Saturday, October 30, 2010

Game #11

Vokoun and Luck Stop Habs Short

Details



Date: 30/10/2010
Opponent: Panthers
Location: Montreal

Loss: 1-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Vokoun (W)

Habs goalscorers: Darche
Opposition goalscorers: Frolik, Booth, Matthias



Play of the game


There was a series of saves that kept this game at 1-1 which I thought was going to be a real turning point in the game. The play started when Markov pinched, but got caught in Florida's zone. David Booth, who played very well all game long, was then away with the puck. The Panther beat Subban in a leg race and got a shot on net that was stopped. The puck, however, came back to him and he got another chance, but Carey slid across to make his biggest save of the night.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
This wasn't a dominant performance, but when I looked at my dome he was the player that rose up for me. He skated very well tonight and was shooting and hitting throughout. Nothing to show for on the scoresheet, but a better effort than last night, more in line with last week.

Mathieu Darche
Mat only played 7:57, but made the most of it by being noticed on pretty much every shift. His goal was created purely by hard work and that was very nice to see. I may have played him a little bit more that he was played tonight as he, in my mind, would have been better suited on G+G's line than Moen in this one.

Scott Gomez
Scott led what was a pretty invisible line tonight. Moen was nowhere to be found and all I ever saw Gionta doing was missing glorious chances (poor guy). The one bright spot, though, was Scott who I felt played with speed and determination. 9-5 on face-offs and a team-high 6 shots are good numbers for the centre who, I feel , is about to really get going.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
Smooth skating, patience with the puck and a vision like no others were all on display for the first time this year from Markov. He was good tonight, but not quite his great self yet. That all said I thought that he was our best defender, especially in the offensive zone. In all he had quite a few chances and good passes. He took a whopping 10 shots of which 5 made it to the net.

PK Subban
PK played very well all game, but I felt wasn't that key on the PP. With Souray, Streit, Schneider and Bergeron we always had a big shot that could one-time and pick a spot with consistency. Subban runs a PP more like Markov so I am not too sure that they should be on together. In fact I think that the two players could be better used if they were paired with Spacek (Markov) and Hamrlik (Subban) on a permanent (ES and PP) basis. PK is a great addition offensively, but I feel that his shot isn't that effective (it is rarely on net) and we waste too much PP time to set it up.

Goaltender

Carey Price
It was an average game from Carey which included a few very good saves. The goals were all difficult and one shouldn't expect them to be stopped, the D should never let it come to that. His puck-handling was at a season's worst tonight (which says a lot) as he was lucky to escape with no major blemishes on any of his give-aways. It would be nice if he showed a little urgency after a give-away rather than casually skating back to the net as we saw on numerous occasions tonight.


Comments


Vokoun was great in this one as we had 41 shots, many of which were of decent quality. Luck, as well, was on Florida's side as loose pucks never seemed to find their way into the net. A game like this comes along once in a while and I think there isn't much you can do about it. It happens, we could have won, maybe we should have won, but let's move on. One thing that I would have changed tonight, though, is that I would have had Markov on the 5-on-3. Subban has had 10 games to run the PP and we have very few goals to show for it (are any really thanks to him?). That type of situation is Markov's bread and butter and I feel that he would have given us a much better chance at scoring than did PK. If the excuse is that Martin wanted to ease Markov into his role I don't buy it. If a guy can play 23+ minutes then surely 1.5 of those could be spared for the 2-man advantage. It was a bad coaching mistake and hopefully we have learned that lesson and will move on.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Game #10

Auld Stops 30 in Debut Win

Details



Date: 29/10/2010
Opponent: Islanders
Location: New York

Win: 3-1

Habs Goalie: Auld (W)
Opposition Goalie: Roloson (L)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Pouliot, Moen
Opposition goalscorers: Martin



Play of the game


The lob-out has become such a big part of hockey over the past few years that I am not surprised that teams are using it more and more often as a way to break-out rather than simply to clear the puck. Tonight's game-winner was a prime example of this. Subban, who has this move down, flicked one up, high in the air into the neutral zone. Anticipating that type of a pass was Halpern who caught the puck and found himself on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing to the player on his left, however, he went back to the trailer, Pouliot. Ben then showed us the shot we all thought we remembered that he had and picked the corner very nicely.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Jeff Halpern
Jeff has been playing well and I was hoping that he would again tonight as he deserves some recognition for his hard work. He took advantage of an off-night (well, less on than usual) from the top line to be our best centre. His play on the winner was very nice indeed, but so was his 2-way play the rest of the time and his 8-3 record on face-offs.

Brian Gionta
Another good game from the skipper. He keeps putting pucks on the net and that was rewarded tonight when Moen tipped one of those in. His speed, shot and responsible play are all so valuable to this team right now and are all contributing factors to our success.

Maxim Lapierre
Another bottom-line forward to do well tonight was Max. Had Andrei, Pleks and Camms lit it up for 2 or 3 more goals this effort would have been forgotten, but on this night I couldn't ignore it. 6 hits and an aggression and energy that we don't see every night in the regular season from him. His goaltender interference penalty cost us 2 minutes, but if it even helped in a tiny way to throw Roloson off his game then it may have been worth it.

Defencemen

Roman Hamrlik
Roman and Jaro played well tonight. I actually wanted to get Spacek into the dome as I thought this was one of his better games. I couldn't, however, overlook Hammer and Gorges in this one. Hamrlik played a team-high 24 minutes in his last game as acting general. Tomorrow is part 2 of our season and I think we're all pretty excited to be getting our best player back.

Josh Gorges
When Hamrlik and Subban are playing well (which they have been doing) our D all of a sudden has some serious depth. In fact, with Markov back our top-4 is very, very good. Josh, as a number 4, is so reliable, patient and clever that I think he may be one of the best #4's in the league. Spacek and Gill also played well tonight which gives us a very good top-6. Gorges led the way tonight with 5 blocked-shots and also had one very good one-timer which he almost scored on.

Goaltender

Alex Auld - Game Puck
I was pleasantly surprised with the work of our back-up tonight. In all he faced 31 shots and did a very good job to keep all but 1 of those out. His positioning looked good, he was quick and he made some important saves when he had to. I think that this game will have earned him a lot of confidence and respect from his teammates and a few extra starts from Martin. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him about once every five games rather than every eight or ten.


Comments


10 games without Markov and here we are with 15 points in the bank - unbelievable. Tonight's game was the type of game that you know you should win and if you lose it you are left wondering what could have been. New York played a decent game, but their defence and goaltending has too many holes for us to let an opportunity like that pass us up. The Habs didn't play as well as we did on Wednesday, but what we did do was we played a simple road game. We had very few mistakes, didn't over commit too many times and took advantage of our limited opportunities. We took a few too many penalties for my liking, but that may have more to do with Tavares, the actor than the Habs, the criminals. John made sure that every time he was touched there was a dive or a fall that followed. He earned his team a few chances, but our PK and Auld, in particular, would have none of it. It is back home tomorrow to play against another very beatable team. Florida then Columbus - could we be at 10 wins by the end of next week? It starts tomorrow when #79 comes back and I, for one, can't wait!

Markov to Return

They say tomorrow. Who knows, perhaps tonight?

Whatever the case, by the time this weekend is through, the Canadiens will be a team led once again on offence by Andrei Markov.

