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It was a game
that could have ended 12 – 2 in Montreal’s favour. Tampa Bay was dominated,
thoroughly, for most of the game. It would have been a performance fans could
have spoken of for years… had the damn puck gone in the net! Thankfully, 3
goals is all it took for Montreal to get the win, and the Canadiens retook sole
possession of 8th place in the conference, and climbed to within 2 points of the
7th place Rangers. It’s unlikely that Montreal will face such dominate (and
lucky) goaltending performances in their remaining 8 games like what Bolts’
goalie Karri Ramo did to the Habs, so if they can play the last 8 games much
like this one, Montreal will make the playoffs.  

It’s games like this I really like to grade.
Being that it’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to gush, please forgive me
for immersing so heavily on the "Positive," skimping on the "Negative"
and almost ignoring the "Neutral."


Hitting the Ice… uh, Running?:  The Habs came out
hot! This was their best start in a long time, and the momentum was carried
through most of the game, where Montreal didn’t dominate Tampa only in spurts in
the 3rd.

Team Chemistry:  Almost all four lines are clicking,
with only the 2nd line of S. Kostitsyn – Plekanec – A. Kostitsyn/D’Agostini not
paying immediate dividends (though not entirely looking out of place either.) If
Plekanec can get his linemates going and help take some pressure off the top
line, Montreal will move up the standings steadily.

Lady Luck be Damned:  It took 63 minutes for the
Habs to get a favourable bounce, and it proved to be for the game winner. In a
game where not much was going there way, Montreal never quit, never bemoaned
their missed chances, and never sat back after their hard work and effort paid
off on the scoreboard.

"… just not at my face":  The ever constant debate
over Saku Koivu’s leadership ability will never cease. Without taking sides,
let’s give credit where it’s due: after taking a Roman Hamrlik shot to the face,
Koivu spent the entire skate back to his bench telling Roman to "Keep shooting,"
obviously not wanting "The Hammer" to get gun-shy. Hamrlik shot the puck towards
the net 7 times against Tampa.

Finally! A 1st Line:
It’s a simple concept, isn’t it? Take
your 3 most skilled veterans, put them on the same line and give them the most
minutes. Sure, you don’t want to necessarily throw all your eggs into one
basket, but so far it’s paid off on the scoresheet and in the standings, and
looked damn good while doing it.

Finally! A 4th Line:
The ever changing 4th line, a
revolving door of hodgepodge players, has been struggling for an identity all
season. The energy line has tried to be bruising, fast, offensive, and
defensive, but generally every combo ended up useless. There might now be an
identity that works. Higgins and Dandenault together might be the fastest winger
duo on the team. Both of them cause footraces to pucks a lot of opposing players
can’t win, and that in itself causes energy for their team. Also, Glen
Metropolit appears to appreciate playing with someone that knows what to do with
the puck, and he has recently started to look like he’s earning his keep.
Georges Laraque and Gregory Stewart can stay in the press box for now, because I
am loving what the current 4th line trio bring.

A Bored Goalie: Yes, a bored goalie is a good thing. After seeing about
40 shots a game in his last 10 or so starts, I expect Carey Price almost went
back out on the ice after overtime for what he thought was the 2nd period. 19
shots he saw. 19! This is a huge improvement on team defense, and I think it’s
because they aren’t giving up the blue line as easily as they have the entire
season. I saw a few early poke checks and a bit less space between opposing
players in the game. Hopefully this is the start of a trend, because the
Montreal goaltenders have earned (and could actually mentally benefit from) a
bit of boredom.

Superpest: I really enjoyed Maxim Lapierre’s game tonight. He defended
his goalie, he chirped at various Bolts all game – and never shut up to hear
what they were saying back to him. Add onto that an impressive dangle that led
to a near scoring chance, and he’s become Montreal’s 3rd line center for years
to come.


Halfway Shots:  No Montreal defenseman had more shots hit the net
than be blocked. I can’t help but wonder how much more offense could happen if
these guys didn’t always aim for the net, but just aim to get the puck through
to the slot.

Power Outage: The powerplay befitted the rest of the game: Montreal
getting the chances but not hitting the net. Yes, they looked dangerous, yes, it
easily could have been a 5 for 8 night… but it wasn’t, and with a man
advantage, a 1 for 8 night doesn’t get excused easily. All that being said,
special teams effort like what they did against Tampa will result in more
goals. It was just one of those nights against the Lightning.


Carey Price:  Was it a good outing or not? Tough to say. Neither
goal was his fault, though at least one of them could have been had. I think
everyone should take the win as a confidence builder for Price and see how he
performs next game.





 Carey Price B+  Saku Koivu A-
     Alex Kovalev A-
 Andrei Markov A+  Alex Tanguay A
 Josh Gorges A-  Tomas Plekanec B-
 Patrice Brisebois A-  Sergei Kostitsyn B-
 Mathieu Schneider B  Matt D’Agostini B-
 Roman Hamrlik B+  Maxim Lapierre B+
 Mike Komisarek B  Guillaume Latendresse A-
     Tom Kostopoulos  B-
 Powerplay C  Glen Metropolit B
 Penalty Kill A  Mathieu Dandenault B
     Chris Higgins B+


This article was written
with playoff belief by Tristan Tapscott