Daily Hab-it: An opportunity squandered
By Arpon Basu
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2011 11:54PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
You really have to feel for David Desharnais.
Well, I guess you don't, but I do.
Desharnais was clearly the guilty party in the goal you see pictured above, the one that gave the Washington Capitals a third period lead in a game they would go on to win 4-2.
He, like all of us in the building and surely everyone watching at home, was mesmerized by the one on one battle going on between Alexander Ovechkin and P.K. Subban, one that Subban appeared to have won after playing the body perfectly and angling Ovechkin off to the side of the net.
Except the puck bounced back to Ovechkin, who at that point was right next to Desharnais, and he managed to get it to rookie Marcus Johansson, who was the guy Desharnais was supposed to be checking.
The reason I feel for Desharnais was that third period was his golden opportunity to shine, an opportunity borne out of what has become a recurring gag in these parts that stopped being funny quite some time ago.
With Jeff Halpern playing only a single shift in the second period, then Tomas Plekanec going down to injury at some point late in the second, Desharnais became a critical piece of the Canadiens puzzle in a tie game with 20 minutes to play.
He got Mike Cammalleri on his wing and became the centre of the Canadiens de-facto second line, and with his team down a goal Desharnais had Montreal's two best chances to score but was foiled by a broken stick on one and an other-wordly poke check from Braden Holtby on the other.
"I wasn't able to replace Pleky," Desharnais said afterwards, taking the blame on the winning goal.
The question that remains to be answered is just how long Desharnais will be looked at to do just that, because an injury to Plekanec would hurt this team in so many different areas it would be easy to lose count.
Another player that could fill that void would be Lars Eller, except he too shot his team's chances in the foot with a useless interference penalty that nullified a power play late in the third, and which ultimately gave Washington the power play on which the insurance goal was scored at 16:53 of the third.
There's no reason to harp on these two mistakes by rookies, but if Plekanec and to a lesser extent Halpern are out for extended periods, those rookies will not have the luxury of rookie mistakes like we saw Tuesday night.
The Canadiens are not the Capitals or the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are in similar injury situations but who have talent to spare.
The one ace in the hole the Canadiens have was on full display again Tuesday night, as Carey Price performed miracle for 40 minutes to allow his teammates to enter the third in a tie game.
At one point in the second period, chants of "MVP, MVP" began to form up in the blues at the Bell Centre. They never fully took hold throughout the rink, but they were sounding appropriate.
If the true measure of an MVP is to imagine what the team would be like were he not there, it's becoming harder and harder to argue that Price – in light of the injuries the Canadiens have faced – does not deserve to at least be part of the Hart Trophy discussion.