The Montreal Canadiens had a near perfect weekend against the Ottawa Senators (the second place Sens still picked up one point). The Habs picked up two important wins against a team that was within striking distance for the Atlantic Division lead. With Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win and Sunday’s 4-1 victory, the Habs sit four points ahead of the Ottawa for first in the division. To make Habs fans even happier is this next week ahead for Montreal and Ottawa. The Habs and Sens renew hostilities next Saturday, but before then each team plays twice. Montreal has the luxury of playing a basement dwelling team in Detroit and a non-playoff team in Carolina. For the Sens, they are in tough with a date with Boston, who sit four points back of them. After that they take a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.
Montreal Canadiens Winning Weekend
With that being said, Montreal looks to be in prime contention to run away with the Atlantic before the two teams meet again on Saturday. Before we get to carried away with the future, its time to reflect on what was a important weekend for Montreal.
Here are some take aways from Montreal’s successful weekend.
Montreal’s first line of Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk recorded one point total in the two games. With the first line not much of a factor this past weekend, Montreal’s secondary scoring picked up their slack. Phillip Danault snapped a 21-game scoring drought. His play along with Brendan Gallagher, who also scored this weekend, and Paul Byron has shown fans they can be a legit second line threat with a mix of speed and grit. Tomas Plekanec also got the figurative monkey off his back, scoring his first goal in nineteen games. Andrew Shaw found his way on the score sheet as well. Along with playing smart hockey that led to him not taking unnecessary penalties, which has frustrated fans all season.
Montreal’s lack of secondary scoring has been an issue during the second half of the season. Montreal fans hope that this past weekend was not a fluke, but indeed their coming out party.
Paul Byron: The Waiver Wire Gem
Thank you Calgary. Paul Byron has been nothing short of spectacular this campaign. Byron was scooped off waivers prior to last season and played his way into an every day NHLer. The 27 year old has found his game in Montreal, scoring a career high 11 goals last year. That led to him earning a new three-year deal mid way through last season. Montreal has been rewarded for their faith in Byron, as he scored his 20th goal this past weekend against his hometown team. With his success comes more responsibilities. Byron who was known for his penalty killing ability, now has also slid into the first power play unit for Montreal. Not only that, but he has played his way into likely being protected by the Habs in the upcoming expansion draft.
Welcome back Carey Price. The month of March has been the reemergence of the Canadiens net minder. Price has earned six wins and one loss. In that span, Price has a save percentage of .942 and a dazzling goal against average of 1.55. He played in back-to-back games, for only the second time all-season. With the regular season nearing the end, it was encouraging for Habs fans to see Price in net both games. The intensity of a playoff series, and the games every other day, Price showed he is ready for that challenge.
Goaltending is a very crucial part of the playoffs, where a hot goalie can steal a couple games in the series, making key saves when needed. Montreal is lucky to have one of the best goalies in hockey, which will certainly help come playoff time.
The season is a couple weeks away from being done. Ottawa still has a game in hand over Montreal, but this past weekend certainly gave Montreal the advantage to win the Atlantic at season’s end.