Barring a late-season collapse, the Canadiens’ winning weekend has won them the Atlantic Division.
And Ottawa has lost it.
The Senators were no-shows Sunday night at the Bell Centre. The 4-1 final score flatters the team that was breathing down the Canadiens’ necks before two weekend wins opened up a four-point gap between the teams.
While the Canadiens play host to mighty New Jersey Tuesday night, Ottawa visits Boston. Then Pittsburgh is at Kanata on Thursday, while the Canadiens continue their home stand against Carolina.
Ottawa makes a return visit to the Bell Centre next Saturday.
How close do you figure they’ll be to a Canadiens team that Claude Julien is tuning up for what could be an interesting postseason?
If the playoffs started Monday night, the Canadiens would play host to the Rangers– a team they’ve beaten three times this season.
Have you picked out your spot on Ste. Catherine St. for the Stanley Cup parade?
OK, let’s not get overly giddy here, peeps.
The Canadiens would not be favoured in a best-of-seven against Washington, Pittsburgh or Columbus. And if there’s a series against the team Claude Julien used to coach …
But man, the team looked good this weekend … particularly in front of their fans.
Every player in a red jersey played a solid game Sunday night.
Sure, some were better than others.
The second and third lines – Paul Byron-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher, Artturi Lehkonen-Phillip Danault-Andrew Shaw – generated more scoring chances than the alleged number one line, Max Pacioretty-Alex Galchenyuk-Alexander Radulov.
On a night when the Canadiens dominated the dot – Plekanec won 14 of 22 draws, Torrey Mitchell nine of 11 and Danault seven of 11 – Galchenyuk was 5-11. And he’s out of sync with his linemates.
Jordie Benn and Nathan Beaulieu, each of whom scored Sunday night, were as effective as the team’s top two defence pairings.
Carey Price – who’s been lights out under the new coach – was brilliant again. Even 96-year-old Bob Cole and Garry Galley, the Ottawa homers calling the game for Hockey Night in Canada, acknowledged how easy Price makes every save look.
The Canadiens’ All-World goaltender is in The Zone. And that portends some interesting April-and-beyond hockey.
“We didn’t sit on last night’s win and come in here today unprepared,” Julien said during his postgame press conference, telecast during L’Antichambre. “We parked last night’s win last night and we came in here today with another commitment to win a second game.”
Julien then added a note of caution:
“It’s not that we’re perfect. Our power play, to be honest with you, needs to be better so we’re going to keep working on that. There’s lots of room for improvement, and that’s not a bad thing because that means we can be even better.
“But I like the direction we’re going. We’re getting harder to play against. We’re finding ways to win. We’re showing character in coming from behind.”
Julien said his team hasn’t peaked.
But the Canadiens have definitely climbed out of their mid-season valley.
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Comment on the Liveblog by slapshot777:
What can we say the Habs came into this weekend in a fight for first in the Atlantic and took the bull by the horns or in this case the Trojan by the head and played two sound games.
CJ has turned the Habs play into a 180 degrees since taking over from MT and also has their PK clicking. Byron has been a godsend and finally this weekend we got goals from players other than the first line.
A lot of so called analysts said the Habs would only win 1-0 or 2-1 going forward because MB didn’t address the scoring. Well that is eight goals in back to back games and no one named Radulov, Pacioretty or Galchenyuk scored.
Great win tonight. However, something needs to be done about Chucky. His d-zone faceoff loss led to the first goal and he seems to be screwing up Rads and Max by over handling the puck. He has dragged down the first line. He just has not developed like other young centers in the league. No where close to the star we hoped he would become. Overmatched on faceoffs and frankly not very good at setting up his wings. He can stickhandle nicely and his shot is good but he otherwise not a first line center. His contract negotiations will be tough. And for that matter Rads is not 6M a year guy even in the depleted scoring of today’s NHL. It is unlikely he will score 20 goals or 60 points, that is not a guy worth 6M a year.
And by Arnou Ruelle:
This is a solid, playoff performance again by the Canadiens. Tight forechecking, limiting the scoring chances of the opposing team, the goalie can track whatever pucks come his way, good win.
What I can say though is that throughout this season, this team scores by committee, loses by committee, and battles by committee. Each player contributes. Great performances by the secondary scorers by Plekanec, Benn, Beaulieu, and Byron.
Anyway, I’m happy for the win.