Friday, January 25, 2008

Statement Game

That's what they call those types of games. When you battle back after falling behind 2-0 and 3-1 to beat a team in regulation and pass them in the standings you make a statement.

Heading to the all-star break, the Canadiens are in sole possession of 4th in the East. They've won 17 games on the road this year, second only to Detroit. It was the first time the Canadiens have won a game while trailing after 40 minutes this season. And they did it in New Jersey.

Cristobal Huet joins Jose Theodore and Patrick Roy as the only Habs goaltenders to win in the Garden State since 1993.

Only four teams in the entire league have scored more goals than the Habs.

Chris Higgins iced it with his first goal in nine games, Saku Koivu tied it with his first in seven. Bryan Smolinski sparked the third period comeback and is all of a sudden looking like a pretty solid signing with his recent play. Josh Gorges is looking more and more comfortable as he gets more games under his belt. It would be difficult to make a case for putting Patrice Brisebois back in the lineup. The Habs record without the Breezer is an astounding 15-3-3.

That means their record WITH Brisebois is 11-12-5. If wins and losses are the only stats that really count, then why on earth would he play??

Everyone except Andrei Markov gets a well-deserved weekend off. It should be interesting to see the new breakaway event in the Skills Contest and who will be fastest skater and who'll have the hardest shot, less interesting will be the game itself, which tends to be very boring.

Here are some links for your pleasure

Mike Boone blogs poetic on what's happening right now GO

Habs youth movement recognition GO

Pierre LeBrun on Habs success GO

And finally I have to touch on this Cliff Fletcher-Richard Peddie press conference. Watch Peddie as he starts to mouth the words Fletcher speaks while he's speaking them. It's really weird and I have no explanation for this other than it makes it easy to make a case that Fletcher is a puppet for MLSE.

Have a look-see around the 4:45 mark!! GO

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Habs Beat Bruins!!!

Make it nine in a row, six this year. The Bruins-Habs rivalry is virtually non-existent at this point. It sure is fun to be in the Bell Centre on nights like this.

The crowd was in full force, and it's a toss up between Maxim Lapierre's fantastic forecheck on Zdeno Chara in the third period and Sergei Kostitsyn throwing down with Chuck Kobasew in a scrap for the loudest cheers of the night and possibly, of the year.

It was a real team win. 13 players showed up on the scoresheet. Seven different guys had goals with Andrei K getting two. When the doors to the dressing room opened, the veterans gave way to the role players who showed up huge. No Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev or Chris Higgins(gasp!) were available but Tom Kostopoulos, who had a Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist and a fight), Michael Ryder and Bryan Smolinski, who probably had his best game as a Hab were all there.

Guy Carbonneau reiterated that the Habs played well enough to win against the Penguins on Saturday night but some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don't.

They definitely got em tonight, starting with Michael Ryder's goal 14 seconds into the game.

Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek were unbelievable and each walked away with a +4 rating on the night. Komisaurus had a goal and an assist, five hits and two blocked shots. Markov had only one assist, but was on the ice for six of the Habs eight goals.

During a four on four sequence, the unreal Alex Kovalev held on to the puck for about fifteen seconds, absorbed a slash and dropped his glove, picked it back up and then went right back to skating and stickhandling circles around the Bruins until both teams had five skaters on the ice.

Cristobal Huet was great, no errors in a game where he didn't need to be sharp but was.

The Kostitsyn brothers are terrific. Sergei's time in London playing under Dale Hunter is paying dividends. He gave a visor-wearing Kobasew more than he could handle in their third period scrap. The physical game he brings has been an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. He doesn't back down from anyone and even in a checking role has been impressive. Great feed to his big brother on the Habs last goal.

Ottawa lost, so the Habs actually managed to gain some ground on one of the coldest teams in hockey. How big is Dany Heatley for them?

If there was a negative, it's that Koivu and Higgins didn't show up on the scoresheet. They really seem to have lost a step in the second half. I expect them both to be better during the home stretch of the year.

Josh Gorges continues to improve, he's doing a great job of getting in front of pucks and playing a solid game. He certainly has benefited from the injury to Patrice Brisebois, who shouldn't be out there as far as I'm concerned.

