Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hitting the Road

Man, Horatio from CSI: Miami really trips me out. He has this really weird way of talking to kids that I find mad creepy. The man can sure deliver a one-liner though.


The Habs played a crap game and lost. Three shots in the first period. Mistakes and giveaways galore. The goaltending controversy continues to gather momentum, although it's pretty clear that Cristobal Huet will be the guy between the pipes on Thursday.

The Habs have a way of losing games they should win. They have difficulty matching up against boring-ass teams like New Jersey and Florida. The Panthers are not a good team but they simply outwork the Canadiens every time they meet. The Habs would push the puck in deep only to be obstructed by Florida players and kept from catching it. They would not obstruct to the point where a penalty should be called, but they were close.

Tomas Vokoun is good, but the Habs had very few quality looks at him in goal.

Mike Komisarek was on the hook for a giveaway that resulted in the first goal. Carey Price was firmly on the hook for the second with a bonehead clearing attempt up the middle on an ill-advised trip from his crease. In my humble opinion, Price should have had the third goal. It comes down to positioning, which is usually one of Price's strengths.

He's on a serious learning curve and mistakes are bound to happen. The good news is the Habs displayed their ability to remain in games in which they are thoroughly outworked.

Andrei Markov bagged a couple of goals and remains firmly in the lead among Eastern Conference defencemen for the All-Star game. He was on the ice for the first two Florida goals, but was pretty much blameless on both.

Komisarek and Markov might be the best defensive pairing in the East.

The Habs have traditionally struggled on their annual holiday road trip but this year's team is much stronger away from home than years past. It won't be easy, but here's my prediction:

The Habs pick up 8 out of a possible 12 points, keeping in the middle of the pack in the playoff race. Sergei Kostitsyn scores his first NHL goal. Tomas Plekanec continues to elevate his game. Snow continues to fall in Montreal and snow removal continues to move at a snail's pace.

The outdoor rink in my neighbourhood finally opens after the city takes its sweet fucking time getting it done. The Sens continue to be the streakiest team in the league and Detroit continues its dominance.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Snow Day Developments & Slacking

Montreal was so snowed in from the powder festival that happened over the weekend that kids knew school was cancelled early last night. I can't remember that ever happening to me, except during the ice storm. That was fantastic, we barely lost power at all. I great time with family and friends.

Anyway, I've been a big slacker when it comes to updating my blog. Thanks to some gentle prodding, here I am again. Even though it's my birthday today, I am hard at work.

Went down to the Bell Centre to see the Habs and the coach. Andrei Markov was downright standoffish when I asked him about his recent success compared to the period he went through in which his plus/minus stats plummeted and the Habs couldn't buy a home win. The team's success is intrinsically tied to the Russian blueliners' success. He may be the best passing defenceman in the NHL right now. Shades of Sergei Zubov.

In other news, Carbonneau announced today that Carey Price gets the nod again tomorrow night, his seventh consecutive start. Cristobal Huet is game-ready, but there's no way Carbo's taking out the kid while he rides the streak he's currently on. Huet may have the better goaltending stats, but Price has more wins, the most important stat for goaltenders.

The kids, the kids.

The Canadiens had 10 players in uniform on Saturday night currently aged 25 or younger. Andrei Kostitsyn is 22. Sergei Kostitsyn is 20. Carey Price is 20. The future seems to be hurtling towards the team at a furious rate right now, with callups like Ryan O'Byrne and Maxim Lapierre making solid contributions right after getting the call. The other guys on the list are Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, Guillaume Latendresse and of course Kyle Chipchura. Good to see these guys get plenty of ice time and for the most part, make the most of it.

The Lapierre line shut down the Sundin unit on Saturday night. That's what allowed Saku Koivu's line to play a more offensive role and that they did, as Higgins, Koivu and the Kid had some spectacular shifts and were dominant at times. Nice to see the Captain get the monkey off his back, the Habs are a hell of team when he's rolling on all cylinders and creating space.

No one seems to have called for him to be traded anytime recently, so that must be nice.

Tomorrow night's game is the last one at the Bell Centre in 2007. The Habs will hit the road with stops in Atlanta, Tampa, Washington, Miami, Dallas and New York, coming back for January 3rd. If their road success continues, it could be a very merry Christmas in Montreal.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Looking Forward

Big game tonight.

The Habs need to win one at home. They get nervous in front of the Bell Centre faithful, almost tentative. They don't want to make mistakes or fall behind. They play a much more simple game on the road. They use their speed and skill to make teams pay. At home, they aren't as fast and seem to get into a defensive shell that eventually leads to penalties and losses.

The Habs didn't take a penalty against Philly until 15:09 of the second period, which was a huge reason for their success. They have a lot of trouble killing penalties.

The PK is ranked 27th in the league and the the power play is the the best in the NHL. Obviously, they need to stay out of the box. Saku Koivu needs to stop taking stupid penalties. Andrei Markov needs to keep making those crisp tape-to-tape passes.

Mark Streit was on fire the other night and Yvon Pednault actually said "Mark Streit est en feu.", which my friends and I found to be quite amusing.

There's going to be so many Leafs fans at the Bell Centre tonight that it might not even feel much like a home game, which could work to the Canadiens advantage given their dismal home play this season.

It's Sergei Kostitsyn's first home game, and Carbo says he's going to start the game on the top line with Chris Higgins and Saku Koivu. I liked what I saw from the kid the other day, as his confidence seemed to increase with every shift. He's got NHL talent and fantastic vision.

This game tonight is huge. The Canadiens need to turn the page at home and get two points. Count on a cardiac arrest-inducing game, as these Habs-Leafs tilts so often are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Descension to Panic Mode

So I haven't posted in a few days. This is a product of my inability to talk coherently about the Habs when they're failing miserably. The Canadiens were lucky to take a point from a tired Tampa Bay Lghtning team tonight but at the same time, Tomas Plekanec's brilliant late goal gave Hab Nation another painfully short whiff of what could be with this team.

The fact is, there isn't a dominant player on this team.

Look at the roster, up and down and see it. There are guys who may have been projected, at one time or another, to be brilliant but the fact is that they're not there. There aren't any Alexander Ovechkins on this team but there are encouraging signs.

Not enough to make this team a bona fide contender right now.

I'm a Tomas Plekanec guy. I have been since the Habs played the Carolina Hurricanes and had them on the ropes a few years back before Saku Koivu caught Justin Williams stick to the eye and turned the series around. Plekanec was, in my view, the best Canadiens forward in that series. He won faceoffs, battles and got points. He's capable of doing amazing things given the opportunity.

For me, the problem is that the opportunities aren't there.

Take Tampa as an example. It's plain to see that coach Tortorella leans heavily on Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards to get it done for him. Those guys get about 40-45% of the ice time for their team and the formula has yielded mixed results. One of those results was a Stanley Cup.

Alex Kovalev plays about five minutes less per game than he did during his best years. Same goes for his linemates, and you could say the same for Koivu and Higgins.

For me, Koivu, Higgins, Kovalev and Plekanec and to a lesser extent Andrei Kostitsyn are catalysts for the forwards and their success on this team. I'd like to see the coach lean on them for a lot more minutes than he does.

If the Habs get scored on and relinquish a lead or fall behind, I don't want to see Tom Kostopoulos or Mathieu Dandenault on the ice. I like those guys, but they're around to get 6-11 minutes of ice per game, shut down the opposition and kill penalties, not to create offense.

People talk about the political climate, taxes and the media as factors that weigh in on why top players don't want to come to Montreal.

That may be somewhat true, but guys also don't want to come here because they're going to get 14-17 minutes of ice time and be expected to produce in a big way. The system is good in theory, but let's be honest, you have to lean on your best players to get results. Scoring isn't going to spread out between everyone evenly. The Habs should be getting most of their offense from five or six guys.

Look at the Red Wings. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are out there killing penalties and doing everything else. You have to lean on your top guys.

The fact that Andrei Markov has stopped producing has me mystified. He now has two points in his last eleven games. He had 17 points in the 19 games before.

This, to me, is an obvious reason why the Canadiens are stinking up the joint.

They were awful tonight and need to either make changes right now or give up on the season and hope for a high pick in next year's draft, which is alleged to be one of the deepest in years.

Let's hope the Habs don't take another David Fischer this time around.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Back on Track?

Not yet. The Canadiens always beat the Bruins. That was their fourth time beating them already this year, and seventh in a row going back to last season.

Chris Higgins is producing, that was his third straight game with a goal.

Carey Price did what he needed to do to pick up the win with 24 saves.

The Habs are better on the road then they are at home. Maybe it's the forced camaraderie, or the lack of insane fans recognizing you everywhere you go. It could be that the pressure feels a lot less intense when they're not under the bright lights of the Centre Bell.

I like they way they looked without Michael Ryder and Patrice Brisebois in the lineup. It's a lot more fun to see a guy in that position who's hungry for a spot and playing hard every shift. Granted, it's hard to accurately gauge the Habs against a Bruins team playing its third game in four nights.

