Position in standings: 7th in East, 19th in NHL
Winning record: 9-8-3
Habs on scoring leaders (top 30): Plekanec (18)
Habs among statistical leaders (top 30, major category): Cammalleri (T9, G); Plekanec (7, A); Halak (15, GAA), Price (26, GAA); Halak (5, SV%), Price (20, SV%)
It was period of ups and downs, a period where the team was twice, if not three times, written off, and hailed as contenders at least as often. The defining play of the 20 games then for me was the most unexpected of goals in the most unexpected of games:
"The game was 1-1 when this play happened and I think it was the play that paved the way to our victory. It also, conveniently enough, was the best goal of the night. The Habs had just killed their third of three penalties and things were looking good, but we needed a goal to have something to show for it. This play started with a great pad save from Halak which he sent, in rebound form, out to Hamrlik. Roman then had the good sense to throw a backhand pass to the wide-open Gionta on the left side. Brian then was in alone on Fleury and made a great move to score his first of the night."It also happens to be just about the prettiest goal of the season.
Fewer points, but more goals. Though Tomas lived a mini-scoring slump, he still came back with 13 domes and a game puck. It's actually amazing to watch Plekanec of 2009-10 pull this kind of thing off. Last 20 game stretch witnessed him tear through scoring rivals with multi-point nights, but that was with regular linemates. This latest 20 games he has done whatever has een asked of him, has made new linemates better and helped his team to 10 wins and 23 points from 40.
Gomez came alive a bit before the 40 game mark, but this dome place reflects the fact he headed the number one line for most nights over the last 6 weeks. He answered the responsibility with a team high 16 points as well, and by carrying the PP work of Kostitsyn. In addition, he abetted the arrival of new scoring hero Benoit Pouliot with an instant gelling between youngster and vet not seen since Savard-Dionne. 2 game pucks and 10 domes make him the second forward of the 20 games.
Brian Gionta – 20-game puck
Game 41 arrived just as some players started to return to the lineup. As we marveled at the instant impact of Andrei Markov, the diminutive forward we weren't very familiar with was just steady. Over the last 20 games though, Gionta has put together a tour de force. 14 domes for a forward is virtually flawless, and 6 game pucks on top of that, well that's just amazing. Brian also had 16 points over the 20 games, 8 of which were goals. He's easily stemmed the loss of Kostitsyn. it will be nice to see them play on the same team one day (fingers crossed).
The other returnee did just as expected, by slotting himself into the lineup and picking right up as the top defenceman. His impact on offense has been top-notch since his return, as demonstrated by his 12 points and the PP's continued excellence. And while there was certainly a period of defensive re-adjustment, his 7 domes in the last 10 games suggest he's finding his feet. All told it was a tidy 11 domes and 2 player of the game nods.
Roman Hamrlik may well just be the most underrated player never to appear on a list of underrated players. The first overall pick from the early 1990s shows his pedigree every night. It's been in large part to his calm, and his fledgling partnership with Jaroslav Spacek that the Habs have been able to avoid barrage every single time out. Another 10 domes, with Markov around, testifies to his steadiness. His game puck shows he can still call upon that 1st overall flair from time to time, as well. While I was dumbfounded at first to hear the Czechs pass on Hammer, I am now quite relieved. A 2 week break for recharge will be a big boon for March – if he even approaches October/November form again, our team might yet have a new look from the back.
Games 41 to 50 were just another in the jostle for position between Jaro and Carey. But around the 50 game mark, Jaro finally recovered a Price fumble and held onto it himself. As Carey let in goals on scoring chances one and two in his second consecutive game, Jaro answered by stunning the Devils and shutting out the Rangers. Since that time, he's logged 9 of 10 domes (one in question) and gathered a fair share of points. Over the 20 games it was 13 domes in all and an impressive 5 game pucks (none under question). Between Jaro and a new line one, the team has been able to keep pace in the race. With all these wins, saves and statistical runs in his favour, it only remains for him to convince those who open every thought about him with "he doesn't make it look pretty, but..." to find something else to say.
Scroll through using the arrows below the slides. Click on the Game # to link to the report.
|Name||Game pucks||Domes||LIW Pts||First star||Second star||Third star||3 Star Pts|
|Brian Gionta||6 ||14||128 ||2 ||0 ||0 ||10 |
|Jaroslav Halak||5 ||13||86 ||4 ||2 ||1||27|
|Scott Gomez||2 ||10 ||64 ||0 ||0 ||1 ||1 |
|Tomas Plekanec||1||13 ||64 ||0 ||0||2 ||2|
|Andrei Markov||2||11||57 ||1||0||1 ||6 |
|Benoit Pouliot||1 ||8 ||44 ||0||2 ||3 ||9 |
|Roman Hamrlik||1 ||10 ||42 ||0||0 ||0||0 |
|Mike Cammalleri||1 ||7 ||40 ||1||0||0||5|
|Carey Price||1||7 ||26||1||0 ||0 ||5 |
|Jaroslav Spacek||0 ||8 ||24||0||0 ||1 ||1 |
|Josh Gorges||0 ||7 ||21 ||0||0||0||0|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||0||3 ||12 ||0||1||0||3|
|Hal Gill ||0||3 ||9 ||0||0 ||0 ||0 |
|Mathieu Darche||0 ||1 ||4 ||0||2||0 ||6|
|Andrei Kostitsyn||0 ||1 ||4 ||0||0||0||0|
|Matt D'Agostini||0 ||1 ||4 ||0||0||0||0|
|Maxim Lapierre||0 ||1 ||4 ||0||0||0||0|
|Glen Metropolit||0||1 ||4 ||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan O'Byrne||0 ||1 ||3 ||0||0||0||0|
Another 20 games, so I tally up the wins and the points and find that we've accrued another 10 wins, another 23 points. Without the help of the standings, would anyone polled come to that conclusion? This is actually the second 20 game set where this has happened, the second 20 game set where we've gained on our rivals.
As I've said elsewhere, it really is the first 10 games that remain the dark cloud over this season so far. The hole that was dug back then is still weighing on the win-loss balance, on the GF-GA ratio. I think as we went through that, everyone expected this team, built to win, would erase that start with one long sustained streak. It hasn't happened. Instead, the team battles along, making every point a fight and fighting in most games.
But you know what, it's starting to settle in that this team, pulling out one win over the 50-50 mark is the team we've got. The team of the rough start is no more our team than the team we all hope will win 12 in a row. And perhaps that's not such a bad thing.
Other than that revelation, this 20 games has proven to be another frustrating period of injury and replacement, much like the beginning of the season. I hope, like me, you are all properly thankful that this spat of misfortune has happened in an Olympic year (perhaps our very last chance to take advantage of this). The next 20 game stretch will start on the same track. I hope that come game 64 this team will pick up their nightly battle with a whole bevy of familiar reinforcements.