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If You Only Read One Habs Blog Post

…make it this one.

Friend and fellow blogger @Habswatch once again hits pay dirt with an insightful and data-driven (read: not skewed by lazy opinion) piece.

No player has polarized Habs fans in recent memory like Carey Price has; you either love him to itty-bitty pieces, or you want his head on a pike. His ardent supporters say that he’s young, has elite talent and a growing body of work that will only continue to impress. They say his defense is the main reason for his failings. His critics say that he’s paid among the elite, has accomplished nothing at the NHL level and has fallen woefully short of lofty expectations.

In his piece, HabsWatch doesn’t only put Price’s 2013 season in to perspective, he puts his entire career in to focus in relation and context to his peers. The results may shock you, as they did for me.

If you want the real deal on Price, then I urge you to take 10 minutes to read HabsWatch’s piece. Drink in the evidence and then share it with your friends. I promise that it is well worth your time.

The Antidote

Regular season game #15

In season’s past, nothing cured what ailed a travelling hockey team quite like a visit to the Bell Center. Opposing teams no doubt enjoyed the best of what Montreal’s restaurants and nightlife had to offer upon each and every visit. So soft were the Canadiens at home that there are enough quotes from opposing players saying how fun it was to play in Montreal that you could fill a crater in Chelyabinsk. So you’ll have to forgive Habs fans for feeling like a scoreless tie with 20 minutes to go would inevitably finish in disappointment…after all, with 20 minutes to play, would you want Cam Ward or Peter Budaj? My how things change!

The 10-4-1 record is no doubt beyond anyone’s expectations; it would be easy, and perhaps even a little bit fair at this point to let us think that this team may be for real. Alas, there is still too much hockey to be played, and not enough proof that this team can hack it on the road against tougher opposition, despite their 3-1-1 road record. That said, you’d have to have a pretty cold outlook on life to nitpick tonight’s game. A shutout for Budaj, Eller’s continued strong play, including a dominant night on faceoffs, Galchenyuk making a difference, Plekanec being the team’s best forward, Pacioretty tearing the monkey off his back, Therrien using a time out for what they’re supposed to be used for…it all came up roses tonight against a opponent that was as hot as the Canadiens are. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that the Canadiens ran the Canes out of the building, as they did to the Flyers on Saturday, even if the goals and shot totals don’t necessarily reflect that. The Canadiens were first to the puck for the vast majority of the night, they showed more poise and more urgency from start to finish and deserved the two points.

Well on their way to reclaiming the Bell Center as their turf, the Habs are slowly shedding the label of the swell guys who would lend the enemy their rink to use as their playground. That in itself is a big step forward and everyone involved with the team deserves to share in the early success. That the Canadiens pushed the pace in the third period while still deadlocked in a scoreless draw is a welcome departure from the previous regime’s style of play that would have had the Habs playing the trap while they were behind 2-0. That they held on to the lead is a vast turnaround not only from last season, but from just a few weeks ago.

It won’t take long for word to spread across the league that the Canadiens are a much improved team – if that is in fact true. It’s been hard to assess the quality of the Habs to this point, but as opposition catches wind, they’ll push back. Here’s hoping the Habs are ready.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

Buffer Zone

Regular season game #14

Sitting at 9-4-1, the Habs are in rarefied air near the top of the division and conference, but since the rotten Bruins have two games in-hand, we’ll stow the parade plans for now.

There was a less than buoyant feeling that swept through Habs nation when it was made known that Peter Budaj would start over Carey Price, who was sick with the flu. Budaj is iffy at the best of times, but there’s no doubt that his teammates have played jelly-legged in front of him, and they’re the first to admit it.

Tonight, the Habs played a much tighter game in front of a floundering Flyers squad, giving up just 19 shots. Combined with a 57% success rate on faceoffs, the Flyers had no real chance in this one. The Habs also did things like scoring goals at even strength, staying disciplined and pouncing on the Flyers, a tired squad playing their second game in two nights. All things that had big empty check boxes next to them at the start of the season. The Habs definitely need to make habits of these things rather than having them exist as Halley Comet-like occurrences.

Not a lot of this will register with Habs Nation as we sit on pins and needles waiting for updates on the health of Max Pacioretty, Brandon Gallagher and Alexei Emelin. With a ton of hockey to be played next week, I think everyone would be wise to enjoy the early season success now before the injuries and compressed schedule come home to roost. A 9-4-1 record is certainly beyond anyone’s expectations, but it can all come crashing down quickly and if we’re being honest with ourselves, the Habs are probably not as good as their record indicates, though they deserve all of the credit in the world for being where they are. Despite some curious line up decisions, Michel Therrien is pushing the right buttons while his top line from last year continues to look for its scoring touch, and he also deserves a good dollop of praise.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel


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