A classy start caps off a successful Habs first quarter

MONTREAL - NOVEMBER 20: Scott Gomez #11 of the Montreal Canadiens congratulates teammate goalie Carey Price #31 on his shutout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 20 2010 in Montreal Quebec Canada. The Canadiens defeated the Maple Leafs 2-0. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)


On Saturday night, arenas around North America observed a moment of silence in honor of Pat Burns, who passed away after his long battle with cancer on Friday.

In Montreal, a moment of silence isn't enough as the Bell Centre crowd and fans watching across North America attested to. The Montreal Canadiens always put on a great pre-game ceremony, and there is no comparison in any other barn or for that matter any other pro sports league.

 

The Globe and Mail's Bruce Arthur, who is based in Toronto but on hand at the game, tweeted it this way, "Wonderful Pat Burns tribute here. Standing ovation, video tribute, moment of silence. The Canadiens do it right"

Absolutely fitting that the Canadiens played the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, with Burns being just one of two men to ever coach both franchises. The other being the legendary Dick Irvin.

For me, I managed to watch the opening ceremony and most of the first period, before heading out to dinner with friends. Fortunately I had a 40" Samsung HDTV planted right in front of me, above the heads of my dinner companions, so I didn't miss too much of the game.

Habs coach JacquesMartin did throw a monkey wrench out early, as he changed the predicted forward lines at the last minute. CTV's Aropn Basu tweeted that Martin "lied" about where Yannick Weber would line up. I beg to differ, and would call it coaching strategy.

The first half of the period showed a strong effort from both teams, as well as goaltenders Carey Price and Jonas Gustavsson.

Slowly but surely, the Canadiens started to take control and special teams were the key to their offense on the night.

Montreal shutdown the Leafs power play, that was key in their wins earlier this week, on all three occasions. Added salt on the wound was Jeff Halpern's shorthanded goal in the second period to open the scoring.

It was a textbook play, win the face-off and get a shot from the point and see what happens. Halpern did his part of the work, and was rewarded with the tip-in.

 

It again proved the value of signing Halpern for a bargain basement price. La Presse's Marc-Antoine Godin put it this way, and he's absolutely right.

"Jeff Halpern est probablement le meilleur centre au cercle de mise en jeu que le CH a eu depuis Yanic Perreault."

The Canadiens centre was 7-2 on faceoffs on a night where the team dominated by a 35-18 margin.

With both goalies refusing to give an inch. the game appeared to be going to be another one of those one-goal games that the Habs and Leafs are notorious for.

Gustavsson managed to keep his Leafs in the game, but unfortunately his teammates had different plans in the third period.

The Leafs biggest flaw is turnovers, where they are worst in the league to cough up the puck. The second goal was no exception.

With the Leafs killing a penalty, Mike Komisarek made what is pretty much a fundamental flaw by dishing the puck across the front of his own net to a waiting Mike Cammalleri. The Habs winger one-timed the"pass" behind the Leafs netminder.

If there are kids reading this post, I suggest no reading lips on "The Monster's" reaction.

Perhaps Komisarek had a flashback to his Michigan days, where him passing to Cammalleri was commonplace. After the game was over, I snuck on my Blackberry to check out some post game reaction on Twitter.

"I was trying to hit the guy in the middle and it went between two of our guys and went to (Cammalleri)," said Komisarek. "It was the right play but the execution wasn’t quite there" OK Mike.

I almost spit my after dinner coffee out when I read this tweet from Radio-Canada's J.F. Chaumont.

Maxim Lapierre au sujet de Mike Komisarek..."Je l'ai remercié d'avoir quitté Montréal."

I quickly retweeted it, and later received a message from HNIC's Jeff Marek, who asked me what it meant. Translated out: "I thanked him for leaving Montreal."

Apparently Laps and Komi did not get along well during their days together in Montreal.

The Canadiens then played a solid shut down game, anchored by Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek. I can't get my finger on the latter of the pair, who's defensive play this season is up and down like a yo-yo.

Gustavsson's goaltending was well deserving of a Second-star. The new fan voting thought otherwise, but HNIC gave him a deserving one for his 37-save night.

The game's First Star, Carey Price. It was another spectacular night for the Canadiens goaltender, who had 30 saves, many difficult, on the night.

 

 

 

It was the first shutout at home for the Canadiens over the Leafs since Ken Dryden pulled the whitewash on  November 12, 1977.

It was also Price's fourth shutout of the season, setting a personal season best, with just 19 games played this season. His 12th win is one shy of his total wins for the 2009-10 season. Anyone doubting why the Habs were willing to trade Jaroslav Halak now?

Price revealed on Saturday that he had received a message from Pat Burns before the start of the season.

"He's a special person," Price said. "He did a lot of great things in this League for both teams. He's definitely in all of our hearts. He left me a message before the season started, and it really touched me. He gave it to Kirk (Muller) and Kirk gave it to me, so that was pretty special."

The Canadiens goaltender didn't reveal what was said in the message, but whatever it was it seems to be working.

The Canadiens netminder also got high praise from his teammates, notably Halpern, who compared him to former Washington Capitals teammate Olaf Kolzig.

"On the outside he looks nonchalant, but he’s anything but," said Halpern. "He’s so smooth, and so big, he just blocks everything."

Kolzig won the Vezina trophy in 2000, when he and Halpern were in Washington, and was Price's mentor when the young goalie played for the Tri-City Americans (WHL).

The Canadiens now find themselves at the quarter mark of the season, with a 13-6-1 record. This time last year they were 9-11.

They have an off day Sunday before jetting off to The City of Brotherly Love to face the Philadelphia Flyers. Brotherly Love/Flyers/Flyers fans....hmmmmm.

 And for those keeping score, I only got busted three times by my fiance, checking my Blackberry at dinner.

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