Robert Lafleur January 25, 2013 2
Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Washington’s Joey Crab spoiled Carey Price’s first shutout of the season, scoring with two minutes remaining as the Habs went on to crush the Caps 4 – 1 in Washington Thursday night.

The Game

After a scoreless first period, Tomas Plekanec opened the Habs four-goal second period barrage, scoring on a two-man power play after a nice feed by Andrei Markov. Markov followed that up with a goal of his own on the same power play a minute later. Markov had snuck in from the blue line and deftly took a Michal Neuvirth rebound from his skate to his stick, and fired it past a sprawling Neuvirth. Rene Bourque did the heavy lifting on the Habs third goal, carrying the puck down the left side, out-muscling the Caps John Carlson in the corner, and fed the puck out to a wide-open Brian Gionta in the slot, who one-timed it home. Josh Gorges finished off the Habs scoring on a blast from the point, David Desharnais, all 5’ 7” of him, provided a nice screen on Neuvirth on the shot. It looked for sure like Carey Price was going to earn his first shutout of the year until Crab snapped one in with two minutes to go in the game.

For the second game in a row, the Habs showed their true grit sticking up for each other. This time after Washington tough guy Matt Hendricks plastered the 5’8” Frankie Bouillon into the boards, Brandon Prust stepped in and delivered a series of right hands to Hendricks head. This Habs team is proving to be the toughest version I’ve seen in a long time. Good to see.

Gomez Signs

Well it didn’t take Scott Gomez long to land on his feet, uh, skates. Barely a week after the Habs unceremoniously gave Gomez the boot, buying out the remaining two years on his contract, the San Jose Sharks have reportedly signed Gomez to a one-year, $700,000 contract. Add that to his $5.5 million the Habs are paying him and Scott Gomez’s year is looking pretty rosy to me. I think this is a great move for the Sharks. There’s basically no risk, and the upside it that Gomez is still an effective player, especially at $700,000. He’s only 33 years old, no spring chicken, but still has a lot of hockey left in him. He’s still got the wheels, and if there’s one thing he does especially well, it’s taking the puck from his own end and carrying it into the opponent’s zone, guaranteed. He’s an effective playmaker and passer, just don’t ask him to score. That’s not what he does. And that was the problem in Montreal. At $7.5 million per year, the expectation for higher numbers was just too great, and he never lived up to that expectation. How ironic would it be, in a year where nobody is expecting anything from the Sharks after several years of being Stanley Cup favourites, the Sharks end up winning the whole thing and Scott Gomez skates away with another Stanley Cup ring. 

And P.K. Doesn’t

 Generally in the NHL, a player’s second contract after his first “entry level” contract, is a “bridge” contract. Short term, better dollars, and sets the player up for a larger and longer contract down the road. David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and even Carey Price all signed bridge contracts. The word on the street is P.K. is asking for a long term contract now, six years plus, at somewhere around $5 million a year. Marc Bergevin is offering a short term two-year contract, at somewhere around $3 million per year, similar to the contract Ranger’s defenseman Michael Del Zotto just signed, two years $5 million. Of course, Michael Del Zotto and P.K. Subban are not even comparables. P.K. would be closer to a Tyler Myers (seven-year, $38 million), or an Erik Karlsson (seven-year, $50 million). The problem is that it appears both sides have dug in, and Marc Bergevin, as a rookie GM in his first real salary negotiation, cannot loose face and cave in to P.K.’s demands. He would lose his credibility, and his effectiveness, in negotiating any future contracts. As it stands, Bergevin cannot trade Subban and risk another Chris Chelios situation. After Chelios was traded by the Habs, he went on to win two Stanley Cups and two Norris Trophies. I believe Subban is a future Norris Trophy winner and quite possibly a future Hall of Famer, but right now I think he should just take the “bridge” contract, play like he’s been playing, and then ask for the big bucks when this contract expires. If he doesn’t, it would just be insanity to trade P.K. at this point, so the only option is to let him sit out. Right now the pressure’s on Subban, as the Habs and the defense are playing well, P.K. is losing money and valuable playing time. Of course, things can change on a dime. The Habs can start losing, Markov gets hurt and Kaberle starts playing like Kaberle. The saving grace maybe P.K.’s agent  Don Meehan, a veteran player agent who has negotiated hundreds of contracts. If anyone can get the deal done with both sides saving face, it’s Meehan. Let’s hope it’s soon.  

The Habs are back home for a tilt with the Devils on Sunday night.