Ryan O'Byrne had two assists and a very solid defensive game. He's on pace for about 110 points if he plays the rest of this year's games. Not gonna happen. However, the signs are encouraging. The key thing will be finding consistency and not letting the pressure get to him.
Easier said than done. He seems like a good kid, and there's always room for an Irishman on my blueline.

I wonder when Jaroslav Halak gets his first start of the year. Habs are home to Carolina and Tampa Bay in their next two games, both are high-powered offenses. Halak was lights-out at home last year, not sure of the exact numbers, but he was either 7-0 or 7-1.

If the Habs can pick up three points in the next two games I will agree that they're back on track. For now, let's just hope they can get it going at home and Guy Carbonneau doesn't call any of his star players out for a little while.

The coach has a mean streak that sometimes manifests itself in tirades against his players and the media. The problem is that it may not always have the desired effect. When the fans are booing you at home, I think you'd rather feel like your coach is on your side than calling you out in public. Carbo called out Andrei Markov and said he wasn't injured. He called out Saku Koivu's leadership and he called out the goaltending. If the Habs beat Carolina tomorrow night, I will have to say that it worked. Sometimes a coaches tirade can help a team, and it's not like Carbo's a jerk. He loves the guys, but like the fans, gets very frustrated when they play far worse hockey then they're capable of.


Mark Recchi's gonna be on re-entry waivers in the next few days, meaning the Penguins pay half of his salary if anyone picks him up. If you're Bob Gainey, do you pick him up, presumably to fill the void left by Ryder's demise?

I wouldn't, but Pierre McGuire says it would be a good fit.

With Scott Niedermayer coming back to Anaheim, will Teemu Selanne be far behind? Speaking of Anaheim, what's going to happen with their salary cap situation? My understanding is that they need to free up some space, and if Selanne comes back it could get even more complicated. Mathieu Schneider could be the odd man out.

Could the Habs bring back one of the key components of their 1993 Stanley Cup run?

Probably not, but stay tuned....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A New, New Low

On the way to work today, an older guy stopped and told me it took a lot of balls to be wearing the Canadiens tuque I had on my head. I guess you can start calling me BBC (Big Balls Conor).

So the Habs lost to the Red Wings. They're the best team in the NHL (The Wings, not the Habs). If you expected them to win that game, then you're far too optimistic. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom do it all. Best line in the NHL. Niklas Lidstrom doesn't get beat. Get over it, Habs are in Beantown demain soir to take on the Bruins, who should be just what the doctor ordered for their struggles.

The Canadiens have called up Ryan O'Byrne and Maxim Lapierre to try and counteract the freefall they're currently experiencing. They've now lost 8 of their last 12 games. Hab Nation is in panic mode. The team is mentally weak right now, and is being pushed around all over the ice. Cristobal Huet is out for a while, Carey Price has looked weak on many recent goals. Jaroslav Halak is waiting in the wings but it's fairly clear that he's not the answer.

Should be good for O'Byrne to play with Roman Hamrlik, the same guy who took Dion Phaneuf under his wing during his time in Calgary.

Guy Carbonneau is pissed. He called out his goaltender last night after he called out Andrei Markov, who despite leading the league in All-Star votes for defencemen, has been in a freefall. You could draw a direct line between the Canadiens success and Andrei Markov's production. He's now a -10 for the year, looking more and more like Sheldon Souray, only without the point production and willingness to fight.

Saku Koivu has been almost inconsolable after the last two games. I'll get the microphone in his face, and he starts talking, but he's so quiet I can't even hear what he's saying until I listen to it afterwards. He is not impressed to be playing with Bryan Smolinski, who has no business on the first line, especially given his dismal play so far this year.

Michael Ryder is playing scared hockey and the fans are letting him know how they feel. He was booed often last night and wasn't available for comment after the game or after practice today. He needs a two-goal game to get going again as he's currently as low as I've ever seen him.

There is speculation that Saku Koivu could be on the move if things don't improve soon. Given his recent demanour, it wouldn't really surprise me. It must wear a little thin to keep losing and dealing with the media the way he has for the last 10 years or so. I'd love to see Saku Koivu hoist a Stanley Cup, but I'd much rather see it with a CH on his chest.

Time will tell, and things can only improve.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A New Low

Coach Carbonneau told his team that this was the low point of the season following the demoralizing loss. Chris Higgins agreed. Cristobal Huet couldn't hang on in a game that was all but over with the Habs blowing 3-0 and 4-1 leads. The bounces were going their way for most of the game, but the Habs were severely outchanced by a team that outplayed them the entire game.

On the plus side, all four Canadiens goals were scored at even strength. Roman Hamrlik played a hell of a game. Guillaume Latendresse was great. Kyle Chipchura continues to improve with each game and reward his coaches growing faith in him. Alex Kovalev continues to look like a superstar.

On the downside, Saku Koivu looked very tired. Patrice Brisebois lack of speed and penchant for mistakes is becoming more blatant. Michael Ryder is playing with no confidence and is starting to get booed at home. Cristobal Huet did let the game slip away after looking like he might get a shutout for a while. Bryan Smolinski played poorly and took an incredibly stupid penalty late in a one-goal game.

The Habs didn't deserve to win, but sure looked like they would.

A lot of fans left after the Habs fourth goal. It will never cease to amaze me how people leave a game that clearly isn't over to beat traffic or get to the bar a bit earlier. Morons.

Radek Bonk of all people scored the tying goal and did it again in the shootout. I wasn't the least bit surprised when the Preds tied it up, and even less surprised that the Habs couldn't get the winner in OT. They're tired and let one slip away.

Now the best team in the NHL in town on Tuesday. No one said it would be easy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Gamenight in Newark

Habs in Newark tonight. Haven't won in New Jersey since 2002.

Brodeur's career record against the Canadiens: 33-12-5, 1.74 GAA.


But the kid goes for the Habs tonight, Carey Price making back-to-back starts for the second time this year.

It will be the 14th and last game of a crazy month for the Habs. November saw them go 7-6-0. It was a tough month full of divisional games and back to back situations. After this weekend, it's onto a more normal style schedule for the Habs with more Tuesday and Thursday night games.

Game Notes: Devils are 8-4-1 in November. Patrik Elias has 29 points in 36 career games against the Habs. Marty Brodeur has seven career shutouts against Montreal. Alex Kovalev has 44 points in 60 career games against the Devils. Bryan Smolinski has 30 points, including 16 goals, in 41 career games against New Jersey. Cristobal Huet is 0-6-0 in his career against the Devils.


What a game between the Sens and Predators last night. Looked like Daniel Alfredsson had sent it to OT with a beaut, then Martin Erat comes right back and scores with 22 seconds to go. That's 5 losses in a row for the Senators. The Habs could be right on their ass if they pick up a couple of wins this weekend. Nashville comes to the Bell Centre tomorrow night. Huet gets the start.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Habs Win A Close One

The hungry Toronto Maple Leafs did everything they could to keep that shit-eating grin on Mats Sundin's face, but they lost. Unfortunately, the grin remained after the loss, apparently the result of Sundin wearing a mouth guard, rather than him actually eating shit, which would've been AWESOME.

Seriously though, the Habs won in a shootout. The Leafs are arguably the worst shootout team in the NHL and they showed it tonight. Even with Paul Maurice keeping the Zamboni on the ice for an unprecendentedly(is that a word?) long amount of time, the Leafs couldn't shut the door.

Carey Price is good. Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft are a couple of backups who are never going to be 45 game winners in the NHL.


The Canadiens deserved to lose. But they won. That's what happens when you have a premier goaltender between the pipes. Expect Carey Price to continue to improve, his performance tonight would be easy to overlook due to how easy he made it look. He's unflappable.

The kid hasn't dominated anyone for a shutout yet, but he's gotten his team wins and looked stellar in the process. Stellar. There's a word used to describe excellence in goaltending. A word that's been used far too seldom around here in the last few years.

It's Tuesday, why are there only three games tonight?

The NHL schedule is downright strange. Once again, the Habs will play a Friday-Saturday back-to-backer(sorry about all the hyphons) and this week, they'll get three days off in between. Why not have them play a classic Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday week?

Hopefully the NHL does something about the wacky schedules this offseason. It's getting out of hand. The Habs are coming off a period in which they played six games in nine days. That's too much for any team.

I'm watching the Ducks-Canucks game right now and I can't believe how the Ducks play the game. They are the most physical team out there, with absolutely no control over their emotions. This is the same style that brought them so much success last year, but not having Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer is going to hurt them until they both pull a Roger Clemens and put the Ducks back into the forefront of the race for the Stanley Cup once again.

Only without the steroids.

I'm at practice tomorrow to relay any tidbits and tallywackers I hear from what I hope will be an upbeat and happy group.

Gamenight & State of the Nation

The Canadiens are in Hogtown for a big one tonight. Michael Ryder is off the first line. Guillaume Latendresse takes his place. Carey Price in goal. The Leafs desperately need a win.

