Sunday, October 21, 2007

Montreal Canadiens Week: October 16-21

[Montreal Canadiens Week takes a look at the week that was and the week ahead from a subjective standpoint, and is supplemented by the objective analysis following every fifth game]

The week that was

Back to the normal rhythm, 3 games, 7 days; with a weekly review on the Sunday following the resounding win at home on Saturday. What could be more normal than that. For a week I thought we would be able to collect 4 points of 6, I have to say I am strangely satisfied with 3 points.

First of all, the Habs played some good games. In fact, their efforts were probably superior to the games in which they had won the week before. So, movement in the right direction.

Next, we had some scoring from scorers, namely Michael Ryder, Christopher Higgins and Guillaume Latendresse. Higgins and Ryder were rewarded for strong play, while Latendresse is starting to turn things around a bit (which is a very good thing if the Habs brass remain determined to find him a place in the lineup).

Lastly, there were some interesting and good decisions made this week. Benching Begin and the mass confusion it caused among the press at least sets the precedent that lineup decisions will be made by the coach, not the press, not the players. Murray may not have availed himself very well during that game, but Carbonneau should be looking at his options over 82 games, so as not to burn out all the intensity by December like last year. The Kovalev debacle, and the brief "crisis" that was purported was pooh-poohed so fast it was impressive. I have to say it was deft of Carbonneau to tell Kovalev off and massage his ego at the same time by likening him to Guy Lafleur.

In any case, the media was put back in their box a couple of times for getting overexcited, and Carbonneau coached through it without bowing to their wishes. It makes this fan happy, because I think Carbo will be a better coach than Michel Bergeron ever was.

Once again, at the end of the week, nothing is too surprising. We sit about where everyone expected (even the optimists). Some tough lessons learned this week will hopefully make us a stronger team in the winter months for once.

If I was stretched to come up with a surprise, it is that Brisebois is still up on the top two pairings and that they had Grabovski in the lineup instead of Andrei Kostitsyn in the last game. But even that, I am going to put down to October. Talk to me in January if we're in the same position – I think I will be surprised.

Quote of the week
On Kovalev's comments:

"Mais Alex, c'est Alex. Il est comme Guy Lafleur. Je n'ai pas aimé ce qu'il a dit. Il a émis une opinion alors qu'il aurait dû m'en parler. C'est pourquoi je vais m'entretenir avec tous les joueurs."

["But Alex, he's Alex. He's like Guy Lafleur. I didn't like what he said. He gave his opinion (to the press) when he should have spoken to me first. That's why I'm going to have a talk with all my players"]

Coming off a slow week with a couple of good games and another we actually won, ...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Starts making calls about trading 1-goal man Michael Ryder.

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Calls Koivu, Kovalev and Higgins into his office to discuss the team and talking to the press.

The week upcoming

Monday night: Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre.

Well. They may have come around – the Bruins are actually ahead of us. On closer look, they've already beaten the Coyotes and the Kings, two of the relatively few bottom-dweller teams actually remaining in this league. And their last win was a scoreless affair where they pipped the Rangers to the post in the shootout. The Habs like playing against average goalies and average defenses, and the Bruins have these. They can still score if asked to, just not last game I suppose. If there is such a thing as momentum (and I think there is), then the Habs should win this with a properly convincing effort.

Bruins to watch: Bergeron and Chara - Beregeron always looks better in Montreal than anywhere else and Chara loves to manhandle the small forward corps here.

Friday night: Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center.

Our season series with these guys will be over by Remembrance Day at this rate. What to say that we don't remember from last week. They can score, and Cam ward can goaltend on occasion. Keeping the Eric/ks in check is obviously key. This series will be tight the whole way, but we should be in most games (including this one) with a chance.

Hurricanes to watch: Justin Williams and Bret Hedican – Williams has been having a great start, and Bret Hedican is looking for 3/3 on star selections versus the Habs.

Saturday night: Pittsburgh Penguins at the Mellon Arena.

Remember after the lockout, Pittsburgh were the team to beat and then they tanked. Last year, they were the team to get yer points off and they excelled. Who knows where this team will go to this year, but keep in mind, they are not going to surprise anyone this year. Bring Lapierre up to get in Sidney's face and I think we take it.

Penguins to watch: Crosby and Malkin - It's another game where we see if Therrien and the Penguins can ride on the two centres coattails for a win.

NOTE: It will be interesting to see whether Price plays Friday or Saturday this week. I don't think Sidney Crosby takes too long to figure a goalie out, I'd go with Friday if I were coach.

All aboard

A number of the passengers getting bored with the wait on the platform decide to detrain and head to the strip clubs up the street. A lot more empty seats than last week. Tickets fast becoming available on ebay.

Stationmaster Carbonneau assured the hysterical among the passengers that the train would be leaving if and when he thinks it is ready. He's frantically trying to find a caboose (with a loose connection) where he plans to entertain the press for the trip.

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