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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

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