Jose Theodore is a helluva good goalie, and he’s definitely getting the oppurtunity to proove that to all observers. Theodore has been living a life of crime; on the ice that is, where he has built up a resistance to all goal scorers. Blocker saves and pad saves, from head to toe, Jose Theodore is getting it done, and he’ll return to his usual spot tonight, manning the posts for the seventh straight game against Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Habs are hoping to mark the end of their four-game homestand with a win, something they’ve been all-to familiar with of late, but we’re not complaining.
Currently sitting five games above that beautiful .500 mark, we urge you to stand up, think, and than think some more, because quite frankly; the CH are playing amazing hockey, and it’s been a long time since anyone has been able to say that. The cheer is widespread throughout Montreal because everyone (everyone!?) is contributing. Whether you decide to lay praise on Coach Claude’s solid coaching, Bob Gainey’s soothing words, Jose Theodore’s ignition, Sheldon Souray’s pointshot, Saku Koivu’s energy and talent, Richard Zednik and Jan Bulis’ ability to break a game open, or strong contributions from many unexpected players ; such as Michael Ryder, Mike Ribeiro and Patrice Brisebois, the Habs are playing like a team poised to win on any night. If the team’s 3 straight wins don’t scare the Tampa Bay Lightning, than surely M. Theodore’s blistering past five games will ; Theodore has posted a 0.99 GAA in his past five starts. A sickening stat, and one that could make any goal-scoring sniper drop dead in his tracks. But we’re happy. As long as there is sheer dominance shining from the Montreal goal crease, than we should become accustomed to a winning hockey club.
However, success doesn’t fall entirely on the shoulder’s of the goaltender, especially if his teammates start to rely too heavily upon him. Having a top-of-the-line goaltender is a definite luxury, but the minute forwards stop backchecking and defenceman stop skating simply because they are confident in the man behind them, is the day a team slides down the drain.
The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t exactly feeling the effects of solid goaltending these days, though. Nikolai Khabibulin has been shaky in his past two starts, recording a 3.00 GAA and a .870 SV%, including a 5 goal meltdown against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. The five Senator goals were allowed on just 27 shots. In turn, John Grahame wil start in goal for the Bolts tonight at the Bell Centre.
Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis is enjoying a second straight strong campaign. The 28-year-old roadrunner, St. Louis leads the Lightning in points (32) and assists (20), marks that put him on pace for nearly seventy points, the same number he was able to achieve last season. Four of the 5’9 St. Louis’ 12 goals, or one third, are game-winners, and with seven points in his past six matches, keep a close watch on him tonight. If you’re a fan of solid, defensive defenceman, don’t take your eyes off of former Hab castoff Jassen Cullimore, but if you’re one of those fans that longs to see offensive skills time and time again, we recommend you discard Cullimore. Now. For all of his defensive efforts and his punishing frame, Cullimore has not posted a point in 29 games. Ouch.
St. Louis is not the only player riding a hot streak, in fact he has nothing on rookie sensation Michael Ryder and his six points in his last three games. Between nine goals and eighteen assists, Ryder’s 27 points give him a continued lead on the NHL Rookie Scoring Race, as the Bonavista, NFLD native sits two points ahead of the Islanders’ Trent Hunter. Here’s a stat St. Louis does lead Ryder in: shots on goal. In 41 games, Ryder has posted 106 shots, while Martin St. Louis sits 90 ahead, with 196. This is nothing new to Hab fans, but Saku Koivu continues to play a great game night in, night out. Captain Koivu has eight points in his past seven contests, in fact, it’s too bad Proline isn’t offering odds on how long it will be until Saku leads the Habs in scoring. My bet: very, very soon.
On the injury front, Niklas Sundstrom (abdominal strain), Andrei Markov (hip), and Joe Juneau (groin) are all day-day-day. Do not count on any of the three being in the lineup. Benoit Gratton (concussion) and Steve Begin (shoulder) remain sidelined indefintely. The Lightning have no current injuries to speak of. After passing through waivers, Chad Kilger has been the man rewarded most with ice time due to these sudden injuries. Kilger played around 18:00 on Tuesday, en route to continually laying the body out, driving to the net, and using his speed. He was a very effective player, and he seems to be waking up. I’ve always been a Kilger fan, despite his ups and downs, but it seems, judging by his current comments, he wants to remain a fixture here in Montreal. If he plays like he has the past two games over a lengthy period (and belive me, he has every intention of doing that – it’s all in his head), by all means, stick around Chad!
Game time is 7:30, and if you’re looking for Habs talk, you know that the HW Forum is the place to be. RDS will be televising the game, as they do every night, and tune your radio into CJAD-800, available through your trusty radio, or online at www.cjad.com.