Stat of the day: Habs record without Brisebois is 14-3-3

Other stat of the day: The Habs have lost back-to-back games in regulation only once this year.

It's onto Jersey to face the dreaded Devils on Thursday. Don't get your hopes up.

P.S. Id love to see Novak Djokovic win the Australian Open. This guy's fantastic and hilarious... I'm watching a virtuoso performance right now against Davis Ferrer in the semis. Check out his sweet impersonations of various tennis stars HERE (way less funny if you never watch tennis)


The Leafs have yanked John Ferguson Jr out of his position as GM. It's a sad day in Toronto. Cliff Fletcher takes over on an interim basis as the Leafs enter a make or break period of their season that will determine whether they will be buying or selling in and around the trade deadline. If they can string together a few wins, they may hang on to Mats Sundin and try to make a run. If they continue to lose, they will try and move Sundin and many other overpriced members of their underachieving team.

The thing is, it will be hard to find takers for the likes of Pavel Kubina, Andrew Raycroft, Bryan McCabe et al.

It comes back to the fact that the Leafs brass, the Richard Peddies of the world think they know hockey. MLSE owns the Raptors, who brought in a top executive in Bryan Colangelo and gave him complete control of the team, no questions asked. Their problem is they're not capable of doing the same with their hockey team. If they were, Scotty Bowman would already be the one calling the shots.

Cliff Fletcher will be the guy in charge but make no mistake about it, MLSE will be looking over his shoulder every step of the way.

I'm starting to tire of the Leafs trials and tribulations. The amount of media attention they receive is nauseating. I feel for their fans, who deserve better. I can't wait for them to go on a winning streak so the tin-foil Stanley Cups start showing up again at the Air Canada Center.

It makes me glad I'm not a fan of the Leafs.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Long Weekend's Over

It was a great weekend.

The New England Patriots stayed perfect with an imperfect game in which Tom Brady was less than perfect.

It's been amazing to see the Patriots charge towards a perfect season. Really saying f___ you to the rest of the league with every down.

The Giants have been equally impressive. Ever since they took the Pats to the brink for a 38-35 thriller in Week 17 this has been a team possessed. They've won 10 straight road games, a single-season NFL record. During their three playoff games, Eli Manning has emerged as the quiet leader Tiki Barber said he wasn't. He hasn't thrown a single interception over the same span after tying for the league lead in regular-season INTs.

Plaxico Burress had one the of the best games for an NFL receiver all year long. He dominated Al Harris.

I think that barring a minor miracle, Randy Moss and the speedy Patriots receivers will get the best of the Giants in the heat of Arizona. The key to the game will be whether the Giants pass rush can get to Tom Brady. I don't expect they will.

But this is a blog about the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs are tied for the fewest home wins in the league. They're 8-8-5 at the Bell Centre after Saturday night's loss to the Penguins. Hardly time to push the panic button but disconcerting nonetheless. It's just one of those indefinable things. My take is that they're trying to do too much for the fans. The adrenaline can onlt take them so far before it becomes jitters. Performance anxiety. It seems that they're almost scared to get booed which in turn causes tentative play which of course causes the rumbles from the fans.

In other news, Michael Ryder appears to be back on a line with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins. I have been unimpressed with the line of Ryder, Guillaume Latendresse and Bryan Smolinski's line, so maybe this change can kickstart Koivu and Higgins. Those guys look like they're running out of gas right now and the Habs need them rolling in order to be effective.

The other concern right now has to be the Habs power play. They're 0 for 8 with the man advantage in their last three games, dropping them to 2nd in the NHL with a 23.7% success rate.

It's not all bad. The Habs deserved better against an inspired Pittsburgh team the other night and should continue their success against Boston tomorrow night. They're seeking their ninth straight win against the Bruins dating back to last March.

Tim Thomas has been great for the Bruins this year but has struggled against the Habs. He's lost all three starts against them this year with a 4.70 GAA.

Against the rest of the league he's 15-8-3 with a 2.04 GAA.