Habs Improve, But Still Fall Short

Anthony Calvillo is no doubt the leader of the Montreal Alouettes, and based on their current success I would say a good one. So maybe his presence at the Bell Center Tuesday night provided some extra motivation for the Canadiens.

Whether it was Calvillo’s inspiration or not we’ll never know, but the Canadiens came out flying and played their best game of the year so far. Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek said it best in a post game interview: “You’ve got to give Montreal credit, they beat us in a lot of battles but Miller stole one for us, that’s the only way to put it.”

It hasn’t been an inspiring start for the Habs this year. Their solitary win this season – young as it may be, was bookended by two disappointing showings against Toronto and Calgary in the home opener.

Its not all bad however, Raphael Diaz has been a revelation with 19:55 of ice time against the Sabres and finished on par with P.K Subban for shots among defensemen with four. Diaz showed real offensive prowess, and patience in waiting Ryan Miller out on his first career goal.

Erik Cole had 4:48 ice time with the man advantage and got two shots on goal. The bright side here isn’t that Cole had two shots, but that he played power play minutes. Jacques Martin has often been criticized for his unwillingness to change his system, tactics or general point of view on anything related to the sport of hockey, other than his lines. So trying something new is definitely a step in the right direction.

It had appeared that along with the letter Y in front of his name, Alexei Emelin also dropped the physical element from his game on his way across the pond to Montreal. After not being included in the line up to face Toronto in the season opener, the third round pick (84th overall) in 2004 has started to show why the Canadiens ware so insistent on prying him from the grip of KHL side AK Bars Kazan (sorry if I’m not pronouncing that right). Against the Sabres, Emelin did exactly what his team needed him to do. The 6-foot-2 Russian worked hard in the corners, cleared the crease, took the body, and avoided making any horrendous mistakes.

The clubs future stalwarts also made a return to form, as Carey Price had few saves to make, but looked calm making them under pressure with the likes of Patrick Kaleta and Paul Gaustad in his personal space early and often. While Subban looked like he finally got the season opening jitters out of his system. P.K played a hefty 25:00 minutes of ice time and despite finishing a Minus two, for one of the few times this year, he wasn’t directly responsible for the goals.

In his post-game press conference, the coach summed it all up best. “If we play that way every night,” Martin said, “we’ll win our share of games.” The operative term here of course is “if”. The season is still fresh, and only time will tell. Buckle up, it’s going to be another one of those up and down seasons.

For more Commentary on the Montreal Canadiens, follow me on Twitter: @insidehockeyjoe

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