Saturday, November 29, 2008

Game #23

Big 2nd Period Lifts Habs Over Sabres

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday November 29th, 2008
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Patrick Lalime (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Steve Begin, Andrei Markov
Opposition goalscorers: Thomas Vanek (2)

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

The Habs had just gone 5 periods without a goal and somehow we needed our luck to change. With Buffalo up 1-0 we needed to catch a break and beat a very beatable (all of a sudden good?) Quebecois. Andrei Kostitsyn was the player who luck chose on this night as he was at the blue-line when the Sabres coughed it up. Kostitsyn grabbed the puck and made a great move to get around the first defenceman. He then took a shot which hit the other defenceman and came right back to him. By the time Andrei had the puck on his stick Lalime had already committed to the first, blocked, shot. It turned out to be a very timely goal for the Habs and Andrei himself, a goal in which luck allowed him to show us his supreme puck-handling skills.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei was very effective tonight. He scored a goal, added an assist, was +2 and led the team in shots+hits (3+4). He was very lively on the fore-check all night as he was hitting pretty much anything and, thus, creating plenty of turnovers. He played quite well alongside Lapierre and his brother, so what does Carbo do? He puts him straight back with Kostopoulos and Plekanec. I truly believe that Andrei belongs with Tom, but do you think that enough is enough? I am guessing that the one person who may be more fed up with all the line shuffling right now than me is Andrei himself.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Saku Koivu
Saku made a very good pass to Markov on the game-winner - his vision and patience were exceptional on that play. He did very good work on the PP, especially during the 5-on-3. For a full 2 minutes he stood in front of the net and took repeated cross-checks to the back from Captain X-Check (pre-lockout superstar - Craig Rivet). The captain led by example tonight and was a big reason for the win.

Andrei Kostitsyn
He was our most dangerous player tonight by far. His speed and skill were too much for a very tired Sabre defence to handle. It is hard to believe that his 2 points tonight were just his 8th and 9th of the season. He has been playing great hockey all year and those stats are not a good representation of that at all. I could pull a main-stream here and claim he is having a bad season based on those numbers (RDS...Brunet...), but unlike them I watch the game, each and every shift, and have seen how well this certain non-french player has been doing.

Robert Lang
I liked seeing Lang with Kovy tonight and thought it would bring us a goal or two. The two old friends played very well together and had quite a few chances. Between the two of them they had more than 1/4 of all of our shots (9). Tonight he was deployed as a #2 centre which I think is a role that he can handle, but isn't necessarily a role he should be playing.


Andrei Markov
Andrei happened to be on the ice for both of the huge mistakes which led to goals-against. Both Higgins and Gorges committed horrendous errors which Andrei could do nothing about. I will assure you that Marky didn't make any crucial mistakes himself and carried a very sub-par Gorges through this one. He scored the game-winner on a very well-timed pinch.

Roman Hamrlik
And, by default it is...I say that, but in all honesty Hammer did play a solid game. He was credited with his 400th career assist on Begin's goal which is quite an accomplishment. He was very steady at the back tonight as he kept Buffalo's chances to a minimum. He occasionally got involved in the offensive zone, but only at smart and opportune times.


Carey Price
Carey got very lucky tonight. It seems that ridding yourself of cockiness is more than a 2-week thing. For some reason by the end of the game Price had decided to neglect what had been working so well for him (not leaving his net) as he started to wonder in a very slow and carefree way. With less than 5 minutes to go one of his excursions led to a give-away which very nearly cost the Habs their lead. Aside from his play out of net he was pretty good tonight. He wasn't spectacular, but did what the goalie of any high-scoring team should do - let in 2 or less.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Let's start with what we know.

- O'Byrne isn't that great and isn't ready to play nearly as often or as much as he does right now.

- Brisebois is the worst defenceman to ever play in this league and probably any other professional league

- Dandenault has had 3 very poor years with the Habs and wasn't even good enough to be our 8th defenceman last year.

- Carbo has favorites and so do the media.

So, if I am an unbiased fan who wants to see the best possible team in Komisarek's absence I think of a few options. The first would be to ask - are those our only 3 choices? The answer, of course, would be no. We have a farm team, they have defencemen and some of those guys are quite good. Then why aren't we seeing Belle, Weber or even Carle? Surely we could at least get one of them to come up, couldn't we? After all they belong to us and are not going to cost us anymore than Komi would have - despite all of this we decided to not call anyone up.

The second obvious choice is even simpler I think. We are left with 6 defenceman and 1 guy who used to be the 7th D-man on another team. OK, simple, let's choose our best 6 and go from there. Wrong. Carbo doesn't think like that you see. All he can see are O'Byrne's errors. He refuses to look at Brisebois' miscues (much more plentiful than Ryan's) as those ones haven't hit sports shows this week. Buckling under the pressure of the media Carbo decided to sit Ryan in the press-box in favour of a guy who wasn't even good enough for our 4th line last week! The line-up that we iced tonight on defence was pathetic. It reminded me of when we had...oh wait these same guys. We had taken 2 huge steps forward over the past 3 seasons in that department, but I am afraid that this season we have taken 3 even bigger steps back. We played with fire tonight and the worse thing is we won. Just who do you think Carbo will go with on Tuedsay?

Overall Comments

The Habs came out and played another good hockey game tonight. It definitely wasn't one-sided in our favour, but I am happy to report that it was neither the case for Buffalo. Most players competed tonight and better yet, that meant 60 minutes worth. I was very happy with some things tonight, but as usual there were things that bothered me. I am happy that we outshot Buffalo 34-28. Getting over 30 shots is good, and holding your opponent to less than 30 with Price in nets will work most nights. Another positive was that we won 59% of our face-offs and we had no centre below 58%. That represents a huge change from the last few games and is something that I think helped in key situations. The negatives I saw have already been covered, but I think I must stress just one more. Tonight Brisebois played 19 1/2 minutes which was 3rd most amongst our defence (ahead of Gorges) and 5th most of our whole team. Just what is going on? That is way too much for a player of his skill (wait, does that mean that he has some). I have accepted that he is on the team, again, and is here for one last year, again, but I can not tolerate this. It is so obvious that he is our worst player that if we MUST use him it should never be for more that about 10 minutes/game. This just shows how little Carbo knows about defence - it is actually very scary.

The Habs, in the end, did what we asked. They finished another week with 5 out of a possible 8 points. I couldn't care that some people thought last night's game was a disgrace because all I see is an L and I move on. We got 13 out of a possible 26 points over our 13-in-23 stretch which isn't great, but when that includes a slump you can't complain. And lastly, they have started this home-stand on a very good note. We now have 10 games left before Christmas and have 13 more points to get. 43 points after 33 games (107 -point pace) would be a very good Christmas present for us all.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Game #22

Habs Lose Tight Game in Tough Building

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Friday November 28th, 2008
Opponent: Washington Capitals
Venue: Verizon Center, Washinton, D.C.