With all the hoopla about Guy Lafleur saying the Habs looked like a bunch of fourth-liners on Saturday night, it's easy to forget that maybe they did. That was a brutal showing by the home team. After coming out of the gates strong, they faltered big-time and barely showed up for most of the night.

Saku Koivu replied to #10's barb by saying "I don't think a team of fourth liners would have the best power-play in the NHL."


However, if the Canadiens continue to perform the way they did during Saturday night's game, they can kiss the #1 PP tag goodbye very soon.

Teams are letting the Habs do whatever they want on the perimeter and checking them tightly down low during man-advantage situations. The Habs need to find a way to respond to this and soon. What happened to the one-timer?

If anything can make Canadiens fans feel a bit better about what's been going on with the team in the last few days, it's the State of the Crown Jewel of MLSE, the Smurfs they call a hockey team at the ACC.

Mats Sundin is basically a one-man show this year and life for Paul Maurice, who should never have taken the job in the first place, and John Ferguson Jr, is not getting any easier. The Leafs solutions to their problems have long been veteran free-agents and trading for veteran talent. There are very few homegrown prospects succeeding in the organization. The future looks grim. JFJ will be the first to go, unless he offers up Maurice as a sacrificial lamb. It's not Maurice's fault he's been given shoddy personnel to work with during his tenure in Toronto.

It's a must-win game for both teams, much more so for the Leafs, here's hoping the Habs blow them out of the water and things start to change in the front office of one of the sorriest franchises in the NHL.


Andrei Markov needs to get rolling offensively!! The Habs early success coincided with him averaging basically a point per game. During their recent slide he has been virtually invisible offensively.

A quick NFL note: Safety Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound after a home invasion. How do NFL players always seem to get caught up in this stuff? I will remember Taylor as one of the hardest hitting players I've ever seen, a guy who made receivers think twice before catching a deep ball or a ball across the middle. It's a sad sad story, and one we've heard far too often.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thoughts and Musings

The Canadiens are currently in a freefall.

It's not panic time yet, but the team needs to get back to the things that brought them success early in the season.

Losing three games in eight days against a divisional rival is tough to swallow. Buffalo is back into the thick of the Eastern conference race thanks to their four-game winning streak, three of which came against the Habs.

This is a Sabres team that is a skeleton of the one that dominated the NHL last year on the way to the President's Trophy. Daniel Briere and Chris Drury are gone. Teppo Numminen is still out with his heart problem. Thankfully, we won't see them again for quite some time and the Canadiens should be happy about it.

The Habs still have a respectable record (12-8-1-2).

Their record against the Sabres is now 2-3.

Against the Sens, they're 0-3.

So six of their eight regulation losses have come against two teams.

Fast, skilled teams. Teams the Canadiens are supposed to match up well against. This simply hasn't been the case. In fact, the Habs were thoroughly outclassed in both recent games against the Sabres. They can bitch all they want about the call against Mike Komisarek on Friday night, but the fact is that Saku Koivu interfered with Ryan Miller on an earlier goal, this is the way these things go. If you're playing the game in such a way that a single penalty call turns the game against you, you're doing something wrong.

It's extremely disheartening to see early chances with no goals to show for them. That's exactly what happened at the Bell Centre tonight. The Habs, like their fans, get down on themselves when they can't get an early lead.

Good teams overcome these things and find ways to put the puck in the net. Brian Campbell's Sabres are starting to look like one of those teams. The score would have been much more lopsided had it not been for Cristobal Huet's heroics.

Campbell logged 27:49 of ice time, was a +2 on the night, and got an assist and blocked seven Canadiens shots. He quarterbacks his teams offense while paying the price in his own zone.

Alex Kovalev had five hits and two shots on goal. This is a problem. You don't want your best offensive player getting more hits than chances.

We could discuss stats ad nauseum, but the key thig is, the Habs are too reliant on their special teams. There's bound to be ups and downs in any given season, but the key thing is to adapt and continue to find ways to score goals and win games.

When a game ends, wipe it from your mind and move on.

On to Toronto for a HUGE game on Tuesday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gamenight in Buffalo

Habs in Buffalo tonight, exactly one week after getting tossed around in a 4-1 loss in the same building. The Sabres seem to be finding their stride after a slow start to their season. Ryan Miller is starting to look like the dominant goaltender that emerged last year. In his last seven games, Miller has posted a GAA of 1.86, and has gone 3-4-0.

The Canadiens possess the best road record in the Eastern Conference (7-3-1).

The Sabres are at 8-10-1, having played only 19 games, the Habs have played 21. They're (6-4-0) at home.

This home-and-home date represents the 4th and 5th meetings between the two teams already this year. The home team has won the first three, with the Habs getting two wins at the Bell Centre.

Derek Roy has 9 points in 8 games in his career against the Canadiens.

Trade rumours are stupid. They never seem to actually come true. Patrick Marleau? Shawn Horcoff? Why would anyone want to move those guys? Who could the Habs give up to get guys like them? They need a winger, not a centre.

Well, they could use Lecavalier or Thornton, but I don't think those guys are available.

Interesting to see that the Leafs had a chance to pick up Lecavalier back in 2001 when he fell out with coach John Tortorella. In typical Leafs fashion, they opted out of the deal, undoubtedly going for a more "right now" solution.

If Carey Price gets the win tonight, he'll be 6-1-1. Hard to argue with that kind of success.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gamenight in Uniondale

The Islanders, one of the the snooze-inducing teams in the New York area, are playing very boring but effective hockey. Rick DiPietro has been a force in goal and he continues to be one of the best puck-handlers at his position. He's 4-5 with a 2.34 GAA in his career against the Canadiens.

Josef Vasicek is leading them with 8 goals, Mike Comrie is tops with 17 points. Ted Nolan is a hell of a coach, and has been getting a good effort from his team all year long. He knows how to maximize his players potential.

The Habs have had difficulty picking up wins at Nassau Coliseum since 1998. In 17 games since Jan. 8 of that year, they're 4-12 with one tie.

Cristobal Huet looks to bounce back tonight after losing three games in a row. He's been jittery at times and has not received the support he needs from his teammates in the defensive zone over that span.

Count me among those who would rather see Carey Price in net. The Canadiens just seem to absorb the poise and confidence he plays with. When he's out there, the entire team seems more relaxed.

Price is 5-1-1. (5-2)

Huet is 6-5-2. (6-7)

It's starting to become more and more clear that it's not a question of if Price steals the starting job, but rather when. The numbers that really matter are wins and losses. Price's stats are skewed by having given up meaningless goals when games were already out of reach. He has also given up some soft goals. This happens to the best goaltenders, but some of the goals do leave you scratching your head.

It seems pretty clear that Price gives the Habs a better chance to win, and he's a workhorse, having proved that point by playing in over 82 games at various levels over the course of last season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Big Night

The Canadiens came out strong, played well and lost. This is the third game in a row now where they haven't gotten strong goaltending. It wasn't necessarily bad goaltending, but not good enough either. It seems the Habs need spectacular goaltending to win games.

The team defense, or lack thereof, was something that was mentioned ad nauseam by players and coaches after the game. For the second game in a row, the Habs played a run and gun, back and forth game. The difference is, as Chris Higgins pointed out, the Senators are just too skilled and strong to play that game against. They need to tighten it up.

Every game is huge for this team, with two more big road games coming up in Long Island and then on to Buffalo. They need four points.


Larry Robinson was one of the best to ever patrol the Habs blue line. Number 19 was eloquent and humble in his speech to the fans at the Bell Centre and at home.

Lou Lamoriello, who was briefly booed in his introduction, (because he fired Claude Julien?) spoke well and introduced his good friend to the fans, who were their typical noisy and jubilant selves during the pre-game ceremony.

When he was asked about what was his greatest memory of his 20 season career he replied, "That would be like eating a can of beans and trying to pick out which one gave you gas."

It was a moving ceremony, one I was lucky enough to enjoy with several members of the media all of whom were impressed by the events. The Canadiens know how to honour the franchise's greats.

The Senators are a classy bunch as well, and Robinson mentioned how honoured he was that their entire team was on the bench and ice for the entire ceremony. They remind me of the Red Wings team a few years back, a year after they were ousted from the playoffs early after setting a record for points in a season and winning the Presidents Trophy. They played like a team afire and went on to win the Cup that year.

The good news is, the Canadiens once again proved they can make a game of it against the Sens.

The bad news is, they've picked up exactly 0 points in 3 games against their divisional rivals so far this year.

Five more to go.

Gamenight: Ottawa & #19 Finally Retired

Tonight was one of those games i circled on my Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar at the start of season. Actually I'm lying, it's a Hello Kitty calendar i stole from my little sister, but the fact is, this date was circled.

The best team in the NHL right now is in town. The Sens own a 15-3-0 record. Daniel Alfredsson is scary good. 15 goals, 25 points. Dany Heatley has the most assists on the team, with 13. They're coming off a 3-0 loss against mighty Toronto, so you know they're going to be hungry. This is their first visit to the Bell Centre this year, the Habs lost both meetings in Ottawa so far this season, but both games were close.

