Both inked as unrestricted free agent centermen this summer, Dustin Boyd and Jeff Halpern were brought in to bolster the Habs' lineup down the middle. With both Dominic Moore and Glen Metropolit no longer in Montreal, Boyd and Halpern will be expected to pick up the slack and they did so on opening night in Toronto.
In addition to scoring a goal in his debut to pull the Habs to within a goal early in the third, Halpern also came as advertised in the face-off circle. The 34-year-old veteran won 60 percent of his draws against the Leafs to lead all Canadiens centers on the night.
"I was glad to chip in with that goal but we need to be better," admitted Halpern. “It felt like we were swimming out there at times."
As for Boyd, the Winnipeg native scored the Canadiens first goal of the 2010-11 and was second on the team with three shots. He also sprang free on a breakaway in third but was stopped by the Leafs Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
"Dustin and Jeff battled really hard out there tonight," affirmed captain Brian Gionta. "They also both played important roles for us on the penalty kill."
Owner of a PhD in the finer points of the game, head coach Jacques Martin liked what he saw from his newcomers in Toronto.
"They of course really contributed to the team by scoring our two goals, but they were also strong in the faceoff circle. That is an area we were looking improve on by acquiring them," recalled Martin.
While he didn't end up on the scoresheet, Eller showed he was ready to make the leap to the NHL ranks. The key acquisition coming the other way in the Jaroslav Halak trade to St. Louis, Eller doesn’t seemed phased at all and looked comfortable alongside Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn in the place of the suspended Michael Cammalleri.
"Eller also did well for us, I thought,” said Martin. “Even if he didn’t convert the good chances he had, he looked strong out there.”
Even though they had no part in the Canadiens huge upset of the Penguins in the second round of last year’s playoffs, Boyd, Halpern and Eller will be just as unwelcome guests at the Pens’ brand arena, the Consol Energy Center.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.
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The Numbers Game - Oct. 7, 2010