Team Stripes

Final Score: 0-3 - Loss

Habs starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak (L)
Opposition starting goalie: Jose Theodore (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Tomas Fleischmann, Alexander Ovechkin, David Steckel

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

With Markov pinching the Habs gave up a 2-on-1 in the second period. Out of the zone raced Ovechkin and Kozlov. With the score at 0-1 we needed a big stop as it seemed we would never get one by Theo (where was that for us Jose?). Alex came down the right-wing and made a perfect pass to Kozlov who one-timed a very well placed shot on net. Halak showed great lateral movement by getting across and keeping the game close.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Jaroslav Halak
Do you think the team has something against Jaro? For a second game in a row he played very good hockey, but all his teammates have to show over that period is 1 goal. He was very effective for the first two periods as he was the sole reason we were still, at that point, within striking distance of the Caps.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Saku Koivu
Koivu worked very well tonight with what he was given. Kostopoulos is a good, hard-working player, but he should not be playing on the top line. With Sergei, Lang and Latendresse all available it was a joke to see a 4th liner up with Sak. Koivu, as usual, worked hard and was very effective during the second period - a period which we dominated. He went 9/15 on face-offs, the only centre above 50%.

Maxim Lapierre
Max was one of our most dangerous forwards tonight as he and his line did some very good work in the offensive zone. He isn't afraid to get involved in all aspects of play which makes up for sub-par skills. I liked his play with Andrei, but can only hope that was a one-game trial.

Guillaume Latendresse
Gui made a nice return to the line-up as he played quite well with Lang and Sergei. His play was a good reminder of how much better he himself is than he was last year. He takes decent shots, controls the puck well and can now actually move up and down the ice at an NHL level.


Josh Gorges
Josh was the only defeneman not on the ice tonight for a goal. It was unfortunate that Boudreau recognized a weakness and had Ovechkin out whenever O'Byrne was around (at least Brisebois didn't score in his own net this week otherwise the game may have ended up 0-7). Had Gorges and Markov been able to see more ice against Alex (like during a home game) then we would have been fine. Whenever Josh got the chance he shut down the Caps top weapons and left them very little space.

Andrei Markov
Good for Andrei, Josh and Roman to be in the dome so much, but you know what, it is bad for the Habs. Imagine every night you saw Kovy, Koivu and Pleks in as forwards just because our other forwards, even at their best, could never be better than those 3 at their worst. Well that is the situation we have on D right now. With no Komi, Streit or O'B v.07-08, we are really stuck. The other 3 players that make up our 6 blue-liners are, at best NHL 6th D-men (not so fast Patrice). So, Markov didn't do too much tonight other than be Markov.


Jaroslav Halak
Who would have thought that the goalie that may be better than the goalie that was better than the goalie that was better than Theodore would be beaten by that very villain. That my friends is hockey, weird things will always happen. I thought Halak played just fine and really had no chance on 2 of the goals. The third was, well, #8's magic, so how can you blame the kid there. Of his 27 saves I would say at least 10 were both crucial and spectacular.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Why must everyone (RDS, media, Carbo) give up on the team every time that we lose? Are we, as fans, really that foolish to buy into all of this nonsense, loss after loss? We just beat Detroit in Detroit, so why can't we beat Washington, right? No, wrong. There isn't a secret formula in hockey that once figured out you can just go on and win forever. It is upsetting to lose to a 'worse' team two nights after beating the best, but come on folks, be realistic. I mean do we say this? Kovalev scored a goal, so why didn't he score on his next 3 shots? I mean didn't he just figure it out? I am upset that we dropped 2 potential points tonight, but am realistic enough to be happy with 2 points on our 2 game trip in 2 very tough buildings. There are no givens in hockey which make it fun to watch over and over. Tonight we expected a win and got a loss. Reminds me of the reverse happening all but 48 hours ago.

So, I will not call for Kovalev's head, ask for one Kostitsyn to be traded, the other to go to Hamilton and I won't even go on about how glorious the all French 4th line is. Let's not forget these are the same 'experts' that were riding that Kovy and Kostitsyn trains hard last season. Everyone wanted to be Kovy's best friend, everyone claimed they always knew he was a superstar. Where exactly are those people now? I'll tell you where: right here. I am not going to throw in the towel on certain players or the team until they show they are not willing to play. I couldn't care a less about individual stats as all I care about is how an individual performs and competes and where the team sits in the standings. After 22 games I have to say I have no complaints. Not every player will be at his best every night (goes without saying if you've ever played a sport) and not every game is a win, and all of that is just fine by me.

Overall Comments

I saw a lot of good tonight and most of that came from Montreal. Washington got a lucky goal off an errant Bouillon pass, but aside from that had nothing to really offer (that our D or Halak couldn't handle) until a shift which came after 1:42 spent on a 5-on-3. As for us, we had a mediocre 1st period followed by a very good period and a half in which we hit a wall named Theodore. It is that simple - we had great chances and Jose decided to play better than he has done for over 6 years. Our 2 penalties (even-up calls) ended the momentum we had and we were never able to regain that thanks to Carbo's concession. After the Caps went up by 2 out came the towels as Kovy and co. (read: good players) were benched in favour of grinders. A power-play goal of our own could have made things interesting with 10 minutes left, but was a near impossibility as Begin, Lapierre, Kostopoulos and Dandenault's knee-high wrist shots from the half-boards aren't the hardest things to block. The one thing I am most angry about tonight is how Carbo just gave up. He ran out of ideas (A. Kostitsyn on the 4th line - cunning...) and simply mailed it in. With Doug Jarvis absent I am wondering if Guy lacked half of his brain tonight.

Heads up boys as tomorrow is a new day and another chance to move up those standings. Tonight marked the second to last road game before Christmas as we have just one quick trip to Raleigh in the next 4 weeks. Believe it or not that amounts to 10 of our next 11 games at the Bell Centre. We all know that we need a win tomorrow for the sake of this week and month, but let's also start this home-stretch on a good note. We have a unique opportunity in our hands over the next month and I hope that the Habs take full advantage of this scheduling miscue. I would like to see 15 points over the next 11 games and think I will make that our goal as we forge ahead.

The Net

Along With The Playoffs, Something For Kovalev To Shoot For

(Off on holiday for a long weekend, but I thought I'd leave you all with this piece for some weekend thinking. I should note that stats were taken from before the Detroit Red Wings game - in case anything should seem strange there... in the future...)

I don't know if anyone else has been noticing, but I get the constant feeling that Kovalev is not shooting very well, and also that he may be shooting too much to make up for it.

I had a little investigation into some of the stats to see if they bore this out.

The NHL website has RTSS (real-time scoring statistics) that are very complete and include missed shots as well as shots and goals of course. From these statistics I made two simple calculations:

1) Percentage of shots on net
2) Absolute shooting percentage (% of all shots, missed or on net that are goals)

What I found was quite interesting.

The team is on average about the same as last year in terms of shooting accuracy and absolute goal rate is down a percentage point (a huge 13% if you think about it). The good news is that we are taking more shots, so goals should come.

Kovalev isn't shooting as straight
Last season, Kovalev managed to direct nearly 80% of his shots on target. And, because his shooting percentage when on target was also high, he was scoring one of every 8 times he let rip on net.

This season is quite a contrast. For one thing, Kovalev only hits the net with a 64% accuracy. Not bad in the scheme of things. But his shooting percentage is also down meaning his absolute rate is horrendous. In fact, instead of being top scorer and near top on efficiency, he is below a below average shooting option for the Canadiens this year with a goal every 16 times he lets one go - half as good as last year. That's why, even though we keep saying he is playing decent games the stats don't back it up when you look back a few weeks. There are stretches of goalessness the likes we never would have seen last year.

If you look at Kovalev compared to the league, he doesn't look like a scorer. The top goal men are mostly 75-80% reliable at hitting the net (kinda like Kovy 2007-08), and on top of that, they shoot well into the teens (%) for the most part when you include missed shots. I guess that's why Vanek and Carter have 15 goals and Alex has a mere 5 so far.

