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).