Monday, December 10, 2007

Injuries and Call-Ups: Montreal Canadiens December 3 - December 9

The week that was
Gordie Howe, Chris Chelios, no Leafs, no Sabres.

The week started all wrong for the Habs didn’t it?

The biggest ovation for a player of an opposing team? We’re still in Montreal aren’t we? Beliveau was there wasn’t he? Other Canadiens?

Honouring the 81st anniversary of anything was always going to be strange. Luckily a real live rivalry awaited and provided us the only game we will keep in our memories from this December week.

Well, we’ve now well and truly entered a little slump. But come on, there’s no more reason to believe this will last than the delusion that we would pace the Senators to second in the East (with a fourth seed of course).

Thinking back to February of last year, it seemed like that slump was unstoppable too. Well, they turned it around and just about did the impossible. This year, the coaches told them to get their slump in early. In fact, it wouldn’t be such a bad plan, seeing as how the team can only really play well when there is some concrete reason to (i.e., you’ll miss the playoffs if you lose).

Still, we did get 2 points and prevent the now fourth place Bruins from moving very far ahead of us (1 point). It reflects the level nature of the league when a horrible week is 1-2, and the worst record over ten games (ours) is 3-6-1.

Not as many positives this week, even though I’m trying. Gainey making that move was positive, so was benching Brisebois. Playing 8 defensemen on Saturday was a big step backwards though.

With so few positives, I will take this time to mention things that worry me about last week and the past few weeks:

- Koivu. Still playing well, still chipping in some points, but not been a game breaker. He can be. I think we need him to be.

- Higgins. I think he may have gotten a bit carried away with his early success. 30 goals before 40 Chris.

- Markov. Same as Koivu. While his PP passing is still extraordinary, it was always his defense that impressed me most in the past. Not so recently.

- Those 3 guys are on the website opening page – ergo, they are the faces of the team, the players that represent what the Habs can be at their best. We need a turnaround from those three. Most of the rest are followers and will obligingly follow.

- Not giving Halak a start. Price looks average at best, and still needs to be pushed. Halak needs a little boost that an NHL start could provide. A solution is right there. Hopefully whoever it is can overlook pride and see it…

- A schedule that offers no easy ways back to winning.

In some ways having a week to put behind you is easier than one where you need to conserve some parts of what you were doing. Hopefully yesterday’s workouts were a re-invention of sorts.

I hope the coaches have had a look at what they are doing and recognised their own flaws. Their systems look like they need tweaking to me.

Quote of the week
On the art of giving a quote with no insight whatsoever (Higgins):
""We played a simple, effective game on the road and then we come home and it goes to shit."

Coming off a week where the coach's best idea for manufacturing a win was 8 defensemen (again)...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Call Mario Tremblay and ask for advice.

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Visit the dressing room. Play the players a tape of those boos at the Bell Centre.

The week upcoming

I didn't see less than 3 points, that was until after the first few minutes of the Detroit game. With confidence at a seasonal low, we need to make sure that we are ready to try and win when the Southeast division comes calling (that's next week). This week we've got a team we can struggle with, a team we like to play and a crapshoot. The time for 3 points has passed. Come on, show some pride and pull in the majority this week guys.

Tuesday night: Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.

Tampa has four really good players. OK, now we know that, let's use all our defensive forward expertise to take those guys out of the game and play their AHL affiliate. Hopefully, the big 4 will carry their good play into tonight and be ready for a change from posting points for a day. This seriously is the game to win. After the loss on Saturday, I think points are mandatory from this one.

Bolts to watch: Vincent Lecavalier and Jason Ward – we get to see how far our group of forwards have yet to go and how far they have come all in one line-up. Lecavalier is the best player in the league right now (barring maybe Lidstrom) and Ward is someone hanging onto an NHL job with a team that can't afford anyone better.

Thursday night: Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

The Flyers are a funny group. They seem to be built for beating certain teams. Take the Hurricanes, they have beaten them 3 times already. Other teams give them too much to handle. Based on the last game, the Canadiens could be one team that gives them too much to handle. If the Habs can prepare well and come to the game to win, then they should be able to demonstrate why the Flyers team-building technique is flawed.

Flyers to watch: Mike Richards and Daniel Briere – if the Flyers have scored goals this year, it is greatly thanks to these two. Briere is on pace for yet another good season and Richards is really breaking out offensively. Both are proving me wrong. Luckily the duds like Umberger and Hartnell balance that out.

Saturday night: Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

Best and worse case scenario with the scheduling here. If we win the first 2 games of the week, I don't want the Leafs to play for the third. If we win 0 (can't happen...) or 1, then the Leafs is a game the players will play for. We need a low-key Saturday night sometime (oh, it's next week).

Leafs to watch: Mats Sundin and Vesa Toskala – getting old, but I would be betraying this space if I ignored the impact mats Sundin has on these games, as for Toskala, he has been improving his play of late, and it has turned into Leafs wins. Even in those 5-4 games, goalies always seem to play an important part in Leafs-Habs games.

News from the Habswagon

AP December 09 2007 – Thousands of fans descended on Windsor station today for the first time in weeks. No sooner had they come, they were gone. People had come to lift up the tracks as the train was cancelled for lack of passengers. It was cold work for the former fans, but they managed to keep themselves warm by burning multiple No. 31 jerseys.

[The subjective look at the week that was and the week ahead in Montreal Canadiens Week is supplemented by the objective analysis following every fifth game]

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