Overall, I think the Habs played a good game last night.
Carey Price made some really nice saves… really nice. He’s been showing more confidence of late as is most of the team.
Shortly after Carbo was fired from the coaching position and Gainey was behind the bench I started hearing some chatter on sports talk shows asking if there had been any real changes since Carbo was gone. As the team didn’t respond in a huge fashion right away, most said there were no real changes. I didn’t think there was either at first.
But, I think there were and they simply had to play out with a bit of time.
Gainey always seems to be a calm guy, even when his team seemed to loose some pretty bad games he didn’t panic or flinch in his news conferences and most importantly the lines were never scrambled as often as they were with Carbo…. nor were all 4 lines used in almost equal time at “crunch time”.
Confidence doesn’t come overnight. Confidence builds in a person (and a team for that matter).
Gainey’s made alot of smaller moves in his lineup…. one guy who’s really come on defensively is Chris Higgins. I was surprised that he was in the lineup last night but delighted that he was.
Higgins almost seems to have a clearer role in recent weeks and it’s not really the offensive role that he would occasionally be given…. he’s been a really good defensive forward. On the PK last night he played some really great hockey. There was one play last night where he had 3 Hawks players go backwards with the puck because of his fast skating…. Higgins was looking good as a shutdown guy.
There seems to be some confidence built in these guys over these last few weeks. They play with more jump, they seem to hit a bit more…. encouraging.
There’s a stat that’s been jumping out at me also.. and it’s the shots on goal which had a steady decline in numbers in recent weeks. There had been some “talk” and questioning about the goaltending, but the numbers of shots these guys had to face was a bit unreal. Now, their defensive play has really been doing their goaltenders justice.
I’ll compile some shots on goals stats later on. Last night, they outshot the Hawks 33 – 29.
So this morning, the Canadiens sit 1 point ahead of Florida for 8th place with 1 game in hand… and 1 point back of the Rangers with 1 game in hand.
The race is on!