So why is this?
It's my feeling from watching there are two problems. The first is that he hasn't been getting his clean chances on the PP. For whatever reason (let's call it a rookie or Brisebois on the point instead of the 4th highest scoring defenceman), Kovalev is struggling to score on the PP. Whereas last year, he was goal every few games.

The other problem is, from a statistical point of view, that this hasn't stopped Kovalev from trying to shoot - hence more shots off target, more into the goalie.

This situation can be amended. This should be no problem for a veteran, especially - one with a few slumps under the belt. I think a little pow wow, coaches and captains re: the PP is in order. Kovalev needs to be reined in - his missed shots need to be halved at least. But in order to keep the creative maestro of the whole PP happy, I think he should be involved in devising the solution.

Top 5 Habs shooting on net
1) Dandenault 83%
2) Koivu 81%
3) Lapierre 80%
4) Begin 75%
5) S Kostitsyn 74%

Top 5 Habs absolute shooting %
1) Tanguay 17%
2) Koivu 12%
3) Bouillon 12%
4) Lang 10%
5) Begin 10%

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game #21

Montreal Takes Hockeytown

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Wednesday November 26th, 2008
Opponent: Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-1 - Win

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Ty Conklin (L)

Habs goalscorers: Maxim Lapierre, Tomas Plekanec, Christopher Higgins
Opposition goalscorers: Johan Franzen

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

Without a doubt our best play tonight was the game-winning goal which not only gave us the lead we needed, but was probably one of the prettiest passing plays we will see all year. The puck was about to be cleared out of the zone when Markov kept the play alive and kept the puck in. He found Kovy in the slot who quickly fired it to the right side. There Pleks one-timed a pass back to Markov at the point who in turn returned the favour. The net result was a quick one-time goal up over a very dizzy Conklin.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Carey Price
I remember in early 2000 the Habs beat Detroit 3-0 thanks to a brilliant performance from the wonder-kid of the moment - Jose Theodore. Tonight I won't go as far as to say that Price stole us this one, but he was the number one reason it wasn't anymore interesting, from Detroit's standpoint, than it had to be. It was, however, another O'Byrne gaffe which turned to be all the Wings needed to get on the scoresheet; a shame as I thought Carey was playing shutout-calibre hockey. In all he made 32 saves including 15 in the 3rd alone.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Alexei Kovalev
Alex was our best forward tonight. He was very flashy in the offensive zone as he put a lot of quality pucks on net. He wasn't credited with a point on the first goal, but his forechecking on Lidstrom was the number one reason the puck bounced off Sir Norris into the net. Kovy was probably the only Hab not willing to just sit back and play defence in the third and I love him for that. Maybe he defied Carbo, but when you are up you must keep attacking and that is precisely what he did.

Tomas Plekanec
Pleks played quite a quiet role in the first period, but with time he came out of his shell. He scored a great goal and had a few other glorious chances including one that was disallowed towards the end of the game. He was the best centre in the face-off circle tonight as he won more than half of the team's total face-offs (10 of 19).

Christopher Higgins
Chris scored a rather fortuitous goal tonight, but hey, a goal is a goal. That gives him 5 on the year which is about what you expect from him after 15 games. He played with a lot of energy tonight and didn't really allow the Wings to get going when he was around. Unfortunately Saku and he lost their linemate - the victim of a big hit - but the duo played well with Kostopoulos for the majority of the game.


Josh Gorges
Josh did a very good job tonight on the PK - he was used more than any other Hab in that department. He co-led the team with 2 blocked shots, both of which seemed to really hurt. He is proving himself as a true warrior and tonight, against the league's best, he was himself, at his best.

Andrei Markov
Andrei's ability to keep the puck in at the blue-line and create something out of nothing is a skill that is really second to no one in the league right now. His play to keep the puck in on Plekanec's goal was superb. He then immediately showed us his other talent as he and Pleks exchanged perfect passes for the goal. Great game in both ends, he was very strong against Detroit's potent attack.


Carey Price
Tonight Price seemed very focused and I think he was able to fuel himself with a good solid start to the game. His positioning was very good as he was square on most every shot. One thing that I noticed on a couple of occasions was that he remains standing if he can. I really like that in a goalie, most goalies nowadays will drop to the butterfly no matter what, but I think it shows true awareness and confidence to remain on your feet when the butterfly is not needed.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Tonight we played 3 different games, 1 for each period. In the first period we played cautious, match-the-tempo style hockey. Neither team was interested in over-committing nor making any big mistakes and that suited us just fine. In the second period we played offence. We scored 3 goals and probably could have even added a couple more. In the third period we played defence (aka - nervous hockey).

I was told this when I first started playing sports and it is something that I think Carbo could use a reminder of - 'the best defence is offence'. We just let Detroit come at us throughout the third period as we just tried to hold on. I reckon we got fairly lucky in the end to win by 2 goals. Aside from Kovalev the Habs were quite content on dumping the puck in. When the puck got too deep you would see all 3 forwards retreat to the neutral zone at the same time. This allowed Detroit to do what they themselves do best - play offence.

This strategy may have worked tonight, but it is not a good strategy at all. This is something that will more often than not backfire and it is not something that we can rely on. I know this is Detroit, in Detroit, but a 3-0 lead to me should be treated the same every single time. We got very lucky tonight as had it not been for Price, a few near misses and a couple of timely shot-blocks we would have been playing OT again - at best. The best teams in the league play their own game and never waiver from it, our third period display is proof enough for me that we are not one of those teams yet.

Overall Comments

When you need a win you may fear a trip to the Joe, but getting one there, when not expecting it, must be one hell of a feeling. I think that this result will bring confidence back to the Canadiens who have been playing quite well over the past 2 weeks or so. Montreal didn't let their opponents, nor Detroit's impressive record, phase them as they kept up all night long. We were particularly dominant for about 25 minutes in the middle of the game and were only really outplayed for about 10-15 minutes. Overall you can't ask for a better road performance than this and I hope the team is proud. We seemed very at ease in the offensive zone for most of the night and I was especially pleased with the work of Plekanec's line. Our defence played well too, but it is still obvious that neither Brisebois nor O'Byrne should be seeing anything near the ice-time that they saw tonight. This game marked the Red Wing's third regulation loss of the season and it was the first time that they have been held to 1-goal or less. This game is something that we should be very, very happy with.

Another 2 points in the bank and on we go. We have 2 games left this week and now just sit 2 points back of our goal. There is no reason why, after tonight's performance, we shouldn't think that 4 points is a huge possibility, but I will remain happy with 2 and very happy with 3. After those 2 games we will have wrapped-up our 13 games in 23 nights stretch. The verdict on whether or not that period will be considered a success is still out. Right now we have 11 points in 11 games. Wouldn't it be nice to exceed this week's hopes and also finish that long haul above .500?

No Cryan

At Least He Didn't Celebrate

Hopefully, the momentary appearance of a 4 on Ryan O'Byrne's sweater will be something we can all laugh about in April. Kinda like this:

The goal-starved Japanese player could be forgiven as he'd probably never seen a gaping net before.

It leaves only a couple of nagging questions:
Would a joke celebration have made Ryan's goal better? Can we edit one in?

Chin up Ryan. Redemption can come quick in Montreal for the lucky ones.

Ten Games More

Habs Ratings: Ours and Theirs

Ten games more pass us by. Number 21 against top opposition this evening. A little review of the past set of games to see what happened and who was responsible.

Who were the best players over the last ten games?

