Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rough Night

The Canadiens 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators was the result of a lacklustre effort on the part of the home team and a perfect shutdown game executed by the visitors.

It's the second time the Sens have brought the Habs crashing back down to earth, the first was on February 9th when Jason Spezza had a six point night and they pounded the Habs 6-1. Spezza has the Canadiens number. He has absolutely decimated the Canadiens this year and tonight was no different.

The Sens made a statement. They're still the best team in the Northeast division and look to be back to form right now, although time will tell whether they can win consistently. Martin Gerber was perfect although he wasn't frequently tested. His team played well in front of him, didn't really allow the Habs a chance to get pucks in deep and scored on two of their five power plays.

The Canadiens were 0 for 3 with the man advantage, including a power play 42 seconds into the contest that the Sens stifled and never looked back. When their power play doesn't connect early it can often take the wind right out of their sails and this game was a perfect example. They looked tired, pucks weren't bouncing their way and Carey Price was beaten on shots he had basically no chance of saving. He talked about the Sens getting bounces after the game but I think we can all agree that putting up a goose egg on the scoreboard is a pretty good way to lose.

You can't overemphasize the importance of Saturday night's showdown with the low-scoring New York Islanders. Every point is so important right now, losing to the bottom-tier teams is not an option. The difference between finishing atop the Northeast division and finishing second is playing either Pittsburgh or New Jersey (that would be bad) and playing Philly or Boston (that would be good).

Winning the division will be a very tough task to accomplish but these guys can do it. Two more games against Ottawa and one last monkey to get off of their collective backs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shaking the Monkey

That sounds dirty. I'm actually referring to the monkey that has been on the Canadiens back with respect to the New Jersey Devils for the last few seasons. The numbers speak for themselves: it's the second meeting in the last ten days between the teams; The Habs have beaten Jersey twice in a row. Since moving from the Forum to the Bell Centre, the Devils have dominated the Canadiens with a record of 12-6-1-1 on the Habs home ice.

Hot for the Devils: Martin Brodeur (3-0-0, 0.98, .972 in last 3 GP), Zach Parise (5 pts in last 3 GP)

Cold for the Devils: Arron Asham (0 pts in last 10 GP), Dainius Zubrus (0 pts in last 7 GP)

Hot for the Canadiens: Alex Kovalev (10 pts in last 6 GP), Andrei Markov (12 pts in last 11 GP)

Cold for the Canadiens: Michael Ryder (0 pts in last 5 GP), Francis Bouillon (0 pts in last 6 GP)

Quick notes: Devils centre Patrik Elias is 4 assists away from surpassing Scott Niedermayer as the Devils all-time leader in that category. Zach Parise has emerged as a solid two-way forward and his +23 rating reflects that. He also leads the team in goals and points.

The Devils have scored 180 goals and allowed 159. The Habs have scored 223 and allowed 197.

Tomas Plekanec is apparently a gametime decision as he continues to deal with flu-like symptoms. He didn't skate today but could still suit up. Steve Begin has missed the last six games, three with an ankle injury and three that Carbo left him out of the lineup.

Devils defenceman Colin White left Friday's game with an upper body injury and missed their last game, against Toronto. Another Devils defenceman is dealing with injury as Paul Martin deals with several minor injuries, he's missed their last four games.

Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber has this great piece on Mike Komisarek. Farber is a top-tier talent in the field of Hockey Journalism and he doesn't hold back when talking about Komisaurus.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

With a Whimper

The Habs Pacific division road trip is over and they were extremely lucky to walk away with 4 points. They were outplayed in every game and besides flashes of brilliance offensively and solid goaltending from the Price/Halak tandem things didn't look good.

They allowed an average of 38 shots per game during the four game trip and were undisciplined. Eight minors against Anaheim. Alex Kovalev had a tough night despite scoring his 30th on a terrific individual effort from disgruntled Belarussian Mikhail Grabovski. Kovy was called for three penalties and had most of the Habs best scoring chances but couldn't bury it again.

On the plus side, the Habs stayed in the game despite being shorthanded for long periods of time and had some great chances to pull ahead when the score was tied. The Kostitsyn brothers continue to impress, it's great when Carbo gets them on the ice together. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch them play for the next few years. The Kostitsyn era? Maybe that's a bit premature, still.....

Patrice Brisebois is not the answer. Ryan O'Byrne hasn't had a minus game since returning from his broken thumb. The Canadiens need him down the stretch so expect him back in the lineup for the home stretch. Twelve games remain, nine of which are against Northeast division rivals.

You really get the sense that this is a group of guys that are very confident and comfortable. A four game homestand gives them a chance to settle back into their home routine, wonder what they'll think about the latest dump of snow.

This weather is absolutely ridiculous. At this rate people will need to bring ladders to next weekend's St. Patrick's day parade to see the floats over the six foot snowbanks. I hope it all melts before then. I think we can all agree that we've had enough snow and we're ready for spring. Playoff hockey at the Bell Centre. Bring your earplugs.

Loose Pucks - Hopefully Tomas Plekanec comes home and gets some rest after missing yesterday's game with the flu. The Habs need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to beat New Jersey in a showdown for first place at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.