Position in standings: 7th in East, 18th in NHL
Winning record: 10-7-3
Habs on scoring leaders (top 30): Plekanec (8)
Habs among statistical leaders (top 30, major category): Cammalleri (T12, G); Plekanec (2, A); Halak (18, GAA), Price (27, GAA); Halak (3, S%), Price (20, SV%)
Though the Canadiens played some nice hockey and there were some beautiful goals and amazing saves, I thought the defining play of the 20 games actually came about 1 hour prior to a game.
100 years of history, and perhaps more importantly 5 years of marketing came to a head on December 4th, Game #29. It all could really have gone the way of another overdone ceremony. But I tell you what, spotting Patrick Roy in full gear leading that team onto the ice for warm up is something that sent shivers down most Habs fan spines.
27 points, 12 domes and 2 game pucks. Games 21-40 were more excellence from Tomas. The surprise, and ultimately player, of the season so far was once again outstanding for most of these 20 games. In light of his flirtation with the assist lead in the NHL, it's easy to forget that he's also the most tenacious back-checker and least pretentious guy around. Before anyone writes off Rejean Houle and his staff, they should account first for the Plekanec find.
Like Tomas he continued to roll. At 20 games, we said as advertised, I think we can repeat the mantra. We're finding out that he can streak, but through those streaks he manages dominance and total flair around the net – unlike our pretend goalscorers of late. His 20 games were marked with 10 more goals, 11 domes and 2 game pucks. The crowning performance of Mike's Habs career came in these 20 games as he netted a hat trick vs. a tricky opponent with the most critical of onlookers (Lyle Odelein and co.).
Andrei Kostitsyn – 20-game puck
Gionta falls and we fret, but into the void steps Andrei with the gusto to shut Francois Gagnon right up for a long while. In games 21-40, he netted 11 goals, 18 points, 10 domes and a whopping 3 game pucks. He not only turned his season around, but has at times prevented the Habs season from turning into a washout with a pivotal goal. From the blueline in, Andrei is probably the player the Habs most want on the puck as he can beat players, pass wonderfully and unleash a shot that prepared goalies just shake their heads at.
In the hoopla that has surrounded the wonderful return of Andrei Markov, we temporarily forgot that our number one stand-in had gone down with a niggle of a knee injury. In the 15 games he did play in from the last 20, he scored an impressive 8 points to go with the 6 he had previously accumulated. Not only that, he provided the anchor (the only anchor) from which to start a solid defensive strategy for a while - 13 domes and 2 game pucks show that.
Sometimes we make the mistake of assuming that playing with good players, well that's easy. I'm not so sure it is. It is one thing to come out looking better yourself, but to actually complement a partner and have him come out looking better than before takes talent - this is no Komisarek here. Gorges is that complementary player. Not only has he been good himself, but he has been a good complement to Gill, and just about anyone he has been paired with. Though he'll never make an all-star team, he merits a place in this dome for being a vital cog in the team that won more than it lost. With one game puck, he pips Bergeron to the post here by virtue of 7 dome selections in 20 games.
This selection was so unlikely in mid-December, I'd penned Price in and only took him out after second checking. Price played well in these 20 games, much. But, in the closing matches, Halak gave a virtuoso turn as game-saver. He has 7 domes for 7 GP, but 2 were earned from the bench. 5 of 7 ain't bad, but it ain't good for a starter either. 4 game pucks, 3 first stars, 0.939 and a shutout, however, is great. Halak swoops the award then after a month of being neglected and turning in average play with 4 much needed wins at the perfect time.
Scroll through using the arrows below the slides.
|Name||Game pucks||Domes||LIW Pts||First star||Second star||Third star||3 Star Pts|
It's easy to forget now, nearly a month later, but this segment of the season was dominated by the Centennial. There were alternate sweaters, ceremonies and much anticipation and analysis. It must have been hard for this team to come to grips with what was expected of them in this important season as it got closer to the birthday. The lead-in to the Centennial was similar to the latter half of the previous 20 games, a lot of up and down. The game itself was a marvel, yet not reflective of what this team is. Perhaps most disappointingly, the aftermath, with the pressure supposedly off their shoulders contained the worst stretch of all, with some insipid play in the face of continuous losing.
Games 37 to 40 then were a tonic. Not only did those wins help boost the team over 0.500 for the 20 games, but they also edged the Habs into the battle for 8th and gave this summary some hope to cling to.
In addition to this hope, there was more. It came in the form of redemption. Andrei Kostitsyn has turned Francois Gagnon into a simple prognosticator, since he has nothing left to complain about. Carey Price has shown he can play after a bad goal. Jaroslav Halak has shown why he was right to want a few more games. Scott Gomez has shown that though he'll never earn his Datsyuk dollars, he is still a massive improvement on Higgins and a player who makes opposing coaches scratch their heads once in a while. Hal Gill has shown those who were too quick to judge a thing or two. Marc-Andre Bergeron has shown those same people more than that.
If we have learned anything from these twenty games it is that we should never write off a goalie (no matter his name), we should never think we'll know how the team will play and we should never underestimate Andrei Markov.