It Hab-Ened Last Night: Habs Outclass Royalty, Defeat Kings 4-1

On Wednesday night, the Montreal Canadiens showed up.

It's really as simple as that.

Yes, that might not sound very positive to the casual reader of my blog, but if you my last game recap, then I think you'd get a pretty good idea as to what that means.

On Monday night against the big bad Flyers, the Canadiens played a 20 minute game, and they payed for it. The Flyers pelted 45 shots on goaltender Carey Price, and despite the fact that he did his best to fight them off, thanks to the complete disappearance of the rest of the team, the Flyers took that game by a score of 3-2.

But tonight, it was a completely different story for the Canadiens, as every single player, from Carey Price (of course), to Andrei Kostitsyn and Tom Pyatt, showed up and contributed to the Canadiens 4-1 defeat of the visiting Los Angeles Kings.

And if you want any proof of this, just take a look at the event summary for the game. Fourteen out of 18 skaters for the Canadiens registered as a +1. The only players who didn't were Jeff Halpern, who has interestingly been one of the Canadiens best players in recent games, Travis Moen, who had 3 hits but a relatively quiet game, Maxim Lapierre who still had a good performance with lots of offensive chances coming off his two-goal game on Monday, and Tom Pyatt, who let's face it, never does anything offensively (although that wouldn't really be fair tonight, he was like a wolf on rabies on some of his forechecking shifts and really deserves a positive mention as well).

And I'm not pointing out the 4 even players to be negative here, it's just literally easier than telling you why each of the 14 plus players contributed to tonight's victory.

Not only was tonight's 19 player effort apparent on the overall scoresheet, but on each individual play and when each individual goal was scored. On the goal that gave Lars Eller his first of the season and his first as a member of the Montreal Canadiens (finally!), Benoit Pouliot made a good effort to keep the puck away from the Kings forward, Alex Picard shot a puck that rang off the post, Matt Darche did his job in front of the net to keep the Kings defenseman from reaching the rebound, and Eller made a pretty half-spin to score the easy goal - although after 21 games, I'm sure the last word Eller would use to describe his first goal of the season would be "easy".

Although that's just one out of four examples of such plays that led to such a strong team victory, it really was just that. A team victory. Eleven players registered a point, with Andrei Kostitsyn putting up a goal and an assist for the only multi-point performance, but everyone who took the ice tonight deserved an assist.

The Canadiens kept up the pressure, didn't let off the forecheck and made sure to keep possession of the puck throughout the night - despite another horrendous performance in the faceoff circle.

The Habs scored early and often, with Kostitsyn getting his 8th (his first in a little while) halfway through the first, on the powerplay, and Cammalleri upping the score to 2-0 later on on a very nice play from Scott Gomez (who had been credited with the goal until the start of the 3rd). Alex Martinez would score on a Kings powerplay in his first game to bring the game back to a one goal Habs lead, but mere minutes later the Habs would get it back with Tomas Plekanec's 8th goal, a goal that would end his own 3-game pointless streak. Then, of course, Lars Eller would score to close out the period and the scoring in the game, as described above.

While it was a relatively quiet night for Carey Price, he would have to make some timely saves in the third to ensure the 4-1 victory for the Canadiens. He would end the game with 24 saves, and although he didn't make the fans' 3 stars of the night, he was definitely in the running with another good performance which improved his stats.

And with all that, of course, we still need to mention Brian Gionta's 7 shots, Picard's 2 shots + 2 blocked shots + 2 shots off the post, and all the rest who contributed to the win.

And yes, the coach deserves his fair share of the credit as well.

On the other side of the rink, Laval, Quebec native Jonathan Bernier did all he could to help his team. Despite letting in four goals, Bernier still made 29 saves in his debut at the Bell Centre and in his hometown, but received little support from the players in front of him. But really, you can't really fault the Kings for losing here, as the Canadiens really poured it on and kept going throughout the entire game.

I know this may seem odd, considering the tongue-lashing I gave them on Tuesday for not showing up after the end of the 1st period in Philly, but this is probably what you should come to expect from your 2010-11 Montreal Canadiens. I don't know what it is, but while they might dominate a team like the Kings on one night, they'll completely disappear the next time against a team they should have no trouble beating - and with the Atlanta on the schedule for Friday night, this could very well be the case.

I literally can't explain it. Is it a lack of confidence in themselves? Are the wins, the standings, getting to their heads? Is it the coaching staff accepting victory too easily, and taking the foot off the gas pedal after a win? It's really hard to explain but the Canadiens are just up and down like that so far this season, and there really isn't any reason to believe that this will indeed change as the schedule wears on.

One thing's for certain however. Despite the inconsistent performances on many nights, it doesn't seem as if anyone is missing Andrei Markov very much. But with news of his diagnosis likely looming, and the schedule getting tougher and tougher, that could likely change. With December being home to some major trades over the years in the NHL, will Pierre Gauthier make a trade to solidify the roots of his team soon, or will he continue to ride what's been a generally hot team until the going begins to get tough?

But more immediately important for Habs fans, can the Canadiens maintain their dominant performance from the game against the Kings, going into a back-to-back situation against the Thrashers on Friday and the Sabres on Saturday? And in case you hadn't noticed, the Thrashers have outscored their last two opponents (the Caps and the Wings) 10-1, and are actually pretty good this year, thanks in large part to a couple of Stanley Cup winning castoffs in newly-appointed captain Andrew Ladd and somehow point-per-game defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

But more on that later. We'll be here covering it all, so stay tuned!

George Prax
www.twitter.com/GeorgePrax
Prax@TheCheckingLine.com

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PS: Thanks to everyone who showed up for tonight's Habs Panel Q&A. We'll be announcing next week's panelists soon, so stay tuned for that. Until then, read this week's panel with Kamal Panesar, Iain Carnegie and Kevin Van Steendalaar right here!