MONTREAL – Life is good at the top.
The Montreal Canadiens have regained their stride, despite a week that proved they were not infallible, and the spotlight has been on the unlikely heroes.
Michel Therrien’s mantra of “there is no first, second, third or fourth line” rings true as the bottom six stepped up to the plate.
Sunday night, that hero was goalie Mike Condon.
The Canadiens had announced Carey Price suffered a lower body injury, leaving him sidelined for at least a week.
The backup rises
If there was ever a time for Condon to prove why the Canadiens made the right choice in choosing him over former back-up Dustin Tokarski, it’s now.
As Condon took to the ice Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, he bound out of the tunnel with all the confidence in the world to a huge cheer.
But it was a whisper compared to the ovation Carey Price received as he claimed the Molson Cup.
Condon didn’t face much competition from the Jets as the Canadiens built to an early 2-0; he even managed a fantastic Price impression in the second period when he dove out to snatch a rebound on one of his shakier sequences.
Overall though, top marks for the guy who has the biggest skates to fill in the entire league.
The Canadiens face a brutal schedule for even the starting goalie to show down – with the Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins all on the docket.
It’s a fairytale story for Condon, but this is the first time we’ll see if he can live up to his Cinderella status.
All the same, Price’s injury isn’t long-term, so Condon won’t be in the pressure cooker for much longer.
READ MORE: Habs star Price suffers lower-body injury
Tokarski has been the weaker of the two netminders on the Ice Caps (2-2-1), assuming a backup role behind Zachary Fucale.
The only comparison I can think of for Dale Weise is Ralph Wiggum (this will be the first of many Simpsons references, I assure you.)
Often looked down on, Weise has an uncanny ability to suddenly show streaks of brilliance that no one could see coming.
Like Ralph, skipping down the street after pulling off the upset win at the diorama competition, Weise has journalists and fans alike scratching their heads and asking ‘how does this guy pull it off?’
Looking at Weise’s statistics chart boggles the mind even more.
By all means, Weise is a third or fourth liner in Corsi for goals and time on ice.
However, he plays more like a first or second liner in terms of points generated, especially in primary assists.
As of Sunday, Weise was second in scoring for the Canadiens and sixteenth in the entire league in goals.
That puts him ahead of notable names like Stars sniper Tyler Seguin, Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin and no-trophy-to-his-name-but-still-really-amazing John Tavares.
Marc Bergevin would be a great candidate for a Storage Wars type show.
Picking up Tomas Fleischmann for $750,000 looks like an absolute steal after he potted two goals on Sunday night.
In the centre of that line is David Desharnais, who is looking incredibly comfortable in his third line position.
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Over the past week, they have a combined seven goals – we should also add to that Paul Byron’s two short-handed breakaway goals in two games.
I wish Bergevin gave post-game press conferences so he could just tell us all “I told you so.”
Last season, the lackluster Canadiens power play used the same recipe every chance.
Liberal amounts of P.K. Subban slapshots from the point and a dash of Brendan Gallagher getting pinballed in front of the net – all put in for two minutes of ineffective play.
The Habs finished twenty-third in the league in the power play, scoring only 40 goals on 243 opportunities.
This year, the team has spiced things up.
It all starts with effective zone entry.
Instead of a dump-and-chase approach, they are carrying the puck over the blue line using speed – players actually move their feet instead of their sticks and passes are quick and crisp.
The biggest difference in my eyes is that every player on the ice is now a power play threat.
So far, the Canadiens have scored 11 power play goals (four by Brendan Gallagher and one by Desharnais, Subban, Jeff Petry, Lars Eller, Nathan Beaulieu and Andrei Markov).
I laughed out loud when someone in Section 435 behind my press box seat yelled out “GO P.K.!” during the second period of the Jets game.
Simply put, Subban has been solid, but he hasn’t had to be the hero Habs fans need.
Scoring is spread out and the Canadiens have scored at least four goals in almost half their games (6 out of 13).
Subban is fourth in points, but with only one goal.
Captain Max Pacioretty has been steady on the scoresheet as well, but hasn’t been the standout.
If anyone is the hero this year, it’s Bergevin.