In preparation, here's a look at some of his more impressive statistics from last season:

4.171
Goals per 60 minutes that Andrei Markov was on the ice for last season (top on the Habs)

This number included 3.442 GFON/60 at even strength, 10.383 GFON/60 on the PP, and 0.612 GFON/60 while shorthanded. The ES and PP numbers (the ones that really count) are also top two from the team last year


2.742

Goals against per 60 minutes of playing time. Quite a bit less than his offensive output. Hence his +11 number.


0.69
Domes per game. Meaning 7 times out of 10 he was one of the top two defenders on the ice for the Habs in his 69 GP. Few to none were disputed.


6.29
Goals created per 60 minutes of PP time.4th on the team last season (despite double shifting many PPs). Something we've missed this season.


23:20
Minutes of ice time per game. Another thing the team has missed this season.


Even though this team hasn't missed him as much as they might have in the past, his return can't be anything but a boost as he replaces Alexandre Picard at ES, SH and on the PP.

That said, the immediate period following his return might be one of flux as it often is when such major parts come in and out. Hopefully, Markov will find a way to ease in to providing all he can provide without disturbing the successes of players like Plekanec, Price and Kostitsyn.

Then again, as long as the winning continues, who cares if hurts the stats of players who've enjoyed his absence.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Game #9

Shots Kept Down, 5 Goals Scored - Who Is This Team?

Details



Date: 27/10/2010
Opponent: Islanders
Location: Montreal

Win: 5-3

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Roloson (L)

Habs goalscorers: Darche, Moen, Plekanec, Halpern, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Wisniewski, Tavares, Weight



Play of the game


Early goals are like banking points in October - key at the time, invaluable at the end of the day. That is why I was so happy with our 2nd first period goal which put us up 2-0. The goal was orchestrated by none other than Tomas Plekanec who, with brilliant speed, demonstrated, yet again, his diversity. A 2-on-1, thanks to New York's aggressive attacking style, came about during the Isles second PP of the first. A hard clerance by Gill, some good work at the blue-line and a beautiful pass by Tom and a nice display of speed and hands by Moen gave us a brief 2-goal lead. The goal, as it turns out, was very crucial as the Islanders would come back to score 3 of their own.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn
Can you believe it? Andrei now has more points (10) than games played. He has had a fantastic start and that has made him play with confidence. Tonight he was confident alright as he shot when he should have, passed when he should have and hit when he should have. He seems so comfortable on the ice that he is really a treat to watch. Tonight an assist on Plekanec's goal and an empty-netter, that sealed the game, were added to his tally.

Brian Gionta
Gionta was feisty all night and came close to scoring on a few occasions. I was happier with how he played tonight than I have been over the past week as I really feel that he put in a good effort. Let's not underestimate his value as a leader and a defensive presence when we speak of him. He may not have many points, but 6-2-1 as a Captain for the career looks pretty nice, I think.

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
The complete player was at his best, again, tonight. He has to be the of the most likeable players in the league right now as he is well-spoken, tries hard at all times, can play in any situation and rocks the turtleneck as good as, if not better than, anyone since Bobby Smith. It was 2 points for him tonight - back to Point Per Game pace.

Defencemen

PK Subban
Again PK was a delight to watch. The hot starts of Pleks, Kostitsyn and Price may be overshadowing what has been a very good start for the energetic rookie. If I can take away one thing from this game it is that he can shoot, he can really shoot. In all he let go 9 times of which 5 went on net. No goals, but with a cannon like that, and Markov soon to be feeding him, I would be afraid to be any non-Habs goalie.

Alexandre Picard
The obvious choice would be to send Picard down when Markov gets back. That, however, may be hard to do as right now he is playing better than both Gill and Spacek. It seems that he has already leap-frogged O'Byrne, but could he get higher than #7? Spacek and Gill at their bests is a better alternative than Alex, but right now it is Alex that deserves to be on the team. He played a nice, simple game today in which he led the team in hits (3) and he even put 3 pucks on net.

Goaltender

Carey Price
3 goals on 21 shots isn't great, but, again, he got the job done. He kept us ahead the whole game and got us the win against a team that may just be hanging around come March. The thing I am happiest about is that we are winning and that we are doing it with team defence. If we were letting up 40+ shots each night it would take something special to be 6-2-1, but, instead, we are getting enough from all 19 players to win on a consistent basis. I am very happy with his start, but I do have one concern: burnout. I would like to see Auld on Friday as I think Price will need the odd night off to ensure he is fresh (even if we lose some of those games).


Comments


Tonight, like Monday, was a fun and entertaining game to watch. Granted Phoenix and New York and more traditionally the types of teams that play open styles and finish lower in the standings, but still we, at the root of it, watch hockey for entertainment, right?. I have long wondered if I would like to be a New Jersey fan (pre this year) and see them win at all costs of entertainment. I think my answer, however, wouldn't be so black and white as I would certainly want a bit of both. In fact, I really am enjoying this Habs season. We are able to win playing a boring style and are able to pick it up and play exciting too, all the while getting those wins. The big thing for me, though, has to be the shots against. Limiting other teams to under 25 shots not only increases our chances at winning, but also helps me, and likely most of you, to not panic for 10+ hours a week while we hang on for dear life. It has been a great start, but not a lucky one. We are playing well and have deserved all of our results. There are two more very winnable games coming up this weekend and I am looking forward to putting a few more points in the bank.

Islanders Preview

In the wacky world where Leafs and Canadiens lead Penguins and Capitals, where Devils and Sabres forget their gains of a season past, it's perhaps not surprising that the AHL entry in the East, the NY Islanders, are off to a good start.

Here's what LIW has to say about them:


Key match-ups

Canadiens PK and Islanders PP
The Habs have squirmed out of trouble and gained points this year through a combination of timely scoring and timely defence. Nothing has been more timely than their PK which ranks second in the league at over 90%. The Islanders have the 5th ranked PP at 26.2% and have used it to get their wins. James Wisniewski may or may not get 90+ points this year, but he currently has 8 in 6 games thanks to PP action.


Subban and Tavares
A cocky rookie and a cocky sophomore. Apparently they're even best friends and having dinner together pre-game. With Markov out, Subban has been a key and will continue to be an important piece of the Habs tonight. With all the Islanders injuries, Tavares is even more prominent than PK on his team and looks to continue to impress tonight. Look for PK to offer his usual feistiness and make a point of putting friendship aside as he attempts to steal the spotlight.


Gionta and Mottau
All the hype about finding a winger for Gionta and Gomez could be ended with a good performance (by that I mean stats, stats, stats) from none other than Gionta and Gomez. There aren't many worse defensive brigades than on Long Island. Gionta knows this, he knows how to get the media off his back and he knows Mike Mottau as the -11 defender on the mostly positive +/- 2007-08 Devils. Step around him, push him aside and put this media story to bed Captain.


Media and Bloggers
The Islanders love their bloggers. The Montreal media is uptight and uppity at the sight of outsiders. Though they probably won't meet tonight in Montreal, the access at the Nassau Colisseum later in the week means they might. Should be fun.


Momentum

Andrei Kostitsyn believes in hard work. Carey Price no longer craves exorcism. The momentum on the Habs is squarely moving in the right direction. They look like a team that can finally get ready for games against beatable opponents and the first period should be theirs.


Islanders the Habs covet

John Tavares
He's the kind of player that can make the difference between running with the pack every year and cruising into the playoffs, a special offensive talent. The Canadiens, and everyone else, crave these sorts of players.

