After losing five straight games, four with Randy Cunneyworth as Head Coach, the Canadiens to a man could go home and take some time during the Xmas break to recharge, refocus and think about what they need to do to get back to winning ways and try to give themselves a chance at playing in the 2012 postseason.
Erik Cole celebrates his powerplay goal with Tomas Plekanec last night in Ottawa. The Habs won the game 6-2. Photo by: Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images.
So starting off their first game back from the break against the Senators in Kanata, what did the team do???
They gave up the game's opening goal within the first 2 minutes then took a minor penalty to go shorthanded less than 5 minutes in.
I'm sure many of you all in Habs nation were saying "Here we go again" or some other variation of such which I can't repeat here but fortunately... and surprisingly... the Canadiens were able to bounce back and take advantage of some seriously shaky goaltending by faux first-stringer Craig Anderson, starting with Lars Eller's shorthanded tally during that early penalty kill.
Has Lars been working on his shot??? That's the same wrister he beat the Bruins' Tukka Rask with back in October. It's sneaky fast when he gets it on net. Even still I think Anderson should have had it.
Eller of course as has been harped upon incessantly over the past few days sat in the hapless loss against the Jets, as did Subban. And it was Subban who also put the puck into the Ottawa net, this time behind one time Hab Alex Auld, when completed a nice play by Erik Cole on the rush.
Randy Cunneyworth had nothing to lose. So he decided on a hard reboot for his squad. I'm talking about pulling the plug painfully quick from the wall and jamming it back in to kickstart the Habs' collective hard drive. And Coach Cunneyworth was rewarded with his first win as an NHL head coach against the team he captained near the end of his playing career.
And for one game, it worked. It's no surprise that when you see the names Plekanec, Cammellari, Subban and Cole on the scoresheet, this team is going to win. Cole continues his consistent play. But Plekanec, Cammellari and Subban need to start chipping in offensively with more consistency if this team is going to have any shot at making the playoffs. And the playoff push starts right now.
Cunneyworth also finally showed there indeed is a difference between him and Jacques Martin with his rejigged lines.
No line before the break remained intact. Even Desharnais' line was torn apart -- perhaps also to help the struggling Pacioretty who seems to be in a bit of a funk of late. Michael Cammellari, who doesn't have much chemistry with Plekanec this year and who's been my favourite whipping boy of recent times, seemed to benefit the most from the shake-up, potting a goal and an assist playing on a line with Desharnais and Leblanc. Leblanc also had a goal and an assist.
I have to say this Leblanc kid really impresses me night after night and has been one of the rare bright spots in an otherwise murky season for the Canadiens. He plays like a smart player and seems to have a great head on his shoulders. He keeps it simple and seems to have a knack for knowing how plays will develop and where the puck will go. On Cammellari's goal, he waited a couple of beats before taking his shot so that the other forwards could reach the net and lo and behold, Cammellari was able to pot the rebound into the open side.
It's the little things like that which make all the difference, and it's what the Canadiens need to continue to do, shift after shift, game after game, night after night -- if they want a snowball's chance of making the postseason.
The climb is steep. The rewards great. If somehow the Canadiens could string some wins together and eke into the playoffs to play Boston in the 1st round -- you just never know what'll happen.