The Habs secured another 2 crucial points with their first victory of the season over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Habs did not make it easy on themselves letting the Penguins climb back into the game and within 1 goal 5 seperate times.
It was an ugly win but in the grand scheme of things it is a win and 2 points and that’s all that counts. It was the Canadiens 5th game in 7 nights and after a very emotional weekend series against Toronto it was well earned.
This was the game in hand held over the Atlanta Thrashers and the Canadiens cashed in and made it count. The Canadiens put themselves 3 points ahead of the 9th place Thrashers, tied themselves with the Devils and are within only 2 points of 6th spot. The next 4 games will be played at home against non contending teams.
David Aebischer did not shine in nets but did get his first win as a Montreal Canadien and he will continue to settle down with time. As a 1-2 goaltending team the Canadiens are in a good spot related to other potential Eastern playoff teams.
The Ottawa Senators could risk blowing another fantastic season relying on Ray Emery as their #1 goalie. Emery allowed 4 goals in the first period against the Flyers Saturday and the Sens were out of it from the beginning. If Dominik Hasek isn’t healthy and there is nothing indicating he will be, are you banking on the Senators chances with Ray Emery and Mike Morrison as their goalies? Never heard of Mike Morrison? Me neither.
The Carolina Hurricanes have Martin Gerber who has played extremely well for them. Has he ever been tested under playoff pressure? What about an unlucky injury? The Canes backup goaltender? Cam Ward. Enough said.
The Philadelphia Flyers have not had a good enough goalie to get them anywhere for years and this year will probably be no different. Antero Niittymaki came out of nowhere but is far from a proven goaltender and I am still surprised Robert Esche even has an NHL job.
The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist who will challenge for the Vezina this year. However Kevin Weekes ain’t anything to write home about.
The Lightning? Of all Eastern teams their goaltending situation is by far the worse. Assuming they do make the post-season they will be hoping for John Grahame to get them deep? Sean Burke is hurt and even if he returns he can’t really be considered a big threat.
That leaves the Devils with Martin Brodeur. The Devils are dangerous and whether they’re in 1st or 8th spot nobody wants to play against them. Martin Brodeur has the experience and talent to carry the team on his shoulders.
So Cristobal Huet with 5 shutouts and his league leading save percentage and David Aebischer with his 2 Stanley Cup rings might be the best goaltending duo of the Eastern teams. All they have to do is get there.
Looking at both Conferences this should be one of the best playoff chases ever. The playoffs are a new season and 1st place is as good as 8th place once you’re in. Any team that finishes 8th or better has a valid chance. There will also be several good teams that miss the playoffs by a single point or two. This is particularly true in the Western Conference where the seeds are changing dramatically with each game.
The Mighy Ducks are in 5th place when this time last week they weren’t in the Playoffs at all. The Calgary Flames cling to 3rd spot as a Division leader but dropping a game or two and they could fall easily into 9th or lower.
The rankings can’t be taken that seriously anymore. 1st is as good as 5th which is as good as 8th. Getting in is the hard part and there will be guaranteed playoff ‘upsets’ as always. Can they really be considered upsets with so many good teams and so few spots?
The Habs are coming off two first round upsets of #1 and #2 seeds in the last 2 playoffs. If any team can do it, the Habs certainly proved they can.