Dwayne Roloson
A back-up you're not afraid to use.


Habs the Islanders covet

Scott Gomez
An American who can help them attain the salary floor. What's not to like?

Josh Gorges
A cheap defender who can actually defend. They're not as common as one thinks. If they were Radek Martinek wouldn't have had a career.


Impact of this result

This is a game for points and not much else. I can't see a lasting rivalry coming between these two teams, as the Islanders will find a way to make their way back to disarray by the offseason.

Should All Players Backcheck?

Last weekend, there was a major ripple made by the New Jersey devils when new coach benched new superstar for a game for undisclosed reasons.

The precise reasoning behind the decision is still in the ether, but speculation probably rightly points to the reluctance of Ilya Kovalchuk to conform with Devils Constitution.

Kovalchuk, you see doesn't particularly like to backcheck. The Devils have been built on a smothering backcheck among other things for a couple of decades. It's making Martin Brodeur unhappy, as he middles in the stats page and it happens to coincide with a losing skid for the team.

The obvious reaction from the hockey community has been one of scorn for Kovalchuk. He, after all, is just a greedy player who took the best money out there without consideration for anyone or anything. Apart from this being a complete fallacy (Kovalchuk turned down more more over less seasons), it's a surprising unwillingness to see the other side of the equation.

The question I choose to ask from all this is:

Should all players who don't backcheck be necessarily molded to conform?

I know what you're all thinking. I've lost my mind. I don't think I have. While it's true that ever since the Devils won an unlikely dynasty through trapping that coaches have taken more than a few lessons from the Book of Lemaire, it is also true that winning methods are not limited to trapping alone.

In those early years, the Devils were a prime example of making the most of the assets one has. With decent scorers and outstanding parts at the back, the team designed a system to exploit their squad's strengths. Yet, as the team has changed over the years, the recipe has changed little. Now, a team with a drastically different make up (probably the two best LW in the league, if not three with Elias) is battling to make a cake with unfit ingredients rather than stirring up the recipe their ingredients would better suit.

In my opinion, it is a failing of the Devils to devise a system that fits Kovalchuk (the most consistent shooter in the league) rather than a failing of the player. Why can't MacLean look at a plan to spring his wingers from their back end duties? Probably because he fails to see the possibility.

This square peg into round hole syndrome is something we have seen for years with the Canadiens now. Andrei KOstitsyn, a known talent for years, has only recently been granted the freedom he craved because he grudgingly accepted defensive duties. The Canadies currently lack a second line because their coach values conservative goal prevention over proactivity.

With Martin, it seems that it may be too much to ask to change his ways after 25 years of doing things his way. It's not a valid excuse, but it's one that we should have anticipated in hiring a less innovative coach. But what is MacLean's excuse? Just that devils hockey is all he knows, I suppose.


There is burgeoning excitement around the hiring of Guy Boucher simply because he seeks to break the mold. I am convinced that there's plenty of room for other "innovative" coaching ideas out there, ones that truly recognize the best ways to get performance from a team's players.

You don't sign Ilya Kovalchuk to be a 60-point two-way strength. You sign him to terrify opposing coaches, goalies and defences. The onus should move at least somewhat to the coaches in this league on points like this, and away from the punishment of offensive-obsessed players.

I say bench MacLean until he produces an original thought.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Game #8:

Plekanec And Co. Put On A Show As Habs Beat Phoenix

Details



Date: 25/10/2010
Opponent: Coyotes
Location: Montreal


W: 3-2 (OT)

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Bryzgalov (L)

Habs goalscorers: Plekanec, Cammalleri, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Turris, Morris



Play of the game


I thought this was a very entertaining game. I thought there was plenty to choose from for the play of the game, goals, near goals, penalties drawn, saves, blocked shots, etc. I opt for the Canadiens first goal. Down against the run of play the Habs needed a goal to come back and the Plekanec line was going to will it in. Seldom do we see the Canadiens take three shots within a shift, so three dangerous shots and a well taken goal were impressive. Each forward in the play had his part and used exceptional control and quick release to make it happen. Plekanec scored in the end and it was his recovery from being barged on his first shot attempt to regain perfect position and ready his blade that made this play the winner.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
With all due respect to the three star voting system, I thought this game was a tour de force from Plekanec. He once again led by example with the mere "A" on his shirt. He drew penalties, killed penalties, set up shots and looked the most threatening to me overall.

Mike Cammalleri
Cammalleri joined his linemates full of zip on the evening. His first period was amazing and his play on the unfulfilled powerplays would have won him a dome alone. Then he went and scored the goal that will launch a powerplay by walking in an pinpointing the open portion of the cage. Anyone who sees that goal will be quick to move coverage to that right side of the PP.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei stole this dome. He started the game well, but I was liking Gomez. In the way we have become accustomed to, Andrei built and built and by the third was looking a power forward without question. His first shift in OT was written by a goalscorer in an exceptional vein of confidence. It's nice to see.

Defencemen

Josh Gorges
I thought Josh was the best defender overall on the evening. He skated well to cover and made good passes to get out of the zone. Most of all, I enjoy watching Josh take the responsibility for the puck in his zone, unafraid to carry until the danger passes. The scoresheet says 3 giveaways, but they didn't score my memory, I thought he was very sound.

Roman Hamrlik
Phoenix gets control, gains the zone, shoots or loses the puck. Montreal has it. Who is it? More often than not it was Hamrlik when I looked up tonight. From his first game back he has come a way to regain his former stature. While he still makes those scary backhanded clearances we'd rather not see, the safety that so often comes from his control puts him soundly in the dome for me.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Finding a way to win and finding a way to get these selections. There was nothing spectacular about what Carey did (apart perhaps for that stunning glove parry). 2 goals against on 29 shots for a win. He's discovering how the next tier up make their NHL living. 8 games in this constitutes either a nice surprise or an early return on faith. Whoever you are, you'll appreciate these points in March.


Comments

Not exactly a modern classic, but entertaining, I thought. The Habs came out this evening with intent. Throughout the first they outshone Phoenix and mostly made them look second-rate. The PPs were earned from hard work and looked good but for the lack of a goal. The Coyotes came back into the game, but it didn't completely halt the momentum. Thanks to the Pleanec line's energy, to go with Gomez/Gionta and #3 there was lot to like in the visitor's end. A win is a win is a win. To beat a team with stylish goals, sound enough D and a superb spirit must carry more benefit than a couple of points in the standings.

The powerplay was all the talk during the game from RDS and I have to insist that they are being a bit ridiculous. It's plain to see to anyone watching that good powerplay play does not always result in powerplay goals. The Canadiens set up some great plays this evening and weren't fully rewarded. however, that doesn't mean their PP is impotent. Let's not pretend that Josh Gorges floating shots in is really the way forward. We're better analysts than that Joel.

Next game is a completely different opponent. The Islanders are hot, they're offensive, they have centres and leave plenty of room at the back. If the Habs can find their pregame mix tape from this affair and replay it on Wednesday, I foresee another entertaining match-up midweek.

Carey Can't Shake Last Nemesis

Before this season, Carey price had numerous nemeses, glove side shots, Flyers forwards, the 0 goal game, that young bull in Kelowna and Jaroslav Halak. Most have done all they can over the years to show the young goalie up, to make him question his development.

In vanquishing his rivals one by one, the 0 goal game being the latest (as he picked up the 318th NHL shutout since his last one), he should have felt extreme satisfaction and even pride.