Looking back at the game reports gives some interesting answers. Short-term memory it seems is a fleeting quality...

Our top team over 10 games (Season dome)

Forward 1: Andrei Kostitsyn
6 dome games and 3 game pucks mark a resurgence for Andrei Kostitsyn. His production hasn't always been reflected on the scoresheet, but he has been dynamic and cretive even in our losses over the stretch.

Forward 2: Saku Koivu
5 dome appearances and two game pucks. Saku continues where he left off in the last ten games, only this stretch is marked because his once illustrious linemates have tailed off completely.

Forward 3: Sergei Kostitsyn
4 domes. Despite being thrown around the lineup card like a rag doll, he has been a consistent (with maybe one game in exception) as a player who turns up, thinks and performs. It must be said that he would not be here if Tanguay, Kovalev and Lang had matched their first 10 game performances.

Honourable mentions (forwards): Lang and Higgins – 2 domes for Lang in the last 5 with a good points streak, and 3 domes for Higgins with that one amazing game and a great effort in Game 20.

Defenceman 1: Josh Gorges
6 domes and a game puck. Has stepped up nicely to the plate. His first goal last game and tendency to be reliable on off games makes him number one choice here.

Defenceman 2: Andrei Markov
Also 6 domes and a game puck. He continues to carry the offensive load from the backline while being the most stalwart defender every other game as well. Fully deserving of every all-star vote, computer-generated or not.

Honourable mention (defenceman): Hamrlik – our other defender, mopping up 5 of the remaining 8 dome slots for D.

Goaltender: Carey Price
7 domes in 9 starts. Ignoring the 2 games he blew up, he has been good over the past 10. Only games like those to remind us he has yet to play a full NHL season.

Honourable mention (goalie): Halak – converting starts for domes at 300%, he would only have needed to be given one more opportunity to be the number one here..

En Route Pour La Coupe Power Rankings

Not updated yet. Will post when they are.

Three star selectors

Despite being erratic and unreliable, their conclusions (when averaged) don't lie. That's what I said last time. This time, I think the games must have been longer and the selectors given more chance to down a few extra martinis. These 3 star averages look absolutely ridiculous in hindsight – I suppose that's the trouble with the Habs giving us such a small sample size these past ten games...

Based on 5 points for first star, 3 for second and 1 for third. here's their dome:

Forward 1: Chris Higgins (2, 0, 0)
Forward 2: Robert Lang (0, 1, 0)
Forward 3: Maxim Lapierre(0, 1, 0)

Defenceman 1: Josh Gorges (0, 0, 1)
Defenceman 2: No other defencemen selected

Goaltender: Carey Price (0, 1, 1)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Good One

I never give Leafs fans enough credit. They are funny dudes.

Apparently, the ceremony they thought we should have been watching last Saturday was in the ACC. So hurt by Patrick Roy's withdrawal from that Detroit game (and the manner if happened) he has decided Wendel to be more worthy – well more or less.

Habs fans can have a good chuckle.

After all:
If there was ever a guy who played hockey "the right way," it was Clark. It's probably the ultimate sports cliche, but Wendel left everything out on the ice, every single time he stepped on it.

He did leave everything on the ice most times – including more often than not, the points awarded for wins.

Clearly I am a bit harsh on our Leafs friend, but what can a Habs fan do when provoked so?

Not 30 seconds after posting, Down Goes Brown point me to this related piece of fantasy.

Broken Spokes

On Buckling Under The Pressure

This morning as I was cycling to work I heard and felt the resonance of a familiar ping from underneath me. It both sounds and feels like a rock has been thrown up into the wheel, but none had. One of my spokes had broken.

5 years ago I would have gone on riding the bike – it's only a spoke after all, there are many – but I have learned a few things since then. If I don't fix this spoke now, I face a much bigger repair job in the future.

If the Canadiens were a well-tuned bicycle last winter, a couple of weeks ago they were a team in need of a tune up, and now the spoke has gone – they need a fix. When a vulnerable Komisarek popped and was removed from the line-up the thought of a smooth-running team was gone, the defence has since shown signs of buckling. Don't get me wrong, they are doing an admirable job. But like the poor spokes on my bike – if I continue to ride them – it will only be a matter of time until they pop, one by one.

O'Byrne showing signs of weakening
As is often the case, the spoke that is called upon to take more of the load than it can manage is the one that will be next to go. In our case, that player is Ryan O'Byrne.

I don't think anyone missed his catastrophic brain fart last night. Nor could we fail to notice his struggles so far with more responsibility. I don't want to vilify O'Byrne because he, as has been pointed out more than once, is her to stay. It will be in our interest to take his development to heart. Defending him was the right thing to do. Coaching him further would be helpful.

O'Byrne is an obvious example – a rookie thrust into a second/sometimes first pairing. But, it is my feeling that it's only a matter of time for the others. Brisebois, for example. He is playing beyond the minutes one would think prudent given his abilities and age. He's been OK while others expose themselves with mistakes, but a heavy workload does not suit him. And how about Bouillon? Powerplay and PK time galore now. In times past, more ice time hasn't translated into a cry for more ice time from fans. Generally, he too, thrives in a limited role. Even the top guys, Markov and Hamrlik could burn out some if they are asked to play too many 25+ minute games.

Replace broken Komisarek?
This brings us to the obvious question posed above. Why haven't we then replaced Komisarek on the roster?

When you lose a 240 lb behemoth that's one thing, but we also lost 20 minutes of fairly dependable ice time – all needing to be replaced. We are entitled to carry a full complement of players, but have chosen not to since Mike's injury. We have chosen to spread those 20 minutes around to the 6 other guys (not just Gorges). Why is that? I understand our wheel may never be as strong as it was without Komi in the line-up, but an extra reinforcement couldn't hurt could it?

I don't think so. It would mean we could give Brisebois, O'Byrne and Bouillon a rest once in a while by moving them down or temporarily into the stands. It would give us flexibility to toy with the defensive lineup. I think what I'm saying is that it would stop the current corps from wholly buckling under too big a load. Gainey could act here, make the necessary repair, bring in the right replacement parts.

If only we had a big defenceman (say at least 230 lbs) with NHL experience and on a roll this year (at least a great team-leading +/- on a winning team). Wouldn't that be great? Maybe we could trade one of our young offensive prospects for a guy like that...

Just a thought.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Game #20


The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Monday November 24th, 2008
Opponent: New York Islanders
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-4 - Loss (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Joey MacDonald (L)

Habs goalscorers: Steve Begin, Josh Gorges, Maxim Lapierre
Opposition goalscorers: Richard Park (1, SO), Trent Hunter, Bill Guerin (1, SO)

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

We had tons of chances and tons of great plays tonight, but I think it is obvious what this game will be remembered by. I won't, however, humiliate O'Byrne by making his goal the play-of-the game.

For me our best play came in OT, it was a Price save He was tested point blank and made an incredible pad stop which ensured the Habs would, for an 8th time this year, head to a shootout.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Josh Gorges
I really liked what I saw tonight from Josh. He was very alert with and without the puck as he seemed a few steps ahead of the play all game long. He played very well in our end and was a big reason we held the Islanders to 24 (23) shots. He finally managed to score his first goal as a Hab and I don't think it couldn't have happened to a more deserving player.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Tomas Plekanec
Tom was reunited with his old linemates tonight and I thought as a unit they played very well. Of the 3 flashy Europeans is was Pleks that gave the most in my eyes. He led the team in shots (4), faceoffs (9/13) and added an assist on Gorges' power-play goal. He was very active in the Islanders' end tonight as he used his body and speed very efficiently to get around their slow defence with ease.

