It was too good to be true.
Andrei Kostitsyn was finally hitting his stride on a line with Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec. His stats reflected that perfectly, as his goals total was finally what it should be. To the delight of many, Kostitsyn was looking like the AK-46 that Habs fans know and love.
Then he got injured, and the Canadiens' offense hasn't looked the same since.
Since his hand injury suffered against the Panthers on New Year's Eve, Kostitsyn has not played in any action. However, it's not the hand that's making headlines.
Kostitsyn's knee underwent surgery today, and he is expected to be rehabilitating for four to six weeks, which should effectively add another blow to Team Belarus, who's already lost the services of Mikhail Grabovski.
More consequently in Montreal, however, is that the Canadiens will be missing one of their catalysts on offense for an extended period of time.
Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri haven't been playing nearly as well with Max Pacioretty or Matt D'Agostini on the left flank, and that line is critical to the Habs' chances.
To add salt to the wound, the Canadiens' second line of Benoit Pouliot, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta have formed great chemistry, which would have given the Canadiens two dominant lines had Kostitsyn been able to stay healthy.
Can the absence of the enigmatic winger who is loaded with potential really be the reason for the first lines' struggles?
Shockingly, the answer is yes.
Without Kostitsyn's speed and offensive ability, the trio lacks that intensity that is necessary to be a consistent threat. Not to say that neither Plekanec or Cammalleri lack intensity, but it just isn't quite the same without Kostitsyn.
And with the Canadiens in such a delicate position in the standings, the impact of Kostitsyn's absence only intensifies.
It will only be a matter of time before Gomez's line will not be able to carry the team anymore, so Plekanec and Cammalleri have to find a way to put up points without the Belorussian sniper.
However, with the second line's emergence, the first line will see less of the opposition's checking line, which should allow them time to form chemistry with whoever Jacques Martin decides to put in for Kostitsyn.
After looking completely confused in the first period of Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers, Matt D'Agostini seemed to get more comfortable playing with Plekanec and Cammalleri.
If D'Agostini can find the offensive touch that earned him a spot on the roster last season, there is a possibility that Kostitsyn's absence could have less of an impact.
For all those who want him out of town, Andrei Kostitsyn has proven through his absence how important he is to the team, and that he should be kept with the Canadiens at all costs.