But you know what they say: a man with nemeses must never rest.


Halak won't let it be

Even if all Montreal fans are slowly but surely sliding into the realization that icing Carey Price game after game not such a bad thing at all, the petulant child that is Halak just won't let it go.

Like a big brother spoiling for attention he needs to prove again and again that being older also makes him abler, he seems to have a pathological need to rain on Price's parade. For the Saturday game, he left it mere minutes and then thumbed his nose in doing it.

Carey can barely win an accolade for his first clean sheet in 23 months -- something about the Senators not being a threat. Yet Jaro blanks the Pens, a team he could shutout in his sleep it seems, and comes home with leaguewide honours.


It really does show a character flaw. To be unable to go humbly into the West without flaunting his gifts. I mean really and truly? Isn't it enough Jaro that you make more money? Isn't it enough that you get unquestioned starter status? That you don't have to deal with the boo-cheer roller coaster? Can't you just leave Carey to enjoy his success?

A Visit From The Real Coyotes?

Game Preview

Last season, Phoenix were the shock entry in the NHL circuit. A franchise with no money and few incentives to go for took a middling group of veterans to a 100+ point finish. Last season, Montreal played Phoenix once and won. Price played and won. The Coyotes never visited Montreal, so in a way it’s like their season might never have happened at all.

As they roll into town tonight, the Coyotes are in tough. Their offseason improvements included the additions of 38-year-old Ray Whiney and 21-year-old Kyle Turris. Otherwise, they return the same team that rode fortune to a successful close last year. My personal feeling is that this team was a flash in the pan. Doan is not suddenly a born leader. We get a chance to see for ourselves tonight.


Key match-ups

Subban and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Two very highly touted young blueliners with long names. Although they are unlikely to come face to face at any point in the game, this match-up allows us to watch the potential futures of two powerplays in bud.


Taylor and Tom Pyatt
This will be the second time these two brothers have ever faced off against each other in NHL game action. Last time, Tom played a whopping 15:02 to Taylor’s 9:45. They may both be on a top line, they may both be on a 4th line. Who knows? Maybe they’ll fight.


Bryzgalov and Price
Waivers vs. high draft pick. It’s an interesting match because both teams depend on their goaltending to take them from mediocrity to slightly better than mediocre NHL teams. They represent two ways of goalie acquisition, two methods of goalie development and a range of other contrasts.


(Shane Doan and the Montreal crowd)
This would have been good, but the player managed to arrange a suspension. One opposition player with alleged history of anti-Quebec tendencies. One crowd who loves to boo members of this extended family. Have the crowd forgotten? Will they find a way to boo him anyway? They still boo Bush’s decision to start the Iraq war, so you tell me.


Momentum

For the first time, I feel the Habs have the momentum. And, although what Tobalev said about one game impacting the next is dead on, the very fact that price’s team gave him a game on a platter and he returned them a shining shutout means these guys might actually be pulling in the same direction for the first time in a long time. That and the fact that Phoenix is currently stagnating. Still enjoying a season of overachievement, they have done little to address the way in which they intend to do the repeat.


Coyotes the Habs covet

Dave Tippett
A pretty phenomenal record as a coach to go with his Jack Adams trophy win. He must know a thing or two about the trade to have pulled the tricks he has out of the bag.

Eric Belanger
How Gauthier missed this boat nobody knows. 13+ goals for a checking line player in his last 7 seasons to go with plenty more assists. Lemaire educated and paid a pittance. He got Halpern instead.


Habs the Coyotes covet

Tomas Plekanec
Phoenix may have a few wingers that would look good on the 4th slot on many teams, but their centres aren’t an attractive list. Plekanec is showing again that he’s a top asset at his position, and be rightly coveted by many teams.

Andrei Kostitsyn
You think the Habs had it bad in 2003 with the Kostitsyn pick? The Coyotes, an abysmal team in 2002-03 (and well beyond) traded their 11th overall draft pick that year in a trade I can’t track down, but that clearly didn’t work out that well. They’d have had Carter at 11, but at this stage would be happy to have even Kostitsyn as their NHL-free draft class of 2003 is still headed by Tyler Redenbach.


Ready-made excuses

If Montreal lose:
- We won Saturday
- Markov is injured
- Paul Bissonnette’s rump wasn’t properly guarded against
- Phoenix are a 100-point team

If Phoenix lose:
- Doan is suspended
- Doan was still booed in the press box
- Doan asked that the team let his cousin win


Impact of this result

The NHL is tight, and the Northeast even tighter. The Canadiens need to take advantage of games against random rival like Phoenix to pad their lead against the eventual resurgences of New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo. The impact of this game might not be playoffs or not, but at the end of the day, these two points could look very good in February/March.

The same goes for Phoenix of course. The difference being that Phoenix doesn’t expect the way Montreal does. If they sneak an 8th spot, it may be just as good to the first-time April visitors to the arena as a 1st place barnstorming.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game #7

Montreal Takes Advantage of Another Lifeless Team

Details



Date: 23/10/2010
Opponent: Senators
Location: Ottawa

Win: 3-0

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Elliott (L)

Habs goalscorers: Kostitsyn (2), Pouliot
Opposition goalscorers: None



Play of the game


A bad Carkner penalty gave us a PP at a time when I was afraid that Ottawa was ready to score one to tie it up. Our Power-Play, which has looked horrible, looked better on this chance, but we couldn't find the back of the net. 4 seconds after Carkner was let out of the box, however, we connected on a very nice play. Gomez started the play by controlling the puck well on the right side and then getting it back to Gorges at the point. Josh took a nice, low shot which I believe was shot wide of the net on purpose. Out the puck game, off the boards, to Pouliot who was at the goal-mouth on the other side of the net. He had little to do other than put it in, but it was still crucial. 0-2 down was enough for Ottawa to call it a night; it was a very key goal for us.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Kostitsyn picked up goals 3 and 4 in this one as he, again, looked like our best player. On the first goal he went all the way with Pleks before Tom got the puck back to the sniper in just the right spot. On his second goal he was the beneficiary of some very good work from Cammalleri as he pounced at precisely the right time. Very early indeed, but I think that this may be the start of that 30-goal season we have all been hoping for for a few years now.

Benoit Pouliot
Benoit scored his first goal of the year and also played his first good game of the year. Maybe it is easier to look good against a tired, effortless team, but the fact is that he also looked better than most of his teammates. If this can get him going we'll just have Gomez and Gionta to worry about - who would have though?

Tomas Plekanec
I liked Cammalleri and Plekanec for this spot, but chose the centre for a couple of reasons. The first being his assist on the game-winner - it was a good play that he was, again, at the heart of. The other factor was his play on the PP. We didn't score a goal on the Power-Play tonight, but I did like the way that we worked the puck around. We need Pleks (and Markov) to be in charge when we are man-up and tonight represented a step in the right direction in that department. I will forget about the horrid face-off night that he had as, I am hoping, we won't see that type of effort again.

Defencemen

PK Subban
Subban was all over the place tonight. He was yapping, shooting, hitting, skating hard and so on and so on. The energy that he brought was fantastic and was enough to throw one or two Sens off of their games. I have been very impressed in these 7 games and am really looking forward to seeing even more improvement over the next 75.

