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.