The Montreal Canadiens could have used Vincent Lecavalier last night.
But, alas, while Lecavalier and his Tampa team mates were warming up for their west-coast game against the Sharks (which the Sharks won, 7-1) the Canadiens fell 3-1 to the Bruins in Boston.
The trade winds that have been swirling in Montreal in recent days swept through Boston last night, with Habs fans convinced, or at least hoping, that the Lightning will consider parting with Vinnie and his 11-year, 85-million-dollar contract. And that Habs’ GM Bob Gainey will move heaven and earth to bring him to Montreal.
While neither the Canadiens nor the Lightning have said anything tangible to fuel the speculation, this is a rumour that has developed a life of its own, and will not go away in the immediate future until:
A. Tampa trades Lecavalier
B. The March trading deadline passes, and Vinnie is still in a Bolts uniform
The rumours hit a fever pitch early last night with word that Lecavalier was being kept out of the lineup against the Sharks because he was on his way to Montreal. But, sure enough, when the puck dropped at the HP Pavilion, there was Vincent Lacavalier on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And there’s his name on the scoresheet: 17:07 of ice time on the strength of 21 shifts, and a -1 performance on the night.
It’s all there in black and white, not ‘bleu, blanc, rouge.”
In the meantime, the Canadiens could have used a little Lecavalier-like offensive magic against Tim Thomas, who surrendered but one goal to Andrei Kostitsyn en-route to a 34-save performance in the Boston goal. Historically, the Canadiens have had Thomas’ number. But not last night. The veteran was the difference, holding down the fort in a first-period flurry which saw the Habs pepper him with 17 shots enroute to a 17-9 shot advantage after 20 minutes.
A funny thing happened to the Canadiens on their way to the second period. They stopped skating. True, the goal by Andrei, his 14th of the season on a lovely, patient set-up from brother Sergei, came early in the second period — and opened the scoring. But the Habs slowly began skating in quicksand, and could not keep up to the Bruins, who, like the Canadiens, were also missing key injured players in Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel. Two goals in the second period by big Zdeno Chara on the power play, his second coming on a 5-on-3, put the Bruins over the top, with David Kreji adding an insurance marker in the final minutes.
Not that Jaroslav Halak can be faulted for any of this. From where I was sitting, he looked much better in this loss than he has in many of his wins. But after powering their way to four straight victories on the strength of 23 goals, Montreal’s offensive well ran dry last night.
Of immediate concern is that both Carey Price and Saku Koivu were kept off skates today as the Canadiens practiced at their facility at Brossard. Both are nursing lower-body injuries. The Captain had returned to practicing his teammates and looked to be a reasonable bet to return to action as soon as this week. Koivu’s absence from practice throws that timetable out the window.
Up next: the Nashville Predators Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Defenceman Yannick Weber won’t get a chance to dress for that one. Today he was returned to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Weber was called up from Hamilton on Jan. 1st and saw 15 minutes of ice time in the 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 7.
He’ll be back.