Cristobal Huet is in goal after the Habs got back-to-back weak performances for the first time this year on Friday and Saturday, with both their goaltenders having difficulty.

Larry Robinson, who patrolled the Habs' blue line for 17 of his 20 NHL seasons, is finally being honoured by his team for his unbelievable contribution to the teams of the 70s. Robinson won 6 Stanley Cups. One Conn Smythe Trophy. Two Norris trophies. 958 points.

I never had the pleasure of seeing him play live. I've seen the highlights of big, dominant d-man who left it all on the ice every night out there. Here's a link of "Big Bird" absolutely levelling Gary Dornhoffer. Wow.

This guy scored, hit and won.

This is one of those jersey retirements that fans and media have been calling for since his retirement. One of the best defenseman of all time. I get to talk to him at the first intermission!!

Here's the Legends of Hockey piece on Robinson.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gameday Musings

The Canadiens host the Bruins at the Bell Centre tonight. They've had a lot of success in this situation for the last few years.

Last night was painful to watch. The Habs defense, which has been garnering praise all year, looked sluggish and the forwards were no better. The alleged top line continued to struggle on both ends of the ice. Whether it was Michael Ryder, Tom Kostopoulos or whomever else Carbo stuck with Koivu and Higgins, they struggled mightily.

Cristobal Huet wasn't superhuman, allowing three goals on twelve shots in the first period. The Habs are a team that has a lot of difficulty when their goaltending isn't superb. The bottom line is, looking tired and sluggish isn't an option for this team. They looked tired this morning as well. It's not encouraging to see at this point of the season. There's still a lot of hockey to be played.

Carey Price is in the net tonight, looking for his fifth win. This isn't exactly a must-win game, but the Habs need a strong performance after last night's debacle. Ryan Miller made it look incredibly easy as his teammates were buzzing all over the ice and resembling the strong Sabres team of last year.

Dropkick Murphys at Metropolis tonight, should be a good time.


Did you see Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund take out Minnesota's Mikko Koivu with a two-handed slash to the ankle? Wow. It's amazing what these guys continue to do to each other.

No respect.

Or maybe it's more of a Finland-Sweden rivalry, something like the East coast vs West coast thing that engulfed the hip hop community in the 90s.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tidbits & Tallywackers

James Duthie proves to everyone that he's kinda funny, in an inoffensive and nice kind of way in this blog entry about etiquette for NHL trash-talking. Sean Avery can play for my team anytime by the way. This entire incident was a bunch of BS and had it occurred against any other any NHL team, we would have never heard about it. Can you imagine if this had happened between Ray Lewis and Joey Porter on an NFL field? School yard tattle-tailing is what it was.

Read Duthie

Courtesy of, here's a fluffy piece on what's going on in Hamilton with the Bulldogs. It's hard to get a feel for the team reading these propaganda-ish pieces but it's nice to hear some news about Maxim Lapierre, Jaroslav Halak, Sergei Kostitsyn and co. How long will Halak stay in North America? If the Anaheim Ducks can put Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers after dangling him as trade bait for two months, then it's pretty clear that NHL goaltenders currently have little or no value.

Read fluff piece

Former no. 22 and member of the 1993 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens Benoit Brunet is a member of the RDS team and he has this piece on Michael Ryder and Carbonneau's decision to drop him to the third line, at least for now. He also talks about how awesome Carey Price is.

Benoit Brunet speaks

Speaking of Carey Price, he joined Andie Bennett for the Totally Broad quiz last night on her show, which is coincidentally titled Totally Broad and airs Thursday nights at 11 on the Team 990. Here is a transcript of the awesome exchange.

Andie Bennett: What was your favourite movie as a child?

Carey Price: 8 Seconds

AB: Favourite sport to play besides hockey?

CP: Probably golf.

AB: What do you normally eat before a game?

CP: Penne and chicken

AB: What's your biggest irrational fear?

CP: Losing.

AB: That's rational, I was thinking more along the lines of snakes, spiders......

CP: Oh. Bulls?

AB: Favourite dessert?

CP: Vanilla ice cream

AB: How far would you go on Survivor?

CP: I think I could probably survive pretty long, I dunno, I get along pretty well with everybody

AB: What's your TV guilty pleasure?

CP: The Simpsons

AB: What's a non-hockey skill people would be surprised that you have?

CP: I don't really have any skills. I can ride and rope. That's about it.

AB: Embarrassing habit?

CP: Picking my teeth after dinner.

AB: What do you prefer, a woman in jeans and a t-shirt, or heels and a mini-skirt?

CP: Jeans and a t-shirt.

AB: Favourite city to party in after a win?

CP: Williams Lake

AB: Sports icon you'd like to meet?

CP: I think I'd like to meet... Tom Brady.

AB: Famous person you'd most like to meet?

CP: George Strait

AB: Favourite song to sing in the shower?

CP: I don't really sing in the shower, but if I did, it'd probably be Heartland by George Strait.

How awesome is this kid? He seems impervious to pressure and oblivious to being cool.

I love it.


your gameday preview is courtesy of today!!! enjoy!!! Habs-Sabres preview

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Off Day Musings

So the Habs are getting ready for a couple of huge back-to-back division games this weekend. It will be interesting to see how much juggling of the lines goes on. Cristobal Huet starts on Friday in Buffalo and Carey Price goes on Saturday night against the Bruins.

Everyone's talking about Carey Price as he continues to emerge as a dominant goaltender with nerves of steel and ice running through his veins. Habs goaltending coach Rollie Melanson, who has seen a few dominant goaltenders over the years, compared Carey Price at his current pace to Patrick Roy and others. Pierre McGuire joined Melnick in the afternoon today and told us he thinks Price is further along in his development at this point in his career than Martin Brodeur was.


That's some pretty high praise, and well deserved. Let's just hope the kid doesn't listen to all the hype and get a big head. That definitely seems unlikely.

The Canadiens are rolling and it's fun to hear the national media heap praise upon them. The Globe & Mail has been lambasting the Leafs for everything that's been going on with them on and off the ice.

What are the odds that John Ferguson Jr leaked the Jiri Tlusty naked photo story to put a temporary hold on fans and media calling for his firing? It's funny how these ridiculous stories get more attention when your team is slipping down the standings and playing terrible hockey.


In other news, Sheldon Souray has been confirmed as out indefinitely by the Edmonton Oilers with no return date in sight. His shoulder injury appears to be much worse than originally thought.

CBC sports has a piece about Cristobal Huet and his quest for an injury-free year.

check it out HERE

Game Preview tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Practice & Fallout

So Tom Kostopoulos pointed out that he has played on a number one line in the NHL today following practice at Denis Savard Arena. It was under the quickly-fired Eddie Olczyk in Pittsburgh.

Kostopoulos was on the first line with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins at practice, replacing the beleaguered Michael Ryder. He clearly doesn't have the hands to be a first-line NHLer but it's also clear that Guy Carbonneau is aching to try something else, and Ryder is out of slack. The other options currently available to Carbo are limited: Guy Latendresse, who is still playing through some pain from his back injury, Mathieu Dandenault, whose offensive upside is limited, and Mikhail Grabovski, whose physical presence leaves much to be desired.

All of this smacks of putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. The Habs' second line has carried them offensively through the last four games, but the Koivu line needs to step it up. Is the answer in Hamilton?

Sergei Kostitsyn has been Hamilton's top forward so far this year, and both of his linemates from the London Knights last year are making waves at the NHL level. Is he ready? Bob Gainey doesn't like to rush his players and his patient approach paid huge dividends with Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. Rushing guys can be disastrous (see: Latendresse, Guy).

So it looks like we'll see Kostopoulos on the top line Friday night in Buffalo. Ryder will see less ice, which won't make breaking his slump any easier. He seems to be overanalyzing everything and trying to make the perfect play instead of his usual shooting and crashing the net style.

Bob Gainey is certainly looking better and better for not offering him a long term deal in either of the last two offseasons. Ryder is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, which is usually a situation that will light a fire under a guy's ass. Not so far.

The important thing is, the Habs continue to win games and are getting unbelievable defense and goaltending. Carbo and Gainey are looking smarter and smarter with each passing day. Don't expect to sustain this level of success all year, injuries and other factors will obviously come into play eventually.

But enjoy the good times, as Mike Komisarek and the boys are.


I don't think anyone, myself included, hates the Leafs as much as Alex Kovalev. Did you see him react to Komi's OT winner? He jumped like his name was LeBron James.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Habs Beat the Leafs!!

So the game's over. Maniacal Habs fans are calling for Carey Price to be installed as the team's starting goaltender.

MIKE KOMISAREK scored on a BREAKAWAY to win it.


4-3 was the final score. The Canadiens played an awful 2nd period but managed to tie it up every time the Leafs pulled ahead. Alex Kovalev has nine goals so far. Tomas Plekanec is looking like Jere Lehtinen on the forecheck.

