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Monday, March 4, 2013

Character Wins Hockey Games

Habs take 3 of 4 points on weekend to reclaim top spot in Eastern Conference


If there's one thing we know about freshman GM Marc Bergevin is that he likes hockey players with character.

So it was no surprise that his first signing was gritty forward Brendan Prust as a free agent from the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts still seem to be having issues replacing him.

It's players like Prust who provide those intangibles that can often swing momentum from one side to the other.

Brandon Prust taking one for the team from Milan Lucic in Boston. Lucic should really know better and pick on someone more his size, but it says a lot about both of their characters. Habs won 4-3. AP

Last night in Boston, it happened when Prust dropped the gloves to take on beast Milan Lucic and literally got punched out took one for the team.

The Habs were trailing 3-2 at that point and with the Bruins a strong third period team, it didn't look good.

But his teammates took notice, and responded in the best way possible by going out and winning that third period.

They also took notice when Alexei Emelin, steel plate in cheek, took on monster Zdeno Chara -- who received a fighting major and 10 minute misconduct going into the third. Bit of a mistake by the big Z but it paid off for the Habs.

So this year's edition of the Montreal Canadiens doesn't seem to wilt like they have in the past when faced with adversity.


It can go a long way on a hockey team.

Good teams seem to win games and collect points even when they don't have their best stuff. This weekend was a perfect example of that for the Canadiens. After Saturday night's surreal 7-6 OT loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Montreal, which saw a see-saw battle of giveaways, odd man rushes and somewhat sketchy goaltending, the Canadiens marched in to Boston's barn to begin a five game roadtrip. And they didn't exactly play a perfect game, but they did what they had to do to win, coming back in the third with two unanswered goals for the 4-3 victory.

Coach Therrien went with his gut, sent his team a message, sent his star goaltender a message -- whatever you decide -- by starting backup Peter Budaj in Boston. Twitter was ablaze, per the norm, questioning his judgment. Why start a backup who hasn't played in Boston since 2007 when the top spot in the conference is up for grabs? Doesn't make any sense...

But it does. Therrien is showing consistency in his message and that no player is immune from the team concept this season. You play well, you play. You don't perform to expectations, you sit. And it applies to Carey Price, just like it does to Lars Eller or Ryan White. Doesn't matter what nametag is on the back; what matters is that "CH" on the front.

I'm sure Price didn't like the call, but could respect it. He knows he didn't have a good game against the Pens. He knows he was shaky. He knows he has to be better -- as his team has to be better in front of him. And Price will be better. But in the meantime by starting Budaj, Therrien sent a message to the entire team and not just a single player.

And it worked. Budaj was solid and made a terrific save in the dying moments of the game to seal the deal.

So the Canadiens returned the favour to the Bruins in beating them on their home ice and coming back in the third to win. The Habs have to be happy with 3 of a possible 4 points when they didn't have their best stuff.

Things tend to even out; after all, the Habs had their best stuff in Ottawa last week and only got one point out of it.

Now it's on to Long Island to face the Islanders. Let's hope the Habs return the favour to the Isles from last week...

1 comment:

  1. This edition of the HABS is definitely one with energy and a "fire in the gut". They want to win, and it shows. As you said, no more third period caving in or major let downs, at least not recently anyways...
    Let's be real, Price is going to have to "Carey" the team, but Budaj sure can help when called upon by Therrien. Let's hope they both try to outperform each other the rest of the season.