Maxim Lapierre
The 4th line (formerly known as the 3rd line) played very, very good hockey tonight. The key word to that statement is hockey. They weren't out there to hit, to fight or to grind, but instead they were out there to play. I think that during their 10 minutes on the ice they generated more chances per line than any of the 3 other combos. Max, to me, was the standout of the group. He scored a very good goal and was visible on each and every presence.

Christopher Higgins
Like Pleks and co. Higgins was also reunited with his usual mates. I thought that for the most part he did very good work on the top unit as he was the key forechecker of the group. He led the team with 5 hits tonight and seemed like the fastest and most persistent Hab in the 'mucking-it-up' department. He also made a glorious pass to Max on the Habs' 3rd goal.


Roman Hamrlik
Roman was very active tonight. He helped keep the play very calm around Price for the majority of the night, but he wants you to know that doesn't include when Price isn't there. He has taught Ryan so much and because of it the kid has come a long way, but of course there will still be growing pains. Hammer's job now is to re-instill the confidence that Ryan was showing up until about the 55-minute mark of this game. We have a leader like this in place for precisely this reason, so let's hope he comes through.

Josh Gorges
What more can I say about this guy. He has been a rock this year (and last) and I can't think of a better trade of late that Gainey has made. 2 months of Rivet for Gorges and a 1st rounder (Max Pac) was a hell of a deal - makes you wonder how Huet went for so little. I think Josh will be in the Habs' long-term plans and should form a solid foundation with Hammer, Marky and Komi for years to come.


Carey Price
Price played a very good game tonight and made the saves when he had to. That is, however, until the shootout where he looked horrid. I think we have been to too many shootouts now for our own good and too many teams now know how he plays shooters (the same is also likely true about why our shooters are all of a sudden firing blanks). Carey has grown this year as a player, but I think if we want to get 2 points instead of the usual 1 he needs some work on penalty-shots.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Let's get one thing straight - O'Byrne made a horrible play, it turned out it cost us a point and he (and we) will be hearing about it for years and years. We, however, were the team that put ourselves in the precarious position where one mistake may cost us one point, and of course it did.

The Habs were all over New York tonight, it was chance after chance and there was a plethora of quality in there. You may not realize this by simply looking at the stats, but that is because at least 20 chances missed the net. I would bet that we had well over 20 quality scoring chances tonight, far more than any other game since the last time we played New York 3 weeks ago. We outplayed the Isles tonight in a way that losing a point just doesn't make any sense. When you have PP after PP and tons of chances you MUST score. You can never get too many goals and tonight, I'm afraid, we didn't capitalize. Yes Ryan made a huge blunder, but that shouldn't have mattered as this game should have been at least 6-2 by then.

So, I feel sorry for the kid tonight, and as the world looks at how he cost the team, a little bit of me is thinking how the team cost him. Every good team can absorb mistakes, but right now we aren't playing at that level. We are flirting with the title of 'OK Team' as we need everything to go our way for those 2 points to come.

All of this said, do you think anyone feels worse than Ryan right now? Do you think that anyone would have wanted to win more than him after what happened? I doubt it. So, if Carbo was a little bit more adventurous I think he should have put O'Byrne in for the shootout. For some reason the usual suspects aren't getting the job done on penalty shots, so why not try something different? I mean at this point we look like a lock to lose the shootout anyway. I think that Ryan's motivation to win would have been unparalleled and it may just have been what both he and the team needed tonight. Let's not forget O'B is here to stay (3-year, 1-way contract) so I think making sure he is confident out there should be one of Carbo's biggest concerns. I don't see how benching him after the fact will have really helped anyone at all.

Overall Comments
The Habs played well enough tonight, that despite missing their chances they should have won. It wasn't, however, to be. O'Byrne did indeed make a meal of his play, but after that we had 4 minutes of PP and OT and a shootout - a better team would have won anyway. The game itself was quite entertaining as I felt the Habs played with a real spark tonight. Our missed chances, I believe, represent a team-wide lack of confidence as players like Kovy, Tanguay and Higgins should have converted on what were, at times, gimmes. Despite all the misses we still generated 3 good goals, a couple of posts and enough chances to last a week, so overall I am happy and I think that we are on the right track. I did remark during the game how the Habs were playing very good hockey as of late and I will stand by that comment. I think what is happening now though is a realization by the players and the fans alike that we may not be 1st place material, but that we do indeed belong near the top and certainly deserve a spot in the final 8 - and I think that understanding that is a very good thing.

Smug Faces

Both Julien And Carbo Could Be Doing Better

I've been getting caught up in the scaffolding of this blog, I almost forgot that its content that people want, not perfect alignment...

We've heard straight from the horse's mouth a few times now (that's Jacques Demers) that coaches are unfairly judged and that on the whole, as a group, they can do no wrong. According to Jacques, Montreal is a veritable coaching academy, with the best coach in the East, the Northeast and the Northwest all learning their trade in our fair city. It's an interesting take.

I've always thought Vigneault was a good one. But he fell on Houle's sword didn't he. As for Therrien then Julien, I thought they were both pretty amateur when they were here, and I'm not sold on them now because Malkin is scoring 3 points night and Tim Thomas is doing his October-November thing again. Both guys love to look good in good situations, but have yet to show they can adapt to adversity.

I share some of the same feelings for Carbonneau, but with him there's the knowledge that he has it in him somewhere.

Saturday night vs. the Bruins
The raison d'etre for this post, though, is the rivalry between former coach Julien and his successor Carbonneau.

It has come up on this site (Ian Vitro comment):
I didn't think this was a good game and it totally left a sour taste in my mouth. I kept trying to figure out why Laraques was playing with Tanguay and Koivu, or why Kovalev was on with Lapierre and Begin. With the offensive struggles we have, I don't think these lines made any sense. And I'm totally sick of Carbo juggling the lines like this.

and elsewhere (notably the Daily Hab-It):
... shouldn't Guy Carbonneau's focus be elsewhere, other than making sure Georges Laraque is on the ice shadowing and harassing Lucic?

that people did not like Carbonneau's deployment of Georges Laraque over the weekend. I even had an offline argument with one of the faithful readers (and good friend). As usual, I disagree with the opinion being thrown around and (from what I've seen) accepted among groups of fans. I personally liked what Carbonneau did. I'll explain.

1) Carbonneau thought of a tactic
This must be the first time this year that Guy Carbonneau has admitted that something other than line changes or adding a defenceman to the squad could help get a win.

2) Cabonneau forced Julien's hand

Lucic did get a goal. That certainly stands like a glaring beacon against my argument. But generally, I thought the Laraque strategy in the first period was working. Lucic was put off and spent a lot of time trying to avoid Georges, thereby taking the sandpaper away from the otherwise soft and fluffy first line. More importantly Julien was flustered and put up a brick in the first with his comeback strategy. Forcing a game strategy on another coach is always positive.

3) Georges looked OK given a purpose
Turns out all Georges needed was something to do. It makes sense. After all, if he's to make up his own mind, who knows what he would come up with – we've already seen marginal, bit part, invisible and completely and utterly redundant from him.

4) Koivu and Tanguay could focus on being a tandem
This may be a stretch, but I thought Koivu and Tanguay looked better than they had in quite a stretch. They knew whose job it was to retrieve the puck and whose job it was to shoot. There was no spanner (Higgins) thrown into the works.

