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It’s so easy to
fall into old habits. As I sat down in front of the TV, armed with my clipboard,
8" by 12" letter paper and trusty Habs pen, the first name I wrote down on the
page: Kovalev. Oops. It’s old habits of the Canadiens that Montreal General
Manager Bob Gainey tried to break with his somewhat surprising and somewhat
unsurprising move of not just sitting Alex Kovalev, but telling him to stay
home. Add to that dealing for alumnus defenseman
Mathieu Schneider, calling up grinder Greg Stewart, and sending Sergei Kostitsyn
and Ryan O’Byrne to the minors, it was a clear message sent to the Canadiens:
work hard or you’re out. Guy Carbonneau continued that message in the game,
often playing the grinders in key minutes against Washington. It was clear as
day that the team put in a better all-around effort than they have recently. And
after these road woes of late, you gotta be happy
with getting a point against the Capitals. But with the way Montreal played it
just seemed like they deserved a better fate than a shootout loss.

I’m sticking
with this new format for now. I find it easier to write, and helps me keep away
from being repetitive. Honestly, how many articles in a row am I going to write
"Pacioretty played physical"? Of course he played physical; he’s Max Pacioretty.
Anyways, Bob Gainey sent the message to the Habs, but was it received? The
themes for this article are: "Who Got It," "Who Didn’t," and "Jury’s Out."

Who Got

Welcome Back!:  Mathieu Schneider stepped on the ice
and looked so comfortable in bleu, blanc et rouge it was like he was with the
team all season. Schneider was a calming presence on the ice for the Habs, and a
thorn in the side to the Caps. He was physical, showed a little offense, and he
looked every bit the #4 defenseman everyone knows Montreal needed. Now we’ll
have to wait and see if he can keep it up, but early signs are looking good.

Hustle and Zip:  Chris Higgins was "Hustle,"
Andrei Kostitsyn was
"Zip." Higgins worked hard every shift, and his goal was a result of
being the first man to the puck. To score at that angle as a lefty was
impressive, and I liked the no thought shot! Kostitsyn hasn’t looked this dangerous with
the puck for about a month. He carries the puck with speed better than anyone on
the team, and I hope he gets those chances more often.

Pleks Plucks Pucks:  <- Say it 5 times fast. It was
pretty fun seeing Tomas Plekanec strip Ovechkin of the puck, then try to beat
the Washington forward playing D one on one. Unfortunately the Washington
forward was Sergei Fedorov, but it was a nice idea after seeing Koivu undress
Ovechkin earlier in the night. But aside from that one play, Plekanec had a
helluva game. He had 6 shots on net, plus one off a ringing post that was an
inch from putting the game away. It appears he finally realized, "It’s up to me,
not to my linemates."

No Sir, the Crease Is Mine:  My favourite shift of
Max Pacioretty’s was when he drove to the net looking for a rebound, laid the
shoulder into a Washington defender and sent him flying. These glimpses of an
emerging powerforward are becoming more frequent. Max deserved a point tonight,
as he created a lot of offense with his play.

Blue Collars and Lunchboxes:  Gregory Stewart, Tom
Kostopoulos and Maxim Lapierre were pesky and in Washington’s face all game.
Simply put, they knew their role and performed it admirably. Like
Pacioretty, that entire line deserved to be on the scoresheet  


Policing the Clean:
Georges Laraque took a bad penalty after a
clean hit by Donald Brashear on Francis Bouillon. There was no need to police it. I understand his sense of duty of trying to protect his
players, but he picked the wrong moment to insist on a fight. What he should
have done was do what Brashear did to Bouillon: hit clean but hit hard and make
them come to you. It appears Laraque
was eventually sat in favour of Kostopoulos getting more minutes, because I
didn’t see Georges much in the 3rd.

Mike Komisa-wreck:
A lot of people are making Roman Hamrlik
the goat on Ovechkin’s spinorama move that led to a goal. That spinorama move
happened because Hamrlik had to chase down an errant pass from Mike Komisarek that was
awful… just awful. Mike and Roman were given the task most of the night to shut down Ovechkin, and for the most part they were fairly successful. But Komisarek had
an average game (no hits, by the way) which doesn’t quite cut it after a slew of
bad ones. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step.

Bored of the Boards: How many times have we seen a Habs defenceman win a
battle in his own zone and toss the puck up the boards to… the opposing team.
Where are the wingers? I’ve seen better coverage along the boards in peewee
houseleague games. It’s gotta change.

"I Thought He Needed More Work?": Josh Gorges deflects a puck towards his
own net yet again, but thankfully this one stayed out. I know I’m nitpicking,
but man it’s irksome. Bounces haven’t really been going Montreal’s way lately,
and the fewer redirects Price sees right now, the better.


Trial by Fire:  Let’s take a struggling goaltender coming off the
worst games of his career, and throw him against Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, and
Mike Green. Guess what? Carey Price did ok. He played confidently and didn’t
give Washington much net to shoot at…until the shootout. I so hope that his
somewhat poor shootout performance doesn’t set him back to his slumping ways
again. He had a game to be proud of, but we’ll have to see how he reacts to a
bad finish.

3 PP Goals, But Little Change:
The powerplay supplied all the
offensive for Montreal, but what has changed? One goal came right off a faceoff, and the rest of the man advantages were spent mostly perimeter passing.
It was all looking very familar… except the puck hit the back of the net. Why?
For one, Plekanec shot the puck short side on Jose Theodore from Kovalev’s usual spot,
and it’s been awhile since Kovalev had done it, and even longer since he’d been
successful at it. Secondly, Andrei Kostitsyn shot from down low, looking for
some rebounds or a deflection in front. Both of those plays were different, and both of them
worked. Hopefully more changes are coming.  

Oh Captain, My Captain:
I’m a bit undecided about Saku’s role
in the game. On one hand, he won a key faceoff on the PP and had his usual
chemistry with Higgins. On the other hand, he didn’t really elevate his
performance to match the importance of a statement game. It was status quo for
Koivu, which is good…but not great. We need a bit more great from the leader.

This article was written
by Tristan Tapscott with
only 4 mentions of Alex Kovalev