Montreal will visit the Senators tonight in what should be a surprisingly interesting game. I say “surprisingly” because Ottawa by all rights should be nose-diving towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference. And yet, there they are – sitting pretty, riding a 4 game winning streak and enjoying the view from 6th place in the Eastern Conference.
Ottawa is in the midst of a pretty inspiring run given the terrible rash of injuries that they’ve had to endure so far this season. Their best player, Erik Karlsson is out for the season with a severed left achilles tendon. Jason Spezza, their second best player is out for the foreseeable after having back surgery. Ottawa is also missing the services of Milan Michalek, Peter Regin, Gui(!)llaume Latendresse, Jared Cowan, Mike Lundin, and probably most-importantly: Goaltender, Craig Anderson.
Seriously, Ottawa should be folding right now. We witnessed what can happen to a team decimated by injury last season in Montreal. It isn’t pretty. And yet, here are the Ottawa Senators, led by their near-geriatric Captain, amassing points, winning hockey games, and raising to the challenge of having so many valuable regulars out of the lineup. They’re getting timely saves, and spreading out the offensive attack, and although I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the team, I have to admit that I’m very impressed with the team’s resolve thus far.
Whether or not they can continue to over-perform without their most valuable players in the lineup remains to be seen.
Montreal has also been on a pretty inspiring run of late. The convincing victory over the New York Rangers allowed the team to continue to hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference for at least the short term. The Boston Bruins trail the Habs by just 2 points despite having played 3 less games than just about the entire conference. Still, assuming that the Bruins do make up that gap over the next few games, Montreal would still be comfortably in 4th place in the conference, and 2nd in terms of total points. Frankly, as one who expected this team to struggle to make the playoffs this season, I’ll take it.
It won’t be an easy run, but if Montreal continues to get fantastic goal tending from Carey Price, solid play from its defense corps, and somewhat dumbfounding offensive consistency throughout it’s forward lines – why shouldn’t they be a high seed going into the post season? Montreal doesn’t feature a pure scorer like Stamkos, or a superstar like Crosby, but the lineup does feature 8 players in double digits for points. The team is getting inspired play from Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, Raphael Diaz, Brendan Gallagher and on through the lineup. The fact that some relatively unknown names are mixed into that list shows that Montreal has a solid core-group of talented players that can do more together than what other teams are getting from their superstars alone.
Its hard to find even negative things to say about the players who have struggled to start the season. Brian Gionta has been incredibly good this year, despite the fact that he only has 3 goals and 8 points. You can’t fault him for anything in his game. Eric Cole has been a target for a lot of disdain over the past few weeks, but even he has started to elevate his game, now that he seems to have found momentum beside Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. The super-crafty players have the type of creative play-making and finishing abilities that Cole enjoyed last season on a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. For some reason, playing with the two young players has freed Cole up to do what he does best – use his speed to create scoring chances while driving the net hard.
There is little to complain about with the CH these days – and frankly, that is an uncomfortable position for us all to be in.. at least in the last 20 years or so.
Go Habs Go!!!