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(NATHAN DENETTE/The Canadian Press)
(NATHAN DENETTE/The Canadian Press)

Reality check in Habsland Add to ...

There is a spring in every step these days in Montreal, the Habs won four straight in their best week since October, hell, even Scott Gomez scored.

But, we are sorry to point out, there is something that's kinda gone unsaid in this time of good vibrations and positive feelings.

All too often over the past few weeks their success has required opposition meltdowns or iffy goaltending. Now, all NHL games are decided by mistakes, and yes, you have to actually bury the opportunities gifted to you, yes, luck favours the prepared mind, etc. - the point we're trying to make is the current stretch is probably not a great barometer for this team and where it's headed.

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The Habs look better of late, if a little trap-happy, but in each of their four most recent victories, like that in Toronto last Saturday where James Reimer gave up a couple of malodorous goals, a softie or a providential bounce turned the game in their favour.

To recap for those who may have missed it: against Winnipeg last week the Habs were dominated early, then Max Pacioretty opened the scoring by whacking at a puck that Ondrej Pavelec had a couple of chances to snare, but which ended up slithering through as he slid out of position at the side of the net. From there, they were off to the races.

A couple of nights later, Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury gave up the tying goal on a speculative shot from Lars Eller that went under his skate, bounced off a post, off his back and in. Credit goes to Eller for faking a dump-in and shooting, but he could play 15 more years and never be able to do that again.

Then, on Long Island, Evgeni Nabokov overcommitted as Pacioretty flew down the wrong wing and gave up a far-side goal on a wrister that on most other nights results in a save. Instead, the Habs score on their first shot and end up building a 3-0 lead, which they still almost managed to fritter away.

Finally, Reimer's five-hole gave the Habs a spark on Saturday night when Erik Cole found it with a shot that is probably saved better than 99 per cent of the time (Ron Wilson clearly shares this opinion).

You have to shoot to score, and every team needs lucky breaks at some point, but it can be argued the Habs mostly can't live without them - there is little to suggest they've sorted out their defensive frailties, settled their problems with scoring balance or suddenly learned to play with the lead.

And yet, the results are the results.

It helps that Randy Cunneyworth has found a happy medium for Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban's ice time, settled on his line combinations for more than 10 minutes at a throw, and that Carey Price has apparently decided to no longer give up softies since allowing a mouldy one to Zach Parise on Feb. 2 that likely turned a game the other way.

That tilt may have been a fair illustration of what the Habs are: a fragile team that for all sorts of reasons (injuries, youth, slumping vets, etc.) hasn't been able to create its own good fortune this year. Twice they held two-goal leads, and ended up losing 5-3 (there was a bad non-call in that one that led to Parise's second, but the point is everyone watching knew the Habs were done by then).

Still, if you root for Montreal, you have to be optimistic that this current warm string will claw the team closer to the playoffs.

This week should be interesting.

On Monday the Canadiens play Carolina on what should be guaranteed win night - the last-place Canes have been here since Friday night, past precedent indicated that teams with time on their hands on a weekend in Montreal tend to get, uh, tired and emotional as part of their social exertions.

Then they host Boston on Wednesday - which may explain the decision to call up tough guy Ian Schultz (yeah, that'll work!) - and then play the resurgent Sabres on the road before hosting Jersey again on Sunday.

It'll be interesting to see if renewed confidence and low stakes will be enough to carry the Habs through, or whether they might need the same outpouring of generosity they got from their opponents last week.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

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