Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hillary Week: Montreal Canadiens January 8 - January 14

The week that was
A good week for the Habs, but for me the week was more memorable for the headlines involving the Hillarys. Sir Edmund and Mrs. Clinton, of course.

The Habs post of the past week would have to be the one on Four Habs Fans recapping the Blackhawks game. I have to admit, I wasn't sure if the quotes were fact or fiction, but whatever the case, it does drive home the point that sometimes there are more important things than hockey going on. Personally, American politics are not my cup of tea. But, even I can appreciate how momentous it would be to have a party running an African-American or a female candidate. Truly great.

As for Sir Edmund Hilary, I have nothing but the utmost respect. As with many great men from before my time, it is from the eulogising that I learn how much I should have admired them during their lifetimes. From accounts of Hillary's taking the Everest summit in full stride, to his treatment of Tenzing Norquay and his homage to his expedition-mates, I think Sir Edmund was class through and through. If Hillary Clinton set the example for a Habs comeback, then I hope Sir Edmund Hillary will be a model for Canadiens players (and others) to strive for. Excellence, ambition, perseverance and modesty all combined with grace. A truly great man.

Of course, the Canadiens didn't do too badly this past week either. Again, they answered my call for 4 points, so I can hardly be disappointed with the result. The loss, while freshest in our memory, was no big deal on its own – just one of many this good (not yet great) bunch of players will subject us to.

I suppose the reaction to the loss was a topic that got my attention. At the end of the day, I like an exciting hockey game. But, a loss is a loss and a win is a win for me. The manner in which the players do one or the other is rarely more than a passing concern – I'm over it within a few hours.

The other highlight of the week for me was the class the organisation showed by getting Locke up while the injured were still injured to fit in the game he was due. I think that this was a really nice move and was probably not lost on Locke – who will remember his first NHL game for the rest of his life.

Quote of the week
On not having to play with Duncan Keith, DiPietro and other undeserving all-stars:

"I would have liked to have been selected. But, it's not too important. For me, the Canadiens are my all-star team. It's great to be a part of it."

Coming off a week where two prize prospects bubbles were burst...

... what might Rejean Houle do?

Tells Carbonneau to start Halak in 5 of the next 7 games, so he can trade him quick for that enforcer we need.

... what might Sam Pollock do?

Has a 3-hour meeting with Don Lever to discuss how the players being shuttled upand down should be dealt with. He emphasises focusing on how players who have performed have been called up.

The week upcoming

No teams from the Northeast division, but still a tough enough week. Once again, this is one of those weeks that the playoff teams seize and the sidelined teams stumble over. Tobalev told me he thought 3 or 4 out of the 6 points this week. I agree. Another 4 this week would be a strong result.

Tuesday night: New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Colisseum.

The Islanders just don't go away lately. Last season, they were written off and nipped us to the post. This year, they were written off and are right in the thick of it again. That being said, they do have weaknesses and they can be inconsistent. As they're coming off wins in Ottawa and Calgary, let's hope the inconsistency kicks in tonight.

A lot of focus on Komisarek and Higgins again for their homecoming. Personally, I expect the Kovalev line to outshine the Lapierre one, and don't think Higgins will be the game story on this night. A vulnerable defense corps told me so...

Isles to watch: Marc-Andre Bergeron and Mike Comrie – Bergeron scored twice against the Sens, though his season has been up and down, Comrie is the leading scorer by a country mile over Bill Guerin, but that's not saying as much as it used to.

Thursday night: Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena.

These guys are all over the map. So much so, that the players talk about the team that way. I think it shows Atlanta is easily rattled. So, let's rattle em early. Points to be had if the effort comes from the Habs here.

Thrashers to watch: who else? Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk – Hossa is an undeserving all-star, but a talent to watch nonetheless, Kovalchuk is the goalscorer par-excellence in the NHL right now, and with his speed and skills puts on a good show each time I've seen him play.

Saturday night: Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre.

The hottest team in the NHL. Every time you think Sidney Crosby is overrated, January comes. In the Q, he put up a slow start one year only to destroy the league in the last months of the season. As an NHL rookie, Ovechkin made him look like a boy (he was) for 3 months, until Sid decided that the New Year would mean he would become the best player in the NHL. Crosby has done the same again, and saved Therrien another time. We may yet thank Crosby, if we have to face a Penguins coach in the playoffs.

Pens to watch: Sidney Crosby and Ty Conklin – see above, Crosby is just amazing once the calendars change, Conklin probably wasn't the Penguin ending in "in" that we expected to be writing in here, but he has had an incredible resurgence on the back of the young upstarts. He shouldn't get too excited. Penguins goalies have always loved streaks...

News from the Habswagon:

People were stunned to see 568 people jump from the wagon as it sped towards its destination, following the announcement of a Canadiens meltdown. Many of the jumpers, who admit to overreaction, asked to be bused to the next depot when they learned the meltdown only meant 2 points lost.

[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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