The Montreal Canadiens have faced the Carolina Hurricanes twice this season. The first time, the Hurricanes were riding a 3 game winning streak into the Bell Centre and got shutout by Peter Budaj. Yesterday night, the Hurricanes brought a 4 game winning streak into their own barn, and Carey Price stopped 42 of 44 shots to stop a second Canes streak.
Let's get the ugly part out of the way first. The second period was a complete disaster. The Habs allowed the Hurricanes to not only get back into the game, but to take it over completely. Carolina fired 21 shots on net in the second period, many of which were of excellent quality. Price held the fort though, which was recognized by coach Michel Therrien. The Canadiens were under siege in the period, and only managed 5 shots.
It's hard to believe that Price's performance wasn't worthy of a single one of the three stars in Raleigh, but those were served for the 3 players who did most of the scoring.
The first star of the game was Brandon Prust, who had the first 3 point game of his career, and now has 9 points on the season. 4 of Prust's 9 points have come in two games against Carolina. Prust has played in all sorts of roles for the Habs this year, and he seems to meet every challenge without hesitation. Prust is on the best points pace of his career, close to a 31/82 games rate, and his play on the PK has been one of the lone bright spots there this season. For the first time in his career, Prust is getting a chance to be more than just a 4th line fighter, and he's seizing the opportunity.
The second star was Josh Gorges, who made two of the best offensive plays of his entire career. Gorges' backhand goal off of Prust's feed in the first period had me rewinding several times to make sure it was actually Josh Gorges doing it. Playing with P.K. Subban again has allowed Gorges to relax a little bit and he's making fewer mistakes as a result.
The third star? Lars Eller, who happens to be proving once again that he is of top six forward quality. Eller now has 14 points on the season, in spite of playing half of it with the 4th line. He's developed some serious chemistry with Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust, although he seems to be developing chemistry with everyone this year.
Want to see something interesting about the Canadiens this year?
1st line center Tomas Plekanec - 15 points
2nd line center David Desharnais - 15 points
3rd line center Lars Eller - 14 points.
All three of the top lines are contributing to the scoring on a consistent basis, which makes the Montreal Canadiens an extremely difficult team to play against. And people are starting to notice.
A commenter on the game recap over at Canes Country said the following:
"Montreal is very good. I can see them playing Chicago in the finals."
Pay no attention to the fact that his username is Capt. Stinky.
Half way through the season, the Montreal Canadiens are 15-5-4, and hold down first in the Eastern Conference. Who exactly thought that this was coming? At EOTP we figured that they would make the playoffs, but this kind of performance is extremely impressive.
Starting on Monday, EOTP will be releasing our player by player half season evaluations.