Blue line boost
Craig Rivet was the latest Canadiens defenseman to chip in offensively.
MONTREAL - Their usual mandate may be to keep pucks from reaching either David Aebischer or Cristobal Huet, but the Canadiens' blue line has diversified their portfolio this season by also lighting the lamp at the other end of the ice.
Led by Sheldon Souray, the league's top scoring defenseman who boasts an NHL-best 12 goals on the year, the Canadiens' defense corps has already piled up more goals than any other unit in the NHL.
Once Craig Rivet beat Antero Niittymaki on a first period power-play Thursday night, it marked already the 23rd goal courtesy of the Canadiens' blue line in 2006-07. Rivet's fourth goal of the season also pulled the Canadiens ahead of the Predators and the Maple Leafs for the overall league lead.
"We're definitely making the most of our opportunities when the puck is sent back to the point and letting it fly whenever we can," said Souray. "Our success on the power-play this year hasn't hurt either.
"But that's a bit of a chicken and the egg type deal," added Souray. "Are we scoring because the power-play has been so strong or are we helping it be even better? Whatever it is, it's working."
After combining for 41 goals last season, the Canadiens blue line is now on pace for 55 goals in 2006-07. The last time Montreal defensemen scored over 55 goals in a single season was back in 1992-93, when Eric Desjardins and Mathieu Schneider also helped lead the Habs to the Stanley Cup that same spring.
"I think it all starts with our success defensively," explained Mike Komisarek, who has already set a new career-high with three goals this season. "Shelly and Marky are getting their points on the power-play, but the rest of us are cashing in following nice plays on defense. It's all about taking care of business in our own end and the offense then follows."
Komisarek also credits the added rope the team's defensemen have been afforded by head coach Guy Carbonneau this season.
"We have more freedom that's for sure. And that doesn't worry Carbo one bit-unless of course we get caught."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com