By Andy Bayer
The Montreal Canadiens, in the past several games, have done something they haven’t done all year. They are giving themselves a chance to win even if their goalie isn’t standing on his head. Peter Budaj wasn’t very good while Carey Price was out, and Price hasn’t been great since his return, allowing four goals to the Ottawa Senators and three to the Colorado Avalanche. But in winning three of their past four games, they have been in control of possession (above 55 per cent Fenwick Close via www.extraskater.com), and they have scored a combined 14 goals. The Habs are beginning to show the possession stats that gave them the division win last year.
Thomas Vanek got the monkey off his back by scoring a hat trick last night against Colorado. Vanek’s line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty is dominating every game. However, their best line last night was the fourth line of Dale Weise, Brandon Prust and Travis Moen. They scored three goals and were above 90 per cent in corsi. I think this line has the combination of size, speed and skill to make it one of the top fourth lines in the league. If that line can contribute regularly it will take pressure off the other lines and wear down other teams.
Of course, I have to mention the game on Saturday against the Senators. Montreal had several defensive lapses that resulted in a deep hole (which correlated highly with Douglas Murray being on the ice), but P.K. Subban showed his dominance in leading the comeback. Yes, the Habs benefitted from a couple of borderline calls. But the reality is the Habs took over that game and their win was not due to the referees. And boy was it sweet revenge to see Paul MacLean’s stunned face when that OT winner bulged the twine.