Tactic ran its course
So, following a first period of targeting Lucic, I was happy. The problem, Carbo, before you get too smug, is that the tactic started to run flat after 20 minutes. Lucic, realising he wasn't going to have to fight if he didn't want to, started to ease into the game. Laraque was neutralised. This is when Carbonneau could and should have had a back-up plan.

I guess that would be expecting a little much on the night of his first tactical revelation this year. Hey, maybe next time.

Julien has a short memory
Julien was the smug post-game jokester as he played to the hometown media:
"I betcha Milan never thought he was that good that he'd have a shadow on him," Julien said, clearly annoyed. "I don't know if it's ever happened in his career but it's pretty simple. We've got a good hockey player, he's 20 years old, a first line player, it's as simple as that. Do you think we're going to send him against probably the toughest guy in the league? I know Georges Laraque was doing that because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy. He respects the young kids, he knows what it's all about. There was no way it was going to happen. (Shawn) Thornton was there, ready for Georges, that never happened either. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy and it's as simple as that. I told him not to fight so if you guys are wondering, it was me."

He may be the best coach in the East at the moment (Hi John Paddock), but he's also the buffoon who lost to Guy Carbonneau 8 times in 6 months last season, totally bereft of ideas so long as the Canadiens scored a couple of goals.

Should we all be prepared to acknowledge Julien as a genius because he told Lucic not to fight Laraque? Not me.

Both coaches could use a dose of humility. Both could take it. The only concern is that I'm not sure how many more doses of humility for Carbonneau I can take.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Game #19

Yet Another Shootout as Habs' Scoring Struggles Continue

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Saturday November 22nd, 2008
Opponent: Boston Bruins
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 2-3 - Loss (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Tim Thomas (L)

Habs goalscorers: Andrei Kostitsyn, Tom Kostopoulos
Opposition goalscorers: Milan Lucic, Matt Hunwick, (Blake Wheeler - SO)

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

On our 33rd shot of the night we tied the game and essentially bagged ourselves a point against the league's hottest team. We were applying tons of pressure midway through the third period and we were getting chance after chance which in turn had me believing that a goal was forthcoming. Brisebois got the puck at the point and either missed the net by 6' or missed a pass by 4', but either way Kotopoulos reacted well. He turned around and was able to re-direct the puck up past Thomas. I think that the puck must have been re-directed by about 60 degrees and by another 60 degrees upwards - it was a very skilled (and probably lucky) play.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Andrei Kostitsyn
This was a very good game for Andrei. He was very involved tonight, at both ends, as he was on the ice for all 4 goals. He wasn't, however, negatively involved during Boston's goals. He worked hard in the offensive zone as he wasn't afraid of getting his nose a little dirty. With speed, grit and determination he was able to generate more chances for the Habs tonight than any other player.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Alex Tanguay
Alex hasn't been at his best over the past few games, but I thought that tonight he looked a little better. Maybe he was inspired by the presence of his old landlord (he lived in Roy's house in Colorado) and teammate. He took the most shots of anyone tonight (5) and was really generating some quality chances. Along with Saku he formed a good duo, but tonight they were just that as I think they had at least 4 different wingers with them.

Andrei Kostitsyn
I think that over the past few games I have noticed something very important - Lang and Andrei play well together. If you are going to build your lines on duos then that may be where I go for duo #3. I love when Andrei is up with Kovy and Pleks, but for some reason that isn't working right now. Lang gives Carbo a viable 3rd option down the middle and he showed tonight that he is quite capable of keeping up with Kostitsyn's blistering pace.

Tom Kostopoulos
I always like when a player like Tom makes a difference in a game. Unlike Begin, Laraque or Dandenault I feel that Tom has some good offensive potential. His 2 points tonight were more about him being in the right place at the right time rather than his skill, but then again knowing where to go is a major skill in hockey. He works hard every night and apart from the odd mistake (Van Ryn) is a clean, hard-working grinder. Tonight he seemed to be on. He was very effective in both ends and was just 1 of 2 players (both teams) to end the game at +2.


Andrei Markov
The Habs were all over Boston towards the end of this game and everywhere I looked there was Markov. He didn't figure in the scoring tonight, nor did he pot his shootout goal, but I think he was one of our best offensive players. Chance after chance was crated by him as he did very well to launch attacks from the blue-line. Defensively what can I say, as usual he was a rock; he finished the game at +2.

Josh Gorges
Are we a better team without Komisarek? I would say no since Brisebois is his replacement, but I would also say that our top pairing is now better. Gorges was very strong in his own end in this game as he and Markov had the answer on almost every Boston rush. He played a very cautious game which I think is great. When you are playing with such a dynamic player like Markov there is no need to ever get out of position or to pinch too much. So far I like this tandem, I just don't think in the long run we are rich enough to keep using it.


Carey Price
This was a so-so game from Price. He let in one softy (the 2nd) and didn't seem too in control tonight. It wasn't a bad effort, but he didn't steal anything for anyone, that's for sure. He got a bit unlucky in the shootout when Wheeler scored as it appeared the puck got away from both players and ended up in the back of the net. He spent very little time away from his crease tonight which I think is fantastic. Shots against, for a second straight game, were low tonight and that is something that we must take full advantage of. I think we need Price to be a goalie that can steal games and one that can at least beat a team that we outshoot them.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

When I think of hockey I think of one thing: Habs wins. I usually don't worry too much about what is going on elsewhere, all I care about are the Habs. When I watch Montreal play my main concern becomes winning, rarely am I interested in how they get there. I know for a fact that I would rather see a horrible hockey game in which we win 1-0 than an end-to-end game of excitement where we come up short.

Tonight, however, was different. I don't have that bitter taste in my mouth, so why is that? It certainly isn't because it was the Bruins got the win; I despise them, always have, always will. I think there are 3 factors that come into play tonight that made this game almost as good as a win.

The first is the fact that we got a point. I hate the rule and wish they would take it away, but as long as it is here I am happy to exploit it.

The second reason is that in all honesty that was a very entertaining game of hockey. There were chances at both ends, some good goals, the crowd was into it and it was really any one's game.

The third, and probably most important, reason why I am happy tonight is that I got to see my childhood hero back in a Habs sweater for the first time since I was 14. This jersey retirement was extra special for me as Roy was the reason I love the Habs, the reason I wanted to be a goalie (still do, but trust me it isn't working) and for once, there getting his number raised, was player I had watched and grown up with. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Gainey's, Dryden's, Cournoyer's etc. shirts going up, but I really had no memory of their playing days. Tonight it somehow seemed personal to my generation and it felt special. The Habs as usual put on a very classy ceremony and at the heart of it was a very classy (tonight at least) champion. Patching things up with the Habs after 13 years away, simply put, made losing a point not that big of a deal. One day, who knows, maybe Patrick will be employed by the Habs in some way, but today, I am happy enough to say that he is back in the family and that he is back home.