Carey Price. He is the real deal. It's no fluke that he's where he's at. Having a presence like him behind the Habs makes all the difference in the world. Confidence with a capital C. If you turn the puck over, chances are Price will make the stop. He was blameless on all the Leafs goals.

Anderi Markov took four minor penalties but scored a huge goal and continues to look like one of the best defensemen in the world.

Raise your hand if you'd rather see Sergei Kostitsyn (or Joel Bouchard?) (who's a defenseman)on the first line instead of Michael Ryder.

Hell, get Kirk Muller out there.

Ryder's struggles continue. His inability to finish is exceeded only by his inability to create chances for his linemates. Something needs to change.

Tomorrow's a new day, I'm going to practice, and I will certainly ask all the tough questions, and all three of my blog readers (you know who you are!) will be rewarded by the extension of my wisdom.


I'm siding with Sean Avery on this whole Jason Blake fiasco. I wish we had him on the Habs.

Gamenight: Toronto Maple Leafs

The Canadiens take their sputtering offense down the 401 to take on the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tonight. Carey Price will be in goal for the Habs, getting his first chance against the Leafs in his young career.

The Canadiens have had trouble scoring goals lately, getting only 7 goals in their last four games. They're hoping the Leafs defense, which has given up an NHL-worst 65 goals so far this year, will be the cure to their problems.

This is the third meeting between the archrivals so far this year, with Toronto winning each of the first two by a one goal margin. Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala picked up wins in both of those games and Cristobal Huet was on the hook for both losses against the Leafs.

The Toronto Sun is reporting that the Leafs will be wearing their white road jerseys tonight instead of their blue home sweaters. This is apparently due to the fact that the Leafs are 3-4-3 wearing the blue shirts and 3-3-1 in the white.

The Leafs have bested the Canadiens with a record of 10-4-4 against them since the NHL lockout.

It's exciting that the kid is getting a chance to play against the Leafs. Huet is having a great year (again) but seems to have a mental issue against the Leafs. Hopefully Price will once again be cooler than Miles Davis between the pipes and the Leafs won't get a free win like did at the Bell Centre 10 days ago.

Should we be worrying about the Habs power play? They haven't scored too many power play goals lately, but then they haven't been getting many power plays. If the slow Leafs can stay out of the box, or get a disproportionate amount of power plays, they could once again come out on top.

Alex Kovalev mentioned yesterday that the Habs tend to come out too strong, and act like it's a Game 7 situation for these games against Toronto and that they need to keep it simple in order to be successful. He's right. The Canadiens are the better, faster team and shouldn't let the Leafs stay in games.

other notes...

Garth Murray has been picked up on waivers by the Florida Panthers. He was a hard-working winger who wasn't scared to drop the gloves. I have nothing but praise for him, and wish him the best going forward.

For me, the highlight of his career in Montreal was Bob Cole in the 2005 playoffs with this memorable call,

"Here comes Murray, he can really fly."

or maybe it was

"Here comes Murray, he's got wings!"

Not the most accurate description I've ever heard but flattering nonetheless.

In other news, Mike Komisarek is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves as a legitimate number one defenceman in the league, and arguably the hardest hitting player out there as well.

Monday, November 12, 2007

News From the Farm

Some news from the System: Kitchener Rangers defenseman Yannick Weber is one of the hottest players in the OHL right now. The Swiss native, drafted in 2007 in the third round, has racked up 24 points, including 11 goals, in 17 games, for second place among league defensemen in scoring.

Sticking to the OHL, PK Subban, an offensive defenseman playing for the Belleville Bulls, has 18 points in 18 games so far this year.

Another prospect of note is 2007 first round pick Ryan McDonagh, who has picked up 3 points in 6 games with a plus-2 differential so far this season for the Badgers at the University of Wisconsin.

Finally from the Western Hockey League: after a strong October, the Canadiens 2006 third round pick, forward Ryan White, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The center is first among Calgary Hitmen scorers with 23 points in 20 games. He’s also the team’s third-most penalized player with 40 minutes spent in the box.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hier Soir

The Canadiens second line came out to play last night and Carey Price helped the team hang on for a 2-1 victory by stopping 28 out of 29 shots.

The Habs got a huge penalty kill on a 5 on 3 situation for 1 minute and 58 seconds late in the third period with Mike Komisarek and Francis Bouillon in the box.

The Habs second line came out to play as Alex Kovalev got his eighth goal of the season and Tomas Plekanec got the winner. Andrei Kostitsyn assisted on both goals as he looks like he might be here to stay on the second trio.

A stronger Canadian dollar and higher ticket prices have made George Gillett Jr's team even more valuable. The Habs jumped to fourth on its 30-team NHL scale, Forbes Magazine's rankings of the value of NHL teams says the Canadiens are now estimated to be worth $283 million, up $53 million from last season.

The Canadiens are in Ottawa to take on the league-leading Senators tomorrow afternoon, the Sens are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gameday: Boston Bruins

Montreal Canadiens (8-3-3) at Boston Bruins (7-5-2) 7:35pm

The Canadiens begin a four-game road trip tonight in Boston.

It looks like there will be two twenty year old goaltenders between the pipes as Carey Price goes for the Habs, and Tuuka Rask appears to be Claude Julien's choice to make his first NHL start.

The Habs have beat the Bruins four times in a row. They got off to a hot start, winning five of their first seven games but have gone 2-3-2 since.

Montreal has yet to trail after the first period through 14 games this season, outscoring its opponents 16-7 in the opening 20 minutes.

The Habs have won six of their last eight games.

The Bruins, meanwhile, have scored just four goals in their last three games, and have been held to two goals or fewer nine times in their 14 contests. They are tied for 28th in the league with 32 goals on the season.

The Bruins played in Buffalo last night and dropped the game 2-1 in overtime. The Canadiens need to capitalize on the possibly tired Bruins by coming out of the gates strong.

If the first part of the season is any indication, the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden shouldn't be a factor. With the Patriots re-writing history, the Red Sox winning another World Series and Boston College vying for a National Championship, no one in Beantown seems to have time for the Bruins.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Off Day

The Northeast division leading Ottawa Senators carved up the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 last night and are now 13-1 to start the season. They lead the Habs by 7 points after only 14 games.

The Canadiens took the Bell Centre ice at noon today for practice. The team is in Beantown to take on the Bruins tomorrow night as the Bruins are looking for a little revenge after getting blown out 6-1 by the Habs earlier this season.

The NHL all-star ballot was released yesterday and the Canadiens have three players on it. Cristobal Huet, Andrei Markov and Saku Koivu can all be voted for to appear at January's all-star game in Atlanta. Voting begins on Nov 13th, and continues until January 2nd.

Guy Carbonneau has now made it official. Price in the nets against Boston. Huet is coming off a shutout and has dominated Boston through the last two seasons but on the other hand, Price has a long career of games against the Bruins ahead of him, so why not get him a start now?

I would've preferred to see Price on Saturday against the Leafs, who Huet struggles against. That would have opened the door for Huet to make back-to-back starts this week against the Sabres and Bruins. Price could've been evaluated for Saturday's game based on the results from the week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Last Night

Cristobal Huet answered his critics with a convincing shutout win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Habs goalie stopped all 29 shots he faced and was particularly sharp in the first and third periods.

Tomas Plekanec got the game winning goal on a feed from new linemate Andrei Kostitsyn, who also played a solid game for the Habs, filling in for Guilaume Latendresse, who injured his back in the warmup.

Andrei Markov got two assists and logged just under 25 minutes of ice time as the Canadiens beat the Sabres in regulation for the second in this young season.

Michael Ryder managed a shot on goal but had difficulty again as last years leading goal scorer remains stuck on two goals and four assists on the season.

The Canadiens took only two shots in the third period, one of which was Bryan Smolinski's empty-net winner.

I wrote an additional post about the success of Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek and Roman Hamrlik so far this year. Thanks to the miracle that is Windows Vista, it was lost to the ages.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Gamenight: Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres (5-6-1) at Montreal Canadiens (7-3-3) 7:35pm

The Canadiens are at the Bell Centre for the last game of a four game homestand tonight as they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to town. The Habs are coming off their third regulation loss of the season against the Leafs on Saturday night.

It looks like Francis Bouillon will be back in the Habs lineup after being missing three games.

This is the second game of the year between the teams, after Roman Hamrlik scored the winner and got the first star in a 4-2 Habs win on Oct 20th.

Buffalo sniper Tomas Vanek has done well in his career against Montreal, including 5 points in his last four games against the Habs.

The Habs will hit the road following tonight's game for a four game stint against divisional rivals, with their 8 of their next 11 games being played on the road overall.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gamenight: Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs (5-6-3) at Canadiens (7-2-3)

The Leafs and their fans are in town! Things are looking generally peachy for the Habs right now, as they've picked up points in all but two games this year and have gone 5-0-1 in their last six.

The Leafs are led by Mats Sundin, he's got 20 points in 14 games this year, and will surely have that stupid mouthguard-induced grin on his face all night.

