Down … but it looks like up to me

A glance at the standings this morning reveals that hockey’s proudest franchise is looking up at the other four teams in the Northeast Division.
But while some excitable fans may be jockeying for position on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, I think we can draw some measure of solace from a few positive aspects of the Canadiens’ season to date.

They’ve stumbled out of the gate.
They’re winless at the Bell Centre.
But the Canadiens have been in every game they’ve played.
Their only two-goal loss (to Carolina) ended with an empty-netter. They’ve lost in OT and a shootout.

Granted, the Canadiens two wins also were by one-goal margins. They haven’t blown anyone out – nor are they likely to.

But this team is better than its point total suggests. So let’s list some positives:
• Saku Koivu is on fire. I don’t think he’s had a bad shift. Barring injury, he may be crafting the best season of his career.
• Christopher Higgins, Koivu’s linemate, is playing brilliant hockey. And unless Higgins is the reincarnation of Rejean Houle, that skating and skill will pay off. The goals will come.
• Alex Kovalev – one controversy and counting – plays like he’s interested. An engagée Kovalev is a sight to behold.
• The defence is MUCH better than last years. Roman Hamrlik and, yes, Patrice Brisebois are major upgrades on Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet. Francis Bouillon is healthy. Mark Streit is playing where he should be. Andrei Markov is Andrei Markov. And Mike Komisarek will bounce back from some anxious evenings.
• The goaltending is solid. Cristobal Huet has been superb, and Carey Price will be. They’re bringing the kid along in just the right way.
• The Souray-less power play is a work in progress that could become special. Two PP goals against Ottawa, which had allowed one in its previous seven games.
• Bryan Smolinski can play three positions and is an upgrade on Radek Bonk.

So don’t plan the parade yet.
But it’s better to be getting bad breaks, bounces and yes, referees’ calls in October than in February and March.

So I’ve decided, on this sunny, warm morning in Montreal, to see the glass as half-full.

And it will be filled to the brim tonight, when I’m out to hoist a few with the Habs I/O Summit people.


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