Sunday, February 17, 2008

Game 60: Watch out Eastern Conference

It's in the books. The Canadiens oppressed the Philadelphia Flyers tonight in a game that proved several things. First, the Habs are now 10-1-1 against the Flyers since the lockout. Post lockout hockey and the post-lockout rule changes do not favour the Bullies when they face the speedy Habs. The Canadiens scored early and backed it up by making a statement and sweeping the season series against Philly for the first time since 1976-77, outscoring them 15-6 in the process.

I had a lot of confidence in the Habs going into this weekend, citing the fact that they matched up well with the Flyers and had turned a corner in winning a game against a Florida Panthers team that played a more complete game on Wednesday night but still lost. The Habs really stepped it up. They played fantastic team defense and Francis Bouillon in particular was brilliant in bothe weekend games.

The play where Bouillon did his Bobby Orr impersonation and went end-to-end, finally roofing it with 1.2 seconds left sums up this Flyers team perfectly. Instead of playing some D, Jim Vandermeer decided to go to the corner and attempt to get Josh Gorges to drop the gloves, easily creating a 2 on 1 break. Bouillon even looked back in astonishment before scoring. Carey Price saw the play all the way and yelled at Gorges not to drop the gloves, "wait! wait!" he cried, and Gorges just pointed at the other end and skated away when the puck was in the net. Bouillon's first goal in almost a year.

Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder scored at a time a time when both of their futures on this team look uncertain. Ryder is the one between the two who may be gone come Feb 26.

All of a sudden the Canadiens have a calm goaltender who has taken the helm of this team since being recalled from Hamilton. Before his demotion earlier this year, Price had ups and downs, but since being recalled from Hamilton he has been a force between the pipes for the Canadiens, who are tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, although the Sens hold a game in hand.

It's the first time the Canadiens have been in such a postion in a long long time. As the playoff races heat up, the Habs are hot and the Flyers are in a freefall. So are the Sens. It's time to start thinking about playoff matchups and if a deadline deal can improve this team going forward without sacrificing too much.

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