The Canadiens played what could have been their best 60 minute performance of the 2005 2006 season Sunday afternoon, out-shooting the Flyers 36-25, with Cristobal Huet earning his first ever back-to-back NHL shutouts. Bob Gainey must have enjoyed what he saw from all 4 lines yesterday, as well as the 6 defensemen he dressed.
All Lines Firing
The Canadiens dominated almost the entire game yesterday afternoon and it seems Bob’s line combinations are pure perfection. The first line of Koivu, Ryder, and Higgins played very well, creating chances with 10 shots on goal. A hat trick for Ryder only provides positive reinforcement for that. The second line is a perfect match of three players who have excellent puck control and thrive on time and space, and although they did not score any goals, they also had 10 shots and some excellent individual creativity, which created many scoring opportunities. The third line is a group of great skaters with Plekanec, Bulis and Zednik who have gelled quite quickly creating turnovers and a cycle game, which is tough to control producing a goal from Bulis, which is his 5th against the Flyers in 2 games. Finally, the 4th line was extremely impressive yesterday afternoon. Not only did their hard work create two goals, but also helped generate offensive zone face-offs for the more offensively potent lines to utilize. On a defensive note Mike Komisarek with his recent hard work has been paired with the Canadiens top defender Andrei Markov and earned the third star in this game with his excellent defensive game playing rough along the boards and blocking numerous shots. This move will no doubt give Mike more room to improve and hopefully one day soon bury his first NHL goal.
Huet All the Way
What more can a coach and GM ask for from a backup goalie whom many believed to be just a minor aspect of a major off season move which saw the Canadiens deal impressive young back up goalie Mathieu Garon to LA, while acquiring Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet. Huet has recorded his first back-to-back shut outs of his NHL career in consecutive afternoon contests. With 70 saves in those two contests his save percentage has risen to .946 and GAA has dropped to 2.47. This will now only add to the pressure to Bob Gainey to continue to lead off with Huet as the Canadiens starter until Jose Theodore can earn his starting role back.
The Canadiens opened the scoring on a 5 on 3 man power advantage when, after all 5 Canadiens touched the puck, Koivu fed a cross-crease pass to Michael Ryder who roofed his shot over a diving Niittymaki. The second goal of the game was created after Richard Zednik pressured Freddy Meyer into a horrible clearing attempt, which Tomas Plekanec intercepted and fed to Jan Bulis for his 14th of the season to move him into a tie with Saku Koivu for second on the Canadiens goal scoring list. The excellent skating of Steve Begin and the quick release of Michael Ryder created the third goal on a 2 on 2 rush to give Ryder his first 2 goal game since October the 6th. The fourth goal was yet again the fruit of hard work by a fourth liner that being Aaron Downey when he worked hard behind the Flyers net to feed Sheldon Souray at the point for a rocket of a shot that Antero Niittymaki had no chance on. Michael Ryder completed his first NHL hat trick on yet another Canadiens 5 on 3 when he banked a shot off Niittymaki’s back and into the net. Cristobal Huet’s night was fairly uneventful except a 4 minute period late in the third when the Flyers maintained some constant pressure, which saw Huet, and the Canadiens defenders clear two mad goalmouth scrambles.