Halak drinking up holiday shots

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

They are performing a pretty good neutral zone trap on logic, these Canadiens, if nothing else.

The Canadiens are the NHL's hottest team with four wins in a row (matched by only by the Sharks) despite being outshot the way Sonny Corleone was outshot at the toll booth in The Godfather.

The way Bonnie and Clyde were outshot at the end of Arthur Penn's brilliant movie.

In their four-game winning streak -- the first four games of a seven-game road trip -- the Habs have given up 186 shots or an average of almost 47 a night.

They have taken 99, or an average of just under 25.

Two-for-one shots is a great Happy Hour special; the short end of that ratio usually leads to an unhappy hour trying to win a hockey game.

On the season, the Canadiens have given up an average of 32.6 shots a night, the third most in the league.

They are second-to-last in the league in shots taken with an average of 26.6 a game.

The easiest job in hockey right now -- next to being Alex Ovechkin's barber -- is being on the ice crew that's got the Habs' end.

"A lot of the shots have been from the outside," said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin yesterday.

From what I saw Saturday night against the Maple Leafs, he must have meant outside the crease.

They are also 27th in the league in even-strength scoring and have given up more power plays (178) than any team in the league and had the fewest power plays (120), all numbers which should add up to the needle going deep into the red on the crapometer.

HALFWAY MARKER

But the Canadiens, who hit the halfway point of their schedule tonight when they play the Senators at Scotiabank Place, were grasping seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings before yesterday's play.

And they've done it missing top defenceman Andrei Markov (I know; everybody's got an injury story) for all but five of their first 40 games.

The Canadiens have been able to check reality -- if not the other team's shooters -- because of goaltender Jaroslav Halak and their power play.

The power play in the last four games (coinciding with Markov's return) is 9-for-15 (60% in a league where 20% is outstanding).

The streak has boosted the Canadiens to the top of the NHL's power-play rankings as of yesterday at 25% (tops on the road with a sick 34.6%). The penalty killing hasn't been bad, either, checking in at seventh in the league.

Halak has gone from asking for a trade last week to putting up a save percentage in the last four games (.968) that's priceless.

"Like everybody says, when you get shots early in the game, it gets you focused," Halak said after practice yesterday at Carleton University.

Given the work lately, Halak should be focused like Tiger Woods at a Hooters Christmas party.

Hear and there

Habs F Brian Gionta, out for the last 21 games with a broken bone in his foot, took part in practice yesterday at Carleton and will be a game-time decision, said Martin. Ditto for D Roman Hamrlik, who has been out for the last five games with a lower-body injury. D Paul Mara is still out with an upper-body injury.

CHRIS.STEVENSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos