Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Drawstrings Week: Montreal Canadiens November 26 - December 2

[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

I thought last week was back to earth for the Habs. Well this week was back into the mixer that is developing in the NHL's Eastern Conference.

With 3 points this week we drew closer to the conference lead and allowed the laggards to catch up. This is what the New NHL was designed to be afterall - equal. Well, the drawstrings are being pulled in and no team is safe, not the Senators, not the Hurricanes, and certainly not the Canadiens.

For us in Montreal, it is easy to mire in our own failures and keep looking to teams that are winning. But surely we have to recognise that every week that goes by we are watching different teams on winning streaks. One week it is us and the Senators, the next week the Thrashers and the Islanders, the next week the Flyers and the Sabres.

All the Habs need to do is get into and stay in position so that in March they are in striking distance. It's just like that Sega horse racing game at the casino. I'll pick them in the quinella. Come on Habshot Dancers...

So, amid all the gloom and doom, is there anything to be positive about?

Of course there is:

- Latendresse is scoring. This provides the team with a third scoring winger. We're still waiting on you Mike.

- Kovalev is still scoring. A real positive light this year on the team.

- The Canadiens are still in 5th place. Albeit thanks to parity, and through no fault of their own.

- The stupid part of the schedule is over. We can go back to Tuesdays and Thursdays for a while with games against teams who haven't been renting apartments in town.

- Jaroslav Halak is up. Getting a chance to prove that he really does deserve some NHL time.

- Chipchura can play. Habs rookie of the year this year?

- The bandwagon is emptying. We can make our way back to the bar on game nights.

Not bad, quite a bit there. Plus, we're on a 1-game point streak. This will be the 5 game without a loss in regulation if we win the next four, you just wait.

I have to say I am confident the team will turn things around. This is because every team in the East has had a slump so far and every team (except Ottawa) has turned it around. If we are an average Eastern conference team like the critics say we are, we should look forward to some wins in the future.

Quote of the week
On striving for more:
"That's one reason why I'm not happy," Kovalev said. "I mean, I'm happy I've scored 12 goals, but I'm not happy because most of them came on the power play."

Coming off a week where New Jersey showed us that making the playoffs is less important than avoiding them in the playoffs...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Shrug his shoulders and evade the media.

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Offer Brisebois a 10-year contract ... coaching in the ECHL (effective immediately).

The week upcoming

Looking back at last week, I thought 3 points would be good. And, 3 points is what we managed, so kudos to the team. I am not in a position to care how they got the points - I haven't cared about a hockey game in May for years. That's all I want, OT losses and all. This week I'll take points again. 3 would be acceptable. 4 would be nice and 5 or 6 would be very nice indeed. I don't see less than 3, not if they have any pride (and they have lots...).

Tuesday night: Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre.

People think divisional games are all important. I think if you take your games off the West, you give yourself bonus points that improve your standing and make divisional games less pressure-packed. These are the 10 games that make an eighth seed a fifth seed.

In Detroit, you have a team that knows how to win and win regularly. But they have no interest in being undefeated. They have little interest in President's trophies. They focus on the Cup. That's why they can be beaten in December. We have a team that can beat them. We have good but not great scorers, they have a good but not great goalie. What we also have is a desire to help Nashville win the Central as we saw the other night.

Wings to watch: Niklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg – two great players that play attractive and effective hockey. Plus they are Swedes and Swedes love to play the Habs, ask Alfredsson and Sundin.

Thursday night: Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden.

It's too bad Bergeron got hurt, but my goodness what a perspective the young man had. No suing, no blame, just planning on acting to clean up the league's act. I like the attitude, I like the player. I'm also glad he'll be missing this game. As the Bruins best in my eyes, he'll be missed against a newly focused defensive Habs team.

The Bruins have been hottish of late and catching us - but then again who hasn't? With a bit of focus, we can find our success against this squad again and put them back in their place.

Bruins to watch: Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard – Kobasew continues to amaze me by turning up on the scoresheet night after night (it used to be months in between appearances), while Marc Savard is the chronically underrated scorer of this league (I even underrated him myself one paragraph ago).

Saturday night: Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre.

Saturdays put all eyes on the Habs come 7. It's tough to be at home every week during a losing streak when everyone is watching. Well, this Saturday is serving up another tough one. Two teams that came out of the gates strong in October. Two teams that stumbled a bit in November. And, two teams that will be looking to straighten things out this week. I think Saturday will once again determine whether this week is good bad or average. i don't foresee 4 points from Tueday and Thursday. A win here and 5 points on the week would see the Hab's fortunes on the rise. I think a Canes blogger is writing the same thing (my ears are burning up).

In all seriousness, it is time for the Canadiens to be a team that victimises vulnerable teams in delicate situations rather than be the first stone on their path back to playoffland. If character game is a real thing, then this game is it.

Canes to watch: Matt Cullen and Cory Stillman – two forwards to make it 6 to watch this week. Cullen loves Carolina apparently and Cory Stillman is a player who makes me think my statement about Marc Savard being chronically underrated is an exaggeration, when will Stillman get any respect? Tampa has really missed him.

Overheard on the Habswagon

Ceiling fan: wrwrwrw

(The last guy took that foil cup that fell over, he's making a safety blanket)

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