Don’t double take Canadiens fans when you read the Sunday morning paper tomorrow and see your Montreal Canadiens leading the Eastern Conference standing with 81 points. That’s right, they have passed the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 victory and are starting to play a more solid defensive style, almost reminiscent of playoff hockey…….yes the playoffs!!!!
There’s still 16 games to play before the playoffs start but the Habs are on a roll and are playing great hockey. They’re getting solid goaltending from Carey Price, the defensive zone coverage is much improved and all four lines are contributing to the game plan.
I could just repeat what the other game reports write but I would prefer to pinpoint players or plays throughout he game…….so here we go………
- If Carey Price continues his solid goaltending and backstops his team to more victories, then Bob Gainey’s legacy will grow even stronger than it presently is. His decision to trade away Cristobal Huet has worked out so far and there is still a lot of games to play but you have to be impressed with young Mr. Price’s play. He is making the hard saves look easy with his great positioning and is starting to show us his great stickhandling skills with the puck. He helped his defensemen and even shot the puck down the ice on a Devils powerplay in the third period…….that’s skill and confidence!!!!
- Mad Max was madly great!!!!…….it appears that Maxim Lapierre has stepped up his game and played a very good game tonight. He was a wrecking ball in the Devils zone especially late in the third period when Martin Brodeur was trying to get to the bench for an extra attacker. Lapierre was the hardest working Hab with constant hustle and determination…….Now I understand why Maxim was the top vote getter for the Hamilton Bulldogs’ hardest working player award…………and to think he was one of the players who was rumoured to be going to the Thrashers for Hossa.
- Did the referees swallow their whistles when Carey Price had his blocker hand over the puck? Have the rules changed or aren’t the refs suppose to blow the play dead when they lose sight of the puck??!! The goal by Smurf, Brian Gionta shouldn’t have been allowed by the referees.
- As much as I dislike the way Martin Brodeur has owned the Montreal Canadiens throughout his career, he is a future Hall of Famer who has been one of the greatest goalies to have ever played the game………I’m happy the Habs have beaten him twice this season and that he will most likely represent Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic games……this is when I love Marty!!!!!
- I didn’t really notice Saku Koivu or Christopher Higgins that much throughout the game, they almost seemed invisible tonight……I did notice their linemate, Sergei Kostitsyn who was all over the ice at both ends of the ice. He was also playing a physical game and even challenged the Smurf to a fight……..it almost seems cruel to pick a fight with a small creature like Gionta!!!
- The more I see Ryan O’Byrne and Josh Gorges playing defense, the more I’m glad Bob Gainey didn’t listen to my advice to get another defenseman at the trade deadline. O’Byrne has gotten better each game while Gorges has entrenched his position on the Habs blueline and relegated Mr. Breezeby to the press box where he belongs…….sorry Breezer!!! Gorges game has changed drastically since he was given more ice time and is displaying tremendous patience and decision making with the puck. He is also winning the battles along the boards which was not the case earlier in the season…….the future looks incredibly bright for the Canadiens and their defensemen!!!
- I liked the work of the Streit/Grabovski/Ryder line which was skating really well and buzzing all over the place. Michael Ryder has picked up his game and may not have scored tonight but played a solid game with constant hustle. Grabovski and Streit were also good but I’m still not terribly impressed by Mikhail’s work along the board…..weak!!!