Uplifting Notes on the Habs Front

Montreal Canadiens Tickets

If you’re still not impressed with the Montreal Canadiens, you may never be.  Sure, the team is 5-5-0 in their last ten but after a difficult road trip the Habs came home and battled for wins in four of their last five games, including a record breaking comeback against the Ottawa Senators last Saturday followed by a 6-3 drubbing of the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche in Roy’s return to Montreal.  Of course, a healthy Price back in the lineup hasn’t hurt.

According to SportClubStats, after the team’s 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Habs now have a 98% chance of making the playoffs.  At the moment, the only other Canadian club with a chance of making the playoffs over 5% is the Leafs, at 34.5%.

Here’s a look at how the team looks after and emotional couple of weeks:

Who’s Hot:  Goaltender Carey Price is more than hot, he’s a changed man.   Since his gold medal winning performance in the Olympics, fans have seen levity in his interviews, have read about his leadership when he stood up for a teammate and have even caught him acknowledging his hero when Patrick Roy visited the Bell Centre this week.  Is it possible that the man under the microscope is actually enjoying himself?  If so, it’s contagious.  The team looks fired up and ready to take on any challenge and the fans are on board.

Honourable mentions: To Thomas Vanek who brought the Bell Centre to its feet, not to mention a thunder of Va-Nek chants, when he scored a hat trick to spoil Patrick Roy’s coaching debut in Montreal; To the team’s penalty killing unit that hadn’t allowed a goal in 25 penalties until Leaf’s forward Nazem Kadri broke the streak on their second power play of the game on Saturday night.  Naturally, the Habs’ top penalty killer Tomas Plekanec was in the box for the goal; And to Lars Eller who ended a 24 game goalless drought to spark a record breaking scoring spree that saw the Habs surmount a 4-1 deficit with 3:30 to play in the third period against the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to Francis Bouillon and some questionable reffing the Habs took home 2 pts when for 57 minutes they deserved zero.  It was the most magical moment of the Habs’ season to date and my hat goes off to any Habs fan who didn’t change the channel on what was otherwise a horrible game.

Who’s Not:  Regardless of how well his team plays, head coach Michel Therrien continues to feel the wrath of fans and media alike.  While it would be nice to defend the coach’s choices some decisions are outright mind boggling.  Backup goalie Petr Budaj gets the start against the Bruins tonight in the latest head scratching move issued by the coach.  We’ll see if the team’s 5th and 6th defensemen find time on the penalty kill against the B’s before we pass further judgement.

Honourable mention: To Jarred Tinordi whose errant play cost the Habs the game, or at least a point, against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.  It was a bad play that shouldn’t have happened but fans are fooling themselves if they think the Habs were in that game to begin with – despite the tied score.  Granted the gaff might have cost Tinordi a night in the press box but otherwise the coach has shown confidence in the young defenseman and continues to give him more and more ice time as he develops.

Injury Report:  The Habs are playing with confidence.  They are playing energized and exciting hockey and there’s no telling how far this team can go.  That’s why having Brandon Prust (upper body) and Josh Gorges (hand) on the sidelines is so disappointing.  What might the Habs accomplish with those two leaders around to pump up the team and settle them down as needed.

The Week Ahead:  With just ten games remaining the Habs can control their own destiny.  No one will be exhaling until the ‘x’ marks their clinched playoff berth and worse, the next 7 games are against division rivals, including two games against the Detroit Red Wings who are going to make sure they’re in the playoffs come April.

The Habs are in Boston tonight to face the Bruins before returning home to host the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow.  They then head out on a four game road trip against the Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Tampy Bay Lightning before their rematch against the Senators in Ottawa on April 4th.

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