The Montreal Canadiens have been one of the most surprising teams this season. They are now 29-16-9, with 67 points, which is one point less than the Ottawa Senators.
Despite a very calm season for the former first line (Higgins-Koivu-Ryder), Coach Carbonneau still can count on some nice alternatives.
There is for instance the rise of the brothers Kostitsyn, the Forward/Defense-hybrid, Mark Streit, and more.
Winner of last season’s Jacques Beauchamps Trophy honoring the most polyvalent player, Mark Streit is—in one sense—filling the vacancy left by slapshooter Sheldon Souray. He appears to be reliable on both sides of the ice and on the power play, now just one point away from his captain.
On the penalty killing, Kovalev and Plekanek show some secret talents. Their amazing plays are the result of the chemistry between the three players, totalizing 136 points with plus 34 so far.
Now, let's move on to Ontario.
Ottawa, last year’s conference champions, came into this season determined to hold their spot. They are 32-18-4 with just one loss in their first ten games.
But injuries kept two of the big players on the sidelines, and tough times affect superstar G Ray Emery.
Emery brought his team to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. But recently he’s struggled with delays at trainings, with the rise of Martin Gerber, and there have even been some issues with his teammates. He was fined 1/187 of his salary for showing up late to a practice, and rumors point to GM Bryan Murray considering a trade.
Better times are yet to come, as the Sens welcome back Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson to join Jason Spezza in the first line. Considered the best of the conference, they have around 180 points together.
The two division rivals are now battling for the first spot. But it seems the race has broadened to include other contenders.
The Flyers now have just two points less than the Habs, with one game still to play. After a miserable season last year, they acquired shining star Daniel Briere, who is happy to play again with friend G Martin Biron (traded to the Flyers last year). And with Simon Gagne back to the game, we anticipate exciting results from this team.
In addition to the race for the first spot, they are also in the race for Peter Forsberg.
The Senators will face the Panthers Thursday night, while the Habs and Carey Price will host Toronto (the Leafs were blanked 0-8 by the Panthers yesterday). The Flyers will get on action tonight, facing Ovechkin and the Capitals. They are 2-0-1 this season against Washington.