Two point are two points, but that game wasn't what anyone would call pretty. The first period against Toronto on Wednesday was undesirable, but the first period against the Washington Capitals was embarrassing to watch. When the camera panned to Michel Therrien on the bench when the shots were 13-0 in favour of Washington, he looked like he wanted to throw up.
Fortunately though, Therrien's call to start Dustin Tokarski paid off big time. It's not often a team can throw its backup into the fire like that and survive, but Tokarski was absolutely brilliant the entire way through, making huge stops to keep the Canadiens within just a single goal, in spite of the flow of play.
The one goal against was the result of a bad turnover from P.K. Subban, who had an uncharacteristically awful game. For whatever reason, no matter what Subban did in Washington, the puck just would not settle down for him. Frustrated, he started to make poor decisions, and got burned.
Subban wasn't alone in the uncharacteristically bad game department, as David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty were particularly brutal at even strength, even though both looked pretty solid on the powerplay. The only forward that looked consistently dangerous was Alex Galchenyuk, whose incredible puckhandling nearly tied the game on a breakaway, then did tie the game when he found Tomas Plekanec in the high slot, who beat Braden Holtby for his third goal of the year already.
Galchenyuk wowed again in the shootout, pulling a sequence of moves you'd think only Patrick Kane would try before roofing it, then sailing through the air like Bobby Orr. Unfortunately that epic goal wasn't the winner, but after a rough couple of games, Brendan Gallagher took the game in his hands and beat Holtby five-hole to win it for Montreal.
Since everyone is already on his back, I thought I would check in on Gilbert again today. Tom Gilbert and Andrei Markov once again drew the tough defensive deployment, with Gilbert taking ten of the team's 22 defensive-zone draws, and just three in the offensive zone. In a game where almost everyone on the Habs was bad, Gilbert and Markov put up positive possession, and Gilbert notched his first assist as a Hab on Plekanec's game-tying goal.
I hope that we can cut the idiotic narrative surrounding Gilbert off before it picks up steam so I don't have to do this all season, but this was a truly brilliant move by Marc Bergevin. Gilbert was a first pairing defenseman last year, and a good one, probably worth around $5M when you compare him to his peers, yet he's making $2.8M for two years. It's a steal.
Bergevin's moves coming up aces
Speaking of Bergevin's moves, everything he did this summer has looked like a master stroke thus far. Yes, I know it's early, but look at what Manny Malhotra has been able to do late in games, winning draws in the defensive zone under pressure, and the dude can skate! That improved fourth line allowed Therrien to split up the minutes almost evenly against Toronto, ensuring his players would be fresh against the Capitals.
And they were fresh. The first period was a mess, but the Canadiens were the team that got better as the game went on. If they were tired, that wouldn't have been the case.
P.A. Parenteau notched two assists in the opener, along with the best possession numbers, scored a goal in this one, which was disallowed, and continually picked off passes in the neutral zone to start offensive rushes. The gap in talent between Parenteau and Briere couldn't be more obvious.
Then there's Jiri Sekac, who was shifted onto Plekanec's line to give the team a spark, and worked extremely well there. That's a line that I think should stick together, with Gallagher moving on to Lars Eller's line. Sekac has seen all of one offensive zone start in two games so far, and he hasn't looked like it's hurt him at all.
We joke about Bourque a lot, but let's be honest for a minute here, he's been pretty dangerous so far. He's always going to miss passes and cheat defensively, but he looks engaged, and had a hand in two almost-goals against the Capitals. There are two kinds of Almost Bourque, there's the guy that isn't trying so nothing ever works for him, and there's the guy that's getting tons of chances but can't cash. The second guy is the one we're seeing now, and we saw that Bourque last year right before the playoffs started, right before he lit teams on fire and danced around them joyously.
I have a feeling that before we know it, we're going to be in for a Rene Bourque hot streak. Even if it doesn't last long, if Bourque can continue to compete like he has been so far, he's not nearly the anchor we're used to watching.