I've been watching the Habs pretty much my entire life. At least as long as I can remember...
When I was a kid, I can remember the Habs regularly beating up on the weaker teams like Washington or the old Colorado Rockies -- with scores like 9-2 or 10-1.
Ryan White celebrates his 1st NHL goal last night in St. Paul, Minnesota. The rook also snagged the first, but hopefully not last, Gordie Howe hat trick of his career. Photo by: Eric Miller, Reuters.
Those days were fun but are unfortunately long gone. Our Habs teams of late have been kind of offensively challenged. We're lucky if we get 4 in a game these days.
That all changed last night in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild and it was fun to see. And for a change, my heart wasn't racing a mile a minute in the last 5 minutes of the game. An 8-1 win!? It's great for this team, especially given they have 9 regulars out of the lineup. And it was nice to see many throughout the lineup contributing. All these goals yet still SCOTT GOMEZ did not score!!!! Hard to believe.
On any other night, any storyline from last night's game would take the lead. On this night, there were too too many -- a problem I can surely live with:
1) It was Benoit Pouliot's first game back in Minnesota, since he was acquired last year for Latendresse and he took full advantage to give it to his former team. He finished with 3 assists and set up the game's first goal by Ryan While 31 seconds in. He tried the same and only move he has inside the Wild zone and lo and behold this time it worked, creating a 2-on-1 and making a nice pass to White. I'm sure he's really happy to be a Hab.
2) Ryan White scores his first NHL goal. Couldn't be more happy for the guy. The guy's a workhorse, he's exactly what we had hoped Max Lapierre would be. Hopefully he doesn't let things go to his head, but I would really doubt it. This kid's a good, tough Canadian boy who wants to prove he belongs nightly. Not only that, but he gets a Gordie Howe hat trick to boot (goal, assist and fight).
It just so happens, the last Canadien to score a Gordie Howe hat trick was Max Lapierre.
The Wild were recklessly throwing around their bodies early on (trying to take a page from the Rangers) so White took on Clayton Stoner and fought him to a draw. The kid's tough. And he has a great head of hair :)
Btw, this year any team that's had a player score the Gordie Howe hat trick has won. Shows what kind of all-around hockey teams must play to win in this league.
3) Alex Auld played the back up role to perfection. Hey, some were ragging on this decision to start Auld over Price but if you look at the big picture this totally makes sense. First Price does need a bit of rest. Second, Auld had a career 6-3 record against the Wild. Third, the Wild were coming into the game with 5 straight losses. Auld made some key saves when the game still wasn't out of hand, especially in the first period.
I questioned Auld's signing over the summer -- but there's no doubt, he has been the perfect backup goalie for Carey Price. Is there any better "backup" in the league???
4) P.K. Subban -- 1st Habs rookie defenseman to score a hat trick. He's in the books. Surely won't be the last time. P.K. was a lot of fun to watch last night. On his first goal, it could have gone very badly as he circumnavigated the entire Wild zone almost losing the puck at the blue line, but his incredible balance and skating ability carried him towards the left circle where he then pounced towards the net, only to get a lucky bounce off of the Wild's dman.
His next two goals were power slap shots that I'm sure Backstrom would want back, but tough to blame him. If anything the last one was stoppable, but P.K. just muscled it past him.
A shower of hats hit the ice. Tons of Habs fans in attendance last night. Many down from Manitoba to root on White. They sure weren't disappointed.
P.K. Subban's hat trick is the first by a Habs dman since Souray had one in '03. It's also the first hat trick by a Habs rookie since Oleg Petrov (remember him?) in 1993.
Let's be honest, the kid's playing great -- even when he doesn't score. But his goals takes the pressure off of our other guns, like Wisniewski -- who scored a beaut last night too.
5) Frere (Brother) Andrei -- how I love thee! Brother Andrei has scored in 3 of 4 for the Habs and even in a blowout, he gets the game winner. His goal was classic (good) Kostitsyn. He gets belted at centre nice, only to get up and find the puck on his stick in the Wild zone with time to lean into it and zing it past a helpless Theodore high under the crossbar.
He's now got 19 on the season!! And he's having a bad year!!!! Sign him!? Well, the ball's in his court. If he performs like this in the playoffs, how can you let him walk??? He's only 26. There's AK46, who's a blowup disaster. Then there's Brother Andrei who hits, skates, passes and shoots to perfection. If we see Brother Andrei in the playoffs, we have to keep this kid, make him happy then pray Brother Andrei is who shows up next season.
How could this game had gotten any better?? Well it would have been greedy to ask for it, but if Auld had gotten the shutout and if Guy Latendresse was playing. But I'm not that greedy.
Hopefully the Habs enjoyed the flight home but understand it's time to get back to business right away. They're facing a desperate, hungry Sabres squad tomorrow at the Bell Centre; then off to Boston for the last game of their season series with the Bruins. Habs have won the series, but if they're to catch them for the Division lead, it's a must win.