Saturday, January 12, 2008

Links of the Week

Andrei Markov is the only Hab going to Atlanta for the All-Star game later this month. It's another slap to the face for your underappreciated Canadiens courtesy of the NHL. The upside of the snub is that all the guys get a chance to rest for a few days, recharge the batteries. Alex Kovalev should be there. But he's a veteran player and will most certainly benefit from the time off. has a great piece on reactions from Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Carbonneau. Love the Plekanec quote.

All-Star Snubbery

Stephen Brunt is the premier sportswriter in Canada. Here's a fantastic story on how former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold's wheeling and dealing with the NHL brass put him in a much better NHL ownership situation in Minnesota, a place where there's actually fans. Interseting to read how things are done behind the scenes in the league. It stinks and is totally indicative of how this league has turned into a joke on the professional sports stage.

Brunt Breaks It Down

The story about the Ovechkin deal continues to get more interesting. Looks like he'll become a Hab after all (kidding!) but only due to a bunch of weird movement clauses in the deal. Apparently Ovechkin initially negotiated the 6 year, $54 million dollar deal I initially reported before Caps owner Ted Leonsis blew it out of the water with the 13 year deal. Here are the details from the good folks at TSN.

Ovechkin Details Emerge

The Leafs suck so much more than most people (not me!) thought they would this year. It's amazing to me that they were pretty much a consensus playoff team when the year began. The Leafs are living proof that you can't stick band-aids on gaping wounds. I take great pleasure in watching them continue to fail miserably.

What's that Leafs? You thought Jason Blake was the answer? Hmm, he's got 8 goals this year...

I feel for Vesa Toskala, his defence just won't bail him out, it's sad.

The Leafs are living proof that you must build your team from within in today's NHL, you can't just get a bunch of free agents and hope you'll succeed.

Dave Shoalts wants a change!!

Mike Boone is the master of Habs-blogging and his live game blog is a true pleasure to read. He got it open early today in preperation for tonight's showdwon at Madison Square Garden.

Boone's Online Eeee-Mail

The Gazette's Pat Hickey writes about the Habs fourth line and the great job they've been doing. These guys need to continue to be solid in their shutdown role if the Habs want to continue to succeed.

Hickey's 4th Line Tribute

Finally your gameday preview from

Bon Match!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Absolute Madness

So, looks like the 6 year Ovechkin deal was a little optimistic. His 13 year contract is absolutely insane. Here's how I see it: This guy is in Washington, and he is, at 22, the most electrifying player in the NHL. He will be there, wallowing in mediocrity in front of non-passionate fans who provide their team with the second-worst attendance record in the league right now. If he had opted for a six-year deal, he could have gotten out of there at age 28, entering the prime of his career and able to go somewhere that he has a legitimate chance of winning a championship.

That's not going to happen in Washington. Why?

They have no goaltending, very little hope for their future in goal and an owner who is notoriously stingy. It's also very difficult to build a winner when you have one guy using up 20-25% of your teams cap space (Brad Richards, anyone?).

As it stands right now, Ovechkin and his grandchildren's grandchildren are set for life. But what incentive does he have to keep competing at the level his fans are accustomed to?

He will regret this deal, especially when Sidney Crosby cashes in for $15 million bucks a season when his current deal expires. It's always good to have an escape plan and Ovechkin has none.

It's a real shame to see a talent of that magnitude wasted in a market like that.

That's all I have to say about that.

The Canadiens!! Haven't lost in regulation since the Dallas debacle of 2007!! They're 5-0-2 since then. Mike Komisarek looked like Scott Stevens last night, the Boston forwards were scared shitless of getting crushed by Komisaurus. His presence can't be overstated. He directs traffic, makes smart passes and kills penalties. He was a lot of fun to watch last night and it has been a lot of fun to watch him develop into the dominating presence he has become.

I had this debate with a friend of mine who pretends to hate the Habs during the second period of last night's game. I said Andrei Markov and Komisarek were among the top three defensive pairings in the NHL. He said I was crazy.

Here's how I see it.

#1 Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafaski, DET
#2 Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, ANA
#3 Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, MTL

There are several other pairings that could be included, and everyone has an opinion, but here's mine. My buddy is a small part of a large contingent of NHL fans who don't give the Habs the credit they deserve. This team isn't just squeaking out wins, they're also winning games in which they don't get very good goaltending and they're completely outclassing teams at other times. I'm not planning a parade, but I am so excited about the future and frankly, the present of this team.

Markov and Komisarek actually remind a fair bit of Pronger and Niedermayer earlier in their careers. Komi doesn't really have power play vision (yet?) but he has a better shot than Roman Hamrlik or Patrice Brisebois. It wouldn't really surprise me to see him on the PP within the next few years. When Bob Gainey re-signs him to a five or six year deal. Markov sees the ice and the game as well as any D-Man in the league and makes one of the best first passes in the game. He also has the ability to shoot the puck and score goals. This in addition to the fact that these guys rarely make defensive mistakes and when one of them does, the other is there to make the play. They compliment each other perfectly and it really has been my distinct pleasure to watch them play together this year.

Habs in New York to play the Rangers tomorrow night on Hockey Night in Canada. Good timing, as the Leafs implosion continues after their 5-2 loss to cellar-dwelling Los Angeles last night. The Leafs have been outscored 19-6 during their current four game losing streak.

Life is good.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Done Deal? reports that Alexander Ovechkin has agreed to a $54 million extension that would keep him in Washington through 2014.


It has yet to be confirmed, but it does look like the Caps made him an offer they couldn't refuse, and thus Alexander the Great won't become a Hab until his late 20s.

The good news is, the Canadiens have a great nucleus in place and are widely considered one of the most promising franchises in the NHL. The only question mark is up the middle, where a lack of centres does not bode well for the future. Other than that, things look great in goal, on defence and on the wings.

This year's NHL draft is deep, as is the next one. Here's hoping the Habs address the team's question marks at centre and make a splash.

Onto the here and now.

The Canadiens are in Boston, where they have absolutely owned the Bruins for the last few years. The current streak between the rivals stands at seven consecutive wins for the Habs. They are very comfortable against Boston and seem to do a great job at getting under Zdeno Chara's skin. When Chara is off his game, the Bruins have a very tough time competing.

The Bruins also have five regulars out of the lineup: Glen Murray, Patrice Bergeron and a couple of less significant guys will not be out there tonight.

The Habs scratched Tom Kostopoulos. I don't get it. Tom the Bomb had one of his best games as a Hab against the Blackhawks the other night and his reward is a night in the pressbox. It's hard to know what's going on behind the scenes but I just don't like this move.

Francis Bouillon and Josh Gorges were awful the other night. Turnovers, miscues and bad decisions. Patrice Brisebois' shortcomings are far less evident when he's paired with Roman Hamrlik, but the same can't be said for Gorges and Bouillon. Anyone have a nickname suggestion for that defensive pairing?

Carey Price is in Hamilton and reportedly looked good in his first start last night. Good to see the kid getting some shots and hopefully progressing more than he would watching the Habs from the bench.

Should be a good one tonight, hopefully the bad blood between the teams doesn't produce any injuries.

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.