Toronto is without regulars Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood, Carlo Colaiacovo and Bryan McCabe.

Hab-killer Tomas Kaberle is still in the lineup.

Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu have been playing like superstars. Roman Hamrlik is looking like one of the best free-agent acquisitions of the offseason. Tom Kostopulos has been solid and spectacular at times. Brisebois has been ok, all though his play seems to have diminished a bit lately.

The goaltending has been good, not spectacular. Good enough for the second-best record in the East!

The fans will be out in force tonight. The Philly game on Thursday was the most electric atmosphere I've seen at the Bell Centre for a regular season game in a while. Daniel Briere and the Flyers were intimidated by the fans.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What a Game

The Canadiens dominated the Philadelphia Flyers from start to finish last night in a 5-2 final at the Bell Centre. The Habs outshot the Flyers 41-19 in the game and improved their record to 7-2-3 on the year.

Saku Koivu came out hungry and had an outstanding performance, scoring a goal and setting Guillaume Latendresse up for another as he earned the game's first star.

Daniel Briere was booed the moment he stepped onto the ice and the crowd was on his back all night. He finished the night with an assist and a -2 rating.

Tom Kostopoulos scored his first goal as a Hab on a shorthanded beauty and also mixed it up in a fight with Philly tough guy Ben Eager.

The Canadiens host the Maple Leafs tomorrow night in the teams' first meeting of the year. Toronto has struggled so far this year but the Habs won't take them lightly.

The Ottawa Senators are on top of the Northeast division with a 10-1 record leading the Habs by three points with a game in hand.

Gameday: Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers (7-3-0) at Montreal Canadiens (6-2-3) 7:30pm

The Habs host Daniel Briere, Mike Richards and the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. The Flyers are in the midst of an eight game road trip. Briere will probably get booed. He has 13 points so far this year. Mike Richards has six goals and is emerging as the superstar he was projected to be coming out of junior.

Hopefully the Flyers can avoid any dirty hits causing serious injury. The Broad Street Bullies have to stay out of the box if they want to steer clear of the league's top power play unit.

Martin Biron starts for the Flyers tonight and the Canadiens will counter with Cristobal Huet. Biron has been outstanding so far this year with a record of 7-2-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average.

The Habs are looking to bounce back after dropping their last game to the Thrashers in their worst performance of the season.

Last year saw the Habs win three out of four games against Philly, with David Aebischer picking up all three victories.


How good are the Detroit Red Wings? Henrik Zetterberg is starting to look like the best player in the NHL. He's picked up at least a point in every game so far this year. It's nice to see my second-favourite team kicking all kinds of ass in the Western Conference.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Last Night

The Canadiens lost 3-2 to the Atlanta Thrashers in a shootout at the Bell Centre last night. The Habs came out snoozing in the first period as they directed only two shots towards Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg, who picked up his first career win against the Canadiens in his 7th try.

Michael Ryder was late for practice on Tuesday morning and had difficulty during the game, getting only three shifts in the third period as Mathieu Dandenault joined Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins on the top line.

The Canadiens managed to even up the shot totals after putting up only 2 shots in the first period. Higgins and Alex Kovalev kept the league's top power play going as they both scored goals on the man advantage.

Carey Price stole a point for the Canadiens in his home debut. He looked fantastic in the first period and both goals he allowed in the second were the result of giveaways by Canadiens defencemen.

Josh Gorges was on the hook for the most glaring of the two but Andrei Markov also coughed the puck up on a play that resulted in the Thrashers first goal. It wasn't Markov's best night. The Canadiens best defenceman was due for an off night as he's been amazing so far this year.

Kovalev got two points. Played another great game. He's got six goals in eleven games.

Hopefully the hangover from a great road trip will be done when Daniel Briere and the Flyers roll into town tomorrow night, with two more huge points at stake.


Carey Price has won the October segment of the Molson Cup!! Last night's first star passed Tomas Plekanec in the standings for the monthly award, becoming the youngest Hab to accomplish the feat in the process.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gameday: Atlanta Thrashers

Atlanta Thrashers (3-8-0) at Canadiens (6-2-2) 7:35pm, Bell Centre

Put on your Hillary Clinton costume and head down to the Bell Centre and scare some little kids. It's All Hallows Eve, and the scariest lady in America is a popular costume choice.

The Thrashers are 3-2 in their last 5 games after starting the season 0-6 and firing head coach Bob Hartley. Ilya Kovalchuk has 7 points in his last 4 games. Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg has never beaten the Habs, he is 0-5-0 against them in six career games.

Carey Price is getting the first home start of his career. He will follow Saturday's eight consecutive saves in the shootout by trying to keep the lowly Thrashers off the scoresheet. The fans are going to be in full effect, cheering him on.

Andrei Markov, Saku Koivu, Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev have been outstanding so far this year. The Canadiens have been using their speed and puck-moving skills to generate a ton of power play opportunities. The power play is on fire so far, the Habs are operating at a 30.4% efficiency rate this year. If the Thrashers take early penalties, look for the Canadiens to jump all over their chances.

Another good sign is the Canadiens are staying out of the penalty box. Sure, their penalty kill isn't as good as last year but a big part of the success is a lack of people like Mike Johnson and Sheldon Souray taking stupid penalties.

The Canadiens will honour Roman Hamrlik, Bryan Smolinski and Alex Kovalev, who all reached the 1000 game plateau this year. Patrice Brisebois will be playing in his 800th game as a Canadien tonight.

Francis Bouillon is out of the lineup tonight with an undisclosed shoulder injury. Josh Gorges should take his place.

Rumours and Speculation

There are a few Eastern teams off to disappointing starts this year. Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers haven't been getting the goaltending they were looking for and the talk is that Jaroslav Halak could be headed to either team. The players heading the other way are rumoured to be Colby Armstrong from the Pens or Sean Avery from the Rangers.

Both are gritty forwards who can skate and play a physical game. It's still early in the year however, and who knows what the Habs goaltending situation will look like down the road? There's too much talent in the system right now to give up a blue-chip goaltending prospect for a goon like Avery.

Finally... How much fun is it to watch the Leafs get embarassed on home ice? 7-1 to the Washington Capitals. Say what you will about the Habs, they NEVER get blown out like that, especially on home ice.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What a Week

The week is officially over. The numbers are staggering. The Canadiens won their fourth in a row on Saturday night against the Penguins with a solid effort, despite blowing an early 3-0 lead. The efforts of the team were rewarded with extraordinary success on the Power Play.

Alex Kovalev got his 800th career point in his 1000th career regular season game. Saku Koivu has 11 points and is 56% on faceoffs through 10 games. Tomas Plekanec has 10 points over the same span. Andrei Markov already has 2 game-winning goals counting Saturday's shootout winner. Carey Price recovered from some marginal goals against to stop all eight of Pittsburgh shootout attempts on Saturday night. Kyle Chipchura got the first two goals of his blossoming career.

The goaltending has been extraordinary at times, and very solid overall. Carey Price is still looking for his rhythm between the pipes, but looked as calm as a veteran in the shootout situation. Can't wait to see him get a start at home. Seems like he's the type of guy who rises up to the pressure. The Leafs are in town for Hockey night in Canada next week......

Big week ahead. Four straight home games as the Habs welcome the Thrashers on Tuesday, Flyers on Thursday, Leafs Saturday and Sabres on Monday night.

I'm interested to see if Mikhail Grabovski remains with the team. Loved Andrei Kostitsyn getting under "Cindy" Crosby's skin the other night. He riles easily and sure gets away with his share with the NHL officials.

Looking forward to talking to some of the Philadelphia Flyers players and getting their take on the latest ugly incident that their club has been involved in. It's hard to believe that this is already the third such occasion already this year that the Broad Street Bullies have been under a microscope for the on-ice conduct of a player. It's no coincidence. This is a franchise that experienced its most glorious moments while employing a squad full of goons. It's going to be interesting to see how the NHL deals with it. Steve Downie got twenty games, Jesse Boulerice got 25. Does Randy Jones get 30?

Patrice Bergeron was motionless. It was scary.

This kind of stuff has to stop. Whether of not players are injured on the plays, these types of hits happen all the time in the NHL. Often no penalties are called at all.

Perhaps the Flyers should lose a spot on their 23-man roster for the length of the suspension. It really seems as if the message isn't getting across with the league's handling of the issue so far.

Too bad for Randy Jones. Young player, off to a great start this year, caught in the heat of the moment in a hockey play that really could have gone either way. It's more bad news for the NHL, as this seems to be pretty much the only type of thing that gets the game National media attention in the States and the game deserves better than that.

Friday, October 26, 2007


So 13 goals in two games. 3-0-0 this week with 17 goals scored and only 7 goals allowed. The Cardiac Canadiens refuse to lose. Bring on Pittsburgh!!

It's nice to see the team succeed. It's also easy to forget that the team got off to a similar start last season, only to see everything go south right around Christmas time. The key to this season is sustaining success over the long term.

Five power play goals!! Sheldon who?

