Thursday, January 17, 2008

15 & Counting?

The Canadiens' 15 road wins rank them 1st in the East and 2nd in the NHL, looming in San Jose's shadow with the Sharks having 16 wins away from home.

Earning that 16th road win will be no easy task tonight in Atlanta as the Habs wrap up their road-trip.

The Thrashers (23-22-2) have really taken form since the firing of Bob Hartley and hiring of interim head coach and GM Don (or 'The Don') Waddell. After starting the season 0-6 and finding themselves dead-last out East, the Thrashers have heated up significantly, and now own an over .500 record. Most impressively, thanks to Tuesday night's romp of the Red Wings, the Thrashers now sit tied for 1st with slumping Carolina in the sub-par Southeast Division. In fact, if it weren't for seeding the top team in every Division 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the Thrashers would find themselves behind the Bruins and in 9th place, one spot out of a playoff berth. Not to mention, the Bruins currently would have 3 games in hand on the Thrashers, but I'm beginning to digress too much here...let's get back to it.

The Thrashers have 2 wins in 2 games against the Habs this season, both by 3-2 scores, and both results of shootouts. Rookie defensemen Tobias Enstrom has been an unsung hero for the Thrashers. Having seen his role increase dramatically with the arrival of bench-boss Waddell, Enstrom now finds himself complementing deadly shooter Ilya Kovalchuk on the point on the man-advantage. He is the league leader amongst all NHL rookies in average ice-time per game, averaging just over 24 minutes a game. And, most suprisingly of all, Enstrom ranks 4th on team scoring, as his 28 points (3 + 25) rank him ahead of such veterans as Slava Kozlov, Mark Recchi, and Bobby Holik, not to mention more than doubling the output of winger Pascal Dupuis, who's 13 points in 46 games is downright embarassing.

The Canadiens (23-14-8) had a good outing Tuesday night on Long Island, posting a 3-1 win to improve their current 4 game road-trip record to 2-1, all the while improving their overall road record to 15-7-3. But, the Habs visit to Atlanta could not have come at a worse time.

The Thrashers strolled into Detroit on Tuesday as the major underdog on the road to the league's top team, yet came away with a convincing 5-1 win, riding a Marian Hossa hat-trick. No matter how tired a team is, or how badly it had been playing prior, a team that goes into the top team's building and comes away with a huge win is bound to carry over that momentum.

Unfortunately for Montreal, the Thrashers got a rest Wednesday, and had been playing relatively well already in their previous matches, suggesting that the win in MoTown will only boost them further.

The Habs will need to make the most of their powerplay chances (if they are given any), and must refrain from taking un-necessary penalties (coughSAKUcough) against a team that boasts the likes of such superstar snipers in Hossa and Kovalchuk, the latter of whom is currently riding a 10-game points streak, tallying 8 goals and 8 assists over that span.

However, the Habs have gone 6-1-2 in their previous 9 games overall, therefore have pointed in all but one...should I remind you which game it was in which they failed to earn a point? Didn't think so...

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:08 P.M.

-Steve Begin has been cleared to play, and x-rays were officially negative on Patrice Brisebois' foot (sorry, negative means NO FRACTURE...), but no word yet on who will be scratched this evening.


Anonymous said...

Although the thrashers are hot and they`re aren`t the easiest team to play against especially with a guy called Ilya Kovalchuk on their team, Kovalchuk is a minus -1 in 2 games vs le tricolore(lol) and has yet to record a point this season against them! hopefully he won`t record one tonight :S


k_cardi said...

put me down for a habs win tonight...however, both teams are confident right now and it does seem that he who stays out of the box will win tonight.

if montreal can play like they did in boston last week, where they played physical and smart, theyll be able to shut down atlanta's speed and capitalize on defensive errors by the thrashers

sasabainga said...

Hey James...

We should already consider ourselves EXTREMELY lucky that Kovalchuk hasn't scored a goal against us (scoring 27% of Atlanta's goals), and even luckier that he hasn't even tallied a point.

He did however score on his only shootout attempt against us this season, clinching the win way back on October 30th, but who's counting that really?

Anyway, I, and all the rest of us Habs fans, are hoping just as you are that Ilya will stay off the scoresheet...but how far can luck be pushed, until it comes back in our faces? I hope forever, but if that's too long, at least through tonight.