With the injury depleted Montreal Canadiens pulling out a 3-2 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, they continue to inch closer toward securing a playoff spot.
Montreal's win came without the services of Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Jaroslav Spacek, Brent Sopel, Hal Gil, who was sick with the flu last night. As well as Mathieu Darche, Max Pacioretty, Thomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern.
Are you kidding me?
Not only did Montreal win, but they played an excellent game against the Lightning in a potential first or second-round matchup preview, depending on where these two teams finish.
Montreal has 85 points in the Eastern Conference standings with 11 games left to play. If you figure that they need a minimum of 92 points to qualify for the postseason, then they need seven more points in the standings, or about four wins.
With seven more games against teams who are below them in the standings and nine of their remaining 11 against conference opponents, the Habs fate is truly in their own hands.
Despite being decimated by injuries and illness all season long, the Canadiens continue to win against all odds, a testament to their superior depth. The Habs have a bevy of young, talented forwards who are getting the job done, and just when one player goes down another youngster steps up to fill the void.
While it's great to see the youth movement picking up the slack, Montreal absolutely needs more out of Michael Cammalleri and Scott Gomez to continue to succeed.
Is Andrei Kostitsyn playing the best hockey of his career?
Well maybe "best" is not the right word but consistent certainly is.
The much maligned Kostitsyn was a player that most were sure would be moved leading up to this year's trade deadline, and fans would have been happy to see him shipped out of town for a bag of pucks.
The problem with Kostitsyn has never been his skill, but his seemingly lack of motivation, in addition to his brutal inconsistency. When he is on his game, he is one of the most effective players in the Habs lineup, but when he's off he is more like a ball and chain, dragging the Canadiens down.
Since being placed on a line with rookie Lars Eller, however, Kostitsyn seems to have found his ideal center and is playing his most consistent hockey in a long time.
Kostitsyn's chemistry with Eller through his time spent on the third line has paid dividens. One reason for this appears to be that the Habs are finally just letting Kostitsyn play. Whereas before, he looked lost and like he was thinking too much while playing with either Scott Gomez or Tomas Plekanec. Right now, he is just playing hockey and relying on chemistry and instincts rather than over-thinking his game.
The result has been that over the last 11 games, Kostitsyn has 11 points (5G, 6A), and the Canadiens have gone 8-3-0.
Without him and Eller's seven points (4G, 3A) over the same span leading the way, the Canadiens would be in dire straits right now.
Hopefully for Montreal, they can keep it up because the rest of the top six veterans are just not getting it done.
The refs are to blame on the Vincent Lecavalier slash.
With nine seconds left in the first period, and P.K. Subban and Lecavalier fighting for the puck, the latter took a two-handed lumberjack chop to Subban sending him to the ice in palpable pain.
Though Subban had just slashed Lecavalier and got a two-minute minor for the infraction, Lecavalier's retaliation got him five for slashing, a 10-minute misconduct and was tossed from the game.
Lecavalier's retaliatory hack on Subban was a clear attempt to injure, for which he will surely be suspended a game or two.
The real problem is that the situation was entirely avoidable
Watching the replay, you can see Subban and Lecavalier were battling for position in front of the net for a good 30 seconds before the slash. Pushing, cross checking and face washing.
As the players became increasingly frustrated, each response became a little more extreme. So why didn't the refs step in?
Had the refs sent both players to the box for roughing, which was clearly merited by both, everything that lead to the slash would not have happened. But, because the refs neglected to step in, it got to the point where Lecavalier dealt with the situation himself, right or wrong, with a blatant attempt to injure.
And, once again, the problem of inconsistent refereeing rears its ugly head.
The Habs are back at it tonight with another critical four-pointer, this time against the New York Rangers who are seven points behind Montreal in the East Conference standings.
With the race to the finish line in sights, this is sure to be another great match.
Kamal is a freelance Habs writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and Habs writer on TheFranchise.ca. Kamal is also a weekly contributor to the Sunday Shinny on The Team 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 8 - 9 AM. Listen live at http://www.team990.com/