It didn’t take long for Max Pacioretty to make an impact at the NHL level.
Pacioretty, one of four members of the Hamilton Bulldogs called up by the Canadiens this week as a result a growing list of injured players, scored in his very first NHL game, on his very first shot, against the New Jersey Devils last night at the Prudential Center.
Unfortunately for Pacioretty and the rest of the Canadiens, it was the only damage the Habs could do on this night against Scott Clemmensen and the rest of the Devils, who prevailed 4-1 to snap Montreal’s three-game winning streak.
Pacioretty wasn’t the only freshly-minted Montreal Canadien to see action last night. He was joined by fellow Bulldog Kyle Chipchura on a line with veteran Steve Begin. And goalie Marc Denis ended up seeing his first taste of action as a Hab in the third period, after Jaroslav Halak, the starting netminder, was pulled after 40 minutes. Halak fought the puck all the night, surrending two goals on the first eight shots he faced, before being yanked at the end of the second period, with the Canadiens trailing 3-1.
With Carey Price once again fighting a lower body injury, Halak took his .500 record into last night’s game for another starting assignment. And you know what? He looked like a .500 goaltender. None of the three goals he gave up, Brian Gionta from the edge of the face off circle, Zac Parise through the five-hole from a bad angle, and John Madden, high on the glove side, were world-beaters. Then again, Halak didn’t have a whole lot of help from his defence, as witnessed by the goal by Madden in the second period, which came on a 2-on-1 after Patrice Brisbois was caught way out of position after pinching in.
With players like Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay and Chris Higgins out of the lineup, you just know that the law of averages is going to catch up with you. And it did last night in Jersey. Sure, there’s the giddiness that surrounded the goal by Pacioretty in his first NHL game. But last night the Habs looked more like the Hamilton Bulldogs than the Montreal Canadiens, although that’s not to take anything away from the play of Pacioretty, Chipchura and young Maxim Lapierre, who isn’t too far removed from the Bulldogs, himself.
Of immediate concern for the Canadiens, next to the crowded situation in sick bay, is the ongoing listless and unproductive play of Tomas Plekanec; the inability of the Plekanec-Kovalev-Andrei Kostitsyn line to gain any kind of traction this season, and another “Oh-fer” performance by the power play: 0-for-4, on this night. It would also be nice to see Matt D’Agostini find the zone again after making such a splash when initially called up from Hamilton. It would also be nice to see Robert Lang make some noise out there, again.
We’ll cut the injury-riddled Canadiens as much slack as they need, however, as they prepare for their next game tomorrow afternoon when the Florida Panthers are in town. Whether or not Carey Price is ready to return to action, remains to be seen. Whether or not Guy Carbonneau gives Marc Denis the starting nod, in case Price isn’t ready to go, also remains to be seen.
I say if Price can’t play, you hand the puck to Denis. He deserves a shot. Halak deserves to sit.
Look for Yannick Weber to make his regular-season debut against the Panthers, likely as a power-play specialist and occasional fourth-line forward, a-la Mark Streit. The Canadiens didn’t call Weber up from Hamilton to sit on the bench in Montreal. The young man will get his opportunity, and my bet is that it will come tomorrow.