It's Wednesday, which means there must be a new leader in the Eastern Conference ! Yes, the Montreal Canadiens are back on top in the east after a convincing team effort (including a spectacular 38 save shutout from Habs goaltender Carey Price)
It was just a few days ago after the Canadiens lost to Anaheim in the latter part of the 3rd period that coach Guy Carbonneau ranted that "we still have too many passengers on this team". Well, it seems the passengers all got off at the Bell Centre and decided to take turns driving.
Does anyone remember back on December 4th when the Redwings came to town and put on a hockey tutorial? They completely dominated the Canadiens in every aspect of the game: tape to tape passes, being first on the puck, penalty killing and speed. At the time, it seemed like the Canadiens still had a lot of work ahead of them before they could even attempt to keep up with the Redwings, let alone any team in the Western Conference. Well, it appears that the Canadians are apt pupils, because they did the exact same thing to the Devils last night.
Granted, we gave up far too many shots (38) to the Devils, but Carey Price was up to the task stopping every one of them including a three shot barrage after a bad bounce that saw him leaving his net empty with 3 devils circling like buzzards. Price made it back in time to stop all 3 shots directed at him in acrobatic fashion.
Contrary to (diminishing) popular belief, the Habs do not live and die with only one scoring line. In fact, the Plekanec-Kovalev-A Kostitsyn line did not figure in the 4 goals the Canadiens got past Martin Brodeur. Scorers included Bryan Smolinski and Saku Koivu in the first period as well as Maxime Lapierre from a nifty, patient feather pass on a break from youngster Sergei Kostitsyn in the second. The never say die Devils kept pressing in the 3rd, feeling that if they could just get one, they could make things happen, but Carey Price responded, seemingly motivated by the 21,000+ fans that were chanting "Carey, Carey" at the top of their lungs. Price has improved his stats to 5-2 since being anointed the team's # 1 after the Habs traded future unrestricted free agent Cristobal Huet to the Capitals for a second round pick at the deadline. Price is starting to make GM Bob Gainey look like a genius.
Underachieving Michael Ryder potted his 13th of the season at 17:49 of the 3rd and I think I can speak for all of Habdom when I say "is THIS the goal that will arouse the 30 goal scorer within??"
But the real story to this fantasy season for the Habs so far is the youth factor, Sergei, the younger of the Kostitsyn brothers, played, arguably, his best game for the Habs last night with 2 assists, but the play of the game, although it did not result in a goal, was when he turned Bryce Salvador into a pylon by making a deftly illusionary dipsy doodle play that allowed him to completely skate by him in the Jersey end of the ice on his way to set up a play that was not to be. Lets put this into perspective : The Kostitsyn brothers, Higgins, Plekanec, Komisarek, Price, Halak, Grabovski, O'byrne just to name a "few" are quickly establishing themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the NHL and the Canadiens organisation as well as it's fan base can proudly say " Their mine, all mine ! " for some time to come.
Next big game (as if any at this time of year are not…) is tomorrow night when the Habs take on the Senators who will be looking to get back to number 1 in the division with the win. Get the defibrillators ready.