Some quick habs points for the slow Holiday season.
As of now the Habs sit in third place in the Eastern Conference (fourth seed) and have actually gone 5-3-2 in their last ten games. It looks as though the annual holiday slump that has forsaken the Canadiens over the last few years has been beaten…or at least put on hold.
There could be a lot of factors that contributed to this; Tampa Bay is struggling right now, the injuries to some players that some fans think should never have been signed (Brisebois, Smolinski etc), allowing the youth a chance to play, Carbonneau’s willingness to give decent ice time to the contributing players regardless of age; but there is no excuses for finally beating a strong, and very hot Florida team that had only lost once in regulation over the past 9 games. Although the shot totals didn’t favor the Canadiens in the game, the quality of scoring chances heavily outweighed Florida’s.
Michael Ryder had a gimme goal last night thanks largely to Chris Higgins and after the game he said that is was a huge relief to finally get one after going 16 games without a goal. Maybe this is the break he needed at the best time of the year, the stretch drive to the playoffs. We will have to wait and see for sure if the slump is broken, but he looked like a different person in the dressing room after the game and that can only be a good thing for Ryder and the Habs.
Saku Koivu was a game time decision last night because of the flu (Yeah, the Flu…here we go again?) but he decided to play and although he looked tired on the ice he played as well as can be expected. Let’s hope this is just a 24 hour bug and not something close to last season’s major outbreak that ransacked the roster for two complete cycles.
The next stop for the Habs is in New York with the Rangers. This couldn’t be a better time to play the defensive team (Can you believe THAT roster is defensive?) The Rags currently sit 8th in the Conference with 40 points but they have struggled of late going 3-5-2 in their last ten games. The Rangers have only allowed 90 goals against this year (second to only New Jersey in the East) meaning this game should be low scoring and tight checking. The one factor in the game that is good news for the Habs is that while very tight defensively, NY has only scored 87 goals for so far (second last in the NHL) and the Canadiens are offensively confident right now scoring 10 goals in the last 2 games. Either way, both teams know how important the two points are, and it should be a great game.
The real question that has remained unspoken at this point; where do the Canadiens go from here?
Obviously winning is the easy answer but to be more specific, what happens when injured players start returning to the roster?
Does Bob Gainey and Co. send down Maxim Lapierre, Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan O’Byrne when they have done so much in helping the team win?
It’s a gamble either way, but this is a situation where having the young call-ups “Take one for the team” is not beneficial for anyone.