For all the hand-wringing that accompanied the Montreal Canadiens through the first month of the regular season, the Habs find themselves a .500 hockey team after posting a 7-7 record through the month of October.
The most glaring statistic to come out of October is the fact that the Habs have won a grand total of one game in regulation play: the rest of their victories have come either in overtime or shootout. That’s a recipe for disaster, but the Canadiens have managed to win all six overtime/shootout games they’ve been involved in. The latest came on Saturday night, when the Toronto Maple Leafs threw a major-league scare in the Habs with two late goals to force the issue, before the Canadiens sealed the deal with a 5-4 shootout victory.
Much has been made over the fact that Bell Centre fans wasted no time in booing former Hab Mike Komisarek, and did so, long and hard, throughout the game. Komisarek responded with a -3 performance. It seems that some observers feel this denotes a lack of class on the part of Montreal hockey fans. Puh-leeze. You go out and spend $120 on a hockey ticket, you can do whatever you want as a fan (as long as it’s legal and within reason, of course.) Who says Canadiens’ hockey fans have to show respect when it comes to opposing players? Especially when it comes to opposing players who are ex-Habs? Gimme a break.
But I digress.
The other statistic that stands out through the first month of the regular season is this one: Andrei Markov, one game played.
The fact that the Habs have managed to play .500 hockey with Markov on the sidelines is no small feat. He is arguably this team’s best player: certainly the team’s number 1 defenceman. They’ve been forced to play musical D-men as a result, with players like Yannick Weber and Shawn Belle in and out of the lineup. However, in the recently acquired Marc-Andre Bergeron, the Canadiens have come up with someone who can at least begin to replace Markov as the quarterback on the power play, although, defensively, Bergeron continues to be an adventure out there.
In the meantime, Roman Hamrlik and Jaro Spacek are have been solid; while Paul Mara and Josh Gorges are quietly going about their business. Nice to see Hal Gill contribute with a goal against the Leafs in what may have been his best effort in a Montreal uniform. But clearly, this man does not poses a howitzer from the point.
Up front, Mike Cammalleri, who had a terrific game against the Leafs, and the rejuvenated Tomas Plekanec, lead this team in scoring with 13 points apiece. Plekanec’s solid start to this season is well documented. Judging from their performance as Plek’s linemates Saturday night against Toronto, it would appear that Maxime Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse would like to spend more time more time with playing with Plekanec.
Scott Gomez has been effective on most nights, but needs to bring more to the table, while Brian Gionta has cooled down after a quick start to the season. The fact that Travis Moen has managed to chip in with four goals is a bonus. As much as I loved what Tom Kostopoulos brought to this team, Moen has shown some real offensive upside as his replacement in the team’s grit department.
Andrei Kostitsyn? The less said about him, the better. Kostitsyn saw less than eight minutes of ice time as a fourth-liner against the Leafs. After seeing action on the 2nd line and the 4th line, you would have to think his NEXT move will be to the press box.
With Matt D’Agostini out after having his bell rung the night before in Chicago, Gregory Stewart finally got another chance to play. In only his third game of the season, Stewart finally showed the feistiness we’ve expected of him, but have rarely seen. Welcome back, Gregory.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the opening month of the season is the fact that the goaltending has been split right down the middle. Both Jaro Halak and Carey Price have appeared in 8 games; each has made 7 starts. It might be too early to call Halak this team’s number 1 goaltender. However, as the Canadiens get set to play host to the Atlanta Thrashers tomorrow night, it’s clear that Halak, who was in goal Saturday against Toronto, has emerged as 1-A.