Now, let’s get one thing straight.
One victory over the Atlanta Thrashers does not a season make. But when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, it’s a win that just might turn this season around.
If nothing else, Montreal’s 6-3 victory over the team with the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference of the NHL, snapped a five-game losing streak. And it gave this desperate Canadiens’ hockey team a shred of hope to cling to as they look to shore up their fading playoff hopes.
And let’s face it: it was a victory. A “W”. Two points. Which is more than you can say for this team on most nights; certainly since mid-January.
Last night, the Habs’ best players were their best players, led by the newly-minted line of Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay, who combined for 11 points. Tanguay led the way with two goals and three assists, with Kovalev adding a pair of goals and Koivu chipping in with a solo marker.
The fact that the Habs were almost scoring at will against Kari Lehtonen, who gave up a goal on every second shot (or just about: Habs connecting on six goals on 15 shots), certainly helped their cause. But when you’re a Canadiens’ team that has been desperate for a win, you’ll take all the help you can get.
If Alex Tanguay is indeed back, after sitting out more than two months of action with a shoulder injury, it’s good news indeed for the Habs. In eight games since his return, Tanguay now has four goals and eight assists; gaudy numbers that are obviously bolstered by his five-point performance against the Thrashers.
However, last night, Alex Tanguay looked like the Alex Tanguay who lit it up while playing with Saku Koivu at the start of the season; when the points were piling up for no. 13 over the first month of action.
For the Canadiens, that’s good news, indeed.
As for Koivu, the Captain has struggled in recent weeks. But it was while he was playing with Tanguay, that Koivu was this team’s best forward. In fact, until he went down with an ankle injury in early Dec., Koivu was this team’s most consistent performer up front.
For the Canadiens, his performance last night, is good news, indeed.
And then there’s Alex Kovalev, who came within a goalpost of netting the hat trick last night. It hasn’t worked with Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec all season long, for whatever reason. But last night, it certainly worked with Tanguay and Koivu. THAT is the Alex Kovalev the Canadiens are going to need over the final nine games of the regular season, if they are going to advance to post-season play. Kovalev’s performance last night is the reason why the Canadiens desperately need no. 27 firing on all cylinders.
Last night’s victory (yes, yes, I know, I know: against the 13th-place Thrashers) came because Montreal’s best players were their best players. As much as you have to admire the play of linemates Tom Kostopoulos, Max Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse of late, they are not the players who are going to lead this team to the promised land. In fact, those three were fairly quiet last night. Against the Thrashers, it was the unit of Glen Metropolit, Chris Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault who helped pick up the slack, with Metropolit contributing with a goal.
Chris Higgins on the fourth line? Works for me. He still managed to see almost 16 minutes of ice time.
Which brings us to the line of Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec. One shot on goal for Andrei. One shot on goal for Sergei. (Three for Plek). That’s not going to cut it. Then again, it was only Sergei’s first game back since being recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs. If it takes these three guys a little while to get their sea legs, so be it. They had brief flashes of brilliance lasts night, but they were too brief. They’ll get another chance Thursday when the Tampa Bay Lightning are in town.
Then again, this entire team will get another chance to do something they haven’t done in three weeks, when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town.
Win two in a row.