News for Sunday, January 20th

So the Canadiens got their national exposure on CBC last night ... and responded by being shut-out at home against a Penguins team that played its back-up goalie and didn't have Sidney Crosby. It was quite a boring game. The CBC was in a panic without Crosby there; they hastily rewrote all their scripts, substituting the name Malkin for Crosby's, even if it seemed a little weird to hear Malkin being discusseed as one of the "best players in the world". Between the 2nd and 3rd period, Elliot Friedman interviewed a confused Roman Hamrlik, asking idiotic questions like "What's it like to play against Evgeni Malkin? Is it hard to defend against such a special player?". Hamrlik was remarkably polite about being interviewed about an opposing player, which would have been acceptable if it had been Crosby, and didn't poke him in his squinty little eyes. Even Hughson and Millen, who are pretty good at what they do, resorted to raving about Malkin without much reason. With the score 1-0 late in the game, Hughson referred to the game as Malkin's "coming out party", after his playing a slightly above-average game and scoring zero points. When Malkin got an easy empty-netter, they all but stood and applauded his brilliance. Come on! I have concluded that HNIC can do nothing right.

Herb Zurkowsky reports on the game as a notice to the rest of the league that the Penguins are not just a one-man army. Well, no, as the CBC reminded us over and over last night, they are a TWO man army! How could we ever overlook the immortal Evgeni Malkin? Anyway, this was Pittsburgh's first win in Montreal in a couple of years, and their first ever win without Crosby. Give some of the credit to Laraque, who played a disciplined, effective game, barely noticing tiny Mark Streit attempting to check him as he set up the winning goal. I bet if you're George Laraque, when Mark Streit talks it sounds really high and squeaky.

Red Fisher gets it right
: the Pens owe the win to Dany Sabourin, who stole the two points.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is justifiably proud of the effort of its team, which played not only without Crosby and with its third-string goalie, but also found itself down two forwards after Colby Armstrong and Adam Hall both had to leave the game. On paper, that sounds pretty embarrassing for the Habs, but it wasn't as bad as all that. First of all, Sabourin played very well. Second, the Penguins were pretty effectively shut-down, for the most part. Third, Armstrong and Hall weren't going to make a difference anyway. In truth, the Habs deserved this one, and the Pens got pretty lucky.

And the Habs are aware that this was a game they should have had. Chris Higgins says they were "missing that little something", by which I presume he means the back of the net. He adds that "when we're not scoring, we try to be a little too cute," and while he echoes the sentiments of most of the media and fans, I'm not sure I agree. The Habs' game is to set-up pretty goals: when it works, no-one complains that they pass too much. When they get shut-out, it becomes a little frustrating to see them dish the puck, but as soon as it goes in off one of those plays, all is forgiven.

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