It’s hard to argue with a team that has picked up five of a possible six road-trip points, and one that is 8-1-and-2, overall.
However, I will. Argue, that is.
Yes, the Canadiens beat Minnesota 2-1 to open this four-game road trip. But only because of the heroics of goaltender Carey Price. Yes, the Canadiens did beat the New York Islanders two nights later, but only because of a four-goal explosion in the third period. And, yes, the Canadiens did emerge from Nationwide Arena last night with a single point, but only because of a goal by Sergei Kostitsyn with 41 seconds remaining, to tie the game and send it into O.T. and the shootout; the Jackets winning this one 4-3.
Costly defensive breakdowns last night enabled the Jackets to get back into this one; which resulted in goals by Marc Methot at 5:21 in the third, and Freddie Modin just 34 seconds later. Head coach Guy Carbonneau has no doubt seen too many costly brain cramps in front of his goaltenders for his liking so far in the early going this season; with both the forwards and defencemen guilty of questionable decision making in the defensive zone.
Then there’s the goaltending. Jaroslav Halak was not among the game’s three stars last night. We’ll just leave it at that. Carey Price will be back in goal tonight in Toronto.
Up front, you know the Canadiens are in a spot of trouble (as was the case last night) when Tom Kostopoulos is your most effective player (as was the case last night.) Kostopoulos, on a fourth line with Georges Laraque and Maxim Lapierre, logged only 12:43 of ice time, but made the most of those minutes with four shots on goal and a number of good scoring opportunities. Truth be told, 12:43 is a rather substantial amount of ice time for a fourth-line player. With the way Kostopoulos is playing, you could argue that the gritty veteran deserves to be playing on the first line.
Ah yes, the first line. You remember them, don’t you? Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec, who lit it up last Saturday night in New York to power the Habs to their unlikely 5-4 comeback win? There would be no late-game fireworks from this trio at the Nationwide Arena on this particular night. It was only when The Coach played a hunch (which I’m sure it was) and put Andrei and Sergei together on a line in the final minute of play that the name Kostitsyn showed up on the scoresheet; with Sergei converting a perfect pass from Andrei from behind the net to send this one into overtime, and the subsequent shootout.
Which brings us to tonight’s game in Toronto against Mikhail Grabovski and the Maple Leafs. Does The Coach put the Brothers Kostitsyn together on a regular line, for the first time this season, in the hopes of capitalizing on the kind of chemistry that resulted in the late goal last night?
I suspect the answer to that question will be: no.
Guy Carbonneau is a patient man. He will give Alex, Andrei and Tomas all the time they need to rediscover the form they exhibited as the number one line last season.
Food for thought, however, as the Habs prepare to close out this four-game road trip tonight against a surprising Leafs team that is doing quite well, thank you very much, in the post-Mats Sundin era.