NEWARK – Colby Armstrong’s job is to bring energy to the Canadiens lineup. He proved on Saturday there’s more than one way to do that.
For Armstrong, a big game rarely involves showing up on the scoresheet. A prototype for the kind of character player Habs GM Marc Bergevin promised to build his team around when he took the job last May, the gritty winger has spent the first half of the season putting his intangibles on display. It may have taken a little longer than he had hoped, but 28 games into his Canadiens career, Armstrong found the perfect time to score his first goal as a Hab.
“I had quite a few chances early in the season. They went away a little bit then they started coming back again,” Armstrong told RDS after the game. “It felt good to get one and help our team out.”
While Armstrong wouldn’t admit just how much relief he was feeling after finally breaking the goose egg, his coach hasn’t been losing any sleep about his winger’s lack of production to date.
“A guy like Colby Armstrong brings more to the team than people probably realize,” mentioned Michel Therrien, who previously coached Armstrong in the winger’s first three seasons in the league. “Getting his first goal in a Canadiens jersey probably takes a little bit of the pressure off. Colby’s been getting some great scoring chances lately and when you get scoring chances that much you know it’s eventually going to go in. He scored a big one tonight and you could see how happy the guys on the bench were for him.”
Opening the scoring just over eight minutes into Saturday’s game, Armstrong helped the Habs get on the board first for the 21st time in 28 games this year. With a win in Newark, the Canadiens improved to 15-2-2 when scoring first, but the stat the Habs are more interested in might be their impressive 10-2-2 road record this season.
“We have the term ‘Grease it Out’,” explained Canadiens netminder Carey Price of his team’s road ice philosophy. “We just try to keep things simple and we’re a really good cycling team so we keep our feet moving and make it hard on their defensemen.
“It’s nice to see different guys contributing and it was really good to see Army get one,” added Price of Armstrong’s unassisted marker. “It was a heck of a shot. He’s working hard. Everyone’s doing their job correctly and we’re reaping the benefits right now.”
Back on top of the Eastern Conference after briefly ceding the No.1 spot to the Penguins for a few hours, the Canadiens know their biggest asset is being able to count on a different hero every night. Whether it’s Armstrong getting his first as a Hab or Tomas Plekanec scoring his team-leading 12th of the campaign to seal the 2-1 win, the formula for the team’s success hasn’t changed since the year began.
“That’s the basis behind the team concept; we need everyone if we want to win,” confirmed Therrien. “We can’t just count on the big name guys if we want to win games. That’s been our recipe since the start of the season.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - March 16, 2013