24 hours after this is published, I'll be on a plane to lovely Hawaii, escaping the near -30°C weather of Montreal, and I couldn't have asked for a better send-off from the Montreal Canadiens.
Up against the hottest team in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues, a supposed true contender for Lord Stanley's mug, Michel Therrien loaded up his top two lines, shifting a still sick-looking Alex Galchenyuk to the right wing with Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. This had the effect of creating a very top-heavy lineup, but it paid immediate dividends.
Galchenyuk may have looked like he was still suffering from the flu, but just over three minutes into the second period, he was already on the board twice. Towards the end of the second period, Galchenyuk notched his third point of the night with a breakout pass to Michael Bournival, who beat Jake Allen to score his first goal in 19 games. Oddly enough, it was Bournival's second career goal against the Blues, in just three career games. It was Bournival's 10th of his short career, meaning 20% of his career goals have come against the Blues.
Two goals by Brendan Gallagher sandwiched Bournival's tally, pacing the Habs to an unexpected 5-2 win over a deep, well-coached team. Gallagher's second goal also broke a 15 year powerplay drought in St. Louis for the Habs, who hadn't scored with the man advantage there since 2000.
This performance wasn't as complete as the one on November 21st, but the Canadiens aren't a good possession team, and the Blues are, and they held them off with a big lead until the third period. That's nothing to shake your stick at.
Surprisingly, the Canadiens picked apart the Blues almost the exact same way as they did in November, exposing bad turnovers by their defensemen, and sloppy neutral zone positioning that made stretch passes extremely effective. And the crazy part is, the Blues got pretty lucky, with Max Pacioretty not scoring on three breakaways, not something you'd expect, but he scored on two in the last meeting.
P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov both added a couple assists, bringing Subban up to a 60 point pace on the year. Much has been made of Subban's supposed struggles in his first year after signing a mega contract, yet here he sits, 3 points out of the league lead for scoring among defensemen, and ready to smash previous career highs.
Carey Price meanwhile, put up a paltry .931 save percentage, below his season average, en route to breaking a Canadiens team record with his ninth straight road win. Ho hum.
I'm not exactly sure what it is about these two teams, but the way they match up just hasn't favoured the Blues this season, after years of extraordinary dominance the other way around. Whatever it is, it's fun. See you March 6th.