No matter how ugly Monday night's 3-1 win over the self-destructing Flyers may have been, particularly compared to the excitement of Friday night's rout of the Bruins, the fact remains that Montreal won both games. In very different ways, but the standings don't reward style points.
Good thing, because this game reeked in every way.
Still, there were lots of positives to be drawn from this second straight win, and the biggest one for me was the work of the penalty killers, who ran their streak to 15 straight in four games since allowing Eric Fehr to score that tying goal in the dying seconds in a shootout loss to the Caps. The Flyers barely threatened to score on the power play, and while they ran their own futility streak to 19 straight chances, the Habs PK played a big role in that.
Sergei Kostitsyn, for all his faults, has gained Jacques Martin's trust and is now cemented into a penalty killing role. Generally, you want your hard workers out there when down a man, which explains why Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen are mainstays. Not sure why that makes Scott Gomez a regular, but the fact Martin keeps sending the younger Kostitsyn out there shows what the coach thinks of his enfant terrible these days.
Another positive was Mike Cammalleri scoring another goal, this one the game-winner off a great feed from Maxim Lapierre. It was Cammalleri's 16th of the season, which puts him on pace for 43 over 82 games, which would eclipse the 39 he scored in Calgary this year if he maintains the rhythm. I'm still waiting for Cammalleri to bring up all the doubts about his reliance on Jarome Iginla to score all those goals (a myth I think I debunked back in September). Somehow, I think Cammalleri is pretty good at scoring goals, with or without Iginla.
Of course, having Tomas Plekanec as your centre has certainly helped Cammalleri, and Plekanec continues to help himself toward a huge free agent payday at the end of the season, whether it's from the Canadiens or some other team. His two assists Monday night gave him 28 points on the season, or only 11 shy of his total for all of last season. He's been the Canadiens most consistent, most versatile and hardest working player game in and game out this season, which is why I still think it's time to trade him and get some value in return.
But the marquee story remains, in my eyes, Carey Price. He was only called upon to make 14 saves in this win, but he didn't give up a backbreaking stinker or do any of the other disconcerting things he had made habitual since last year's All-Star break. In his last 13 starts, Price has a .932 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average, and I'm going to keep bringing these numbers up as long as he keeps playing like the start goalie everyone projected him to be.
On the negative side of the ledger, the "upper body" (read: shoulder) injury suffered by Paul Mara could sideline him for a while. He won't play Tuesday night in Ottawa, and who knows for how long after that. While Marc-Andre Bergeron is admittedly a nightmare on skates in his own end, his value is that he almost single-handedly makes the power play because of his ability to get shots through to the net. That alone forces you to live with his defensive short-comings, which aren't quite as bad as everyone makes them out to be. But they're bad. If Mara is out for any amount of time, those shortcomings will go back to the fore, But until then, Bergeron scoredd his sixth of the season to provide the final 3-1 cushion, allowing the Habs to sit on a two-goal lead halfway through the third. His sixth goal of the season puts him in a tie for sixth among the NHL's defenceman.
The Habs are still a work in progress, but at least there appears to be some progress being made.