We would like to announce a newHockey Inside/Out contest.
Anyone who can offer documented proof – e.g. a dated Comment or tweet – in which he or she predicted in September the Montreal Canadiens would be playing for first place in the Atlantic Division in December will win a holiday gift basket personally delivered by HIO staff dressed as Santa and his elves …. plus Patrick V. Hickey as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Hockey Writer.
Pinch us, peeps.
But there you have it.
The Boston Bruins – idle since Saturday – visit the Bell Centre Thursday night.
If your Montreal Canadiens, fresh off their wackiest win of the season, can beat Boston, they win will move them to the top of the division. The Bruins will have two games in hand; but again, anyone expecting the Canadiens to be at or near that lofty position in December wasn’t seeing the team I saw when the season began.
The Canadiens may yet revert to the rebuilding team many of us thought they would be when the season began. There is still a lot of hockey to be played.
Fortunately, however, only one of the Canadiens’ 53 remaining games will be against the New Jersey Devils: Jan. 14 at the Bell Centre. This gives us time to recover from two games in three nights against a highly disciplined, tightly structured and stultifyingly boring hockey team.
OK, the last four minutes of the third period were great.
• A goal by Lars Eller, his first in nine games, scored with Michaël Bournival taking Brandon Prust’s spot on the line with Eller and Alex Galchenyuk.
• Given the situation – a 2-2 tie with 66 seconds left, headed to OT and at least one point the CH didn’t deserve– P.K. Subban’s worst turnover of the season, which Patrik Elias immediately converted for a 3-2 Devils lead.
• P.K. stays on the ice and gets away with a slew foot/trip of Elias along the boards in the NJ zone, setting up …
• David Desharnais tipping Brian Gionta’s shot past Corey Schneider with 37 seconds left.
That’s three goals for the Sports Centre highlight reel.
The previous 56 minutes?
Meh. Just another night in Newark, with fewer than 13,000 in the stands to watch the Devils run their Shootout record to 0-5.
After being outshot 13-9 over the first 20 minutes, the home team kept plugging, in their soporific fashion, and were full value for the third-period lead they lost, regained and lost again in the dying seconds.
The P.K. giveaway – one of three he had in the game – should have been a dagger to the hearts of the Canadiens. The team deserved a glum flight back to Montreal and lingering doubts hanging in the Bell Centre air as they skate out Thursday night to face the Bruins.
But Guy Carbonneau – the wisest man on L’Antichambre … which isn’t saying much when P.K. Stock is on the panel … put Subban’s brain fart in perspective:
“Hockey is a game of mistakes,” Carbo said. “The best players in the world make mistakes. Sidney Crosby makes mistakes.
“It’s how you respond to mistakes,” the former coach added. “The Canadiens responded as a team.”
Facing a tough November schedule that won’t get any easier this month, the Canadiens have taken 15 of 16 possible points. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 and sit ninth in the NHL’s overall standings.
The canadiens have scaled these lofty and – let’s be honest – unexpected heights despite having two players among the league’s top 75 scorers: P.K. Subban, 31st, and Tomas Plekanec, 75th.
The Canadiens have done it with goaltending and defence. Their 2.03 GAA (boosted by giving up three in New Jersey) is second to Boston’s 1.96. Carey Price and Peter Budaj have been excellenbt. The defence corps is led by Subban and Andrei Markov, who was superb in New Jersey, and bolstered by the return of Alexei Emelin.
The team is healthy. Michel Therrien is able to roll four lines and keep his troops fresh.
Therrien has some interesting decisions to make on his lineup to face the Bruins.
You have to think Douglas Murray will draw back in after Francis Bouillon played against the Devils. But does Therrien dress George Parros? And who sits for the enforcer?
The L’Antichambre guys fear it will be Bournival.
So going against the best fourth line in the NHL – Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton – the Canadiens will have Ryan White, Travis Moen and a guy who averages four minutes of ice time per game … vs. 8:24 for Thornton.
To our utter astonishment, Therrien has not consulted the HIO Player Personnel Department regarding his lineup choices during the Canadiens’ hot streak.
I’d like to see Bournival playing with Eller and Galchenyuk. My fourth line against Boston would be Brandon Prust, Ryan White and Travis Moen.
One more sleep, and then the BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONS!
And no more Devils till 2014.