Tomas Plekanec. Four points. This guy's for real, the Habs young guns are turning heads. The league has to take notice. On the other side of the coin is Mikhail Grabovski, who despite occasional flashes of brilliance looks nothing like an NHL player. Not sure what the team's plan is with regards to Andrei Kostitsyn, but I'm hoping to see him in the lineup tomorrow night. Hungry to show what he can do.

The Habs went undefeated in Carolina this season. That's right, they won't be back there this year. Same goes for Pittsburgh, they're done going to Steeltown after tomorrow. Nice to get that out of the way.

This team is fun to watch. They can be forgiven for letting up in the third and should be lauded for not letting Carolina turn it into a goonfest in the second.

Here's hoping the team can sustain this level of play over the long term, consistency is the name of the game. Staying out of the box is huge. Using the team speed, which is still underrated is another.

Back tomorrow to preview the game....

Teeing Up the Canes

It's gameday. The Habs have beaten the Hurricanes once in regulation in their last 12 meetings. They've also beaten them twice in overtime during that span. That means the Hurricanes are 9-1-2 against the Canadiens during that stretch. I'm scared.

The Habs are riding a modest 2 game winning streak, with both wins coming by more than a goal. It's been a well-deserved week of accolades for the team, as everyone besides PJ Stock seems to think they're on the right track. As we all know, this could change rapidly. If the Habs are unable to get any points this weekend, people will jump off the bandwagon faster than Josh Beckett strikes out the side.

The Hurricanes seem to own the Habs the same way the Habs own the Bruins. It's as if something happened during that fateful playoff series a few years ago when the Canes stormed back to beat the Habs and Cam Ward emerged as the elite goaltender he seems to be now. It may even go further back than that.

Eric Staal and company need to be contained and frustrated in order to be beaten. As happy as I've been with the Habs performance so far, I miss Maxim Lapierre. He was just so good at drawing the ire of opposing players, getting them to take bad penalties and take them off of their game. He'll be back, it's just a question of when.

How long can Andrei Kostitsyn sit in the pressbox? He hasn't played in a few games, you'd think he might come out there with something to prove. I'd rather have him in the lineup than Grabovski. His size and hands make him a more viable option than the little German.

It's with a sense of dread that Habs fans approach this weekend, as the city lives and dies with each game. Keep it in perspective: The Canes are quickly showing that they're back to being the elite team that won the Stanley Cup two years ago. There's a lot of firepower in that lineup. The Habs have to stay out of the box and not let them get too comfortable in front of the net.

Bon match.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rumours & Speculation

Since I've nothing new or particularly relevant to talk about, today I'm going to touch on several rumours and questions surrounding the Habs.

Trade talk abounds. Bob Gainey was reportedly at the Rangers-Penguins game last night. Was he scouting the Penguins for Friday night's game? Probably not. Reports indicate the Rangers are interested in moving Petr Prucha. Not sure who they would want in return, but the Rangers are under intense pressure to be a dominant team this year after signing Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to huge contracts in the offseason. Prucha would obviously be an upgrade on Guillaume Latendresse for that second line, but it seems that a deal like that would send the wrong message to emerging young players in the Habs' organization.

The other rumour that's been circulating is equally mind-boggling. It's been reported that a deal with the Oilers has been discussed involving Michael Ryder for Shawn Horcoff. This is a strange deal, the Canadiens seem to have a wealth of centres already, so trading one of our first line wingers for another one seems counterproductive. What would that mean for our lines? Plekanec moving to a wing? To the third line?

If I were in charge of the Canadiens, I would put my faith in the young core of Higgins, Plekanec, Komisarek and Markov, the veteran leadership of Hamrlik, Koivu and Kovalev and of course the goaltending of Cristobal Huet and Carey Price. Unless they can get a huge return for one of the goalies in the minors or a non-roster player. The only guys I consider expendable on the current roster are Guillaume Latendresse, Mikhail Grabovski (who both have tremendous upside) and Mathieu Dandenault.

It would be nice to see Maxim Lapierre back on the team, drawing penalties and being a stitch in the side of opposing players. Another guy who has been impressive for the Hamilton Bulldogs is Sergei Kostitsyn. Andrei's little brother played his junior hockey last year for the London Knights on a line with Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane, who are both having solid starts at the NHL level. Not sure if there's a spot on the Habs for the younger Kostitsyn right now, but as long as he stays patient and continues to develop, the sky's the limit.

It's exciting to watch the Canadiens young talent emerging. Chris Higgins seems to be back at, or better than, his pre-injury form of last season. Tomas Plekanec seems to be adjusting to his linemates and getting comfortable with Kovalev at his side. Mike Komisarek is coming into his own and can now be considered a top-tier defenseman in the Eastern Conference. Latendresse has been much better and playing with great energy since being a healthy scratch.

The veterans have been great too. Koivu and Kovalev are tearing it up. Huet has been the early-season Huet we all know and love. Hamrlik never makes mistakes. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done in a huge way.

The future looks bright, let's not do anything rash.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a Night

So The Red Sox are in the World Series. The Patriots are the most dominant NFL team I've ever seen. The Bruins started the season 5-2-0 and strutted into the Bell Centre on a four game win streak.

Boston is riding high on sports glory right now, but the Cristobal Huet and the Habs brought their not-so-beloved Bruins back down to earth with a resounding thud. Huet improved to 6-2-0 against the Bruins in his career, kept the Habs in the game early, and then the forwards took over and put on a passing clinic in what ended up as a 6-1 blowout.

The Canadiens were outshot 32-20 in the contest, but that's where the Bruins dominance ended. Marc Savard looked like an angry punk with a big contract, Zdeno Chara looked like Larry Bird on skates and Manny Fernandez stopped 14 of 20 shots. People had been busy jumping on the Bruins bandwagon for the last few days following their convincing win streak, but the team picked to finish last in the East by many of the "experts" was true to form last night, losing to the Habs for the 13th time in their last 17 meetings.

Alex Kovalev was spectacular. Dominating the flow of the game, especially on the power play. Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec were winning faceoffs all night. The Canadiens were passing the puck so fast at times that I felt my head spinning just watching them. Brisebois, Grabovski and Steve Begin all scored highlight-reel goals.

Breezer actually had what I consider one of his weaker performances this year, but his teammates picked him up, and all four lines played a great game. This team is scary when they get confident and use their speed. Cristobal Huet is starting to look like the magical guy who led the league in save percentage two years ago and was an Eastern Conference all-star last year. Here's hoping he can keep it up all year. Carey Who?

Just kidding. The Habs have a huge weekend coming up with back-to-back road games against two hungry and gifted teams, the Hurricanes and the Penguins. Expect Carey Price to be in goal for one of the two games.

It's always nice to see the Canadiens win a game that doesn't come down to the last ten seconds. Don't expect too many like that but enjoy them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Big Night

So the Canadiens have a home win. They got some bounces, didn't exactly dominate but Chris Higgins summed it up,

"We'll take it."

Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski got their first goals as members of the team. Kyle Chipchura got his first career NHL goal. Mikhail Grabovski got his first point of the season.

All in all, a solid team effort. The coach was happy, and there was a sense of relief in the room following the game.

The two teams played the game as advertised, with plenty of end to end action and lots of scoring chances. Ryan Miller lost at the Bell Centre for the first time in his career and looked anything but spectacular on several occasions. The Sabres are definitely not the same team that won the President's Trophy last year, scoring an eye-popping 308 goals in the process. They are a good team, but the Canadiens have now played against a few of the better Eastern teams and looked pretty good in the process.

Sam Gagner of the Oilers also got his first NHL goal tonight, so a couple of World Junior standouts have popped their NHL cherries.

Tonight's going to be intense, so don't look for a post tomorrow till later.

Setting Up the Sabres

The Habs (2-2-1-1)are back at the Bell Centre tonight to face the Buffalo Sabres (3-3-0) in the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Ryan Miller is in goal for the Sabres and Cristobal Huet goes for the Canadiens. Miller has never lost in Montreal, going 4-0-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average at the Bell Centre in his young career.

The teams split their eight game season series last year, with the Sabres compiling a 4-3-1 record against the Habs.

After scoring 18 goals in a three game winning streak, the Sabres were held off the scoresheet by the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets last night, dropping the game 3-0 as former Sabres Captain Michael Peca scored his first career goal against his former team.

The Canadiens are still looking for their first home win of the season, but don't blame Cristobal Huet, who has stopped 59 of the 62 shots he has faced so far this year at the Phone Booth. The Canadiens have scored only two goals in those two games.

Michael Ryder had five goals in eight games against Buffalo last year, and Thomas Vanek scored four goals and four assists top lead his team against the Habs over the same span.

Things to look for tonight:

1. Habs coming out of the gate strong and feeding off the fans, hopefully keeping it up throughout the game and getting a few goals to show for it.

2. The Sabres could show some fatigue, having played last night at home.

3. Sabres Defenceman Brian Campbell has 9 points in the first 5 games of the season. that means he's on pace for about 147 points. Look for him to slow down on that pace, hopefully starting tonight!!

