Solid January Keeps Habs Afloat
Remember New Years? That time not so long ago when the Montreal Canadiens had just finished obliterating a solid opening two months of the season with a disastrous road trip that saw the Habs drop from a cozy 3rd overall in the Eastern Conference on December 11th all the way to the 8th and final playoff spot by January 1st?
It was a quite a large drop, going 2-7-1 from December 11th through the 31st, and the team’s annual “make-or-break” road swing did the very best it could to knock the Canadiens back to square one(1-5-1), yet since the dawn of the New Year these very same Habs have picked up their socks, reeling off the required amount of wins to bring them all the way back to a somewhat comfortable 6th overall.
Since that terrible stretch of hockey that saw the Habs pick up but 5 of a possible 20 points while scoring a measly 19 goals(allowing a putrid 35 in the process, I might add…), they have lost only 1 of their last 10 in regulation, winning 6 and picking up points in 9 of others(5 straight with a point), all while getting the offense going once again,(31 goals thus far in 2011).
Perhaps it’s tied to the acquisition of James Wisniewksi, perhaps it’s just the time of year, but one thing that is very appealing to the eye is the level of compete with which this team is now playing.
Akin to the heart and soul performance from last spring, this Habs squad certainly seems to be ramping up the emotional performances. While they are not blowing teams out of the water(other than the Senators that is), they’re overpowering opponents with their grit and their guts, forcing teams to beat them by being better than them.
Given the injuries and the December blues, many would have figured this team was headed right back into the dreaded abyss of fighting for a playoff spot, but this team seems to be better than that. After what they experienced last season, the way they bonded and the heart they showed, it just seems that this team has matured as a group to the point where they will not let a month of struggling ruin what has otherwise been a very impressive season.
With winning records in 3 of the 4 months of the season so far, the Habs are starting to climb back into the fight for 1st in the division and have an eye on landing home ice advantage.
It won’t come easy though as recent injuries and the likelihood of more to come will clearly pose challenges for this rag-tag squad, but – despite qualms over Jacques Martin’s offensive deprived systems – the coach has this club playing with heart.
And that should be as welcome a sign as any for Canadiens fans as they haven’t had a squad that played with this much heart since before Saku Koivu was captain. Ironic that today’s Canadiens would be the perfect match for a leader like Koivu, but with Saku long-gone, fans can be pleased that the team is in good hands and that they’re heading towards another rugged but exciting season finale.
- On December 11th, the Montreal Canadiens sat 1st in the NorthEast(3rd in the Eastern Conference) with a record of 18-9-2.
- On January 1st, the Habs sat 8th overall(only 4 points ahead of the Hurricanes).
- Today, January 24th, the Canadiens sit comfortably in 2nd place in the Northeast and 6th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 27-17-4.