It’s pretty tough to hand the weekend to any one team (well, NHL one … I guess the Baltimore Ravens probably get the overall crown for eking out that weird win last night). Still, if I had to give any club the gold medal for a wide set of reasons, it would be the Montreal Canadiens. Let’s find out why.
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RETURN I: MAX PACIORETTY
The vast majority of my cheesy hockey nicknames are pun-based. Still, every now and then, a guy develops an odd story that lends itself to a more circumstantial moniker.
I’m starting to lean toward “Wolverine” for Max Pacioretty because of what seems like freakish healing abilities - even for hockey standards. Many believed he would never be the same after that Zdeno Chara hit in March 2011; instead, he came back in 2011-12 with a breakthrough season.
This time around, Pacioretty underwent an emergency appendectomy on Jan. 26, with optimistic estimates anticipating a three-to-four week absence. Instead, there he was … playing eight days later on Feb. 3. Not only that, he even collected an assist.
Those two lightning-quick rebounds and what appears to be a solid ability to grow facial hair (we haven’t seen him in the NHL playoffs yet, so just pure speculation) make him a decent candidate for an X-men-inspired nickname.
Unfortunately, Logan Couture has the first name and the Canadian roots, but I think the nickname could still fit Pacioretty. Most importantly, he’s back in action, and ready to contribute it seems. (Neither have three metal blades that can come flying out of their knuckles either, but that hardly seems like a fair critique.)
RETURN II: P.K. SUBBAN
While Pacioretty returned from a scary health concern, P.K. Subban finally debuted after a protracted holdout. It appears that Montreal is looking to ease him into the lineup, which is especially reasonable since things have been going so swimmingly without him.
He received a little more than 18 minutes of ice time on Saturday and 15:28 on Sunday, although skate issues ate into at least his second game. Either way, it’s too early to tell how his presence will affect other Habs defensemen, particularly Raphael Diaz.
The good news is that he had an assist in each game, so he’s already contributing pretty nicely.
CAREY PRICE IS RIGHT
At first, it seemed like Craig Anderson or maybe Antti Niemi was the goalie of the early part of the season. Those people must also strongly consider Carey Price, who is on one of the great streaks in the NHL right now.
Price now has six wins in a row, with perhaps the most impressive one of the weekend coming on Sunday when he out-dueled another red-hot tender in Anderson.
His overall numbers are fantastic, too. Price has a 6-1-0 record with a .938 save percentage and 1.70 GAA. Guys like Anderson are still a stride or two ahead in pure individual numbers, but Price owners must be very happy that Montreal hired defensive-minded coach Michel Therrien.
(Even if the fun-killer banned the triple-low five.)
Overall, times are going great for Montreal. With 12 standings points, they're just a point behind the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference lead. Things are likely to slide at least a bit over time - six out of eight games have been at home so far - so just ready yourself for a few struggles when the Habs cool off.
After the jump: struggling players to target via buy-low trades and more from a busy weekend.