Bon match tout le monde, today's a big day for me, as I will be hosting the Habs This Week starting at 4 pm and staying on until 630 as i take off for the Bell Centre to catch the game live. Listen and call in with your thoughts when we open up the lines!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Quel Mauvais Jeu

And the goat from last night's game is...... Tom Kostopoulos. That giveaway following a beauty of a power play goal by Alex Kovalev was just awful, he had all the time in the world and coughed it up to maybe the worst guy in the league to cough it up to. He and Dandenault are getting way too much ice as far as I`m concerned.

Mike Boone of the Gazette mentioned the other day that Brisebois and Hamrlik have been his favourite defensive pairing so far this year. I agree. While Brisbois has had a few cringe-inducing giveaways, his overall play has been great. You can`t say enough about veteran presence on the blue line. They consistently avoid getting beat by faster players by making smart plays and staying out of the box. Brisebois` pass to Kovalev on the third goal last night was off the charts.

The Cardiac Canadiens seem determined to play nail-biters all year long. This team has played six games so far, five of which have been decided by one goal. The lone exception was Saturday`s 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes, with the `Canes third goal coming on an empty net. Whether it`s Florida or Ottawa, the Habs continue to play to the level of their opposition. Another tough test coming up on Saturday as the boys seek their first home win of the year against the Sabres. Hopefully they will increase on their total of two goals in two home games so far this year.

Trade rumours abound. It`s hard to believe that reputable media outlets actually report this stuff, but the Alex Tanguay for Alex Kovalev rumour has been going for a while, and was fueled by Kovalev`s quasi-controversial remarks this week. The reality is that Tanguay is coming off a career season, has a no-trade clause, and is a far more valuable player than Kovy. I couldn`t be happier with the way AK-27 has performed so far this year, but Tanguay is younger and less likely to criticize his coach or franchise.

PJ Stock spoke with Sens coach John Paddock earlier this week on the Team 990`s Stock Exchange and when PJ pressed him about the Kovalev-Carbo situation his main remark was ``At least he cares`` Kovalev is a great player when he wants to be. He wants to win. He does not deserve the firestorm of negative attention created by his comments.

Finally, the officiating. Many Habs fans will tell you that the refs are anti-Canadiens. It`s difficult to analyze these things objectively, but there are a few things worth noting in the young season.

1. The Sens were not called for offsides on two occasions last night.

2. The refs were VERY quick to blow the whistle on a goalmouth scramble early in the third period last night when the puck was definitely not covered up.

3. Mike Komisarek absorbed a high-stick and some serious facial damage from Mats Sundin, who gets away with murder every night. Andrei Kostitsyn took an elbow and a dirty hit from Gary Roberts against Pittsburgh while already engaged in a one-on-one battle in the corner. These are penalties, and they went uncalled.

While Habs fans are quick to turn on their team, they are also the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in the league. And the loudest. It`s no coincidence that they tend to boo the officials when they take the ice most nights. They know what they`re seeing. La Foule will be in full effect once again on Saturday night, and you know the Canadiens want to give them their money`s worth every time out. It`s just that they have difficulty doing it.

Habs at home: 0-2, 2 GF

Habs on the Road: 2-1-1, 12 GF

It would be nice to hear that U2 classic a few times tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Getting Ready for the Sens

The Canadiens are taking on the Sens in Ottawa tonight. Carey Price is not getting the same hype he got last week before his start against the Penguins due to the Carbo-Kovalev "dispute". Too bad. If Price does the unthinkable and shuts down Ottawa's high-octane offense he will have beaten two of the Eastern Conferences top offenses in just over a week.

Is it a coincidence that Price is again starting on the road? It seems that Carbo has a plan for the kid, and that plan seems to be to start him in middle-of-the-week road games against strong teams. Not sure how it looked on TV Tuesday night against the Panthers, but there were a few things that stood out for me as I watched from the Pressbox.

1. Cristobal Huet leaned onto his net and hung his head for a good ten seconds following the Panthers goal with 11 seconds remaining in the game. I have never seen him so demoralized. Huet is a competitor. He could taste the victory and the shutout before having it unceremoniously yanked away. There was no doubt in my mind that the Panthers would tie the game when Komisarek got called for slashing. An unfortunate call but it was definitely a penalty.

2. During the shootout, Carey Price moved from his usual spot in the tunnel leading to the Habs dressing room and got onto the edge of the Bench, leaning over the boards and taking in every moment of the first NHL shootout in his young career. He was cheering his teammates, banging on the boards and looking about as enthusiastic as I've ever seen him. Here's a guy whose monotone delivery will become a trademark. The kid is cool as a cucumber and seems to thrive under pressure. Can't wait to see the fans greet him for his first home start.

3. The Canadiens may have gotten a lot of shots, but that doesn't mean they're generating a ton of chances. The Habs haven't been there to finish, whether it's pouncing on rebounds or generating turnovers and odd-man rushes. Michael Ryder has been playing well but seems more reluctant to take shots than last year. The first line is due for a strong offensive performance, they've been playing great and making life difficult for opposing teams with very little to show for it. Not sure if it'll be against Anton Volchenkov and the Sens, but you never know...

Speaking of the Sens, how about Marty Gerber? The Swiss goaltender has been unbelievable so far this year, going 5-1 and with a .941 save percentage. I'd bet my press pass that the Habs are hoping to see the Gerber they lit up against the Hurricanes in the first round a few years ago before Cam Ward won the job and the series got turned around on Justin Williams' high stick almost turning Saku Koivu into Long John Silver (with no call).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rejean Tremblay Reality Check hockey writer Rejean Tremblay always has an opinion. Although I'm rarely in agreement with him, he makes some great points in this look at the Habs chances this year. He also makes some inflammatory comments comparing Jean Charest to Pauline Marois (?).

I should get into politics, I've long wanted to build my dream home on the ground where the Expos once planned to break ground for their downtown stadium. If I'm elected to office i will pull the necessary strings to annex the land required. Mark my words.

Rejean Tremblay Opens a Can of Whoopass

Habsworld Previews Hurricanes-Canadiens

Matthew Macaskill over at has a piece about tonight's matchup, with mercifully few references to Patrice Brisebois.

At this point, I've had had it with predictions. Let's see what happens on the ice. I will say this: The Leafs will not make the postseason. Yes, they added another backup goalie (now they have two) and a guy who had a career year last year in Jason Blake. The fact is, this is a team that got older and failed to address serious shortcomings in goal. It will be a pleasure to watch John Ferguson Jr finally pay for his ridiculous tenure at the helm of the Leafs when all is said and done.

Macaskill at Habsworld

RDS Previews Habs - Canes

If you read French, here's RDS giving you a preview of tonight's game, including the lines and defensive pairings. Notice Carbo has split up the third line of Latendresse-Plekanec-Smolinski, removing Smoke in favour of Tom Kostopoulos. Dandenault-Smolinski-Begin are two centres and a defenceman who will make up the fourth or "energy" line. Josh Gorges, whose hard work and great play in camp didn't pay off as Patrice Brisebois got a free pass as a top-four defenceman, is in the pressbox. Here's hoping he gets his chance sooner than later.

RDS Gamenight Preview

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Habsworld: The Maturation of Mike Komisarek

T.C. Denault of has a great article about Mike Komisarek aka Komisaurus, and examines some notable first-round draft busts of the past. Obviously #8 has some big shoes to fill this year, following the departures of former stalwarts Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet.

Mike Boone Discusses the Habs Final Cuts

Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette weighs in on the Habs' final cuts... Boone tends to get an insane amount of feedback for his posts, and this one is no exception.

Eric Engels on When Kovalev Comes Out to Play

Eric Engels over at discusses one of the more memorable nights of Alex Kovalev's NHL career... Hopefully we'll see more of this version of AK-27 this year!!

here's a highlight:

"In that game the Rangers were trailing, and playing rather poorly in the first half. Then Mike Keenan officially lost his cool, and put Mark Messier with Alex Kovalev and Adam Graves. And wouldn't you know came the goals. Kovalev finished that night with a goal, an assist on the tying goal, and an assist on the winning goal (both scored by Messier). These weren't just assists either, these were plays that were fully made by Kovalev, sending Messier in alone for a half-breakaway on the tying goal, and giving Messier a tap in for the winner after taking the most blistering slapshot with one of the quickest releases you have ever seen. After he scored that goal, Messier was arm and arm with Leetch, both of whom were looking over at Alex Kovalev bewildered and amazed."

TSN previews 2007-08 Canadiens

Here is a highlight:

Montreal's difficulty in acquiring any big-name free agents means that they need to rely heavily on homegrown talent. While there are a lot of promising young players seeing action with the Habs, but it will require some substantial breakout seasons for the Canadiens to be an exciting team from a fantasy perspective.

Of course, there is also the hope that a rookie goaltender may be able to slide in and cure all the team's shortcomings.

click below to hear from the psychics at TSN