Montreal Canadiens-Carolina Hurricanes: Potent Power-Play Silences Hurricanes

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2009

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 16:  Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 16, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Canadiens 2-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Montreal 5 Carolina 1 (RBC Center)

It's the holiday season, time to give thanks.

Three wins in a row for the Canadiens prior to the Christmas break! Thank you Steve!!

Who's Steve, you ask? I'm referring to Steve Hatze-Petros. His official title is Senior VP, Scheduling with the NHL but usually referred to as The Schedulemaker. In a year where the schedule has been compacted by two full weeks to make room for the Winter Olympics, Hatze-Petros' handiwork has received a great deal of abuse by coaches, general managers, fans and especially bloggers.

Although he would never challenge Gary Bettman for volume of hate mail, Hatze-Petros gets his share while trying to juggle the variables of a balanced schedule, travel considerations and building commitments. It's not a job that will yield too many happy clients.

So let's take a chance to tip our caps to Steve. A three game pre-break road trip could have been much worse. The Canadiens were fortunate to face a middle of the pack team in the Thrashers, who play in one of the deadest buildings in the league. There's no worries about the fans being a seventh-man factor at Philips Arena. The other two teams, Islanders and Hurricanes are cellar-dwellers.

All three, are teams that the Canadiens should be expected to beat. And they did.

Thanks, also, to Tomas, Andrei, the other Andrei, and Jaro. That would be Plekanec, Markov, Kostitsyn and Halak. All have made significant contributions.

Plekanec had three more assists tonight bringing his total to 43 points. Plekanec is sixth in league scoring, one point less than Alex Ovechkin and three less than Sidney Crosby.

Andrei Markov now has four points in four games with three points coming on the power-play. The Canadiens power-play is now an unbelievable eight for 13 since Markov's return vaulting them into the first place ranking in the league.

"[Markov's] a great asset for us on the power play," Plekanec said. "He can make the pass. He can do anything."

Andrei Kostitsyn is simply on fire. He has nine goals in his last ten games and 18 points in his last 16 games. Andrei is also a physical presence in every game, and tonight was the co-leader in hits with Ryan O'Byrne.

In the past Jaroslav Halak has struggled to win on the road, and to play consistently well in more than three consecutive starts. In an effort to make his case to potential suitors, Halak has played three solid games all on the road. Halak has made an incredible 133 saves in those games.

"You've got to be lucky for us to win these games. I got lucky tonight, I got lucky the night before and before (that)," Halak said. "Hopefully it's going to stick with me."

While Halak's goaltending has spurned some over-the-top comments on radio call-in shows, one must also consider that the Canadiens have scored 12 goals in the past three games. One can think of many games during the season when stellar goaltending was wasted when the offense could only manage one goal.

Scott Gomez also deserves some credit tonight. Gomez was temporarily benched and missed a few shifts after taking a double minor penalty in the first period. Gomez returned to notch three assists. Despite all the criticism he has received, Gomez is still the Canadiens' fourth leading scorer.

Canadiens' fans would be very thankful for the return of Gomez' linemate, Brian Gionta. Gionta has missed 20 games due to injury and yet is eighth in team scoring. Tonight Gomez played with Sergei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot. Kostitsyn scored his first of the season. Pouliot looked good in his first game with the Canadiens, handling the puck well, and going to the net.

Let's thank Bob Gainey for two excellent signings that make up two-thirds of an effective third line trio. Glen Metropolit had two power-play goals. Travis Moen is one of the Canadiens' best penalty-killers. The third member of the line, Max Pacioretty, has excelled at going to the front of the opposition net drawing defenders and opening up ice for his linemates.

There's so much for which to be thankful. Now, can you imagine the smile on Canadiens' fans faces if we were to learn that coach Martin received an aggressive forecheck system in his stocking?

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday. Merry Christmas Habsland!

Rocket's three stars

1. Tomas Plekanec
2. Jaroslav Halak
3. Andrei Kostitsyn

Special mention: Scott Gomez, Glen Metropolit, Andrei Markov

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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