It's only three games, but it's impossible to ignore the impact Matt D'Agostini's arrival from Hamilton has had on the Canadiens.
D'Agostini was named the game's first star Thursday night with his second goal in as many games and a great assist on Andrei Kostitsyn's sixth of the year that opened the scoring.
But more importantly, putting him on a line with Kostitsyn and Saku Koivu led to Guy Carbonneau creating the three other lines that put a 6-2 beat down on a very lame New York Rangers team. And right now those lines are clicking, perhaps with the exception of Robert Lang, Alex Kovalev and Christopher Higgins. But when that's your worst line, and they still produce a pretty sweet goal, then things are going pretty well.
"When you bring a player up (from the minors), he has to seize that opportunity, and that's what he's doing," Carbonneau said of D'Agostini. "He's playing excellent hockey."
Later, he added, "I was looking for a spark, some energy, and he's given us that."
I can't really imagine what Guillaume Latendresse and especially Sergei Kostitsyn were thinking watching that performance. I say especially Sergei because he's the one who can get sent down to Hamilton without clearing waivers, and if D'Agostini keeps playing like this I don't see how that won't happen when Mike Komisarek trades in his coach's tie for a uniform sometime around Christmas.
"Is it a problem for other people, or for me? Of course," Carbonneau said. "But it's never a problem when you have good players coming in and playing well. It just puts pressure on other people to perform."
Of course, this modest three-game winning streak the Habs have put together can't all be credited to D'Agostini, but his arrival did lead to the current lineup being put in place, and has also made Kostitsyn very dangerous. Their little give and go to open the scoring in the first showed that there's some chemistry developing there.
Tomas Plekanec looks like a new player alongside Alex Tanguay and an extremely effective Tom Kostopoulos, who all of a sudden has soft hands and a scorer's mentality playing with two skilled players. He might have had his best game in a Canadiens uniform Thursday night, and I thought he warranted a mention in the three stars, though you can't really argue with Maxim Lapierre and Steve Begin.
"Alex is someone who has vision, has skills and can finish, and Tomas is the same thing," Carbonneau said. "But someone has to go in the corner and dig out the puck, and get on the boards and get in front of the net with two guys on his back so the other guys can get open. He's done that well."
Meanwhile, the fourth line of Lapierre, Begin and Georges Laraque has played great for the last two games, and I think Carbonneau's decision to sit Begin and Lapierre earlier this year has really lit a fire under them.
On defence, Josh Gorges was a plus-4 Thursday with three blocked shots and he single-handedly snuffed out a few dangerous looking rushes when the game still wasn't a blowout in the second, while his partner Andrei Markov is looking like the guy who started the season on such a tear. Mathieu Dandenault blocked a team-high five shots and was credited with three hits Thursday, though he and Francis Bouillon were the only minus players Thursday at minus-1.
The only complaint defensively I would have is that Patrice Brisebois is looking pretty tired, but I can't see him getting a rest as long as the team keeps winning. Thursday was his 11th straight game and he played nearly 20 minutes, which is definitely not the role he was supposed to fill.
It's easy to forget, and I do it quite often, but Carey Price allowed two or fewer goals for the eighth time in nine starts, and the only reason it's not nine in a row is that his teammates fell asleep for a minute on Tuesday.
Put all that together, and the Habs look like they may have found a way to climb out of that haze and start to build something promising, though they're not there yet. But Thursday was a huge step.
"It was good for the team," Carbonneau said. "We had seen over the past coupe of weeks that we were playing a lot better defensively, but our offence wasn't clicking and I think there was some frustration there. To have a game like tonight where everybody was able to get involved and get that monkey off their back, I think it's a good sign for us."
Over in the other locker room, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had half his goalie pads off and was staring at the ground. He looked devastated with what had just happened to his team.
"I am so disappointed," he said, in a tone that was more than simply de-moralized. "It's mind-boggling how we can be so good in one game (a 3-2 shootout win over the Penguins at MSG on Wednesday) and then fall completely apart in another. That's why we have a long way to go to be a top team, we're just not consistent enough."
The Rangers came into the Habs game with the most points in the East, though they had played three more games than any other team. But Lundqvist's reaction, including his refusal to talk about a heated discussion he had with Scott Gomez after Tanguay's goal in the first, tells you that the Habs were even more dominant than the score indicated.
It remains to be seen whether that was because the Habs were so good or the Rangers were so bad, but I think it's more the former than the latter.