1. Vancouver, a Habs’ fans paradise
Rogers place was packed with red sweaters on Tuesday night, and they weren’t the old alternate skate logo jerseys. B.C. loves the Canadiens, and it showed. Of course, it didn’t hurt that in attendance were large sections of Gallaghers and Prices. The bottom line was a game on the road which smacked of home-ice energy, and for a game which needed extra time, that could have made the difference.
2. Carey Price has his fourth 30-win season
Six times Price has played at least 50 games, including the current season. Of those six, the former Vezina winner has eclipsed the 30 win mark four times. Price stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in Vancouver, and in the process claimed his fifth straight win. Should Carey Price keep winning at this pace for just two more seasons, he could easily end up the winningest goaltender in franchise history, having passed Ken Dryden for third place earlier this year.
3. Montreal generated a ton of shots
The final count had the Canadiens firing 38 shots on Ryan Miller, who stopped all but two of them - and this is just counting the shot attempts on the net. The Habs launched a whopping 58 pucks in total, 20 were either wide or blocked. Since hiring Claude Julien, Montreal has matched their play from earlier this season. A quick look at the shot chart also shows Montreal is doing more to get into the high danger scoring area in front of the net. The Habs also held an advantage in scoring chances over the Canucks.
4. Claude Julien must really like overtime
Five of the nine games played since the coaching change have needed more than three periods to settle. That’s more than half of the games since Julien took over, and his team boasts a perfect 5-0 record. This has added a bit more tension to recent games, and shows that Montreal needs to continue to improve in order to more handily defeat opponents, especially non-playoff teams like Vancouver.
5. Lord Byron giveth
After being pointless in 13 games starting in February, Paul Byron has scored three game-winning goals in the Julien era (*one was a shootout goal and doesn’t count in his goal totals for the year). The new head coach is giving Byron a little more ice time than his predecessor did, and the new system also appears to work well for the speedy winger. Throughout the game on Tuesday night, Byron showed flashes of his speed, initiating rushes and back-checking from zone to zone. It was fitting that his game-winning goal came at the hands of his speedy breakout with teammate Alex Galchenyuk.
6. Hard work is starting to be rewarded
When the Canadiens began to slump in the winter, their puck luck (PDO) was unsustainably low. Their quality of play had stayed strong, and the results were not coming. Brendan Gallagher recently ended a long scoring slump, and Tuesday night, Torrey Mitchell scored for the first time in 39 games. Though he’s not a sniper, Mitchell will feel good getting that scoreless monkey off his back. Andrei Markov is quietly putting in a solid season, and collected his 25th assist of the year, leaving him one point shy of 30. Another player whose play and production have improved since the bye week is...
7. Andrew Shaw is better than Andrew Shaw
The tale of one player with two different types of games. Sometimes, Andrew Shaw sways too far over the line and his discipline negatively impact the club and his play becomes ineffective. Recently, Shaw is playing smarter, faster hockey and keeping his temper in check. The results have been outstanding, three goals and two assists in his last nine games (since the break). Shaw is becoming the player his potential teased us with; with the playoffs just a month away, the time for this transformation could not be better.
8. Forward depth paying off
For all the criticism thrown at Marc Bergevin’s acquiring of depth players rather than scoring, he’s kept his core together and added the type of players who will be counted on now. With Tomas Plekanec and Alexander Radulov missing time for minor injuries, Claude Julien has been able to get a look at trade deadline day acquisitions, and the Habs have kept on winning, adding important points to the standings and maintaining their grasp on the Atlantic division lead. Brian Flynn left Tuesday’s game and did not return - pending an update, Montreal may need to look to the AHL and call up an injury replacement.
9. Could Hudon get the call?
On March 1st, Marc Bergevin made a comment about St. John’s IceCaps forward Charles Hudon, saying he wouldn’t get called up to the NHL if the plan wasn’t to insert him into the lineup. The most recent injury to the Canadiens’ forwards may have opened up a spot for the offensively gifted Hudon. The Alma, QC native is close to a point-per-game pace in the AHL and can play either centre or wing, making him a versatile forward with a skill complementary to the current Habs roster.
10. The real test is about to take place
Things have been all roses for the last handful of games, and Canadiens fans are taking advantage of this momentum to be positive about their team. It’s important to stay focused on the fact that many of the team’s recent wins came in overtime (or shootout), some have been against non-contending teams. There are two games left on this current road trip and Montreal is an increasingly depleted team. The Edmonton Oilers are firing on all cylinders and will be a stiff test of the Habs’ new system. Things won’t get easier after the Canadiens return home, as they will host the Chicago Blackhawks before playing three games against chief division rival Ottawa Senators in the latter half of March.