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by Archives February 5, 2008

It’s been a topic of debate for most of the season now.what to do with Michael Ryder. He’s been hugely unproductive point-wise and has been somewhat of a non-factor in terms of hits and key plays. The truth is, Ryder is a goal scorer, and that’s it. He was never great with the puck; he’s not a fabulous skater, and he’s not a play-maker, he’s a finisher. That was his niche.
As soon as you take that away from a player like Ryder, he becomes a huge liability for the team. By taking up a lot of salary cap room and not pulling his own weight in any sense, he has truly become useless for the Canadiens to keep. There have been a lot of trade rumors about Ryder; some have said he’s going to the Calgary Flames along with a draft pick for Alex Tanguay. Calgary, however, has disputed those rumors, though scouts for the Flames were seen at a few Canadiens games recently. With the trade deadline looming (Feb. 26), it will be interesting to see how things play out for Ryder and the rest of the team.
As for last week, the Habs did very well for the most part. The home-and-home series with the Washington Capitals was hugely entertaining. Shutting them out on Tuesday night’s game was a rarity for Alexander Ovechkin, who is seldom kept off the score sheet.
Huet played extremely well while the offensive brought out the big guns with goals from Mark Streit, Sergei Kostitsyn, Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev. With an accumulation of 15 points in January, Kovalev was last month’s winner of the Molson Cup. In addition, to the 49 points he currently has, Kovalev is on pace to top his best season with the Canadiens (2005-2006) in which he accumulated 65 points. He’s proved to be a leader on the team while the usual first line is having somewhat of a comatose run to date.
Despite being shut-out Tuesday night, Ovechkin got sweet revenge on Thursday night. With four goals, an assist and an unmatched physical presence throughout the game, Ovechkin proved once again why he’s a super star. While the Habs did make a nice comeback by equalizing it at four late in the third frame, their play was far from superior. They looked too comfortable from their Tuesday night win. It was this nonchalant attitude that ultimately lost them the game in overtime. They were lucky to get away with a point, in all honesty.
Saturday’s 4-1 matinee game against the New York Islanders was everything that Thursday’s game was not. The Canadiens had drive; they skated hard and with purpose. The plays were smart, very organized, and beautifully executed. Take the first goal of the game, for instance. It was an awesome drop back by Kovalev for the short handed goal. It was skillfully set up and followed by a great wrist shot by Plekanec. The other goals came from Streit, Kovalev, and Mathieu Dandenault, who was a healthy scratch in the four previous games. Huet played a solid game, allowing only one goal while stopping 29 shots in his 11th straight start for the Habs.
Saturday’s energy unfortunately did not carry through to Sunday, when they lost to the New York Rangers, who truly played a great game. After getting up to a 3-0 lead with goals from Andrei Markov (who has a six-game point streak going), Kovalev, and a penalty shot goal from Sergei Kostitsyn the team reverted back to perhaps its worst habit: the relaxed lead. Their energy level just dropped through the floor as they were out skated and outplayed to the tune of five unanswered Ranger goals in the second and third periods for a final score of 5-3. The Habs need to break this habit if they hope to continue what is proving to be an otherwise awesome race to the playoffs.
With only three points between Montreal and Eastern Conference leading Ottawa, the Habs are making a case for themselves for this year’s playoffs, which are only a couple months away. The Habs will have the opportunity to cut and even surpass Ottawa’s lead this week, taking on the Sens tonight at home and Saturday in Ottawa. Between that, the Canadiens have got a good old fashioned date with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday so make sure to check back next week for a recap of how the Habs fared against both the current conference leader and our longtime arch nemesis.

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