News for Sunday, February 3rd

The Islanders were no match for the mighty Montreal Canadiens yesterday. Wow, when did the Habs turn "mighty", anyway? They're in the midst of their hottest stretch of play since ... since ... I'll google it later, but the point is, they're on fire, much to the delight of long-suffering fans, who must feel as though they've time-warped back to 1993.

Red Fisher dissects the game here
, showing some sympathy for the slumping Isles, who despite their recent troubles remain just one spot out of the playoffs - with a game in hand on their nearest rivals, the Rangers. He also notes that Alex Kovalev surpassed his final point totals last year (he had 47) in just his 52nd game of this season. More impressive, perhaps, is the 32 point swing in his +/- from last year, from -19 then to +13 now. With 30 games to go, this should wind up as one of Kovy's best seasons ever.

For more reaction to the game, here is Pat Hickey's take: chalk this one up to a poor showing by the Isles, superb penalty-killing by the Habs, and - once again - the leadership of Kovalev. Kovy's been getting so much praise this year; I sure hope it doesn't go to his head. *HAHAHA* Just kidding. Actually, Kovalev is the kind of player who thrives on ego-stroking and praise, and he's learning this year that there is no better place for a player who wants appreciation than Montreal ... when you're playing well. He's loving it.

You can get the New York state-of-mind on the game from NY Newsday, which writes admiringly of Montreal deadly and opportunistic power-play, and suddenly improved penalty kill. The New Yorkers, however, hold that this was one the Isles should've had, citing missed scoring chances, including two first period goal-posts. Ted Nolan agrees. Well, I don't! The Habs had the Isles right where they wanted them all night.

And with an Ottawa loss last night - to the Leafs, ouch - Montreal is now three points out of first place. Believe, my brothers and sisters, believe. A win today, and Montreal goes into Tuesday's game with 1st place on the line.

Speaking of today's game, it will be a rather difficult one for the Habs. It's their third game in four days, an exhausting situation, and one in which they've been unsuccessful the last five times they've been in it. Also, the game is against the Rangers, a team that gives the Habs a surprising amount of trouble: they've lost five of their last six against Jagr and company. Not surpisingly, then, the bookies are picking New York.

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