Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (W)
Habs goalscorers: Pacioretty
Opposition goalscorers: Leino, Gaustad, Kaleta
Emelin made an incredible save in the second period just moments after delivering the hit of the game on Pominville. The Sabres looked certain to take the lead as Price was caught at the other side of the net and there was a shot coming. Emelin, however, did what he had to and slid right in front of the shot making a spectacular leg save.
Luckily for us David was competing tonight. Of the other centres, Eller wasn't bad, but where did that 26 minutes of Plekanec/Engqvist go?. Desharnais was ready to play tonight as was his whole line. Whatever he did during the break didn't hinder his performance tonight; can many other Habs say that?
Erik Cole - Game Puck
I was shocked that Cole didn't score tonight and I think that Miller and Cole himself were too. He does not have to change a single thing from here on in, he just has to keep playing the same. If his teammates follow we win games 7-2, if they don't he stands out like a sore thumb.
One of the best parts about Cole, I believe, has been the influence that he has had on Pacioretty. At one time (even at times this year) a solid performance wasn't a given for Max, these days, however, it seems that it is. He was just like his fellow winger tonight and should feel free to hold his head high in the dressing room.
Is it poor planning, bad luck or poor play by teammates that has made it essential that this rookie from Russia be a top-3 (at times top-2) for us? He is doing a great job and I am very happy with his play, but I can't say the same for those around him who should be able to play a lot better than they are. We are lucky to have Alex, but slightly unlucky that others, notably Gill, are far below what we need.
He had 6 of our 21 blocked shots (Emelin had 4) and is another player who I feel is giving us more than we necessarily deserve. Subban wasn't hot tonight which meant Josh had to be sharp, and he was. Josh, however, like the rest of us, needs Markov back, fast.
Carey had some help from his posts, but, at times, not from his teammates. It was a good game, though and 2 goals on 39 shots is what it felt like it should be. So, why so many shots? Why so few goals? He isn't going to win many games like that (no one would), so he is another one who should have a few questions for certain teammates.
We have 3 strategies when we have an extra-man for gaining the zone. The first is the dump and chase which, as we proved with repetition tonight only works when you do both of those things. We not only had trouble dumping it in at times, but when we did there was no recovery by the forwards. The end result was an easy clearance. The next is the Gomez carry with speed and dump into the corner once he crosses the blue-line. This one is even worse as the opposition has better positioning than they do on the dump and chase. This rarely works as we are relying a lot on Gomez, himself, to reclaim the puck which just doesn't happen with any regularity. The third choice is the Subban carry and circle. Occasionally this will result in a shot, but more often a pass. This isn't a bad play, but it does seem that the players aren't always ready for it.
All of this tells me a few things. It tells me, primarily, that we don't work enough on the PP or empty-net situations. Each of these three approaches, in theory, could work, but it is painfully obvious that we aren't well-practiced enough at any of them to be comfortable with them. The other thing it shows is that we aren't smart. We gain the zone with regularity at even-strength by carrying it in with speed up the wings. We, somehow, are able to do this despite the presence of an extra defender. My guess is that we practice this and are comfortable doing it. Wouldn't a smart coach forget what Power-Plays 101 say you should do and just do what works for his players? Our PP's biggest problem is this as we spend a good 50% of every man-advantage just trying to establish the zone.
Other that Diaz and Price the Habs had the week off, right? I understand that this is a good time to travel and see the family, but I don't see that as a right. At this rate there will be 5 months of holiday, so I would have liked to see us practicing over that week, each day. Why not? Why do we have to do what the other teams do? Why can't we see how desperate our situation is and take the time (which is a gift at this stage of the season) and use it to our advantage? Think of how much work we could get done on the PP if we practiced for just 3 hours for each of the last 5 days. It is commonly accepted that there will be rust after an All-Star (or Olympic) break, but as far as I know there is no NHL rule that makes this mandatory. The Habs players and coaches has a chance to get a leg up on other teams. Instead, as we saw tonight, they regressed again and are now in an even bigger hole.
I honestly don't feel like the players and coaches are serious about the goal of winning this year and, so, I can't see how we can ever really be that threatening team that we all want us to be.