To say that there wasn't a bit of annoyance with the "blazing start" that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had to this season would be a lie. All you had to do was read the Twitter threads on any given night when both clubs were on the ice, and you realized that the 4-0-1 start to the Toronto season was a bit disconcerting.
So as both teams took to the ice last night, on one of those special Saturday nights, there was much anticipation in both cities as to how the evening would end.
Now, being called "Bleu, Blanc, Rouge" obviously states that the concern of this writer - and those who read my words - lies in the back yard of the illustrious Canadiens de Montreal. And there is no doubt that I went into tonight's match-up with great concern about how the Habs would face off against the Senators. But don't be fooled. My link to NHL.com was certainly up and running throughout the night.
But I digress. Let's head back into Scotiabank Place and look at the more important issues at hand. Coming off a devastating loss to the Devils, where the power play struggled, and everything else that should have spelled offense did the same, there was much that needed to be improved upon. But there was much doubt as well.
Martin decided once again, to roll the dice with Pyatt as a winger on the second line for Gomez and Gionta. But at least he was showing some form of consistency. Other than his stint with Pouliot on that line, G and G haven't had the chance to see the same wing man in consecutive games. I won't lie - I still believe that it's a bad decision. Pyatt spent 13:30 Time on Ice with a total of only 3 shots (out-shooting both his line mates), but it still didn't feel like there was cohesion amongst the players. However; there was a spark tonight that may change things once again, with the Martin Shuffle.
Benoit Pouliot, who has shown a serious lack of drive and determination to this point in the season, showed a small glimmer of what he was, when he was first acquired by the Canadiens last year. Skating a little bit harder, and moving to the net; where a forward of his size belongs, Pouliot managed to pot his first of the season at 13:42 of the second frame to lift the Habs to a 2-0 lead. With nearly fifteen and a half minutes of ice time, it would appear that "The Chicken" is attempting to prove that he deserves a place on the top two lines. Monday night will give proof to what the coaching staff's opinion on that is.
But by far - the man of the night, and quite possibly the surprise of the season thus far, had to be Andrei Kostitsyn. Showing great hands and a powerful shot, AK has been a force this season. A full on compliment to both his line-mates, Kostitsyn has managed to place himself atop the leaderboard in points for the Habs this season; tied only with Plekanec (with 6 points in seven games). Notwithstanding a glorious point shot, Andrei has also shown his ability as a skill player that has good hands, and the mental ability to be composed and get to the front of the net.
The other elephant in the room has been the Habs power play, and there is no doubt that we saw some improvement there tonight as well. I know we didn't actually acquire a special teams goal last night, but there was substantial improvement. Far more shots on goal, much better puck movement, and increased traffic proved that they are finally making their way in the right direction. The powerplay spent much more time in the offensive zone - something that we just haven't seen much of so far this year..
And then there's Subban. I know that I don't hold the favour of many Habs fans when I get critical of this wonderful young defenseman, but on this given evening, PK showed a remarkable improvement in his discipline and play. Especially on a night when a team hunted him down like a mangy dog. Not only did he take hit after hit, but Foligno showed no restraint when he clearly went after Subban in a fashion that showed no restraint or professionalism. Other than a great assist on the first Kostitsyn goal, he also continued to shut down the Ottawa offense time and time again - frustrating them into bad penalties as well.
There is not much left to be said about the overall performance of this team last night, with the exception of the man that continues to prove that he has a place here in Montreal as a potential superstar. Carey Price, once again, shone like the star he is becoming. Collecting his fifth career shutout; his third against the Senators, it was more than apparent that Price continues to improve.
There were many opportunities tonight that a soft goal could have found the back of the net. There were very few moments when he had to "shine". And to be honest - I think that's what made this particular win a monster for our netminder. It's tough to be in top form when you aren't being constantly challenged. Clearly 19 shots over 60 minutes can't be considered "tough work". But Price prevailed - staying sharp on a slow night, that is often the demise of a strong goaltender.
So all in all - a success night. Back to back wins over the Sens. A great victory that was needed after such a terrible defeat at the hands of the Devils. Confidence reinstated, and the precedent set for Monday night's match against Phoenix.
Only one thing made it sweeter - bragging rights for a share of first place with the Leafs in the Northeast. Even better - we seem to be on the rise, as they seem to be falling!