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Habs vs Panthers 10 Takeaways: A dominant win against Florida

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The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot in a powerhouse win over the Panthers

NHL: Florida Panthers at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

1. Alexei… Emelin?

Okay, I’ll admit it — I’m not a huge fan of Alexei Emelin. And despite my unwillingness to admit it, I was pretty darn impressed by 74’s performance in the first 20 minutes alone. First he came in with the — dare I say — sexy back pass to Nathan Beaulieu who set up Paul Byron for the first goal, and he was also instrumental on the Plekanec marker.

Emelin went through a very rough patch in recent weeks, but it seems as though he’s finding his stride once again.

2. The third line isn’t clicking. It’s on fire

This line was responsible for the three goals that came within the game’s first 20 minutes, and added another with Gallagher’s late third period tip. With two of the three forwards on this line struggling to get on the scoreboard for significant stretches at a time, it’s been great to see them lighting it up as of late. Tomas Plekanec has been skating with purpose, Brendan Gallagher has found his swagger yet again (did you see him almost Sidney Crosby in the first period?), and Paul Byron is… Well, I’m fairly certain you already know who Paul Byron is.

The beauty of this line is that they’ve been playing so simply. Byron and Plekanec’s goals came right from or very near the slot, and #11’s was quintessential Gally, proving that good things happen when you go to the net (or get in the center lane).

3. Penalties

They took a few calls in this game, but I’ve noticed in recent weeks, that the Habs have been taking significantly fewer penalties over the last while. Through the 12 games in the month of February, the Montreal Canadiens went shorthanded on 37 occasions, with a 4-7-1 record for the month. To close out the month of March, the team is 8-3-1, and they’ve taken almost 40% less in 13 games. Playing with greater discipline is only going to help this team in the remaining handful of regular season games, and if they can keep it going through the post-season, it will serve them very, very well.

4. Plekanec on the three-man penalty kill is a thing of beauty

It dates back to a game last season, when we watched Tomas Plekanec stand his ground without a stick on a 5-3 powerplay in favor of the opposing team. Plekanec is such an aggressive penalty killer, and it’s odd to feel comforted when the team you root for has two players in the box, but #14 lets me breathe a little easier just the same.

5. The Panthers just give away the center lane, or, thank you, Florida

How many times did Florida allow Montreal to just waltz right down Main Street like their RSVP had been signed, sealed, and delivered months ago? A fair few, I’d say. Their failure to lock things up in their own zone benefited the Habs greatly early on, but it was a mistake they continued to make through all three periods.

6. Dwight King keeps coming this close

Every couple of games, Dwight King will get a great scoring chance that he’s unable to capitalize, and it’s mildly amusing to watch. They usually involve a wide open net and a puck that trickles just wide, which is quite similar to what happened tonight. His time in the offensive zone tends to be a comedy of errors or a series of missed opportunities, but it’s hard to complain about the lack of fourth line production when the third line put up 8 points in a single game.

7. Hey, Gally

Brendan Gallagher has 9 points in his last 9 games (four from last night alone). All is well in the world when #11 is producing.

8. The Habs have cut the cables on the brakes

Regardless of whether they’re trailing or leading by one or more goals, the Canadiens have not been taking their feet off the gas pedal in the last handful of games. They haven’t been giving their opponents much of anything to work with, and what they have accidentally given up, they’ve been quick to try to turn the tide. With a playoff spot clinched, the Habs will need to keep up this style of play if they hope to make a good run this spring.

9. That was fun

Late season matches are usually tight checking close games with a ton of nail biting and big saves from star goaltenders, but tonight was nothing of the sort. A wide open game tipped entirely in the Habs’ favor, this was just plain entertaining to watch. If you score six goals, it’s bound to be a fun one — especially when they are executed to perfection with just a smidgen of sass.

10. Playoffs, here we come!

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot tonight after having missed out last season. A huge hockey fan I may be, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are just not the same when you don’t have any emotional ties to cling to during spring, and like many a Habs fan, my emotions do sometimes get the best of me. I’ve lost sleep, I’ve yelled at inanimate objects (and, okay, maybe a handful of individuals), I’ve cried on my couch and at the Bell Centre, and I’ve lost my voice more times than I can count. What can I say? For better or worse, this is my team.

If you’re a pessimistic optimist like myself, you’ll think this team has no chance one day, and will be convinced they can go all the way six hours later, but that never changes the fact that you’re glued to le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge for 82 plus nights a year.

The best part of the year is just around the corner, and you can bet I’ll be there the whole way through. And you know what? I know I’ll be in good company. See you in April!