The Montreal Canadiens will look to sweep the home-and-home series with the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night. The teams last hooked up on Tuesday in a game that will be best remembered for its fine goaltending. The 1-0 loss marked the second straight game that Boston was held off the score sheet.
Guillaume Latendresse had the lone goal of the game, his 16th of the season. Andrei Kostitsyn, who has been playing very well in place of Sergei Samsonov, picked up an assist on the goal. The point was Kostitsyn’s eighth in 14 games, also his fifth point over the last four matches he has played.
Another rookie, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, registered his first career shutout with his fifth win of the season. Halak, who has never finished a season with a losing record, no matter how few games he’s played, has been dubbed the number one goaltender from here on out by Coach Guy Carbonneau. If the 21-year-old can continue his dominance in the crease, Montreal’s chances at a playoff spot will be much more attainable.
Carbonneau will likely want his veterans to step up their game on Thursday night. They haven’t been playing badly, but the team will need some offensive production from everyone if they want to beat the Bruins’ newfound defensive system. With the trap implemented firmly last game, Boston successfully frustrated the Canadiens and limited their chances.
When the Habs did get through the four players Boston was lining up along their blue line or when Montreal managed to successfully counter-attack with odd-man rushes, Tim Thomas stood strong. Thomas, who made 31 saves in a losing cause, allowed only a single goal and kept Boston in the game. The Canadiens will have to work at getting more traffic in front of the 32-year-old goalie if they wish to score more goals this time around.
Montreal did a fantastic job remaining disciplined against their division rival Tuesday night. Latendresse was the only Habs’ player to be assessed a penalty throughout the entire game. His hooking minor, which came with just over three minutes in the first period, was cut even cut short 40 seconds when Chuck Kobasew was sent off with two minutes remaining for holding.
They may have been unable to convert on four power play opportunities, but the Canadiens played strong five-on-five hockey – something the team has failed to do for a majority of the season. It will be vital that Montreal continues these good habits from now until the end of the season.
The Habs currently sit tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference with 80 points. However, due to the fact that Montreal has played one more game than both Carolina and Toronto, the Canadiens actually sit at 10th place.
With all the teams, minus the Leafs, fighting for the final playoff positions in the East in action Thursday evening, the Standings are likely to shift yet again. Changes in the standings have become nearly a daily occurrence thanks to the tight race. It has been awhile, though, since Montreal last held down one of the top eight spots. They’ll have an opportunity to do so should they come out victorious tonight.
Montreal returns home to face Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.