Daily Hab-it: Bouncing back
By Arpon Basu
Published Sunday, March 20, 2011 11:37PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Just as I considered it unfair to put too much weight on the Canadiens blowout loss in Madison Square Garden on Friday, the same caution should be used for Sunday's 8-1 romp in Minnesota.
The Canadiens were facing a Wild team that had essentially seen its playoff hopes die the night before, coming back from two goals down with just over five minutes to play in the third period of a game they needed to win, only to lose it with 34 seconds left in overtime.
So like the Rangers on Friday, the Canadiens wanted this game much worse than Minnesota did, and it showed.
But the quality of their performance Sunday continued a trend we've seen all season long from the Canadiens, and that's resiliency, a refusal to allow a loss to turn into a losing streak.
The win improved Montreal's record in games following a regulation or overtime loss to 22-10-1 this season, with five shutouts sprinkled in among seven other times the Canadiens allowed a single goal, as they did Sunday.
Of their 11 regulation or overtime losses, nine of them came during the Canadiens two real slumps of the season – Dec. 10 to Dec. 30 (2-8-0) and Feb. 6 to Feb. 20 (1-4-2).
So, outside of those two stretches of the season, the Canadiens record following a loss in their remaining 56 games is 19-2-0.
Don't worry, I fully realize you can't simply throw out losing streaks like that, but it gives a pretty strong reflection of what this team is made of.
The biggest thing I see shining through in that stat is how the Canadiens perform when they remain disciplined in their system, and how a loss will give them a clear example of how poorly they perform when they don't.
We all saw it for ourselves in the opening 20 minutes of Friday night's game, or actually just the final 10 minutes of the first period. Once the corrections were made, along with the welcome addition of Hal Gill and the favourable circumstances mentioned above, we had ourselves the biggest Canadiens blowout of the season.
It was nice to see, in light of his bonehead penalty Thursday night, that Benoit Pouliot was given a chance by coach Jacques Martin to start the game against his former team. This game had to be important to the guy, getting his first opportunity to show the Wild the mistake they made by trading him away. While his performance in this one game doesn't necessarily make that so, I can't imagine a better scenario unfolding than setting up Ryan White's first career goal on that opening shift and assisting on his team's next two goals as well.
It was just about the total opposite of Jose Theodore who, by allowing White's goal on the first shot he saw, ran his streak of consecutive Canadiens shots against without a save to four. You have to go back to Tomas Plekanec's overtime winner in Game 1 of last season's playoffs, then allowing goals on the only two shots he saw in Game 2, then letting White beat him at the 31-second mark Sunday. Ouch.
Theodore's career numbers against the Canadiens, including those two playoff games, has him with a 2-3-1 record, 4.59 goals against average and .862 save percentage.
But I digress, because this is supposed to be about Pouliot. For all his maddening tendencies, he is now one of nine 30-point scorers on the Canadiens, five points behind Scott Gomez while playing just 11:40 per game (10th among the team's current forwards), and only 0:52 seconds per game on the power play (ninth among the team's forwards).
This doesn't absolve him of his tendency to disappear when he's counted on to produce or a propensity to take some bad penalties, but if Pouliot is judged not as a fourth overall pick but rather as a highly-skilled forward who can add some punch to your bottom six, I'd say the perception of him would become far more positive.
Of course, it would be impossible to write anything at all about that game without mentioning P.K. Subban, who only became the first rookie defenceman in team history to record a hat trick. Subban's four-point game moved him past Kevin Shattenkirk into first among NHL rookie defencemen in points and he widened the gap for his lead in goals as well. Among all rookies, Subban's 35 points have him in a tie for ninth with his good buddy Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.
Yet Subban is always an afterthought in the rookie of the year discussion, largely because Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner are having such outstanding seasons.
Still, I was convinced before the start of the year this race would come down to Subban and Washington's John Carlson, and I fail to see why it still shouldn't.
Both Subban and Carlson play against opposing team's top lines, they sit 1-2 among rookies in shorthanded ice time per game, they both play above 22 minutes per game, they have both produced points and they have each emerged as their respective team's most important defencemen in their rookie seasons.
I would have a difficult time deciding which of the two is more deserving, but the fact it appears to be a foregone conclusion that neither will even be nominated for the Calder Trophy appears to me to be wrong.
And speaking of rookie oversights, how many of you out there know that in just 34 games played, David Desharnais is tied for 18th on the rookie scoring list with 22 points after grabbing three assists Sunday? When you look at the rookie rankings on a points per game basis, Desharnais jumps to fourth among eligible players behind only Skinner, Couture and Grabner, in a tie with first overall pick Taylor Hall. Just imagine what kind of season this guy might have had if he'd made the team out of training camp.