Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Midseason Musings & Gamenight: Chicago

The Canadiens kick off the second half of the 07-08 schedule tonight against a depleted Chicago Blackhawks team that's without leading rookie goal-scorer Jonathan Toews and six other regulars.

Bob Gainey addressed members of the media at the Bell Centre yesterday and had largely positive things to say about what the team has accomplished so far this year and also hinted that there could be some changes on the horizon.

Firstly, since Cristobal Huet has made it clear he is the team's number one goaltender and should see the bulk of the workload in the coming months, we may see 20-year old Carey Price in Hamilton sooner than later so that he can get more playing time. Current Bulldogs starter Jaroslav Halak was named the AHL's player of the week yesterday and is no stranger to the NHL, having played a stretch for the Habs that put them back into postseason contention late last season.

Price has only made two starts in the last two weeks and has lost them both. Price doesn't see it as a demotion if it does happen, he in fact sounded very mature when he was asked about the possibility yesterday,

"They have my best interests in whatever they have planned, if Hamilton is what they deem necessary, then so be it. Right now, it's part of being young. If they think I need a little more game work, that's fine."

Second, Gainey is unhappy with what his team is doing in the faceoff circle so far this year. It was the only concern he raised that he can address personally by trading or moving personnel. The only Hab on the good side of a 50% faceoff rate is Saku Koivu, at 55%. The rest of the guys are between 44 and 49%, which is a big part of their shortcomings on the penalty kill in today's puck-possession NHL.

It will be interesting to see which guys respond to Gainey's remarks and if they can improve the faceoff stats from within. Gainey made it clear that until that happens, he will continue to look at other teams rosters for the answers. Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe was in town for a few games last month, and Edmonton's a team with a shortage of wingers and a surplus of centres...

The Hawks should be no match for your Habs tonight, but that's certainly no guarantee when these boys are playing at the Bell Centre. I feel like a broken record, but it's really quite astounding. The Habs have only 7 wins in 19 home games. This is after going 50-25-7 at home over the last two seasons. They need to stop being intimidated by their own rabid fans and let other teams worry about them. The Hawks haven't won in Montreal since 2001.

In other news...

This Roger Clemens thing boggles the mind. His impassioned defence compelled even me, a well known cynic. The bizarre tale of weepy phone calls between him and the trainer who claimed he injected him with HGH only adds to the growing insanity, but I'm starting to wonder if Clemens' refusal to submit to a simple polygraph is the clincher here. If he's so determined to clear his name, it seems a pretty straightforward way to get it done. I'm not familiar with the exactitudes of how those things work, but if it's good enough for terrorist interrogations, then it's good enough for me.

The other thing is, Andy Pettitte, who was also named by Clemens trainer immediately admitted to use of HGH and said he only did so briefly while recovering from injury. Pettitte is one of Clemens' best friends, is he supposed to be lying too?

Vitamin B12 and Lidocaine? Smells like bullshit, Rocket.

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