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Lots to like in Gionta Add to ...

And on the 10th day, they rested.

The shades are drawn and the lights are out in Habs-land today gang, the team is taking a one-day break after a cut-down day that saw 19 bright young things have their hopes crushed - including pint-sized whirling dervish David Desharnais and my man P.K. Subban, in what can only be described as a failure of imagination.

We jest of course, the Habs are now getting down to brass tacks after a five-game flurry of exhibitions, and clearing some brush will give the vets a chance to take the full measure of their new teammates.

Speaking of which, I had a bit of an epiphany watching last night's 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins: what if the key to this team is Brian Gionta?

Conventional wisdom around here has it that the Habs' hopes rest with people like Carey Price (who was excellent last night), Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and the defence. But to paraphrase Jeff "The Dude, Duder, El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing" Lebowski, my thinking about this team has been sooo uptight.

Nope, Gionta, I've decided is the lynchpin.

Yes, he's small, yes, his stats have steadily declined since his marvellous 48-goal season, but he's also exactly what this bunch needed.

Committed, fearless, well-acquainted with the slot and the crease, chases after loose pucks, backchecks, skates like the wind, shoots first, asks questions later.

He has a telepathic understanding with Scott Gomez, which effectively removes any excuses for the formerly underachieving Ranger centre. He also makes Plekanec instantly better by showing him that small men can drive to the net. He demonstrates to the Matt D'Agostinis and Guillaume Latendresses that while they may not have thought they were mailing it in, they were.

Mike Cammalleri might be more inventive, Gomez might be better with the puck, but I reckon Gionta may just be the oil that keeps this engine running smoothly (speaking of which, any skeptics who think the three of them are too small to form an effective line, check out the third period last night - lethal).

Jacques Martin has consistently praised Gionta's attitude and work ethic, he's combative (last night he got up in Geno Malkin's grille after a bit of a sneaky elbow behind the net) and he can obviously still put the puck in the net.

I say what the hell, give him the "C".

Until he starts sucking, at which point the experts and open-mouth shows can start chewing on his bones.

But something tells me that's not going to happen.

 

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