I wonder if this was the plan? I know that during the losing streak a lot of us were looking for answers and thought the team had been instructed to take the foot of the gas pedal, but even though I believed that to be true during the streak, that was also excuse making for some awful play.
But now that these last three road games have gone exactly as you would expect them to be scripted with a team tightening things up and putting the foot back on the gas pedal, I have to wonder if the losing streak was just a lot worse than what Therrien wanted, but the play was purposeful.
The last three games have seen the engine that is the Habs slowly build up speed.
In New Jersey they felt sorry for themselves for a period then got themselves back in the game.
In Winnipeg it was for just a shift, then they dominated and took over the game.
In Toronto, the Canadiens were back to what we've seen from them all year, where goals against didn't phase them or get them away from their game plan. They took it to the Leafs all game, pounding away at their defense until James Reimer, who's been brilliant this season, gave up four and struggled to put his hat on his head on the bench. Reimer looked worn down on the bench, but he'll probably be fine by the time playoffs start.
The offensive engine has been an unfamiliar one of late, with Lars Eller factoring in on 6 of the final 10 goals of the season. Eller's 30 points are a career high, beating out last year's 28 points in 32 fewer games, and while getting unlucky from a shooting perspective. All this while playing about 30 seconds fewer per game than last season. Larry has emerged as an impact hockey player this season. His 30 points put him on a 53 point pace over a full season, tied for 82nd in the NHL among forwards in points, which is first line production.
A year ago the last game of the season, also between these two teams, spawned the twitter hashtag #GreatestTankBattles, as the teams were fighting not for a win, but for who would finish lower in the standings and take the higher draft pick. As it ended up, Montreal was bad enough to secure the 3rd last slot before the game, and pounded Toronto to the exact same score.
Another interesting note to the game, the Canadiens held Toronto to just 17 shots. On it's own, that's not very interesting, but I noticed that of Peter Budaj's 9 starts this season, the Canadiens allowed under 20 shots 5 times. That's quite astounding.
It's odd how expectations can change so quickly, especially in a 48 game season. This afternoon Leafs fans were vibrating with pleasure at the opportunity to play the Habs in the playoffs. Looking at Pension Plan Puppets' comments section after the game, most seem to be hoping to just not be swept.
Over on our side of the fence, quite confidence through the first 40 turned into "anyone will beat this team easily" from a large portion of the fanbase. What are your thoughts on that now?