Overall Comments
What a great night in Montreal. It all started with a touching ceremony in which we saw the third Habs goalie to have his sweater retired. There in attendance to see their old friend accept this honour were numerous old teammates from Habs days gone by. Damphousse, Lebeau, Keane, Desjardins, Denis Savard were just a few of the familiar faces I caught a glimpse of at the Bell Centre. It was great to see all of those old boys and was also a great reminder of the talent we possessed back in those days. When you add Carbo, Chelios, Schneider, Bellows, Richer, Turgeon etc. to the list it really makes you remember just how strong of a team we were. So, as great as Roy was, he had a very strong supporting cast and you could tell by his words he knew it and was very, very appreciative of it. All it took, however, was one man to change things, well 2 I suppose. With the joint intelligence of Rejean Houle and Mario Tremblay rivaling that of a pea-pod it still amazes me how we have already recovered. Roy's return was a bitter reminder of how high we once were and of how low we had since fallen. What Houle would go on to do to the Canadiens (starting with the Roy trade) would cost us about 8 years of development. Poor trade after poor trade and the constant drafting of duds left this storied franchise, and their fans, out in the NHL wilderness. I didn't think I'd ever see the day when the Habs would retire Roy's number, but I also never thought I would see the day where we would have such men as Gillett, Boivin, Gainey and Carbonneau at the helm. Tonight the new Habs, in all their glory were on full display. It is thus quite funny, because as it turns out what once was old is indeed new again; class, wins and family, the current team in a nutshell.

As for the game itself it was a very spirited affair. Both teams were playing at their best and at times it actually felt like playoff hockey. There weren't really any poor performances from the Habs as Boston was simply just too good of a match. Our goals were the result of hard work and I thought that we really earned our single point tonight. This week turned out far better than the last as we finished with 5 points out of a possible 8. That isn't fantastic, but that pace would put us in the playoffs. This coming week promises to be quite charged as well as we have 4 games in 6 nights which includes a visit to Joe Louis. We are playing some good hockey right now, so let's go out and keep it going, let's get at least another 5 of 8.

Honouring Roy

Patrick's Triumphant Return

To mixed reviews and polarised sentiment, Patrick Roy's 33 will be raised to the rafters in the Bell Centre. And for the first time, the sweater that should have inaugurated the new building will be donned at ice level there.

In honour of the occasion, I have tracked down a few old articles, more poignant than anything I could come up with now, for you to peruse and enjoy. Because love him or hate him, we will all remember Patrick.

Sports Illustrated: October 13, 1986

"I don't want to be a one-year player. I want to have a long, successful career. And the way to do that is to not forget how you got successful in the first place. I once asked (35-year-old defenseman) Larry Robinson, 'How do you stay excited after all this time? How do you stay interested with all the games and all the travel?' And he said, 'Every game is something new, like the start to a career, so it never gets boring.' "

Sports Illustrated: June 21, 1993

"Always Sandstrom is in my crease, bothering me, hitting at me when I have the puck," Roy (pronounced WAH) said. "When I made the save on Robitaille, Sandstrom hit at me again. So I winked. I wanted to show him I'd be tough. That I was in control."

Roy's retirement: Michael Farber
"Roy was very important in the history of the Canadiens, especially with the premature retirement of Guy Lafleur. There was a small game between French-Canadian icons and the torch was passed to Roy. He was part of that continuity."

New York Times: December 10, 1995
"It's too bad sometimes when you lose a player like that," said Tremblay, who does not regret the decision not to pull Roy from the rout earlier. "The thing is, it is not the organization who asked for the divorce."

A game to make a lagend:

And a retrospective of Denis Brodeur's pics of Roy with the Habs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mats Scarlet Sundin

There Is Always Room For One More

As we're all into quoting the Pythons and cartoons, I thought a quote for me. Always a favourite to repeat in the forced British accent, and perfectly applicable for the latest Mats Sundin news: "There's always room for one more!"

According to reports of questionable reliability (given that Gaborik is looking so good in Bleu, Blanc, Rouge), Sundin and Gainey met this week in California.

Any self-respecting GM not lucky enough to ice Crosby and Malkin should be making tracks for Sundin too. Players like the big Swede are rare specimens indeed. The fact that players will have to be moved to make room shouldn't discourage anyone form adding Sundin (including Gainey) – it is hard not to see how he wouldn't upgrade most teams. Besides, a few favours to a bottom feeder in the future might tempt them to take a salary for a few months.

All the way to LA for a coffee?
Probably not. While I don't doubt Gainey is serious about Sundin, LA also happens to be home to said bottom feeders and goalie-less Kings and is close enough to a number of trading partners should salary need to be shed. The speculation has begun. Let's see where it takes us this time...

Another signing idea
Probably a bit late, but wouldn't it have been cool to have signed Patrick Roy for a game? Have him take the ice and make his last moment as a Montreal Canadien a little nicer?

A one game cap hit on league minimum wouldn't hurt, and Roy could flip it right to the Children's hospital.

Probably a bit too left field again for traditionalist management. Still, would be quite an event.


Carey Price And His Crease

I do agree with Tobalev's assessment that last night's performance by Carey Price was worthy of praise. He did what he is paid to do – guard the net – with exceptional efficiency and style.

But as ever, Carey (still learning) would endeavour to make his life in net more difficult than it needs to be. Last night (particularly during the first period), though he was making stops easily, Carey was giving me fits. On a few occasions he found his way behind the net to allay his boredom and showed off his overly calm and inept passing ability off to the Sens.

(The timing of this piece is a bit unfortunate, as I don't want to be a downer on Price who earned us two points with some fantastic saves. But it has been on the cards for some time and I wanted to get it out.)

First Sens goal
Following the first Senators goal, my current favourite hockey mind Benoit Brunet, quickly laid the blame on the shoulders of Andrei Markov. Markov he said "is an experienced defender and should have been able to deal with the puck in the crease". Fair enough. I see his point.

What he didn't mention for some reason was how the innocuous build up was turned into a dangerous possession for about the third time in as many minutes by a foray behind the night form our talented (and beyond RDS reproach, apparently) Carey Price. Had Komisarek or O'Byrne made the same fluffy pass up the boards to an advancing Sen, we'd have heard about it to no end. Had Brisebois done the deed, the fans would have called for blood. But Carey got the free pass.

Now, Tobalev seems to think someone had a chat with Carey before this game about the puck-play. I would suggest that if they did, it may have happened in the first intermission. The talk if it did happen was criminally overdue. If it didn't, I'm clamouring for one now.

Goalie giveaways
Goalies are lucky buggers in that it's difficult to access their giveaway stats on the NHL website (well if you're a lowly blogger, anyway). As such, Carey's numbers are kept hidden to public scrutiny. But, luckily for us keeps more detailed accounts for us on giveaways, takeaways and other interesting statistical fancies.

As you can see from the list (which is not updated automatically, so doesn't include last night's games), there are a few Habs on there. Andrei Markov – biggest giveaway man in the league according to On the hockeyanalysis list, Andrei is a proud second (having his giveaways pared down by a certain ratio because the website feels Montreal stats gatherers are more free with what defines a giveaway than the NHL average). Other Canadiens are there too. All in all, it's not surprising. After all, the list reads a bit as a who's who of players in the NHL – reflecting the fact that giveaways are inevitable (not desirable though) for anyone, given enough ice time.

The anomalous inclusion on the page is Carey Price with the 51st most giveaways in the league after adjustment (and not counting last night). His generous downgrade by the website means he is about 35 places below where his 19 giveaways would put him today based on the extra two from last night).

Regardless of whether he is top 50 in the league or top 25, the fact remains that Carey shouldn't even be on such a list. There is only one other goalie in the top 100 adjusted (Peter Budaj). We all know enough about Colorado to realise that Price and Budaj are not normally mentioned in the same breath. Nor do I want them to be.

Thinking about it, being a goalie in the NHL is the only position where you could be perfectly immune to the giveaway. You see, rebounds are not giveaways – so if a goalie stayed in the net 100% of the time he would have 0 giveaways for the season. I expect that's where all the other goalies are. If this is true, shouldn't we expect and ask our goalies to keep the giveaways to a minimum?

