One night after watching teammate Jose Theodore march to victory over the notoriously awful Pittsburgh Penguins, Mathieu Garon’s red and blue bottom will make it’s way from the bench to the Canadiens’ goal crease at the MCI Centre against the Washington Capitals. The backup netminder is only five days removed from a surprise stint in goal, in place of the injured Jose Theodore, a game which resulted in a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Nashville Predators. The Habs’ always reliable, and often spectacular, puckstopper will be kicking his pads en route to what he hopes will be his fourth win of the season.
It was Garon’s 31-save performance back on November 28th which led the Habs to victory over Washington, though the CH maybe in for a much different game tonight. After superstar Jaromir Jagr fired the team’s former coach, Bruce Cassidy, the Caps have improved their play a great deal. Since GM George Mcphee has named Glen Hanlon the team’s new coach, they have glided their way to an already respectable 2-2-2 record. Be sure to keep at least one of your eyes (the other is free to wander) on Robert Lang. The Capitals number one centreman, Lang is having a career year this year (19-25-44), and was recently named the NHL’s offensive player of the week. Luckily for Garon et al., Lang has just 13 points in 28 caeer games versus the Habs. Okay, so that’s not bad, but throw it up against Jaromir Jagr’s 64 points in 52 games when taking on the Habs, and Lang’s numbers look almost as bad as Mrs. Clause after a night out on the town.
Despite a short benching during last night’s 4-1 trouncing of the Penguins, Michael Ryder is expected, and rightfully so, to remain alongside Saku Koivu on the team’s top line. In 2 games this year vs. Jagr and the Caps, the rookie winger has 3 points. Jan Bulis is expected to remain on Koivu’s left wing, as the trio have enjoyed great success during their time as a line. However, you could argue that Richard Zednik, who lost his spot to Bulis after he skipped a game due to the birth of his daughter, should still be skating alongside Captain Koivu. While Bulis has played great with #11, he has shown that he does so with whomever he plays with. Despite sitting second on the Habs with in the goal-scoring department with 11 goals, Zednik plays his best hockey while flanking Koivu on the team’s top line.
Speaking of Zednik and Bulis, the slick wingers will again face their former team. The duo were traded, along with a 2001 1st round draft pick (Alexander Perezhogin) for Trevor Linden, Danius Zubrus and a 2nd round choice in 2001. Having both played 10 games versus the Caps since the deal was made in March of 2001, Zednik has 5 points, while Bulis has registered 6.
After only losing 4 of their past 15 contests, you have to think that the Habs don’t want this year to end. Claude Julien is reforming the look of his team, and continues to preach hard work, constant effort, and commitment to the team. Along with increased production from all members of the team, Julien’s philosophies and strategies have given us Hab fans a great present, a winning record. One thing’s for sure, as long as the effort remains, their is enough talent on the Habs roster to snatch a playoff spot.
Same old, same old, I know — but catch tonight’s game on RDS at 7:00, tune into CJAD-800 or www.cjad.com, or drop by our lovely forum and discuss your beloved team. On behalf of Habs World, Happy Holidays and enjoy yourselves over the next few days. Remember that our biggest present is yet to come, as it will take a few years to make itself. I’ll give you a hint; it’s big, silver and very beautiful. Enjoy the game and whatever you happen to be up to this holiday season.