Friday, February 27, 2009

Mission accomplished

Facing a week where the Habs were going up against two of the hottest teams in the league and the one with the best record in the NHL, I figured winning two out of three would be a huge

Well, the Habs took care of that with a game to spare by beating the Flyers 4-3 in overtime Friday, and they did it in pretty extraordinary fashion.

As Guy Carbonneau mentioned after the game, falling behind 2-0 early in the game playing in the Philadelphia Flyers barn might have forced the Habs to fold as recently as two weeks ago. But Friday night, in a four-point game, the Canadiens did the opposite.

They fought back.

With the rejuvenated Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec leading the way offensively, and Jaroslav Halak further entrenching himself into the No. 1 role in goal, the Canadiens managed to win a game even though they didn't play their best.

But they played well enough to win, and at this point that's what matters.

For those keeping score at home, that's five straight games with at least a goal for Plekanec since returning from his suspension, and it's a seven-game point streak overall. For Kovalev, his goal and two assists give him seven points in three games since his little vacation, and that move by Bob Gainey is looking more and more brilliant with every game.

Which brings me to the real significance of this little three-game win streak the Habs have put together here, which is that it improves Gainey's bargaining power leading to Wednesday's trade deadline by a country mile.

When Gainey traded for Schneider the team was in free fall, getting embarrassed night after night. Even though Thrashers GM Don Waddell said he felt pressure to get a deal done because Gainey would have looked elsewhere, does anyone doubt that Gainey had to give a little more than he wanted to in that deal because he was a desperate man?

Now, if the Canadiens can manage to beat the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, not only will they have pulled off an unlikely feat by sweeping the week's games, they will be giving their general manager the ability to play a little possum on deadline day and maybe swing a deal that makes sense for the team without giving away the farm.

Because despite the three straight wins there are still some holes to be filled on the Habs. On defence, even though Schneider's addition has been a revelation, Patrice Brisebois is starting to make more and more mistakes with the puck, Mike Komisarek is continuing the trend of taking bad penalties and making poor decisions, and Roman Hamrlik was a minus-3 Friday night.

With Alex Tanguay on the verge of a return, Guillaume Latendresse about two weeks away and the addition of Glen Metropolit who I thought had a pretty good debut considering the circumstances, I think Gainey can leave his forwards the way they are and focus his attention on grabbing another defenceman.

Is it possible that Panthers GM Jacques Martin was in Philly tonight to watch the Canadiens and not the Flyers? Could Gainey convince the Ducks to send Chris Pronger to town? Or maybe it could be Jordan Leopold, the defenceman I've believed Gainey should grab all year? Who knows?

But one thing I do know is that the last two games, even though they were both wins against tough opponents, have shown me that the Canadiens defence is a problem area, one that would be exploited to no end in a seven-game series when an opposing coach can adjust his game plan to attack certain players who are prone to mistakes.

The Canadiens right now have three such players in their bottom four on defence, and that ratio is far too high going into the playoffs. But at least, with the way his team is playing, every other GM in the NHL may be a little less convinced that they can take Gainey to the cleaners right now.


Arjun said...

The Habs won't get Pronger - not if his wife has anything to do with it. And Bouwmeester seems like a longshot. If they end up with Leopold,you will officially become the team Nostradamus. You called Lang. And then Leopold? If that happens, I'd like you to read my tea leaves too.

pmk said...

why not at least TRY dandy??!

Sliver24 said...

Forget tea leaves, we're going to Vegas baby!