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A Good Problem to Have

Regular season game #18

For what feels like the umpteenth time this season, we find ourselves asking whether or not the Habs were that good, or if the opposition was that bad. Take a step back to last summer, when the Rangers didn’t have the injured Rick Nash, but did have Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust, and probably a couple other names that I’m not thinking of in their lineup. Tonight the Rangers started without any of those names, including Nash, rearguard Michael Del Zotto and lost Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi (once the game was long decided). Yeah, you could say the Rangers have seen better days.

Nevertheless, the Habs doubled-down on John Tortorella’s lament from earlier this week, ensuring that neither team was going to play firewagon hockey tonight. This was the easiest shutout any goalie could imagine having. 17 shots, none of them dangerous. No rebounds to contend with. No bodies to fend off. No second effort to repel. Nothing. Price didn’t even get one of the game’s three stars for his work, and I can’t say that he deserved one, despite his perfection.

Those that did earn stars, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Erik Cole were all stellar tonight against a tired and depleted opponent; each earned a goal and an assist and one can only hope that this means the Cole that the Habs will sorely need on the road is ready to roll.

The game was not without some ugliness as Ryan McDonagh drilled fellow 2007 first round pick Max Pacioretty from behind. The hit left Pacioretty plenty angry, and he exacted revenge later with a vicious hit from behind that rendered McDonagh bloody and concussed. Pacioretty can expect to hear from the NHL’s Czar of discipline for this. It will likely result in a second suspension for Pacioretty, who was banned for three games in November 2011 for a reckless hit to Penguins defenseman Kris Letang’s head. Habs fans can expect at least 2-3 games for Pacioretty’s latest transgression, and it would be well deserved for it was a retaliation hit done out of anger. Some Habs fans will undoubtedly refer back to the Chara incident as proof that the NHL has it in for the Habs, but reality says that we can’t use one botched situation to rationalize another. In fact, we should consider it a blessing, as Pacioretty should be looking at his third career suspension for a dirty hit from behind on Mark Eaton in December of 2010 that the NHL decided to leave unpunished. With three questionable-to-punished hits in little more than two years, the “dirty player” tag will soon behind to follow Pacioretty, which is a shame because fans who spend time hearing him speak know that he is not a dirty player, though facts are facts.

The Habs now face their biggest test, with an upcoming prolonged stretch of road games. In two weeks time, we’ll know if this team is a buyer or pretender.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

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