As we do after every game, Patrick V. Hickey and I were waiting for Jacques Martin to arrive in the press conference room.
Hickey was looking over the game stats, and he had a question:
“Did Chris Higgins play tonight?”
He did. The former Canadien/Ranger/Flame played 17:21. Higgins had two shots on goal and a couple hits.
No goals. No assists. Absolutely no influence on the final score.
I’m recalling this not to trash Higgins, who was and probably still is a bright, personable guy who always had something interesting to say to the media.
But here’s the point: It wasn’t all that long ago when fans and the people who cover the Canadiens talked about number 21 as a future captain. It was going to be either Higgins or his fellow Long Islander, Mike Komisarek.
That did not come to pass, and you know what?
I like this team better than the one that had Higgins and Komisarek as the rising stars.
And the captain is number 21.
I liked last season’s team more than the one that preceded it, and I like this team even more than last season’s.
Cosnider the stats that Steven Hindle Tweeted late last night: Through 52 games this year, the Canadiens are 29-18-5 for 63 points. They have scored 136 goals, allowed 127.After 52 games last season, the Canadiens were 24-23-5 for 53 points. The GF were 134, GA 144.
Stats can be deceiving, but these numbers don’t lie: With 30 games left, this sixth-place team is better than the one that squeaked into eighth.
And they’re winning without Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and, for a while still, Michael Cammalleri.
Now I’m not saying we should stock up on beer and munchies for a deep Stanley Cup run.
But it’s gratifying for a fan to be able to chart progress over the last three seasons, from the Higgins-Komisarek-Koivu-Kovalev team to the Montreal Canadiens we’re watching now.
The team has veteran leadership – from number 21, Hal Gill, the old Czechs, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche.
Carey Price is excellent, and Alex Auld, his inexpensive backup, is a great teammate who’s 4-2.
What’s really exciting, though, is the Kiddie Corps.
P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty were brilliant last night. David Desharnais and Yannick Weber are looking more and more like bona-fide NHLers. Lars Eller continues to develop.
Tomas Plekanec is the best of Canadiens in their mid- to late-20s. Cammalleri and James Wisniewski also have years of good hockey ahead of them. And if Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot can play up to their potential …
Bottom line: Your Montreal Canadiens are a good hockey team.
They play hard. They don’t quit. They are disciplined and committed to their coach’s system.
You couldn’t say that about Christopher Higgins and his friends.
• • •
Guest Comment from our old friend J.Ambrose.Obrien:
Roman Hamrlik has received a lot of criticism in the past on these
boards, but lately he’s been terrific. Jumping into the rush at key
times, and making smart defensive moves. Hall Gill on the other hand…
What was he looking at on that first goal by Timmons?
been impressed by Yannick Weber’s improvement. His speed is a big asset
in winning races on d-zone dump ins. He still gets bodied off the puck
too easily, but if he develops his upper body strength in the
off-season, he’ll be a keeper.
Speaking of which: Max
Pacioretty!!! He gets better with every game. He’s gaining confidence
and a realization of his abilities. As such, he no longer panics when he
has the puck, and is willing to patient and try bold moves. And playing
with Pleks certainly helps.
Meanwhile, how must Gomez feel
watching all his ex-wingers prosper once separated from him. Like a guy
seeing his ex-girlfriend happily in love with a wealthier,
better-looking guy? We need more GM’s like Glen Sather in the league so
we have someone willing to take him in trade in the off-season,
because I just don’t see his value going forward. Only the millstone of
his contract weighing us down. Frankly, I think Desharnais is
out-playing him, and should be our second-line center (although that
will never happen). And what happens when Cammy returns? Surely JM won’t
break up that Pleks/Patches/Gionta line? So Cammy and AK — two
under-performing scorers — have to try to get their touch back with
Gomez? And I don’t even want to talk about his on-going brain-dead
Speaking of AK, he is clearly suffering from a
lack of confidence. The fire-in-the-belly that Ovy is renown for goes
hand-in-hand with his firm awareness that he is better than 90% of the
others on the ice — and visa versa. AK looks uncertain, and that
affects his passion. As many have stated, his problems are between the
ears. But if he ever starts to believe in himself again, watch out. He
has wonderful hands and is more solid on his skates than almost any
other player. Well, except for on that hit from Ellerby.
just don’t see what others are apparently seeing. IMO, he should’ve been
down in Hamilton for months now gaining confidence. I still don’t see
the talent that tempted PG to give up the team’s most valuable trading
asset in many years.
Pouliot on the other hand looks to be on the
brink of a big break-through. He had a brilliant 1st period, and even
drew a penalty. The P, D & D line was easily are second best line,
and early on, our best. However, he is still prone to dumb plays,
like in the previous game when there was a delayed penalty on the Caps,
Carey went to the bench, and Pouliot just dumped the puck into the Caps
Finally, when was the last time we led after the first
period? I LOVE the fight-back, never-say-die, but why do we start off so
flat so often?