About last night …

Hands way up in the air, everyone who thought in September that the Montreal Canadiens would be tied for the Eastern Conference points lead in February.


And what’s even better is the way they’re winning hockey games.

I loved the third period last night. Leading 4-2, Canadiens ran a clinic on on smart, shutdown hockey:

Chip the puck out, move it efficiently through the neutral zone, pound it deep and paste Philadelphia defenders as the minutes tick down and the Flyers struggle to gain possession, with Carey Price waiting for them 200 feet away.

Maxim Lapierre and his linemates were particularly proficient, and
it was poetic justice that Max wheeled away to score the clinching goal
into an empty net.

If the Canadiens continue to play this way, we’re in for some very happy weeks as the season winds down.

And if Bob Gainey makes a trade, it will be fine-tuning, rather than remedial.

The Canadiens have two solid goaltenders. Their six-man defence corps is as good as any in the East.

So throw a lasso on the Hossa talk. This team is is good. As the young talent gains experience, Canadiens will get better.

Radical roster surgery is not required. And mortgaging the future is not necessary.

Play of the Game was the Francis Bouillon goal. Guy Carbonneau was to mention that the sequence was "typical Philadelphia Flyers, allowing a 3-on-1 break while trying to start a fight." As Jim Vandermeer challenged Josh Gorges, Carey Price saw what was developing and yelled "Wait!" to his embattled defenceman.

I loved Gorges pointing up the ice at Jim Vandermeer, like "hey a-hole, pick up your gloves … we just scored."

So much to like last night:

• Price: not spectacular but good as he had to be and, once again, cool as a cuke through a 17-shot barrage in the second period and six shorthanded situations. 104 saves in his three straight wins.

• The PK, in all its permutations and combinations, killed 11 penalties in the home-and-home series.

• The defencemen were brilliant. Andrei Markov played 28 superlative minutes. Is there a better tape-to-tape passer anywhere? Roman Hamrlik has come back strong from his illness. Mike Komisarek has eight blocked shots and leads the league. Francis Bouillon is playing as well as he did before his knee injury; he and Josh Gorges are rounding into a Top Four level pairing. And Ryan O’Byrne is getting great on-the-job training.

• Canadiens outhit the Flyers 19-17 last night. They refused to be intimidated. Guy Carbonneau has preached team toughness since training camp, and we saw his philosophy in action against an allegedly fearsome Philadelphia team. Steve Bégin set the tone by running Denis Tolpeko. The supposedly soft Canadiens won all four games against Philly this season.

• The Tomas Plekanec line continues to terrify opponents. On Saturday it was Andrei Kostitsyn’s Ovechkinian goal. Last night, it was Pleks’s pass to Alex Kovalev, who is playing hurt and having a career season.

• Another good game for Saku Koivu. That line is working very hard, Sergei K. is a positive addition and the goals are bound to come.

• I felt good for Michael Ryder. The guy has handled a nightmare season with dignity and class.

• One negative: Faceoffs. Canadiens were 24-41. Koivu 7-14, Pleks 9-12, Max 5-9. That they still won easily is a tribute to how well all other aspects of Canadiens’ game worked.

And so the stage is set for an interesting week at the Bell Centre: Rangers Tuesday night, Evgeni Malkin (and maybe Sidney Crosby) and the Penguins on Thursday and Bob Gainey Night on Saturday, with Columbus in town.






  1. ebk says:

    taken from the score website

    Habs GM Bob Gainey, speaking in general terms about his team’s possible needs, said he would like to add an impact player but wasn’t convinced it was going to happen.

    “We’re not really looking for any sideways moves,” said Gainey. “A lot of the players on our team are still developing and getting better. I suppose an intangible is that we’re missing a lot of experience. We don’t have a lot of playoff experience, but have depth in most areas. …

    “If we could upgrade significantly to an ‘A’ player, those are the kinds of things that we’re interested in,” added Gainey. “We would try to put together a deal that would make that work. But there’s not many of them. They’re rare to find here. I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat thinking it’s going to happen.”

  2. howtathor says:

    Pierre Mcguire was talking the other day about managing expectations. That was BEFORE the Ottawa debacle. I’d say that game was a learning experience for the team in taking it one game at a time working hard and not looking at the standings but looking at the task at hand. Florida was an awesome OT win for us after losing one we should have won in Tampa Bay. The two wins against the Flyers were probably the most satisfying wins of the season to date (the NJ too!) The Flyers tried to play the Broad Street game with us and ended up beating themselves in the process. The Habs were opportunistic and must have thought they were at training camp with all those pylons out there! I love this team, the speed, the skill, the heart.

    kudos to Michael Ryder for putting the team first and making the best of his chance to play. If indeed he get’s dealt I will be disappointed because he has been as much a part of this building process as Higgy, Komi, Pleks and all the gang from Hamilton. Give me a guy who works his way up from the ECHL to the bigs and scores 85 goals in his first three seasons anyday. (Halak has a similar pedigree)

    Quiet night tonight, looking forward to the game tommorow!

  3. Blitzen says:

    But wait, if we get Fedorov, won’t Smokes be sulking? :rolleyes:

  4. Dan23 says:

    Carey Price is NHL third star of the week. Manny Legace and Ruslan Fedotenko were first and second, respectively.


  5. Vecs says:

    Or maybe the 2nd pairing defenseman we’ve been looking for?

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