Roman Hamrlik
No Spacek yet, but we may have Hammer back. I, for one, am not surprised that Roman has had a slow start as he essentially missed all of training camp. I do, however, know how good he can be and in the absence of Markov it is hard not to expect a lot from him. He was a big reason that the Habs limited Ottawa to 19 shots tonight as he was integral in clogging things up and breaking up plays in his own end. I was also very happy with his work on the PP and look forward to him being a big part of our second unit this season.

Goaltender

Carey Price
The wait is over! After 23+ months Carey finally got another shut-out. Tonight marked his 5th career clean-sheet of which 3 have come against Ottawa. I felt that he started the game a bit cold as he very nearly cost us on a couple of occasions (most notably his puck-handling miscue - a pass right to Alfredsson). In the second period, however, he played very well and that is when the game was won. There were at least 3 posts tonight, but like we always hear, you have to be lucky to be good. He got the help from his team that he needed tonight and did a very good job of keeping up his end of the bargain.


Comments


Isn't the NHL funny? We go to Ottawa, two days after looking horrible to play against a team that was hot last night. That team that made us look horrible then hosts the team that looked bad against Ottawa last night and loses 1-6 (while healthy scratching Kovalchuk). 3 nights of hockey, 4 clubs, 8 different teams. You don't have to be a genius to see that this league is really a 6 month marathon in which each and every game is a new, winnable (and easily losable) challenge. Our win tonight, although we like to believe otherwise, really has no bearing on how we will play this coming week. One would think that two games against Long Island and one against Florida would mean a guaranteed six points after tonight's tight effort. We must, however, be mindful of what has already happened to us in a matter of two short weeks. We need Martin to prepare his team for the next 75 games as he did so tonight. We have the talent, speed and depth to win a lot of games, but so do most of the other 29 clubs. Tonight's display by us and Ottawa only helps to reinforce the notion that any team can win in this league if they really care to do so.

Montreal v Ottawa:

Second Time Around

In the standings, Ottawa are in the basement (or they just got out). Montreal firmly in a playoff position.

Really, these are two teams separated by a game that took place last weekend. A game that the Canadiens took, but could have easily have lost. These teams are similar foes.

The similarities go beyond the win-loss columns. Both teams have had trouble scoring. Both have a line that "works" and a second in progress, with a third and fourth that have delayed their offensive contributions for future dates. Both teams have a shaky defense. And both teams have plenty of players thoroughly confused by what Jacques Martin expects of a player.

OK, this we know. But how does it affect this game we have coming up tonight?

Well, in my opinion this makes Montreal and Ottawa truer and clearer rivals than they've ever been. Being on the same track at the same time is a big change for two teams that lived at different ends of spectrums for a decade.

Last game tells us what we really need to know about this upcoming one. Kostitsyn enjoyed his freedom in the Ottawa coverage, Plekanec too. Gill thrived for once as Ottawa didn't always press the issue. Or at least that's how it ended.

The alternate version if the Canadiens forwards hadn't scored on an early breakaway and completed a 3-goal comeback showed that Spezza liked loose Montreal coverage, and so did Michalek with 5 shots and 2 goals.

Since that game, Montreal has played but once. The team had a glorious chance to keep the boot firmly on the head of an important rival, but squandered the chance. Ottawa needed wins, but only came upon the formula last night when they bested Buffalo through Alfredsson's history-making effort. The Sens could rightly see that as putting their course on the up, the Habs should see their Jersey debacle as a warning flag for an upcoming precipice they try to avoid.

Which version of history will repeat? Hopefully the former. But that game was a losing formula come good. If the Cansdiens want to win, they need to pay more attention to the Sens that pose greatest danger: Spezza, Alfredsson, Gonchar, Karlsson and avoid digging a hefty hole to escape from. Key again, of course will be Carey Price who will be called upon to cover the Markov sized hole again. Key also Cammalleri and Kostitsyn who could ensure Ottawa has defense on their minds.

In the second of six match-ups in a series that is ever looking the split, this game should be an interesting glimpse into the aspirations of two teams.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Game #6

New Jersey Goes All New Jersey-Like On Montreal

Details



Date: 21/10/2010
Opponent: Devils
Location: Montreal

Loss: 0-3

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Brodeur (W)

Habs goalscorers: None
Opposition goalscorers: Parise, Arnott, Taormina


Play of the game


From a Habs perspective there was one play that really stood out for me. With the game still within reach at 0-1 the Devils came in on a very fast 2-on-1 after Gorges made a rare mistake. I can't remember who shot (and have little desire to sit through highlights of that game to find out), but think it was Zajac. The 2-on-1 was textbook as the passer waited out the defender and got the puck to his right. The highlight for me was obviously the save which was spectacular; the speed with which Carey got across was very impressive indeed.


Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Brian Gionta
Gionta didn't really have a good game, but I felt that the effort was there. Considering that we didn't play that well at all I was actually only looking for players who tried in this one. He drew two penalties, both times hitting his buddy in the other net, not great, but at least we had someone around the net at some point; those penalties at least serve as proof of that. He also took a very impressive 8 shots.

Jeff Halpern
Jeff stood out to me tonight, but, when looking at his stats, I am not too sure why. I did like how he fore-checked and how he played a tight game in his own end, but this is certainly the type of effort that gets forgotten when we actually score goals. He played more on the PK than any other forward and helped us go 4/4 in that department.

Travis Moen
When no one played that well it is OK to give Moen a look. He is in here for getting beaten in a fight again. He dropped his gloves for a staged boxing match against a real fighter, again, which shows more heart than any of the 19 others tonight.

Defencemen

PK Subban - Game Puck
PK had moments tonight that I (and I am sure he) will try to forget. There were other moments, however, when I thought that he looked the best player on the ice, on either team. He controlled and passed the puck very well and I was happy to see so many spin-o-ramas. One may think that he is overusing that move, but when you realize how simple, relatively safe and effective it is you rest assured. He has that move down and it seems that no player out there knows how to stop him once he starts. With a burst of angular acceleration (too much?) he always comes out of those spins much better off that he started.

Alexandre Picard
We all know that it can't be Hammer or Spacek (ouch, what are they doing out there?) and Gill and Gorges, at -3, looked off too, so I guess this is a unanimous choice. Just wish I had more to say than that he is in here because he wasn't as bad as the rest. I did actually notice him, though, and liked his team-leading 3 hits. He has had a decent start to the year and he is better than I thought he would be.

Goaltender

Carey Price
That first goal was weak and I felt it set the tone for the game. It was a mistake and can be forgiven, but against a team like New Jersey it isn't shocking that that one goal was enough. So, the moral is be very careful against Jersey until we have scored a goal because, at that point, it becomes a whole different game. Aside from that mistake he was pretty good. He made some fantastic saves, but also let in two more, one of them pretty soft.I wouldn't say he had a great game and, given the result and the two weak goals, it is debatable if you would say that he had a good game. One thing I do know, though, is that the comfort of a Price or a Halak on the bench no longer exists as Auld doesn't really instill confidence in this fan. All I can say is prepare yourselves to be bored as I expect Carey to get pretty much all of the domes this year barring any major catastrophes.


Comments


This was a typical New Jersey game. It was quick, short on chances and not very memorable at all. Brodeur played well, but you can see how he has piled up so many wins and shutouts over the years as their defence does such an excellent job of limiting both quality chances and sustained periods of pressure. They are happy to wait out teams until they make their own mistakes which is precisely what they did tonight. Let's just imagine we had 6 days off, but that it cost us 2 points for the luxury. After tonight, and a virtual week off, there will be no excuse to come out flat against a struggling Sens team in Ottawa on Saturday night. One good game and a win and we'll all be back in the right direction after this little, predictable, blip.

