Last night's game was all about the future. Yannick Weber must have been sitting in the pressbox for the last week, wondering what the hell he'd have to do to get into the lineup. As it turned out, he just had to wait until another rookie screwed up and think about what he'd do when he got his shot. He obviously spent a long time thinking, because he played an excellent game against the Devils. The brightest moment for him was on a Devils' 2-on-1. Weber played it perfectly; took away the pass until the last moment, then moved at the shooter, forcing him to fumble the play. The kid's biggest knock is that he's weak in his own end, but he didn't look it last night. His assist on Scott Gomez' PP goal made him look even better. Weber has been tearing up the AHL, and now he's serving notice he's ready for a real NHL shot. He deserves that shot, and Martin will have a tough decision to make regarding whether he gets it, or P.K.Subban bumps him back to the press box tomorrow.
Weber's performance wasn't the only glimpse of the future we saw against the Devils. Lars Eller has been getting better and better in every game, and he and Benoit Pouliot are developing the kind of chemistry that's turning them into more of a second line than a third or fourth. These two guys are first-round draft picks, so they've obviously got skills. What they need are ice time, decent linemates and a dose of confidence. Martin's giving them about twelve minutes a night to prove themselves, and they're helping each other finish plays. That helps them build the confidence that drives success. They had a goal apiece last night with no time on the PP. When they start getting rewarded with power play minutes, they'll score even more.
The present and future in the net was his usual stellar self. Carey Price looked very good on some hard shots and managed to stay alert despite a few quiet stretches in his end. Flagging concentration has always been one of his weaknesses, but he's showing some much improved attention to detail and mental strength this year.
Tom Pyatt might not be a future offensive dynamo, but he's a guy every team needs. He's a big reason why the PK is first in the league and he's very smart in his own end. It was great to see him get rewarded with a goal because you just know every one is so precious to him.
Josh Gorges is showing why he needs to be part of the team's future too. At 26, he's become invaluable to the Canadiens defence. One of the best parts of his game is his durability. He plays through pain and maintains his great positioning and smart puck movement despite it. He's in the last year of a very modest contract this year, and Gauthier needs to think about opening negotiations to keep him around long term.
That was a game the Habs needed to win. A loss after the disheartening collapse against Edmonton would have been just the kind of event to trigger a losing streak. The blown points in the last few losses are pretty disappointing, but last night's effort proved the team recognizes it can do better. If they're confident in their ability to bounce back like that, it signals good things for the immediate future. The key to remaining in a good position in this parity-driven league is to be consistent and avoid long slumps. The Canadiens, so far, are managing to do that.
If last night was a glimpse of the Habs future, things are looking good indeed. It's been a long time since we could say that and believe it.