In a city celebrated for its superb restaurants, your Montreal Canadiens are rediscovering the joy of home cooking.
A ridiculously easy 6-1 conquest of the Buffalo Sabres – who played like they’d tucked into 18-oz sirloins at Moishe’s 10 minutes before the game – brought the Canadiens early-season record at the Bell Centre to 4-1.
They have not lost on home ice since opening night, and the Canadiens have outscored visitors 20-9.
Along the way, the homeboys have defeated two goaltenders who have excelled at the Bell Centre: Martin F. Brodeur and Ryan Miller, who was chased from the Buffalo net after 40 minutes.
Sunday afternoon, the Canadiens get another shot at red-hot Craig Anderson.
Last season, the Canadiens were 16-15-10 at the Bell Centre.
Only the Islanders and Columbus had worse home-ice records, and I doubt hockey fans in Long Island and Ohio experienced the agonies of Montrealers who had to watch their beloved team lose 25 games.
After seven games, the Canadiens are 5-2. Last season, they were 1-4-2. The 2011-’12 team needed 12 games – and an unlikely four-W streak – to get their fifth win.
It’s still very early. I’m still not certain this edition of the Canadiens will will be playing hockey in mid-April.
But they’re undefeated in February, undefeated with P.K. Subban in the lineup and undefeated with Ryan White in the pressbox … where the Sin Bin King could be for a while if Max Pacioretty makes another one of his miraculously quick recoveries.
Max-Pac won’t face the Senators in the pre-Super Bowl special. I expect Michel Therrien to stick with the lineup that demolished the Sabres. The coach will want to ease P.K. up from the 18:01 he played against Buffalo, and Tomas Kaberle was fine during his 7:28.
Pacioretty’s imminent return will present Therrien with some interesting personnel decisions.
We can safely assume that the six-man defence corps is set: Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, Josh Gorges and Raphael Diaz, P.K. and François Bouillon. All excelled against Buffalo, but Ottawa will present a sterner test and a truer measure of who should be playing in front of the team’s superb goaltender.
Price has won head-to-head duels against two of the league’s best, Martin F. and Miller. Next up: Anderson with his sick GAA of 0.99 and save percentage of .968. Comparable stats for Price: 1.82, .932. Sunday should be a dandy.
The imminent personnel shuffle will be among the forwards. And if the win over Buffalo was an indicator, Therrien faces a delightful problem.
Lars Eller was great at both ends of the rink in all situations against the Sabres. I can’t believe he one of the game’s stars. Fans who voted must have been influenced by the Eller-bashing on L’Antichambre.
I was wrong about Eller, too.
Just like half the Commentariat was wrong about David Desharnais.
Yes, it was just one game. But DD’s two goals and a three-point performance by Eller suggest the centres are shaking off their early-season cobwebs and stuffing socks into the mouths (and keyboards) of their critics.
Tomas Plekanec also deserved a star. With Brian Gionta and a renascent Rene Bourque, who scored twice against the Sabres, Plekanec is experiencing the top-line harmony that eluded him with a succession of partners last season.
That line will stay intact, as will DD, Erik Cole and Pacioretty.
Here’s a combo I’d like Therrien to try: A Kid Line of Eller with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. The rookies’ speed, skill and energy are electrifying Bell Centre fans; and while you can’t fault Brandon Prust’s hustle, I think Eller might add more (figurative) punch in the offensive zone.
A year after struggling as a one-line team, the Canadiens could have three trios capable of scoring. Plus Prust, Travis Moen and Colby Armstrong/White.
Again, I’m not picking out my spot for the Stanley Cup parade.
But man, this team is fun to watch – especially in their own barn, which is becoming a place where it’s no fun at all for visitors.
• The Canadiens’ plus-8 goal differential is better than Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Vancouver. The only clubs with superior differentials are Tampa Bay, San Jose, St. Louis and Ottawa … The PK pitched a shutout for the first time since the road win in Washington … The kid learns fast: Alex Galchenyuk had his first winning night in the faceoff circle (7-6) in Ottawa and was 9-2 against the Sabres.