Being bottom-heavy certainly isn’t weighing down the Montreal Canadiens.
The fact Scott Gomez has finally come to life has certainly helped the Habs, winners of six straight. But another big factor in Montreal’s recent success has been the play of the third and fourth lines, highlighted by the two-way game of Dominic Moore, the crafty contributions of Glen Metropolit and the metamorphosis of Sergei Kostitsyn.
Some questioned the Canadiens’ decision to deal a 2011 second-rounder to Florida for Moore before the trade deadline, but nobody could deny how well the 29-year-old has played on Montreal’s third trio between Kostitsyn and net-crasher Travis Moen.
Moore is plus-five with his new team, effectively kills penalties, is one of coach Jacques Martin’s favorite 4-on-4 players and has also kicked in two goals and eight points in 10 games as a Hab.
The biggest surprise on that line is Kostitsyn, who seems to have done a complete about-face from the pouty, petulant kid who demanded a trade from Montreal back at the beginning of the year when the Canadiens cut him from the big squad and sent him to Hamilton. After about a week of contemplation, Kostitsyn accepted the demotion, put in some American League time and eventually got the call to come back to Montreal in November.
His totals – six goals and 16 points in 38 contests – are still modest for a player with his skill set, but he does have four goals and five points in his past three outings. But more than that, a guy who just seemed to be approaching every part of his career the wrong way not that long ago has suddenly become somebody who hustles, kills penalties and finally looks determined to make it as an NHLer.
Then there’s Glen Metropolit, who had eight career power play goals in 338 NHL games before this year, but leads the Canadiens with 10 this season. Metropolit’s 16 goals are already a career high and, with 29 points in 65 contests, he’s a good bet to surpass his previous career best of 33.
Not many guys bounce between centering a sneaky-good fourth line – which Metropolit does with Maxim Lapierre and Mathieu Darche on the wings – and playing a big role on his team’s power play unit.
Montreal’s post-break surge has all but sealed a post-season berth and the Habs have a good shot to climb as high as fifth in the Eastern Conference. The return of leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri from a knee injury is expected to happen next week, which will go a long way toward solidifying the top two lines.
Combine that with the mileage Montreal is getting out of its foot soldiers and you have a team poised to prove it’s better than it’s been for most of the season.
FOWL RUNNING AFOUL
Expect there to be much talk very soon about whether James Wisnieski’s charge at former Hawks teammate Brent Seabrook, for which the Ducks D-man received just a two-minute charging minor, is worthy of supplemental discipline.
Wisniewski tore in from the blueline and made no attempt at the puck. The sole purpose of the play is clearly retribution for what was a borderline hit on Corey Perry moments earlier.
Have a look for yourself and be sure to watch the slow-motion replay in which the question, ‘Is he selling it?’ is, somewhat incredibly, asked.
If he is, it’s the best sell job of all-time.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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