I used to think that getting Buffaloed was something that was unique to Lindy Ruff's magic ref manipulation, but it seems like if anything, Ron Rolston's team is even luckier than Ruff's was.
Or maybe it's just something about the Buffalo Sabres, and they thrive on being the luckiest terrible team in the NHL.
It's kind of funny, in the same way that sawing your leg off with a chain saw is funny, that the Habs' worst week since early February came against two teams they should have no trouble beating. Of course the Canadiens beat the Islanders this time, but they were outchanced overall and got pretty lucky.
Are there holes beginning to show in the roster? Not really. There are injuries, but the Canadiens have been playing some excellent hockey. How excellent? They're currently the second best team in the league by the Fenwick Tied measurement.
After 31 games, I think we can stop talking about ifs and maybes, and begin to recognize that this is a very good team. It's a very good team that has a legitimate shot at becoming an even better team. Young players like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and Jarred Tinordi are just now starting their journeys as NHL players, just figuring things out. These players are only going to get better, and they're already impressing.
And help is on the way. After beginning the season remarkably healthy, the Canadiens are suffering from the injury bug. While Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz seem to be stuck on the sidelines with lingering concussion issues (Bourque had a setback yesterday), Brandon Prust should be ready to return soon. And Jeff Halpern's presence on the 4th line and penalty kill will be a welcome addition.
Only two teams in the NHL have fewer regulation losses than the Canadiens do.
The only real concern the Canadiens have going forward is their penalty kill, which does need to be addressed. Halpern could help there, but I don't think it's a personnel issue at forward. Using P.K. Subban heavily instead of Andrei Markov would help a lot, but there's a systems issue there. Whether this is something that's the fault of Michel Therrien or JJ Daigneault is unclear, but it's the one major weakness in an otherwise elite looking team.
At even strength though, these Habs are pretty fantastic. As mentioned in the Top Six Minutes last night, the Canadiens have dominated the Sabres to an absurd level the last two matchups, but looking beyond possession, let's look at where the zone play was at even strength.
In last night's game at the Bell Centre, the Sabres managed to force 4 even strength faceoffs in the Canadiens' zone. The Canadiens forced 24 in the Sabres zone.
Olivier commented that the Sabres' "strategy" seemed to be to commit as many infractions as possible within the scoring area, and the officials facilitated this strategy by swallowing their whistles.
The Canadiens face a tough test this week with a back to back in Pittsburgh and Boston, but for the first time in who knows how long, it feels like the Habs are on equal footing.