"Good Habits" Habs Rise To Flyers Challenge


Hab, being short for "habitants", is also short form for habit, or habitual.

"Habitant" is also a pea soup, which is thickly and hard to see through - like a fog. Hence the well known cliche.

The Montreal Canadiens of late have been dense in a foggy kind of way, unpredictable on most accounts, and extremely frustrating to assess on a game by game basis. And I don't like pea soup, chunky or not.

In some views, everything about the team that captured everyone's imaginations last season, is now all askew. Also upside down is the understanding of what teams endure in on the road to improvement and success.

That road for the Canadiens has been full of bumps, pot holes and flat tires. Injuries have come into play, and they've brought with it disapointing and inconsistent showings. Some elements have looked lost out there.

Few teams get better without trials and challenges. It's not unlike a relationship, where once tested a time or two, it grows stronger and thicker skinned. Untested facets of any relationship, hockey or otherwise, often lead to complacency. In Montreal it seems, especially these days, there is a built in mechanism that doesn't tolerate such a thing for very long.


Last night against Philadelphia, and nine days ago against Calgary, the Habs were recognizable once again. They looked and played like they were supposed to.

I was listening in on the pre game show on the radio, when one commentator suggested that the Canadiens can never be counted out against a strong club like the Flyers. That thought stuck to me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was true. I sat down to watch the game, not only expecting them to win, but knowing for sure that they would.

The Flyers, a very worthy opponant, were red hot coming into Montreal. The challenge presented assured a great effort. Fans will forget lame games against weaker likes, but still recall the Habs getting woopassed by the Bruins over a month ago. It doesn't leave us, and it doesn't leave the team so easily either.Gui_medium

Since that Boston game, the Canadiens have appeared to stumble through the darkness, in search of identity and cohesion. Mike Komisarek fell to battle, and the effect of his loss presented an opportunity for discovery. There's been more doom and gloom that peaks, but out of this recent challenge, the Canadiens have learned a great deal about themselves.

For starters, the Canadiens have found they are much inclined to playing a tigher game when the situation calls for it. This can be of good use down the road.

They've found a gem in Matt D' Agostini, whose timely goals are merely the icing on the cake of what seems to be a very well rounded player.

They've discovered just how reliable Josh Gorges can be when tested to extremes.

They have gained new appreciation for Patrice Brisebois, who's been steady in a storm of new responsabilities.

While the Canadiens main offensive thrusts have sputtered, they have found that forwards Steve Begin and Max Lapierre can be one gunpowder packed duo of a fourth line.

Last night, it could be seen that there was much good hockey left in Alex Kovalev.

It was also seen that Sergei Kostitsyn and Guillaume Latendresse can bounce back from being singled out as passengers once too often.

All of this can be trivial in the present tense, but a few months down the road when the team is going better, it could pinpointed as a pivotal moment.


In each of the last two seasons, the month of December has presented unique challenges to the club. In 2006, they were faced with the Gainey family tragedy, a wicked virus, and key injuries to players such as Cristobal Huet. Last season, after a strong start, they hit an inconsistent skid, and by mid December that had dispatched the underperforming duo of Grabovski and Chipchura to Hamilton, calling up Lapierre and Kostitsyn to replace them. They were rarely the same inconsistent bunch again.

This time around, they are battling injuries and perhaps their own complacency. It has been a more subtle, yet more irritating challenge than previous ones. While patience at times seemed to wear thin, the growth and lessons being learned have started to emerge.

After a deceiving month of November, the current month's calendar looked to provide five key challenges in which the Canadiens could test their mettle. So far, in games against the Rangers, Devils, Flames, and Flyers, the Habs have returned to their better habits, the Jersey loss notwithstanding.

There's another big test looming - ten days from now against Pittsburgh. I have the feeling that game will be a defining one for the character of this season's team. It's had a habit of happening!

Photos courtesy of Montreal Canadiens.com

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