

  1. Rick L

    Nice rundown, Mitch, thanks … if I may, I might only add that all of the players who returned to the lineup actually contributed to the cause last night … Desharnais, Markov, Pateryn all had good games and were noticeable … welcome Nakita Nesterov, indeed … he’s the second Tampa d-man Montreal has brought in (see Mark Barberio) … thanks again …

    Cheers.

  2. dra58

    Well DD back in high style for last night as he always seems to be after time off for injury but for how long. Not a hater just not sure he fits when AG gets back and not sure coach won’t mis-use his favorite toy. Loved the game and sad to see CP lose his shutout again and really sad to see Gionta score again. I hope MT finds a place for Pateryn as he deserves to play and stop looking over his shoulder.

  3. Michael Nixon

    Echo sentiments on DD…not sure the point of mentioning the last angry Anglo…DD is what he is and, frankly, it’s not good enough over a period of time and he disappears in tough, physical games. That’s just a fact not to mention the last thing we need is a small forward with no edge to his game whose first thought is to pass. We need some gunners…we have enough playmakers.

  4. mitch melnick

    Being happy for the guy is not the same as suggesting Desharnais has a future in Montreal. Regardless of his value there are too many haters out there.

    • Raw man

      Not about hating him, he is good. But him as a winger… no future among #Habs. Guy Boucher had a casse-tête with DD’s inability to skate rationally. His short strokes depleted him so fast that when there was the time to shoot he was out of breath, force. Figuratively was leaning on a board to stay upright. At the same time being at the center this “lacuna” was somehow hidden by his notorious passing game.

      Unlike tonight’s reassurance of Pierre McGuire, DD as a winger is a “band-aide on a hairy skin” – it seems to work but not so much, you remove it and it hurts. But you have to remove it – band-aid is not a new skin. Habs need some new skin, and DD needs to chill in Las Vegas. I wish him all the best … ailleurs.

  5. Rick L

    As an outsider looking in, I think David Desharnais will finish out his contract in Montreal … I’m not trying to be a DD apologist, but he does have positives to his game … I think his biggest asset might be how well he sees the ice … I also think he’s one of the more respected players in the dressing room and that can’t be ignored either … having said that, I wouldn’t expect him or, any other core player for that matter, to be traded at this point (famous last words?) … I found that deadline deals in the past are more about the impact (void) left on the team by the player(s) leaving than they are about the player(s) coming in … granted, the team did well while he was out with injury, but if they wanted to move him out, I think they’d have done it much earlier in the season where the new player(s) have more time to blend into the dynamic and the team has time to recover from the void left by the player(s) who might have left … mind you, stranger things have happened … all that said, I’m not saying Marc Bergevin shouldn’t pull the trigger if he gets the right deal to improve the team, but as the trade deadline nears I think it gets harder to move out core players (ask Glen Sather) … not saying I’m right … that’s only the world according to me and I’ve been wrong before …

    Cheers.