Small Moves Making Big Difference for Habs: Pouliot, Darche, Moore.

Kamal PanesarCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2010

MONTREAL- JANUARY 14:  Benoit Pouliot #57 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Dallas Stars on January 14, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Stars 5-3.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

As we bask in the glow of the Canadiens' 5-game winning streak—they've actually won six of their last seven—there are a few things that I have noticed are giving the Habs success, of late.

More than a few things, I think there are a few players in particular who, while not being "big names" in the league, are helping the Habs become a more cohesive unit.

As fans, we are often looking for trades with a big name who will come in and save the day—hello Vincent Lecavalier.  But for the Habs, their recent success is more the result of minor moves that are paying big dividends and helping them make a dramatic push towards the playoffs.

Mathieu Darche

With 121 games of NHL experience over 10 years and spanning five teams; Darche is the text book definition of a fringe NHLer.  When he was picked up by the Habs during the off season, his role was to act as a mentor to the young Habs prospects in Hamilton.

Darche was never really being considered for a spot with the big club, but given his NHL experience there was a thinking that he could be an adequate fill-in with the Habs if need be.

His biggest triumph in Hamilton was working with Sergei Kostitsyn when he was sent to his room with no supper, at the beginning of the year.  From all accounts, Darche took Sergei under his wing and helped him get his head screwed on straight.

Sergei aside, when the Habs fell into serious injury problems this year—Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri, Andrei Kostitsyn—Darche was given a fill-in role with the Habs and he has done everything in his power to stick with the club. 

Darche's hungry play seems to have breathed life into the Habs fourth line as his speed and determination are rubbing off on the players around him.  As a result, Darche has nine points (5G, 4A) and a plus-2 rating over 20 games. 

As a free agent this coming summer, Darche has played his way onto the team and is making a strong case for the Habs to resign him.

Dominic Moore

When Habs GM Pierre Gauthier pulled the trigger on his first trade, it was for Dominic Moore.  Moore is a player who has five years of NHL experience and has played on seven teams—including Montreal—over that span.

Talk about a journeyman!

While most Habs fans were disappointed that Moore was the only acquisition that Gauthier made leading up to the 2010 trade deadline, Moore has done everything in his power to make his presence felt on the ice.

Where Moore had 17 points (8G, 9A) and a minus-17 rating over 48 games in Florida this year, in only nine games with the Habs he already has two goals, five assists and a plus-6 rating.

In addition, Moore is averaging over 14 minutes of ice time per game and plays five-on-five and shorthanded.  He is also being counted on by Jacques Martin to take key faceoffs at key times.

Like Darche, Moore is a man who desperately wants to make a home somewhere in the NHL.  His hunger to stay is, like Darche, showing up on the ice through his determination, grit, and work ethic. 

Also like Darche, Moore has lit a fire under his line and as a result the third and fourth lines have 11 of the Habs last 27 goals for.

An amazing stat when you consider that there was a stretch this year where both lines went weeks without scoring.

The balance that their contributions bring to the Habs lineup is one of the main factors in their recent resurgence.

Benoit Pouliot

The move that has had the biggest effect on the Habs this year is the acquisition of Benoit Pouliot from the Minnesota Wild.

In trading Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild for Pouliot, the Habs killed two birds with one stone: They traded a player who had potential but was not performing well and got a player back, in Pouliot, who was in an equally underwhelming position with the Wild.

While Latendresse has been ripping it up in Minnesota, Pouliot also seems to have found his game and the change of air that he needed.

Since arriving with the Habs, Pouliot has played 27 games and has 21 points (14G, 7A) with a plus-8 rating.  More importantly, Pouliot is proving to be the missing ingredient from the Gomez-Gionta line. 

Pouliot's success should not really come as a surprise considering that he was the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft, one spot ahead of Carey Price.

Since the Pouliot trade, Gomez has scored 32 of his 50 points, or 64% of his points total this season, while Gionta has scored 24 of his 37 points, or 64.9% of his points total.

Staggering numbers when you consider that both Gomez and Gionta have been injured at different points since Pouliot arrived in Montreal.

Pouliot's size and nose for the net are the perfect complement for the smaller Gomez and Gionta, and the three are proving to be an excellent second line for the Habs.

Once Cammalleri is back from injury—possibly this weekend versus Toronto—the Habs will conceivably have two legitimate scoring lines for the first time in years.

Couple that with the regular contributions from the third and fourth lines, and you have one potentially dangerous playoff team.

With 12 games left to play in the season, I think that the additions of Darche, Moore and Pouliot are going to become the catalysts that propel the Habs into the playoffs.

Where they go from there remains to be seen.


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