MONTREAL – Special teams are often the difference in a hockey game, but the Habs took that to a whole new level on Saturday night.
Currently humming along at 90.5%, the Canadiens have the best penalty kill in the league. Not content to just shut down every Leafs power play on the night, the Habs also decided to add insult to injury with a shorthanded goal to go with a power play marker of their own.
“I think our penalty killers have done an outstanding job. That goal was the turning point,” lauded Jacques Martin of Jeff Halpern’s 10th career shorthanded marker to open the scoring. “That goal was just really good execution. I think that exemplified how Jeff Halpern has been playing for our team.
“[Toronto] has won their last few games and they’ve scored six power play goals in their last two games. Their power play is on fire and we knew they would be ready for us tonight,” offered the Habs’ head coach. “Perry [Pearn] has done an outstanding job and the players have bought in, they’re working hard and they’re committed. They take pride in their job and they had a big challenge tonight to shut down that power play.”
On a team where deflecting praise seems to be contagious this year, it was no surprise to hear Halpern pass along the credit for the Canadiens penalty-kill prowess against the Leafs.
“We’ve done a good job but we’ve said before, when we’ve broken down, Carey’s been great. It always makes the penalty kill look good when someone like that is covering up for our mistakes,” described the veteran center, who won seven of his nine draws on Saturday night, including the one that led to his eventual game-winner. “I thought our D did a great job of blocking shots and getting in lanes and it makes it easier for forwards to get it going there.”
Leading all Habs forwards with 55:18 shorthanded minutes through the first 20 games of the season, Halpern has been a key factor in helping his new team snuff out an incredible 76 of 84 power play chances against in 2010-11. Not that he’d ever admit it.
“I thought we did a good job pressuring them and not letting them get set up, but our D are doing a great job of getting on pucks on their zone entries,” reasoned Halpern. “And when we have
broken down, a goalie can make stats and numbers look pretty good.”Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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Canadiens 2, Maple Leafs 0 Numbers Game - Nov. 20, 2010 Paying Tribute