Saturday, January 5, 2008

What a Game

Look, the Habs should have won.

They were the better team and although Carbo and Chris Higgins didn't put it on him, Carey Price lost them this game. He might have been rusty, but you need to make some of those saves. His defence, as Blogmaster Mike Boone of pointed out, is using a system that allows opposing forwards to enter the zone at full speed and take quality shots. He is beaten high on about 75% of the goals he allows.

Clearly Rollie Melanson's system of getting his goalies to go down early has its flaws. Price should have had at least two of the Washington goals and possibly three.

The Canadiens need to stop taking stupid penalties in the offensive zone. Saku Koivu seems to take on per game. Maxim Lapierre took one. It's a lot harder to kill stupid penalties than the ones that save goals.

That said, the Habs are looking real good. REAL good.

Here are my positives:

-Michael Ryder is a physical presence and has regained the confidence that made him effective. His defensive shortcomings, which were so evident in the last few years, are less obvious. He's hitting, making smart passes and working hard every shift. He is on a line that is responsible for shutting down the opposition's best, and they have done a good job so far. They're not going to score as much but they are providing a solid two-way game.

-Anderi Kostitsyn scored what was, in my opinion, the Habs goal of the year, undressing the Caps Mike Green before roofing it on Olaf Kolzig. That was unbelievable, as were several of the habs goals. Andrei is starting to emerge as a star player in this league. Was the promotion of his little brother the kick in the ass he needed?

-Alex Kovalev is unbelievable. Anyone who questions his heart is way out of line. This guy wants to win and is on his way to his best season since he quarterbacked a power play in Pittsburgh that featured Mario Lemieux (The Greatest of all Time) and Jaromir Jagr. He already has as many goals as he did last year. The pass to Tomas Plekanec on the Habs first goal was vintage Kovy. He is out there every single game competing, throwing hits and giving his team quality shifts. Without a doubt, the MVP of this hockey team.

-At the halfway point of the season, the Canadiens look like one of the better teams in a very competitive Eastern Conference.

-Guy Carbonneau is a top-tier NHL coach. It took a while for him to really come into his own, but he has.

-This team doesn't give up. There's a lot of heart and they're doing what the slogan above the door to the Bell Centre ice tells them to do.


I am filled with a rare hope after watching a loss. The Canadiens are good.

And Canada's Juniors won gold.

As Ice Cube put it, today was a good day.

Oh, and Alex Ovechkin wouldn't admit it, but after hearing the roar the fans at the Bell Centre gave him following his selection as the game's first star, he definitely realized that he wants to be immortalized as a member of the Club de Hockey Canadien.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Changes & Resolutions

I've been ignoring my responsibilities as a blogger. Over the holidays, I ate a lot, drank a lot and was merry. It was a fantastic holiday season which I was able to spend with friends and family. I am one lucky bastard.

Enough about me though.

My New Year's resolution is to blog more regularly.

Here goes as we kick off 2008.

I just got home from the Bell Centre. They still play Vertigo when the Habs score. I was hoping for a change. Enough with the negative though...

Michael Ryder had a big night. He was cheered by the fans when he was introduced in the starting lineup and the cheers continued all night as he set up the Habs first goal and scored two more, one of which was a vintage Michael Ryder snapshot from the top of the faceoff circle.

It's a lot more fun when your team is winning and even better when you're able to put the puck in the net. Ryder appears to be back on track and the timing couldn't be better. When he's playing with confidence, he's a proven performer with a great nose for the net. When the media was allowed into the Habs dressing room after the game, the scrum converged on Ryder's stall and all of his teammates hooted and hollered at him, even sending a few wolf whistles his way. It was a great moment, a moment that demonstrated how close of a unit this team has become. His teammates never gave up on him. Many of them have reiterated that they see the real Michael Ryder in practice all the time and knew it was just a matter of time until he started to put the puck in the net.

Chris Higgins continues to emerge as a dominant player on both ends of the ice and his leadership qualities shine through night after night. It's a real pleasure to see him healthy at this point of the season.

There is no doubt that the addition of Sergei Kostitsyn has not only energized the Habs but has also given his older brother's play a jolt, as he continues to perform at a high level, scoring the winner tonight and teaming up with his linemates to create plenty of offense.

Carbo's strategy of rolling four lines has had mixed results but one thing that's becoming clear is that the Canadiens have far more energy now than they did at this point last year, when the meltdown was in full swing. At his postgame press conference today, Carbo talked about the fact that he doesn't work the guys as hard this year and how that has kept them fresher and more energetic. He went as far as to say that he sometimes doesn't even allow the guys to skate on certain days, even when they want to.

Your Montreal Canadiens seem to be finding the consistency required to stay near the upper half of the Eastern Conference for a playoff run. If they can stay healthy, and that's a BIG if, they'll do some damage.

Looking forward to Saturday's matinee against the Capitals, hopefully I can get the scoop on just how interested Alex Ovechkin would be in having a CH on his chest.

by the way....

In my last blog entry, before the Habs hit the road for their holiday trip, I made some predictions.

"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."

I'm pretty happy with my success rate here. I was right about everything except the outdoor rink. It's still not open but I'm confident the City of Westmount will get it done by the end of January, or at least in time for it to melt. I hope you'll agree that I'm psychic and should probably quit while I'm ahead.