Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Habs lose a close one, Eller dominates

The Canadiens lost a close one Tuesday evening, 3-2 to the surging Washington Capitals. Carey Price looked very human on two of the Capitals goals, while the Canadiens went to sleep for portions of the game, especially the second period, which has become an unfortunate theme in an otherwise strong season.

However, a realy bright spot for Montreal was the third line of Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller, and Brandon Prust. This line has once again, upon Prust's return, arguably become the Habs strongest, with the creativity of Galchenyuk and Eller blending perfectly with the grit of Prust. Eller was dominant throughout most of the game, in both the Washington zone and Montreal's. In fact, Eller's performance this evening really does beg the question, what does he have to do to get more ice time? He and Galchenyuk clearly have chemistry, and they're getting more confident game by game. Michel Therrien has to feel fairly confident with three strong lines to roll come playoff time.

In fact, I'd argue the Habs have their strongest four line combination in at least a decade. The fourth line, made up of Travis Moen, Jeff Halpern and Rene Bourque, is very responsible defensively, physical, and creates havoc in the offensive zone. Therrien has done a great job thus far ensuring all of his charges get ample ice time. And here's a familiar theme: Marc Bergevin deserves a lot of credit.

Bergevin has to be in consideration for GM of the year. Yet, for a GM who has turned his team around, he took a lot of flak around the trade deadline. Was it warranted?

Many Habs fans wanted the Canadiens to reach out and nab a star, such as a Jagr or an Iginla. However, Bergevin judged that his team is still young, and did not want to part with the assets necessary to nab such a player. However, he made a crafty move April 2nd, trading a 5th round pick for the Kings' Davis Drewiske, a depth defenceman on the Stanley Cup champions who is known for his work ethic and responsible play. Drewiske has looked good since he came to Montreal, in that he hasn't stood out at all: that is the mark of a solid, defensive defenceman. Add in the fact that Montreal lost the very underrated Alex Emelin to a knee injury - Emelin was fourth in the NHL in hits when he went down - and this move looks even better, as Drewiske has slotted in next to Markov and rarely looked out of place. He may not have the pizzaz of an Emelin when he throws a hit, but Drewiske knows how to defence the zone and block a shot.

That Bergevin only tinkered shows knowledge beyond his executive years. So many GM's would have gone for the home run. Bergevin has yet to do that. He made the precocious move of trading Erik Cole for Michael Ryder earlier in the season, added Jeff Halpern off waivers, solving the faceoff issue Montreal had faced all year, and then nabbed Drewiske. Bergevin has built a contending team without gutting his dressing room or ransacking the draft pick cupboard. He deserves credit for standing pat when so many others cannot resist the tempation to deal.

With eight games left, Montreal looks to finish in the top four in the East, fairly impressive for last year's 28th place team. Pierre Gauthier does deserve some credit here - yes, you heard that right - as he built much of the platform that forms this year's team. However, it is Bergevin, through his tinkering, that has really tweaked the Canadiens into a winner. They go into the playoffs with the opportunity to do some serious damage. 

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About The Upper Canadien

The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com