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Striking Back

Regular season game #3

After splitting their first two home games, the Habs ducked the intense cold of Montreal for the warmer climes of Washington to play the Capitals, who thoroughly dominated Montreal last season. The Habs went 0-4 against Washington and were outscored 13-3 in the four games. Given that the Habs were a dismal team, how would they fare against a Capitals team desperate for their first win?

Well, to put it mildly: the Caps stink this season. What a mess they’ve become. Not to dwell on the opposition, but their coaching carousel has not panned out the way they had hoped. Exploding for four goals in the second period (which is one more goal than they scored all year against the Caps last season), the Habs played a perfect road game, right up until, and including Prust’s bout with the game well in-hand. Another message sent.

Montreal weathered the early storm, avoided getting burned ny penalties, and Markov’s brilliance staked the Habs to a lead that the inept Caps could not hope to overcome. A late goal by Gorges effectively sealed the deal as the home town fans darted for the exits.

And what of young messers Galchenyuk and Gallagher? Credit Coach Therrien for having his finger on the pulse of the game and giving more ice time to the rookies as the lead grew larger and safer, including over a minute of power play time to close out the game.

All told, it was as solid a road win as you can ask for at any point during the season. If there’s anything to nitpick, it would be another poor night at the faceoff circle. The Habs went 25 for 55 for a 45% success rate. They also had twice as many giveaways than takeaways (8 vs 4 respectively). Being on the wrong side of those stats while winning can’t go on forever, especially when the competition gets tougher than it has been through three games.

Two players that need to up their game are Ryan White and David Desharnais. While White was mostly applauded for jumping Tomas Fleischmann on Tuesday, he seemed to cross the fine line that Michel Therrien later alluded to. Lars Eller may have found himself an opening to the roster on Sunday evening. As for Desharnais, it seems teams are no longer surprised by him. He has made some good things happen, but a top line center needs to bring more to the table than he has.

These were two points that I don’t think many were counting on. For all the Caps’ struggles, the Habs had become the tonic for what ailed slumping teams. With Therrien’s new system and culture, playing tougher seems to be giving the team the backbone that it has so badly lacked since 2009. Three games don’t make a season, but it sure looks like the Canadiens aren’t going to be the flaccid team that skulked around the ice under Jacques Martin. That in itself is a giant step forward.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

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