Beware The Devils:

A Preview

After a trip and a break from daily Internet, it's a return to the world of bloggery. To start with then, a look at tonight's game and the issues that surround it.


Key match-ups

Gionta and Matt Taormina
I don't know if they'll ever lay each other this evening or not. But here you have the Canadiens second line winger and the Devils second pairing weak link. Gionta needs out of a slump and injuries to Salvador, Volchenkov and Salmela give him this gift.

Kovalchuk and Price
Playing now occasionally on the right wing, Kovalchuk is known for getting shots in every game he plays in. And shots from the leading goalscorer since the lockout tend to be deadly accurate. If he streaks down the right, he'll know to shoot high. Price needs to be aware of what he's facing.


Devils forecheck vs. Hamrlik and Spacek
Traditionally a strong forecheck against two who seem to enjoy the forecheck less and less each year. Both Hamrlik and Spacek have a bit of a history to forget against the devils and it will be interesting to see if their troubles this season and from the past can be put aside for a game or not.


Pouliot and Pyatt
I know Pouliot's omission from the second line has more to do with Gomez and Gionta's need for spark, but even so the big man must somehow regain his place in the pecking order. If Pyatt overtakes him this evening, it could be a big setback. Pyatt meanwhile will want to solidify his place with some contribution. He's already the coach's golden boy, if he gets G and G going, there's no telling the currency in good will he gains.


Momentum

At a glance, it looks to all be in the Habs favour. But beware buying too much into that. The Canadiens have won their last two and managed points in their last four, but the schedulemakers at the NHL have a habit of taking the wind out of sails in October for this team. No game since Saturday means the momentum of that Ottawa win is only as meaningful as the momentum of the report on Pyatt making line 2. The Devils meanwhile look a stinker. But if I asked Felipe Alou, I think he'd tell me to put money on them in their next few games. For a team like the Devils with talent at all positions, a disappointing record is often the last thing you want them to draw on for motivation when you meet them. Strangely, I feel the momentum is even.


Devils the Habs covet

Zach Parise
New Jersey educated and a dynamic scorer to boot. Kovalchuk has all the press right now, but this Devils team's real diamond is Parise who has seldom disappointed when I've sat down to watch him.

Colin White
As players changed in New Jersey over the years, results stayed strangely consistent.Brodeur's been there through tick and thick of course. Colin White has too. Quietly, the core defender on the Devils has made a solid career out of keeping play clean in his zone. If Montreal doesn't covet a defender like this, they should.


Habs the Devils covet

Andrei Markov
The talented puck-mover they've missed since Niedermayer turned tail. And more importantly injured to start the season, allowing them to play salary tricks while making a better roster for the playoffs.

Tom Pyatt
For the first time in years, the Devils line up without Jay Pandolfo. Not to say he's irreplaceable, but I'm sure they'd like to have replaced him. Pyatt isn't that player yet, but he could be trained to Pandolfo efficiency in NJ and probably always keep his low price tag. To go with their flash and salary up front, the Devils need some balance on the cheap.


Ready-made excuses

If Montreal lose:
- Markov is injured
- Quebec goalie
- Devils are one of the elite teams in the NHL
- Weren't ready to start the game

If New Jersey lose:
- Kovalchuk is destroying the team
- Brian Rolston's salary
- Quebec posts turned on Brodeur


Impact of this result

Until now games have been relatively meaningless. And they will continue to mean little for a long while. However, this game has the potential to be important to both teams going forward.

For the Habs, with a history of allowing the devils to walk in and take points, and no doubt helping them out of slumps on many occasions, this game could prove that time is over. Kicking the Devils while they're down, and particularly contributing to Brodeur's bad start could banish a significant bugaboo for this team. Needless to say, turning the trick would be beneficial to Carey again, as beating a Hall-of-Famer is always a boost.

For the devils, a win here could really kick start their road to recovery. A small win, perhaps not. A big win, certainly. If Brodeur gets his customary support from former Forum ghosts, then his slump too might be a thing for memory.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Star Search

Ooh they're seething in the press gallery these days. The Montreal Canadiens have teamed with Bell to usurp one of the cherished duties of the Montreal media. The three stars are to be chosen from now by the fans.

Mike Boone says he prefers the old system. Dave Stubbs isn’t quite so straight-ahead, but adds more than a tinge of lament to his article on tradition lost today.

At least Stubbs was civil. Mike Boone, as he often does, repeatedly refers to Canadiens fans as a group encompassing a significant number of “goobers” and “knuckle draggers”. At least he didn’t try to hide his elitism.

I am not altogether opposed to Boone’s position. And, I admit to being elitist enough myself to think that a fan vote in answer to the very inadequate question: “Who do you think will win the three star poll?” will undoubtedly turn up some strange vote leaders.


And the votes are bound to be very strange indeed because the question being asked isn’t the only absurdity. The system is flawed at this stage. The three stars are decided by total votes. Fans are only voting for a single player, so a unanimous choice is bound to be accompanied by some interesting third stars. Unaware, Bell seems, of the advances in online technology that allow for multiple selections.

Then there’s the game-winning goalscorer clause. The Canadiens “reserves the right to award the first star of the game to a player scoring the game-winning goal with less than minute to play in regulation time, in overtime or in a shootout.” A shootout goal? Great. Nothing like automatic selections to stir the pot a bit.

So Boone may well have a point.


But really what’s been lost?

Stubbs notes how this tradition has evolved and tells at length the road it has taken pass from media to fans. Boone again is less the diplomat. He suggests the choice has been stripped from expert hands (given to people who don't know o=hockey as well as he and his brethren). The media he says provide:

Understanding of hockey (people who do, media, people who don’t, fans)
Guaranteed expertise
Guaranteed objectivity

I’ll pause to let you recover your breath.

I think the explosion in blogging and everything else in the Habs new media world might have helped the lesson on media limits to be learned. And, if the fan vote makes the three star voting an irrelevant appendix to the game. I would suggest this continues an established tradition, rather than establishing a new one.

Let’s take last season as a mere glimpse into the guaranteed hockey expertise and objectivity employed by the former three star selectors.

The Molson Cup standing are based on home games only, keep that in mind. Keep in mind also, these results, strange as they may be, all came from media selection, no fan input.

First over the season was Jaroslav Halak, who played in 22 different home games. His statistics at home included 14-6-2, 2.32 GAA and 0.917 Save %. Not shabby. For this he garnered no less than 15 star selections, missing out seven times only.

Carey Price is even more informative. He placed second in Molson Cup standing (we know). He starred in 20 games for the Habs last season in Montreal pulling an unlikely 14 star selections from the hat to go with 6 games in which he missed. His stats were 6-10-3, 2.76 GAA and a 0.904 Save%.

We had Brian Gionta down for 12 game pucks in the regular season to go with 42 domes in 61 games played. He was not in our opinion the 4th best player on the team last season behind both goalies, no less. But then maybe that’s our elitism talking.

It strikes me that maybe their guaranteed objectivity comes only after making sure they select a goalie first. Oh, and they they abide by the OT scorer rule too. Heaven forbid hockey knowledge ever acknowledges a defensive player.


