The Habs proved up to be up to the challenge presented to them yet again last night in taking down a formidable, streaking Flyers squad in a solid 3-0 win. Carey Price stole the show once again, making 41 saves for his third shutout of the season, and second in the past 4 games. Price has arguably the best all around numbers of any goalie in the league up to this point and has without a doubt arrived and is finally living up to the lofty expectations placed upon him since the day he was taken 5th overall by the Habs in 2005.
There wasn't much optimism among pundits heading into last night's tilt-the Flyers demonstrated last spring that they were capable of manhandling the Habs, and earlier on during the day Canadiens management made it official that Andrei Markov would be out for a indefinite, but lengthy, amount of time with a significant injury to his right knee, the same one he had been rehabbing since the Pitsburgh series last year. Yes, a devastating blow to the Habs; no doubt Markov is the Habs best blue-liner and his absence presents a major loss for the defense, as well as the offense and specifically the powerplay.
But catastrophic? Perhaps not.
The Canadiens scored another two powerplay goals last night, continuing the unit's hot streak during the past week. The Habs have jumped from dead last to 16th in the league in PP efficiency, a sign that it was only a matter of time before the special teams broke through. P.K. Subban will be expected to pick up the slack in that regard, and he started last night with an assist on Brian Gionta's goal, which came with the man advantage.
Markov will also be missed for his defensive prowess, but time and time again the two old Czechs, Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek, have come through when the team has needed them most. Sure, we rag on them a lot because they're old, slowed by age, and overpaid; but when the coaching staff leans on them, they don't break. Reliable is an understatement, especially in Hamrlik's case, and maybe it's time we show these guys a little faith from the start, instead of panicking and lobbying for the return of Marc-Andre Bergeron or the acquisition of a notable defenseman-like the oft-rumored about Kevin Bieksa. Patience is a virtue, and for now the Canadiens seem OK without Markov in the lineup. On top of that, the season is still young, and while Markov's absence is big, his 5.75 million dollars is off the books, and that money can be used should the Canadiens feel they have to fill a glaring need that might not have shown itself so far this year.
Another hot topic in Montreal today is P.K. Subban. This time, however, its not about his undeniable talent, but about his apparent cocky, all talk and no action attitude out on the ice. Flyers' captain Mike Richards said post-game that Subban can't strut into the league and expect to get away with acting like he better than everyone without first earning respect from other players. He also warned that, while he wouldn't be the one doing it, someone would eventually give Subban what is coming to him. In other words, keep your mouth shut, kid, or someone will shut it for you.
Perhaps Richards was bitter after a loss, but P.K. has been getting attention from opposing teams thus far this season. The guy seems hard-working and genuinely honest, and his effort and passion are undeniable. His skill is unquestionable, and maybe guys are just envious that P.K. has come in at 21 and been so good. Who knows...but it seems apparent the Habs young superstar has a massive target on his back; but I think he'll be able to handle it. This is the same guy who stepped into a heated playoff battle last season and handled it as coolly as a 30 year old veteran who's been around a few times, so who says he can't handle guys taking runs at him?
Subban's a big boy, he can take care of himself. Don't worry folks, P.K.'s gonna be O.K.