A couple of games do not a season make. But a couple of good games in a row from players in long term slumps can be considered a good sign and that’s what was seen from the number one and number two stars of the Canadiens 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
For the second game in a row Carey Price was on top of his game. And Tomas Plekanec was deservedly the game’s second star for his all round work against a Calgary team that can produce offense if nothing else.
ALL-STAR FORM –
Statistically, it’s possible to name five or six goaltenders who are more deserving of a trip to the All-Star game this season than Carey Price. It’s been more than two months since we could honestly state that Price hands-down won a game for the Canadiens. This one was what we have come to know as vintage Price. He made what might be considered a game-saving stop on Johnny Gaudreau’s breakaway in the second minute of the game. Who knows what might have happened if Gaudreau has scored especially in light of the sloppy way the Canadiens played in the first period. Price went on to make a host of other top-drawer saves especially against the Flames power play which produced nine of their 31 shots in the game. Through no fault of his own, Price took a loss Saturday night against Buffalo. He left no room for a loss against the Flames. A shame to lose his shutout with one second left, but a win is a win.
A long time Canadiens fan could be forgiven for being hard-pressed to find things to like about Tomas Plekanec and his overall game this season. In January we’ve started to see some of the good things that he gave the team over the last decade. All of them were there in this game. His shorthanded goal turned out to be the game winner. He assisted on Alexander Radulov’s second power play goal of the game. And he made a big contribution on the penalty kill, although through thick and thin, that part of his game has seldom left him. And he won 12 of 16 face-offs. Like Price, Plekanec will be going into the All-Star break in good frame of mind.
VERY SPECIAL –
Special teams dominated the game. The penalty killers had a big night when it counted, especially when they were two men short and Shea Weber broke his stick midway through the second period. Plekanec scored the winning goal shorthanded. Ten of the Flames 31 shots came off their power play.
Radulov scored twice on the power play. His second goal was a thing of beauty, cutting in front and then roofing a backhander from the edge of the crease. The Canadiens haven’t had much time to practice, this being their ninth game in the last sixteen days. When they have been able to squeeze in a practice or two, Kirk Muller has spent extra time on the power play and it’s clearly paid off. In January the Canadiens have the number one power play in the league at 35.2% (12 goals in 34 opportunities).
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING –
….It doesn’t seem to matter who plays between Radulov and Max Pacioretty, the read chemistry is between the two of them. Pacioretty didn’t get a point in this game but the line was very visible all night.
….After a few off-nights, Andrew Shaw was back being his abrasive self, which is the way he makes his game work. Shaw had a goal and assist.
….With all of the injuries Sven Andrighetto is getting a lot of ice time and he’s making a contribution. I’m not sure he’s ready to be called an NHL regular but he’s doing some good things. Remember, he cleared waivers a couple of months ago. I doubt he would clear waivers again.
MOVING ON –
The Canadiens will play the Islanders at Brooklyn Thursday night which will be their 13th game in the month of January. All but Carey Price and Shea Weber will get the weekend off for the All-Star game. They will go into the break with the lead in the Atlantic Division. It’s been a grind, especially with 162 man-games lost through injuries.