Carey Price will win anyway

Besides, what’s all the fuss about anyway?

Between the ineptly worded question, the formula, the expertise and the objectivity, I think we all know the goalie fetish in Montreal will win all. Last season’s back and forth in the three stars battle of I’m right/you’re wrong choices isn’t evaporated yet. And voters have already proven that a whiff of 0.910 is enough to bring in the votes.

He nearly won last year. With starts and the inevitable increase in wins, he’s bound to pull in votes. The fans have picked the goalie. The press have picked the goalie. Both or either will continue to do so. So let's not pretend this change matters more than it does. If you still long for definitive picks based on individual preferences and whims, then you'll always have our Domes and Game Pucks to satiate your appetite.


As for the press, they actually gain. Now in addition to locker room drivel they will have fan delusion to discuss after games. It’s actually set to be a boon to show their objectivity and expertise. Maybe they’ll see that when they’ve simmered down a bit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Game #5

First Home Win of Season Caps Off Perfect Weekend

Details



Date: 16/10/2010
Opponent: Senators
Location: Montreal

Win: 4-3

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Elliott (L), Lehner

Habs goalscorers: Gionta, Halpern, Kostitsyn, Plekanec
Opposition goalscorers: Michalek (2), Karlsson


Play of the game


Tonight there were choices. Gionta's first of the season was both timely and impressive, Plekanec's winner showed off our speed and tenacity, but I think you would all agree that the tying goal, Andrei's was the cream of the crop. A great passing play between him and Pleks started just inside of Ottawa's zone - 46 to 14 and back to 46 meant that the defence was confused. Then, Andrei got to the front of the net and in one flick of the wrist the game was tied again. It was a beautiful shot which he managed to roof right into the top of the net.


Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn - Game Puck
Another great game from Kostitsyn. In this one he was the hero with a beautiful tying goal and a crucial assist on Plekanec's winner. He has started the season very well and is giving our top line a very good third option. I think that Martin has to be careful not to break this line up in the hope of getting G, G and whoever going as this is working and we should leave it at that.

Tomas Plekanec
Tom could have won the game puck on a normal night with play like this, but on this night his excellent play was overshadowed by that of his speedy winger. His goal and assist, however, were of course pretty nice and crucial too and it is great to see that chemistry again between those two players. Two other great things to see from Pleks was a 4 in the hit column (led the game) and a 70% face-off percentage.

Brian Gionta
Cammalleri's 8 shots and strong offensive play was hard to ignore, but I liked the captain just a touch more in this one. Brian was the life of his line (duo really) and contributed with a very nice, and early, goal. In all he had 5 shots too and led all forwards in PP ice-time. It was during that Power-Play time in which I felt he was at his best as, although we didn't score, the PP looked as good as it has all year.

Defencemen

PK Subban
It certainly wasn't PK's flashiest game, but picking up an assist, going +3 and covering up for Picard for most of the night helped him rise to the top. Markov could be back as early as next game so it will be interesting to see if he'll be PK's new partner which will mean much more freedom for the exciting youngster.

Hal Gill
Finally the big guy has a game of note. He and Gorges were our best pairing and I felt that it was Gill on this night that outdid his partner. In all he blocked 4 shots (game-high) as he looked more like the player from last April and not the player from last week.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Carey picked up his first home win in a long, long time and that alone is almost enough for recognition. He didn't, however, do much else tonight to stand out. For me, however, a win is the stat and he did what he had to do. All 3 goals were glove-side whCheck Spellingich made it look a lot like last year, but he did clean that up with solid play the rest of the time. I wouldn't say we were lucky to win, but when you double the other team in shots (especially when you are the Habs) you must certainly take advantage of it.


Comments


This game was a lot more intense that I expected and I was impressed to see the Habs out-tough a team. We may not have a Ruutu (cheap/dirty), but players like Gomez, Gionta and Gill all made sure things didn't get out of hand. For me this win, and dominance (at least of the flow of play) is encouraging as I don't think Ottawa are a bad team. I watched the Sens pick apart a very normal looking 'Canes team on Thursday which has me believing that we are possibly as good as any in the East. Washington, of course, will be strong, but if we can beat the teams we should be beating on a regular basis then I think that we'll have a good chance at getting one of those 4-8 spots.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Game #4

Canadiens Take Advantage of Lucky Bounces to Beat Lifeless Buffalo

Details



Date: 15/10/2010
Opponent: Sabres
Location: Buffalo

Win: 2-1

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Miller (L)

Habs goalscorers: Picard, Gorges
Opposition goalscorers: Roy


Play of the game


This isn't as easy as it seems as there were no spectacular goals, spectacular defensive efforts or spectacular saves. For this one I am going to go a bit different tonight. I had argued the other day that brutal NHL reffing would benefit us, well, tonight, it may have. With under 10 seconds to go Buffalo was attacking and may have had a chance at a goal. I wasn't too keen on waiting and hoping that that would pan out for us as we have been known (last year and last game) to let up late goals. So I was delighted when I heard the whistle blow. The whistle, it seems, was blown because the linesman thought there were too many Sabres on the ice. He did indeed count 6 skaters (demonstrating his superior counting skills), but the one detail he forgot was to check if Miller was still there. Since pulling the goalie when you are down by one and are in the offensive zone is so rare he can be forgiven this once. More quality from the world's best.


Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn
Andrei was our best forward tonight and maybe the only one who actually played quite well. He was aggressive and had a nose for the net. In all he took 5 shots; 1 more than the entire second line. Do you think people will remember this game when they point to it as a game in which he didn't get a point (thus, inevitably, he must have played badly)?

Lars Eller
He only played 9:49, but I liked what I saw from him during that time. If those players more talented than him (from either team) would have played with as much energy and speed as he did this could have been a great came to watch.

Scott Gomez
Scott didn't play a bad game and seemed better than the rest on this night. He showed more life than Gionta or Travis 'anyone-know-what-these-hands-are-for?' Moen which helped make that line look not all that bad. Highlights for him, at least statistically, were the face-off percentage (57%) and being the player that passed to the player who passed to the player that floated one in.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
Anytime the Habs let up 23 shots the D must have played well. Well, tonight it was a bit of that and a whole lot of Buffalo being bad. That said I thought that Spacek did his best to keep shots down as he led the D in shots-blocked and even blocked a certain goal.

Josh Gorges
I wanted to give this to Picard, but I couldn't think of much more than the flukey goal for him. So, as usual, Josh's sound play gets recognized. His goal was actually pretty decent and I was happy to see a one-timer on net, from anyone. He also led the team in ice-time, as it probably should be.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
This could be labeled as 'another day at the office'. Carey came into the game focused and prepared and was rewarded for that. Buffalo never really offered much, but when they did he was ready. In all there were 22 saves and no major mistakes. He almost got himself into more trouble handling the puck, but by now he even seems prepared for that.


