Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 01/11/11 at 09:06 PM ET
The Montreal Canadiens have suddenly won 3 of 4, after a poor slate of games that had people wondering whether their first half was a fluke. A solid performance against Pittsburgh, followed by a come from behind thriller against Boston, means Montreal is again within striking distance of the Northeast lead, and has some much needed momentum as they embark on the second half of their season.
Of late, a few players have performed brilliantly. Benoit Pouliot scored the shootout winner against Pittsburgh, and he, Mathieu Darche and recent callup David Desharnais have formed a poor man’s French Connection, playing solid, two way hockey while chipping in offensively. Scott Gomez appears to be back, after about 25 games in the wilderness, and Carey Price is again performing like the star the Canadiens need him to be.
Concerns for the Habs? Well, the loss of not only Andrei Markov but now also Josh Gorges for the season means the Canadiens really are thin on defence. James Wisniewski has looked pretty good, despite a giveaway on Saturday, and PK Subban has been playing much steadier hockey of late. Believe it or not, Subban played more than 26 minutes on Saturday night, leading the team in icetime. He’s quickly cementing himself back into Jacques Martin’s good books.
However, the Habs could still use another stay at home defenceman to solidify their back end, someone to take Gorges’ role for the rest of the year. Who could that player be? The one name that sticks out to me who may be available, and also fit cap wise, is Chris Phillips. But no one really knows whether the Sens are buyers or sellers. If they are sellers though, Pierre Gauthier should be on the phone. Phillips would give the Habs a shot blocking presence to help form a shutdown pairing with Hal Gill. Right now that element is missing from the Montreal gameplan.
What else? Well, offence is still a concern. This team can’t seem to score on the road, though they may prove me wrong in New York tonight. The Habs could still use a solid top six winger, but there aren’t a plethora of those being dangled. And they need someone with decent speed and size, an even rarer breed. That said, Pierre Gauthier has positioned himself to make an addition or two if he wants to. I’m very excited to see what management has in store as the trade deadline approaches.
Until then, the Habs continue to play their safe, defensive game, and take their show on the road tonight to face the Rangers. Alex Auld is in net, spelling All Star (I didn’t expect to be saying that a year ago) Carey Price. A win keeps them on pace with the Bruins, who defeated Pittsburgh last night. The Habs don’t want to be the team Carolina is chasing for 8th, so their past three or four mean nothing. They need to keep winning. We’ll see what they’ve got.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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