First in the Eastern Conference. Third, behind Detroit and Dallas, in the whole National F. Hockey League.
The Montre-F-al Canadiens.
And now that Canadiens have beaten him twice in a row – with a chance to make it three on March 11, when they return from their western road trip– I’ve decided to strip the coveted F. off New Jersey’s goaltender.
He’s Martin Brodeur. And he stopped 23 of 25 shots.
The Canadiens’ goaltender – known in New Jersey as Carey F. Price – stopped 31 of 32. Later, in the room, Price talked about being a Brodeur fan as he was growing up and how awesome it was to look down the ice and see the great Devils’ goalie.
It was a particularly pleasant view late in the game, when Bryan Smolinski and Maxim Lapierre took turns tying up the puck in the corner near Brodeur.
As the clock ticked down on a one-goal lead, it was textbook defensive hockey.
"A team like that has such good skill and they execute very well," Smolinski said of the Devils. "For us to waste some time, I guess it was 30, 40 seconds, and to get some fresh bodies out, they were a little discombobulated.
"Smart play," Smolinski added. "That was a big step forward for us. It didn’t matter who was out there, I think it would have been the same thing. The philosophy that we have was executed."
"It was a lot of work," Price said of the pivotal Smolinski shift. You got to tip your hat to them."