Updated: January 8, 2014, 9:40 PM ET

Just A Thought


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: It's not panic time in Montreal yet, but there's still something amiss with a Canadiens team that, after Wednesdays 3-1 loss to red-hot Philadelphia, has managed to win back-to-back games just once in the past month. Wednesday was more of the same, with the Flyers jumping to a 3-0 lead before the game was halfway over and the Canadiens' offense coming up dry again, producing only a shorthanded goal by Czech Olympic team captain Tomas Plekanec. The Habs have not scored a power-play goal in three straight games and have come up empty with the man advantage in seven of their last nine. The Canadiens have six wins in their last 14 outings and are still closer to first place in the Atlantic Division than fourth, but there was a time when the Habs looked as though they would put pressure on the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the division. Now, their listless play has seen them give way to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who own second place in the Atlantic, and suddenly the cushion Montreal once enjoyed on the rest of the playoff-hungry teams in the Eastern Conference isn't nearly as comfortable as it was a month ago.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: We may look back at Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks as the game in which Henrik Lundqvist got his mojo back, because the New York Rangers don't beat the reigning champs without him or his poise, especially during a Chicago rally in the final minutes. Another good indication for the Rangers was Rick Nash's play. He didn't register a point and you would have liked to see him finish on a couple of prime scoring opportunities, but Nash was a force at times, the kind of guy the Team Canada brain trust anticipated when they named him to their roster on faith rather than actual production. Definitely a game to build on for Nash and the Rangers.

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: People keep waiting for the bubble to burst on the Colorado Avalanche, and perhaps it did to a degree when the the team entered December with a 19-6-0 overall record and then went only 5-5-4 during the month. And certainly no one thought the Avs really belonged with the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues atop the Central Division, but I do like the way they've responded lately and steadied the ship. Wednesday night's 4-3 comeback, overtime win over the visiting Ottawa Senators was Colorado's fourth win in five games. Paul Stastny was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring the tying goal late and setting up the overtime winner. There are still holes to fill on the Avs' blue line, and coach Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic will get to that, but there's enough depth up front and consistency in goal from Semyon Varlamov to hang on to that third playoff spot in the Central.

Katie Strang@KatieStrangESPN: One sign things are really going well for the Philadelphia Flyers? The score sheet from last night. It wasn't the usual suspects leading the way in Wednesday's win over the Canadiens. Instead, the Flyers' supporting cast chipped in to secure Philly's 10th straight win at home, with a key three-point night from defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who registered assists on all three goals to fuel the winning effort. Sean Couturier tallied his first goal in eight games to get the Flyers on the board in the first period, Zac Rinaldo snapped a 53-game goal drought later in the frame, and Michael Raffl notched his third NHL goal to build a 3-0 lead in the second that the Habs just couldn't overcome. That's seven wins in the past eight games for the Flyers, which included a six-game road trip out West, putting them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 23-17-4 record. It does indeed appear these Flyers are for real, folks.

Picture This

Flyers/CanadiensLen Redkoles/Getty ImagesZac Rinaldo and Brandon Prust tangle in the second period.


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