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» 2006 » March

  • Canadiens Pulling Away

    The Habs won their 5th consecutive game with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals and those 2 points have increased the lead over the 9th place Thrashers to 7 points.

    The Habs are taking advantage of their favorable schedule and it looks more and more like a 6th-8th spot is secure. It is a good feeling for Canadiens fans used to biting their nails while hoping to squeak into 8th spot in the last couple of games.

    The game itself was not necessarily an easy one and they will have to be better against tougher opponents if they hope to continue winning. The Canadiens missed several chances on the powerplay before finally getting one past Kolzig. Chris Higgins of course. Who else? Higgins is on fire and scored 2 goals to put his total at 19. Higgins should break 20 goals and after Michael Ryder that would be the first time a rookie has broken the 20 goal plateau since Saku Koivu’s rookie year. It’s refreshing to see a young gun playing so well and even more refreshing to see more 20+ goal scorers on the Canadiens offence.

    The Canadiens let the Capitals back in allowing the tying goal in the dying seconds. There was no panic however and when Saku Koivu stole the puck and put himself on a clear break he buried the chance and ended his scoring drought.

    With all the recent success and strong play from several players, the weakest links are beginning to shine brighter. Richard Zednik is arguably the most useless player on the ice. His job is to score goals and when he is not scoring he is useless as he brings absolutely nothing else to the team. Zednik hasn’t been able to turn it around for whatever reason. The once exciting speedy skilled forward is not the player he could be. Ever since he received a brutal elbow in the 02-03 playoffs which left him concussed and battered – he’s changed. No longer does he cut to the middle and drive the net but usually opts for the ‘1 hand skate around puck drag’ circling the boards and behind the net resulting in a lost puck.

    You could say the same about Mike Ribeiro. If he’s not scoring or setting up plays what good is he doing? Another bad penalty last night and his traditionally lame defensive efforts put the Canadiens at risk everytime he’s out there.

    Jan Bulis is in the dog house. For whatever reason Bob Gainey doesn’t think he can be a scorer and sees him more as a two way checking player. Bulis has been scratched several times and his status in the lineup will vary day to day. Bulis was to be traded the night he scored 4 goals in Philadelphia in a weird twist of irony, and since then Bob Gainey for whatever reason doesn’t feel he deserves a starting role.

    Mostly though, things are looking good for the Canadiens. There is still plenty of hockey to be played. If the Canadiens don’t self-destruct they should manage at least an 8th place finish. It looks like the battle for 6th 7th and 8th will go right down to the wire and there’s no reason the Canadiens can’t finish higher. 6th place is the ideal finish as avoiding Carolina and Ottawa in the first round could make all the difference in a hopefully deep playoff run. The Habs and Devils will lock up 2 more times and face each other in the last game of the season which could very well decide the playoff seeds.

    First things first, 2 games at home against Beantown and 4 more points up for grabs in the race for 6th.

  • Canadiens Win Again

    A headline I’d like to write after each and every game. The Habs won their 4th straight game with a 2-0 shutout victory over the New York Islanders. The win put the Habs in a 3 way tie for 6th place with the Devils and Lightning.

    Cristobal Huet continues to impress with his 6th shutout turning aside 36 shots. The game was a goaltending battle and despite Rick DiPietro’s fantastic play the Habs got one early and didn’t look back. Chris Higgins potted his 17th and should break the 20 goal plateau in his rookie year which is great to see.

    If the season ended now the Canadiens would occupy 8th spot as they have fewer wins than the Lightning and their head to head record against New Jersey is a losing one.

    That’s not to say that with a couple more well timed wins and a little luck the Habs could stay in 6th and put some distance between the teams below them. The Habs now have a 5 point lead over 9th place with only 10 games remaining.

    If you’ve followed the 10 must win games the Canadiens have played 7 and are have a winning record with 5 wins and 2 losses. The next 3 games will be played at home against the Capitals and Bruins which on paper is the easiest schedule they could possibly hope for.

    One game at a time, but these are all very ‘winnable’ games. If the Canadiens find a way to take all 3 they will have won 7 straight games and gone 8-2 for 16 points. With 6-7 games left that would almost guarantee at least an 8th place finish but more likely a higher one.

    1st step: Ovechkin’s Capitals.