Right now, the Habs' injury list is like the daytime in Montreal: it gets longer with the spring. But as much as I am enjoying a little late sunshine at 5 p.m., watching the players get down one after the other does not inspire me any good.
Last week, for the first of the back-to-back games against the Bruins, two players got injured. Guillaume Latendresse got a hit along the board and feels some pain in the neck ever since. Mike Komisarek' "hips don't lie", as he got a lower body injury and is expected to miss another two weeks.
Thursday against the Sabres, Saku Koivu hurt himself on blocking a shot in the first period. The Captain could finish the game, but rumours are talking about nothing less than a fracture, and four weeks on the sideline.
That same night, Mark Streit ended with three assists, and a painful ankle. Both Koivu and Streit missed the game against Toronto. The only thing I found interesting with Koivu on the sideline was to see Kovalev with the "C" on his jersey. Dude, it looks good on him ! (No, no, I don't have anything against Koivu, I'm just saying)
Facing the Leafs, Francis Bouillon blocked a shot in the third period, and never came back on the ice. He seemed to be okay though, sitting next to Carey Price on the bench, watching his team lose it 2-4 to Vesa Toskala.
So now, we have three forwards and two defensemen out. Oh boy, that's an entire shift !
And it does not get any better, as they will face the revenge-seeking Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. The Sens just got blanked by the Bruins yesterday, and there is now way they will let the Habs get over that division title that easily.
By the start of yesterday's game, Coach Carbo put Mathieu Dandenault on the third line, to replace Mark Streit. By the end of it, Dandy was playing on the blue line for the first time this season. Carbo had to manage as best as he could, after losing Bouillon, and Ryan O'Byrne who got a game misconduct after an elbow penalty in the first.
More precisions about each injury will be provided anytime soon, but so far, the only thing I can hope for is for the other guys to step up.
Well, there is already Josh Georges. He is not that tall, he is not a Zdeno Chara or not even a Komisarek. But this guy is improving so much, and actually earned himself a spot on the penalty killing. He is even the chosen one to replace Mike Komisarek, and play along with all-star Andrei Markov.
For the physical play, we can count on Steve Begin. Man, on that game against the Bruins, he just hit whoever was moving around with a "B" on the jersey. Bruins Marc Savard is reportedly having some back pains due Begin's forechecks.
The young players in this team, as well as the "less young" in the third and fourth line, should find here an opportunity to shine.
We could recently see some nice plays from Sergei Kostitsyn, but for some reason, his Kovalev-alike stick handlings never get properly done ! One time he goes but loses the puck, another time he gets the puck but cannot get past the defensemen. But for a 20-year old guy, it is a good start, a very good start.
Adding to that, it is also Carey Price's big time. Right now, he has to cope with the loss of his best shot-blocker. As if it wasn't enough, the team seems to find some wierd interest to the penalty bench recently. In those occasions, the goalie needs to be at his best.
If Carbo can keep the remaining roster in the right direction, by the time everyone will be back, the spring run can be really fun to watch.
So far, the coach has to modify his pre-game speech from "impose your rythm" to "get some rythm, stop high sticking and hooking people, skate faster, and keep shooting".
Indeed, since the third period agains the Sens last Monday, his players seem to play their garage-league hockey instead of showing themselves as the best team in the Eastern Conference.
If we take a look at the current playoff run, Cristobal Huet blanked the Panthers yesterday. The former Habs goalie and his team can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel, but they know it is still there, and they are willing to do whatever is left possible to get to it. Somehow, just by watching the way Huet plays his winning cards recently, along with Ovechkin, I am not that thrilled anymore to see the Habs finish first !
I still remember Ovechkin's four goals against Montreal the last time the two teams met. You take this four-goals ability, you add Huet's motivation to play Simple Plan's "You'll miss me when I'm gone" at the Bell Center, and you get an interesting first round.
Nevertheless, for the weeks to come, Montreal needs to go with "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you'll never gonna keep me down (...)" as a theme song !
If needed, Coach, get yourself a lucky tie! Price, start talking to your pipes and avoid skating on the lines ! Everyone, put on your left skate first; get out of the dressing room in a specific order, and use that same order to shoot two pucks each to the net at the end of the warm-ups !
Jokes aside (some teams and players actually do that!), they are one point away from the division title which will ensure at least the second spot for the playoff run. A win over the Sens will guarantee it, like a win over the Leafs yesterday would have.