Yeah, I kinda like that last one. If that's the best Tortorella can get out of his guys in what was a huge game in Manhattan, you have to wonder what kind of commitment he's going to get down the stretch. Maybe the real huge game for the Rangers is their next one against the sagging Bruins. Maybe the seventh place Habs were already mentally out of reach.
Maybe the hint we can take is that we can start to take this Canadiens' team seriously. You've got to like it when a team catches fire just before the playoffs. You like it even more when they do so early enough to avoid the exhausting grind that leads to a last gasp playoff berth. This is a very good mix.
The Habs' play of late doesn't remind us of two years ago when they won the conference and had us seeing a deep run, and it's certainly not the win-or-die plight they've managed to find themselves in year after year. The Habs are looking poised to enter the playoff picture with what we can call managed expectations.
The fact that they're in the conversation at all is quite amazing. A team is going to lose its 200-man games to injury and Montreal has certainly not strayed from that rule this year, but it's the quality of players affected by ailment that makes their position all the more enjoyable. The fact that they are probably going to win over half their games is a stunning reversal of fortune. Long story short, the Habs have no business being where they are. But they are.
We're seeing that they may actually be a thoroughly well coached team, lead by a young understated goaltender who has slowly pulled the spotlight away from the one we all wanted to hand the podium to. We're seeing that the small moves made by Pierre/Bob may have actually yielded essential dividends. Pouliot, Moore, both were strong last night in this crucial game. Both worked hard, nose to the grind, no cheating.
Montreal walked into MSG last night and threw a Jacques Martin sleeper-hold over the Rangers. It made for the dullest hockey you'll ever watch and was an agonizing experience for my ADD riddled existence, but it worked. Two points in regulation in an ugly road win against a conference rival breathing down your neck with 10 games to go in the season. Who's going to moan and groan about that. Right now, it doesn't need to be pretty.
Say what you will about Scott Gomez. He's a very good hockey player. Does he deserve his 8 million? This could be the answer: full points to him for getting ready to bag 60 points despite having lost Gionta for an important part of the season. Full points to him for proving to be the perfect match for Benoit Pouliot who may have been playing his entire career when he arrived to Montreal. Kudos for proving to be a fantastic puck-carrying centreman who'll get you to the offensive end rather effortlessly and get the puck to the right guy just as quickly once he's there. Kudos for not making any noise whatsoever in a room that has been replete with bullshit and drama over the last couple of years. Bravo to Gomez for restoring a sense of quiet honour to the room. It may not amount to 8 million dollars worth of production on the ice, but I'll take Scott Gomez and his inflated salary over 5 million dollars worth of noise and ego. Factor in a few dollars for that kind of personality. That's money well spent.
Same goes for Gionta. Does it ever.
"This one's Optimistic", Thom Yorke would say. Why the hell not. Maybe it's the smell of spring which reminds me of the brisk walks to the Forum on playoff nights when I was a kid. Maybe it's because I actually really like this group and want them to do well. Maybe I believe in the possibilities.
The Habs could have thrown themselves right back into the quest for sustenance had the Rangers taken the points from them last night. It wasn't even close. And it renewed a sense of mounting optimism, dare we call it that.