Is it not reasonable then to ask for Carey to stop handling the puck? At least for a while?

I understand that he thinks he's good at it, but he must realise his limits, or someone must tell him. He has been compared to Martin Brodeur, but he is more Patrick Roy in the puckhandling department. For goodness sake, if bloggers around the league (and Carolina) know how bad he is at handling the puck, you can bet coaches build this into their game plans. I can see as much, with opposing forwards salivating when he ambles behind his net and chooses backhand. Rollie should nip this in the bud as of now, work on the passing in practice and bring it out at a later date.

Last night was the perfect example – he can make the saves, control the rebounds, intimidate the shooters, but he cannot pass the puck (or at least make a half decent judgment on where he should pass it). Cut this out and we'll be one little step closer to being the team the "100th season" marketers dream of.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Game #18

Montreal Comes Back 3 Times Before Finally Winning It

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday November 20th, 2008
Opponent: Ottawa Senators
Venue: Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win (SO)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Alex Auld (L)

Habs goalscorers: Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov (1, SO), (Alex Tanguay - SO)
Opposition goalscorers: Dany Heatley, Nick Foligno, (Jason Spezza - SO)

Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

In the second period Price made a save that was in my opinion one of the best of his career. Montreal gave up a 2-on-1 to Ottawa. Off to the races were the equally speedy Vermette and Kelly. Kelly, the puck-carrier made a nice pass over to Antoine who had a pretty big net to shoot at. A well placed shot was fired, but there, in a flash, with his right pad was Carey Price. It kept the game tied which given our fragile mental state had more connotations than may meet the eye.

Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Andrei Markov
After 2 periods I was ready to call-out Markov. He was partially to blame for Ottawa's first goal and on top of that he wasn't playing a very strong game. What he did from the third period onward, however, helped to change my mind, a lot. He not only scored our second goal and a shootout goal, but he was, for 25+ minutes, at his absolute best. This was a performance that I will not soon forget. He shut everything down in our end and got things going in the Ottawa's on numerous occasions.

Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...


Saku Koivu
The captain played a very good, energetic game. He was very good on the PK and defensively in general. He scored a PP goal with a very nice move out from the corner. He got stoned in the shootout, but all can be forgiven as Tanguay scored where Saku wanted to. Overall I thought he played very well with Latendresse and Tanguay and I would actually like to see that line keep going. So far this year that has been our best unit and tonight was another clear example of that.

Steve Begin
Begin was all energy tonight. He played like the Steve Begin of years gone by and I think it lifted the team in a way. He fought (where was Laraque - oh ya, right beside him pushing someone) when Hammer was hit after the whistle and later properly dropped the gloves. I don't think that we need fights for the sake of fights, but when I see Begin fighting to defend his players and to show that we won't be pushed around it makes me glad; if only we had a player designated to do that every game...

Sergei Kostitsyn
Sergei took his new line assignment (4th with Begin and Laraque) and made the most of it. Despite being the only skilled player on his line he still made things happen out there. I like seeing players that won't go out without a fight and who are capable of a demotion and doing something positive with it. Unlike Samsonov, Kostitsyn went to the 4th line, played hard and worked his way back to the third unit by the end of the game. Oh yeah, almost forgot, he assisted on both goals.


Josh Gorges
At over 27 minutes Josh was the most used of all players tonight, by either team. I didn't notice him much for what he did do, but more importantly for what he didn't. There were no real mistakes, no giveaways, no careless pinches. He kept his game simple and it really helped. Often times it is the little things that win you games and I think that of all our players Gorges did the most little things tonight.

Andrei Markov
There aren't many defencemen in the league that can turn an ordinary game into a win like Andrei can. This, to me, is his true value. Yes, I know he will always be solid going both ways, but at the end of the day he is a game-breaker. He has an ability not seen in years on the Habs' blue-line to take control of a game for the better. I was so impressed tonight by how he kept working and working until it finally all came together.


Carey Price
This was a very nice outing for Price. It was an easier night for him than Tuesday was as he only faced 25 shots, most of which were very manageable. He did, however, at times steal the show. His play-of-the-game save was absolutely beautiful and essential as were countless other stops along the way. He made a fantastic glove save (a la Roy) on Ruutu's penalty which you should all try and see - it was stunning. With the last penalty-shot going wide (Vermette) that glove save would be the last save of the night. It is, therefore, funny that the last save made by a Habs goalie while the #33 isn't retired would be made in such spectacular, Roy-like, fashion.

In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Did Kovalev save us the game? Towards the end of the 2nd period Kovalev tripped super-pest Ruutu and was assessed a 2-minute penalty. Because Ottawa had the puck they played the advantage and play kept going. 3 seconds later the puck was at the back of our net and the Sens were up 2-1 (another deficit for us), or were they? Bouillon had just swept at the puck right before the shot came in, thus stopping play (the whistle was never heard as the crowd was cheering for the goal, but it did indeed sound). So, had Kovalev not tripped Jarkko we would have been down. Ottawa failed to convert on their PP, so it was with a 1-1 scoreline that we would head to the dressing room, but more importantly with our spirits still in tact.

I am glad, for the Habs sake, how this all panned out, but come on, what a stupid rule. We made slight contact with the puck and this is why we are saved? I know it is a rule and it was the right call, but I think that the league should review this one. Considering how the league always wants goals and excitement why wouldn't they want to keep this particular play alive. So, this is what I propose as a way to keep the excitement alive. When a team has a delayed penalty I suggest that the soon to be penalized team must either touch the puck outside of their own end, or, if hemmed into their own end, then clear it. What that would do is it would allow for plays like tonight's (and countless others) to carry on while the attacking team was going for it. It would make it harder for the defending team, but would also mean that unintentional touches, like we saw tonight, wouldn't be enough to get a stoppage. Maybe this idea is too left-field for our ever conservative league, but I think it would be fun. After all, should taking a penalty really be a way to stop a goal? I am happy tonight, but I think that this one is worth consideration.

Overall Comments

This game had very good flow from start to finish, but it was obvious that both teams were playing not to lose. It was a very cautious opening 40 minutes for both sides as neither team could really afford another loss. The shots after 2 periods were 11-11, a far cry from the type of game we played the other night. I thought that the Habs did quite well to build from the back tonight. You must always start in the back, goals will come, but at the end of the day you need to be strong at the back first. Our defence and Price were solid tonight as all 7 men kept their plays very, very simple. I noticed that Price rarely played pucks behind his net and when he did, he didn't take chances. You can't go a whole season being cautious, but I think when things aren't going well it is a good way to start. We saw that by the third period, when both teams opened up, the play remained simple. Yes, there were more chances at both ends, but overall it was all based on simple play, by both teams. Once we went down in the third we started to turn it on, and it was at that point that I saw the Habs of 3 weeks ago on my TV. We were getting tons of chances and because of this increased time in Ottawa's end, guess what, Ottawa didn't get many chances of their own.

So, let's take a look - 3 game road trip, 4 points - not too bad by my standards. We all know that the game against Carolina was close and it was a good effort, but that is a road loss for you. What we have to do, more so than anything, is avoid the big blowouts like we saw against Boston. If we can keep games close, I believe that our skill will get us more wins than not. We have one more game this week and I see it as a perfect opportunity for a huge game. We get another shot at Boston, at home, on Saturday night and it it Roy's jersey retirement night. Let's win one for the fans, for ourselves, but how about for Patrick too.