It was a snoozer of a game somehow, but the Habs impressed us once again with a win over the struggling Capitals.
Remember heading into the year how we were told that Andrei Markov was finished? How Brian Gionta was too old and brittle? Sure doesn't seem that way right now.
Markov has 3 goals and an assist in 3 games after his goal and assist performance today. He's scored both game winners for the Habs, both on the resurgent powerplay. He's built some excellent chemistry with Raphael Diaz, who has been a revelation with lessened responsibilities, leading the Montreal Canadiens with 5 points (all assists) in 3 games.
Gionta has 2 goals and an assist in 3 games, as does linemate Tomas Plekanec. Rene Bourque only has one assist so far, but that's going to change soon with how well he's played. That line has been so good that I think it's safe to say they're the de facto top line for now.
Plekanec once again lead the forwards in ice time, a mark of his versatility. He was the only forward to play over 17 minutes (18:26), and only David Desharnais hit 16. Plekanec's ice time is a testament to his versatility, and it's obvious that Therrien realizes it. Which makes it all the more confusing why Therrien doesn't like Lars Eller, who in many ways is a Plekanec clone. But a digress.
Therrien's forward usage has been remarkably balanced, with 4 units who can handle their own at even strength, this careful bench management could really benefit the Canadiens long term.
Francis Bouillon's ice time finally took the hit that we were expecting today, below 20 minutes for the first time this season, with Diaz and Alexei Emelin getting more time than him for the first time. Things seem to be regulating normally as far as usage goes, and we can expect Bouillon to not see any more PP time once P.K. Subban signs.
Max Pacioretty has been snake bitten as far as scoring goes, and both his linemates have been killing him by playing way below what's expected of them, but he has 4 assists in 3 games, and 10 shots to lead the team. The goals will come eventually.
Carey Price was once again beyond words brilliant. His shutout bid was broken on a bit of a flukey play by Joey Crabb, but it was the second time in 3 games where he was caught using the inverted VH stance, this time it cost him a goal. Our goalie guru Chris Boyle politely requests that Price removes that stance from his arsenal.
As Boyle pointed out in his last piece on Price's performance, he gave up more rebounds than we're accustomed to expecting, but his reactions have been stellar and he's just not getting beat on regular shots.
One sad note on the game is that the Canadiens finally gave up their first even strength goal of the year. It took 177 minutes and 37 seconds of play for the Habs to be scored on at even strength, and their current even strength goal differential of +4 is 2nd in the league. The Habs are being outshot overall by nearly 3 shots per game though. Something P.K. Subban could help to change.
The Canadiens really sat back in the third period, getting only two shots on goal to the Washington Capitals' 11, but with a 4-0 lead you can't really blame them.
Yesterday before the game started, frequent commenter 'India6' predicted;
"that Montreal meets or exceeds its goal total from last year’s season series with the Caps."
Kudos! Last season the Canadiens scored just 3 goals on the Capitals in 4 games, and they blew that out of the water last night with 4.
Yesterday's game marks the second straight time the Canadiens defeated an opponent that swept them in a season series last season. An encouraging sign.
There was a lot of talk coming into the season that the Southeast division is no longer the South Least, but it sure seems like a bunch of bull so far. The Canadiens have yet to face a good team, and that may chance on Sunday as New Jersey Devils come to town. But a win is a win is a win, and the Canadiens are looking pretty good so far. And they're looking good with their best skater out.
The Canadiens will gladly take their 2-1-0 record back to Montreal, buoyed by losses for divisional rivals Toronto and Buffalo today, the two losing teams allowing a total of 13 goals.
For the view from the losing side, check out Japer's Rink.