Sunday, November 11, 2007

Neighbours Week: Montreal Canadiens November 5 - November 11

[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

Everyone turn to your right, now turn to your left. Introduce yourselves because you'll be spending a lot of time together.

This week the Canadiens met their opponents for the next month. Unfortunately they didn't get a chance to meet the NHL schedule makers who did about as good a job at shuffling as a down and out player at a Hearts tournament.

Another week down and another 4 points. Someone is paying attention to the game this year on the Habs. Less wins against Toronto, but, hey, let's beat everyone else.

The week properly belonged to Cristobal Huet last week. After what was mostly unfair criticism of him the previous week, he came out and showed that he is a top goalie (again). In addition, he is managing to light quite a little fire under Carey Price who played and earned a star in his performance again, but for the first time he actually earned his Molson points in full.

Our Eastern European youth movement also had a good week. Well, in the NHL anyway. Kostitsyn proved why he should be on the second line with a few amazing passes. And, Plekanec showed us how to beat a goalie on a 2-on-1 turned mini breakaway. It's quite exciting that both of them are on the go at the moment, as they will no doubt have to carry a lot of the offensive load in the future – both this season and those ahead. I would hope the Andrei eventually starts to shoot some of the time himself, but you can hardly complain when he sets up game-winners with such exquisite passing.

Finally, I would like to rehash some of what Tobalev has been saying over at the game reports, and that's that the stats won't tell the whole story of this week (or any week) in a few weeks or months time. I mean Kostitisyn and Plekanec had good weeks, but they didn't get 10 points each. Even Kovalev played very well, but this was not his best week for stats either. And then you could look to Michael Ryder, who once again didn't score, but did play well enough in two wins and very well in the loss. The only players who padded the stats this week was M. Huet and Mr. Price, of course. And while they were the players of the week in most assessments, it would be harsh to ignore what the rest of the team accomplished, that is the difficult task of beating teams that you just met and beat a few days earlier.

Anyway, the team will not dwell on the past, so neither should I. On to next week, 21 points in hand, 75 to find...

On clutching at straws when your team fails to score for you (Ryan Miller):

"I thought we were better than Montreal in a lot of aspects, but Huet came up big for them," said Miller. "We can't be too mad. Hopefully, the guys won't take this one too hard. We played a heck of a game."

Coming off a perfect week with a five-minute lapse to end...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Wait. Sometimes even Houle took weeks off making a mess of things.

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Wait... on making any personnel moves with the Canadiens. Get updates from the amateur scouts on this year's draft eligible players. Good GMs make use of their time spent waiting.

The week upcoming

Didn't I write this preview last week?

Tuesday night: Toronto Maple Leafs at the air Canada Centre.

Toronto. Tough game, blah, blah. We're gonna win this one. A few reasons include the injury to Kubina (hence McCabe will be back to more minutes), it's not in Montreal (so the annoying away fans will be ours) and we won't be swept by the Leafs this season (so time for a win...)

Leafs to watch: Kyle Wellwood and Tomas Kaberle – Kaberle is Toronto's Markov, just good going forward and can pass with the best of them; Wellwood is just a good player with no points, one of the only Leafs prospects I actually catch myself envying them for now and again.

Friday night: Buffalo Sabres at the HSBC Arena.

I've picked on Miller once (with the quote of the week), but I really do think it tells you a lot when any player comes out of a loss (where his team scored no goals) and gives an assessment like that. Last season Buffalo would not have been satisfied with that result. This year, at least one of their players was. A different team, that we should try to push further down the standings this week.

Sabres to watch: Paul Gaustad and Andrew Peters – Last game was tame and Buffalo lost, realising they can't skate with us anymore, Ruff could turn to these two to make the game more of a battle.

Saturday night: Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre.

Another classic Saturday match-up. I think the Bruins might come and score a few more goals this time. Another defensive battle won't go their way and Julien knows it. He might just let Marc Savard off the leash, maybe even Phil Kessel too. I think the Habs may just cure their scoring blues by this game too though, and I think Ryder could find a slump cure in Boston the way Zednik always did.

Bruins to watch: Chuck Kobasew and Marco Sturm – Kobasew (wow on my list again) scored the game winner last game for the B's and he already has 2 more goals than last year, while Sturm scores at a more regular pace, but still scores.

Overheard on the Habs train

"Where'd Mike go? He was right here a minute ago."

"Oh, he's getting the train out of Ottawa instead."

(Oh yeah, it's November, but he also said: The Canadiens will not win the Stanley Cup.)

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