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.