The Canadiens top-ranked penalty kill is in large part thanks to Mike Johnson and Radek Bonk.
MONTREAL -Once on opposite sides of the Battle of Ontario, Mike Johnson and Radek Bonk have now joined forces, which is terrible news for opposing power-plays everywhere.
Bonk, a former Senator, and Johnson an ex-Leaf, have put aside their former rivalry and now find themselves spearheading the Habs' penalty kill. The pair has clearly become head coach Guy Carbonneau's go-to guys with a man down.
"The chemistry between us developed pretty quickly," said Johnson, who spent the first four years of his career with the Leafs in the late 1990s. "Radek has been a very good player since he broke into the league. The key to his game is how he keeps it simple. He reads the play well, makes intelligent decisions and can really handle the puck. It's been great so far."
He isn't kidding. Even though Bonk and Johnson find themselves with the unenviable task of spending four minutes per game on average staring down opposing team's power-plays, the Habs' duo has surrendered only one goal so far this season.
With that kind of success, it should come as no surprise the Canadiens boast the league's top ranked penalty kill at 92.3 per cent.
"Since the beginning of the preseason, and I would even say since I arrived in January, Radek has excelled defensively," explained Carbonneau. "It just seems that whenever those guys are on the ice, something good happens. They are a big reason we've enjoyed such a strong start to the season."
On Tuesday against the Flames, the partners in crime made an immediate impact. The tandem stripped the puck from Dion Phaneuf during a Calgary man advantage, allowing Bonk to break in alone and beat Miikka Kiprusoff for the Czech centerman's first of two goals on the night.
"I think we're improving with every game," said Bonk. "We've managed to create a lot of good scoring chances by cycling the puck down low. Hopefully, we can keep it going."
Upcoming Bell Centre visitors Joe Sakic and Daniel Briere certainly hope not.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com