They may have lost their lead and slumped something terrible, but the Habs, it seems, are not willing to give up that 4th place slot without a fight. I was starting to think I was a little crazy, going around insisting to one and all that the team is really capable of playing an excellent game when they put their minds to it. The last few weeks, telling people that you’ve personally seen the Canadiens play really great hockey was getting to be rather like telling people you’ve personally seen the Loch Ness Monster- sometimes folks smile and nod, but you know they’re just placating you so that you won’t snap and do something violent. But tonight the Canadiens played, if not their most beautiful game of the season, certainly one of their most tough-minded. Sometimes that’s enough.
1. First of all, highest possible props to Aebischer, who made some gorgeous saves. You always worry about a goalie when he gets scored on in the first minute of a game- not so much because you expected him to make the stop as because you think that it’s gotta be bad for his confidence level. Aebi, however, let one in during the first minute and then managed to shut out the Sens for the 59 remaining minutes, which is impressive by any standard.
2. The reorganized 2nd line is looking substantially better than previous versions, although this may be somewhat distorted by Plekanec’s newfound magic powers. Latendresse is one of the Habs’ more competent forecheckers, and he seems able to open up space for Plekanec’s speed and Kovalev’s… uh, Kovalev stuff. They’re not putting up glamorous numbers yet, but it feels like a much improved combination. We’ll see.
3. Speaking of Plekanec, SHORT-HANDED GOAL! I remember when this team used to be all about the short-handed goals. It was wonderful, just because there’s really nothing like making the opposition play defensively when they’re up a guy. *sigh* Those were the days…
4. I don’t care what anyone says, I think Samsonov’s still a good player. I don’t know if he’ll ever properly gel with the Habs, and I don’t know if he’ll ever really be worth 3.75 million per annum, but with the right chemistry you can see how he could be hella dangerous. It’s sad, really, that he hasn’t found it here, although he’s at least doing better now that he’s separated from Kovalev.
5. Markov, as usual, makes more perfect plays in one night than the rest of the skaters do in a week. I firmly believe that Streit is, although far from the most impressive player around, definitely one of the most adaptable. And a hearty welcome back to Rivet, who has evidently remembered how to be a solid defenseman again. Where the hell have you been, Craig, for the last 8 games? Also, Higgins was looking much better- he didn’t get any points, but pulled off some nice breakaways that reminded me very much of his pre-injury style.
6. Do we really need to wait until the playoffs to start a rivalry with
I’m relieved, in a way, that the Canadiens seem to be getting back to their good old yo-yo rhythm. It’s infuriating, of course, but it’s infinitely preferable to a whole ton of losing, and it gives them that dangerous, unpredictable edge that girls go crazy over. Anyway, if you can’t be consistent- and I’m not holding my breath for the Habs to discover new reserves of consistency within themselves- you might as well shoot for a strategically beneficial variety of inconsistency.