A lot has been said this season about how this year’s Montreal Canadiens have come out of the gates a different team than in previous years. That this isn’t last year’s team. The last two games - wins against the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers on back-to-back nights in two cities - proves they aren’t even November’s team.
In November, the Canadiens were riding high off of their Western Canadian trip where they won two straight games against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. That set up a big five game stretch where they played five Eastern Conference teams. They lost all five games, two in overtime.
Fast forward to this week. The Canadiens beat the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night and were looking at four games against Eastern Conference opponents. This time they came out with two straight wins.
The biggest changes from November came out in force against the Panthers. Shea Weber scored the opening goal, he wasn’t in the first four games of the November stretch I mentioned. The goaltending, Carey Price on Monday and Antti Niemi on Tuesday, was outstanding and has been better than the Canadiens received on most nights. Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault have been playing their best hockey and both scored against Florida.
People will look at the shots against and say the Canadiens didn’t deserve the two wins. Yes, the first period against Florida was not good. But the second period was a lot better, and by the time Florida turned it on in the third period, the game was already out of reach. And despite Niemi’s heroics, there may be one or two saves that sticks out as a significant scoring chance. The high danger chances at even strength were only 13-12 Florida.
Montreal put themselves right into the thick of the playoff picture with the two wins because they came out and won the games that were in front of them. They have two more games with back-to-back games in Columbus and at home against Philadelphia.
They’ve already showed this won’t end up being like November.