But who really cares? The NHL standings sure don't, because they reward two points to any team that wins, and the Habs did just that Tuesday night with a 4-1 victory over in Ottawa, beating the conference's top home team in its own barn.
If Friday night's 5-1 thumping of the Bruins could be attributed to emotion, and Monday night's snoozefest over the Flyers could be attributed to opportunism, Tuesday night's win came courtesy of Jacques Martin's two favourite factors for determining the outcome of hockey games: goaltending and special teams.
Martin loves to say that one of those two often decides who will win a game, and on Tuesday he had both of them going for him.
First the goaltending, and I'm so happy for Jaroslav Halak that he was able to steal a win with an outstanding 45-save performance. Watching Carey Price play the way he has the past month from the bench could not have been easy, and it was made only worse by an extremely weak showing in Buffalo. Halak has been a model citizen throughout his time with the team when he's had every reason to lash out and feel like he's been treated unfairly. When he didn't start Game 3 in last year's playoffs, I thought he would demand a trade out of town, but he didn't. I sincerely hope Bob Gainey is able to find somewhere for Halak to play this offseason, or even at this year's deadline, because the guy deserves it. I just wonder if Gainey will be able to get proper value for what looks to be a very promising goalie when that day comes.
Next comes the special teams, and the stars of the show over the past couple of weeks have been the penalty killers. It's no coincidence that the return of Hal Gill on Friday night helped produce a perfect 7-for-7 night. It was another perfect performance tonight, shutting the Sens out on seven chances, and Gill blocked a team-high three shots. His pairing with Josh Gorges has become a dominant one when short a man, and considering how often the Habs find themselves in that situation, it's pretty useful to have such a strong shutdown pairing.
For the fifth time this season, the power play produced a pair of goals, and both came as a direct result of Marc-Andre Bergeron. His point shots have been impressive all season, but now it's his poise with the puck and overall ability to settle the power play down with an astute decision that I'm finding quite surprising. On top of that, the first period injury to Jaroslav Spacek forced him into some penalty killing duty as well, and he didn't totally embarrass himself, which has to be considered a victory. But in all seriousness, Bergeron did not have the benefit of training camp, and I think his play in his own end is improving with every game. It will probably never reach a level where it could be considered good, or even decent, but right now I would say it's tolerable, and that's just fine when he does what he's doing on the power play. He's now tied for second among NHL defencemen with four power play goals, and his eight points with the man advantage has him 17th. When Andrei Markov comes back to start teeing him up for one-timers, I think Bergeron might just become a more important player than any of us ever imagined he would be.
The Habs will be shooting to match a season high with a fourth win in a row Thursday night at home against Pittsburgh, and they will have a lot of things going for them. A likely starting nod for a rested and still dominant Price, Mike Cammalleri riding a streak of of five goals over three games, Tomas Plekanec with six assists over the same span, and a team that just seems to have a bit of lucky mojo going right now. How else to explain outscoring their opponents 12-3 over the past three games while being outshot 89-69 over the same span? Or giving up 18 power plays in three games, yet leading 3-0 on the special teams scoreboard?
Simple, the Habs have hit a stretch of good luck, and after all the injuries so far this season, it's pretty well deserved. And well timed, because all of a sudden the Canadiens are alone in eighth place with 32 points, just three back of the division-leading Boston Bruins, and back on the good side of .500.
Just imagine what they'll be able to do when they actually start playing well.