Comments


Wow, not much else to say really. The Habs rolled into town to face a Buffalo team that was celebrating a 40th anniversary and looking for their first home win of the year. What they saw was a very unemotional (borderline embarrassing) ceremony followed by a game against a team that lacked pretty much all emotion. Miller was strong, but got unlucky, so in a way we maybe stole points that may have been lost. I think that is Buffalo this year though - Miller or bust. It will likely actually result in the playoffs as Ryan is too good of a goalie to let luck or bad play of his team stop him in his quest. I am happy that we got the two points, handed them zero and then headed home. Tomorrow isn't as crucial as it would have been had we lost, but a win against another divisional rival would at least help us keep up with the Leafs. The Leafs! Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Game #3

Refs and Habs' Defence To Blame For The Collapse

Details



Date: 13/10/2010
Opponent: Lightning
Location: Montreal

Loss: 3-4

Habs Goalie: Price (L)
Opposition Goalie: Smith (W)

Habs goalscorers: Lapierre, Plekanec, Kostitsyn
Opposition goalscorers: Clark, St. Louis, Stamkos, Malone


Play of the game


Less than a minute after Tampa tied it up we went back on top with a very nice goal. The play started when Kostitsyn rubbed-out Lecavalier in our own end and stole the puck from him. He then got it to Gorges and started heading back up the ice. Josh moved it to Pleks and in he went with Andrei on a mini 2-on-1. Tom held on to it for a while before saucering it to his winger on the left. Kostitsyn was then in alone on Smith and made a great deke around him before lifting a backhand shot into the middle of the net.


Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Andrei Kostitsyn
Kostitsyn's shining moment was certainly his goal and the hit that led to it, but he also had other good moments throughout. He was one of our best forecheckers on the night as he seemed to be on the Lightning D more than any of our other forwards. It was nice to see him pot one as that should quiet some people out there. Next up is Pouliot; unfortunately, however, he still looks a few steps behind.

Tomas Plekanec - Game Puck
Pleks was our best player tonight as he chipped in with a goal and an assist. His goal wasn't anything special as it was a slapshot into an open net, but at least he didn't miss and at least he was there to take that pass. He played 21:53, but I still would have liked to see him out there more. He is killing penalties better than our 'specialists' and is more reliable with the puck than just about anyone on the team.

Michael Cammalleri
Two stupid penalties and Mike still makes the dome. That is because our bottom-6 were bad, Pouliot was non-December 2009 Pouliot and Gomez and Gionta didn't have much going in this one. Despite his penalties he did manage an assist on Pleks' goal and was a +2, which led the team.

Defencemen

Jaroslav Spacek
Jaro was good tonight, or at least better than most. He contributed up front by moving the puck very well in the offensive zone and by keeping plays alive at the blue-line. He assisted on Plekanec's goal as he turned a Hamrlik botch-up into a very good breakout pass to Camms. I am not sure if Subban is the right partner for him though. I seem to remember him and Markov doing very good things last year (in the pre-season) before Andrei went down, so it will be interesting to see if he'll be with Andrei, stay with P.K. or will be paired with the Hammer as he was for most of last year.

Josh Gorges
Josh chipped in with an assist and a team-high 5 blocked-shots. I didn't notice too many mistakes (or any) despite him being right there on both of Tampa's final two goals. To me, those goals had nothing really to do with him, but more to do with the players around him.

Goaltender

Carey Price
Price played well early on and made some very good saves to keep us in front for a very long time. New this year for him is the non-catching glove-save and I have to say 'what took you so long?'. He tried for a few seasons to catch it or simply let it his his glove, but there wasn't much success. This year, and tonight in particular, he is big on the glove-saves that simply hit his fast, upward-moving, glove. I think he was screened on the first goal, but the last three were all similar. The D played bad, there was a mad scramble and Price got caught way out of position. Most, if not all, goalies would be in the same boat so it will be interesting to see whether he'll consider this 4 gaol-against loss as a bad game or as a good one. I actually hope that he forgets about it and moves on as it really should be one to forget; I don't think he was a major factor one way or the other.


Comments


People will be complaining about the fact that Boyd was tripped right before Tampa tied it up. After watching the replay, however, it appears more that he fell and the non-call was probably the right call. What wasn't a good call, however, was the slashing call on Subban with 2 minutes to play. This is the typical NHL-style of 'give the trailing team a chance to tie it up'. It is a farce as nothing else was called in the third period or in OT. To say that a little slash (Subban did slash) was the worst thing that any player did during that time period is a joke. The refs and league will make arguments that Subban slashed him and that is against the rules; and, that it is. But, when is the league ever going to comment on the other 40 infractions that happen throughout a period and offer a rational, logical explanation as to why those aren't called. I am familiar with the rules and I can't seem to find anywhere in there that states a ref shall use judgement to not call most of the penalties (apart from puck-over-the glass - we all know how much time that wastes...). This league's officiating is a joke and tonight we paid the price. I do, however, know that we'll benefit from it too, so yipee.

Our defensive play, for the most part, was bad tonight. We put ourselves in too many bad situations which is why we let up 48 shots. We have to keep in mind that Halak is no longer here, so letting up our usual 40+ shots per game is no longer a great strategy. If we keep playing like we did tonight it won't matter how many goals we score as I feel we won't win that many games at all. We'll see what happens this weekend, but play like that and/or less than 2 points may be a reason to question if this is the system for us this year or was it simply the system for the roster we had last year.

This Should Be Fun

Ever wonder how certain players won the Molson Cup in a given month?

Get set for a lot more questioning. Apparently someone thought it was a good idea to apply the booing democracy's choices to the Molson Cup.

Hey, at least Dome vs. Fan 3 Stars should prove interesting...

RDS's Team Comes Home

Set To Play Habs In Montreal

Steve Yzerman is a man after Bertrand Raymond's heart. How else to describe a GM who retains a core of French Canadian superstars to build on with Simon Gagne and the biggest coaching star to come out of the province in a decade?

The Lightning play the Habs tonight in the arena RDS would be happy enough to hand over to them this very evening. I don't think I'll be among those fawning over the Yzermen, but we still need a preview, right?


Key match-ups

Boucher and Martin
It's possible that everybody has already forgotten that they wanted an experienced NHL coach. As Guy Boucher takes to the NHL bench for the second game of his career, it seems the fear that he might be the one who got away is now trumping all those years of growing coaches to no avail. Martin will be in tough tonight, though. Not only is Boucher riding in on a wave of good feeling, he is also a crafty coach, and one that can call Steven Stamkos' name.


St. Louis and Cammalleri
Two very good scorers, Two very effective offensive players. But Mike Cammalleri's deficiencies are known because he plays every other night on Quebec TV sets. The grass is greener with St. Louis, since he doesn't. Within the game, both players are now the ones who make their offenses tick. Cammalleri is the Canadiens most dangerous finisher and St. Louis the generator for the Stamkos powerhouse.


Hedman and Hamrlik
Two well known Lightning top 2 draft picks. Two touted big-framed juniors. Not that the Canadiens could have had Hedman. He remains an object of admiration. Hamrlik will also be in focus as he returns tonight. Both should be anchoring the defensive end for the respective teams. Hamrlik will look to find early 2009-10 form, but will be an improvement over Picard with a mediocre performance. Hedman will be battling age and experience to tie together a mostly offensive minded blueline.


Price and GF
Carey Price is in a delicate place. This season he has a win and a loss taken from games where his team scored timely goals and didn't. In order for his belief in winning to return, the conquer of the idea that the team must decide (i.e., score 3 times) must be banished. Last year against Tampa, Price played 3 times. Twice he played well, once pretty well and he came out with one win, the Lightning got points in every game. As demons go, the Lightning games represent them very well. performing well against another team with straight shooting stars and giving his team a chance to win will be s big step.


Momentum

Little at all. The Lightning have only played once. The Canadiens twice. Neither team has played since Saturday. I don't know how the NHL schedule is made, but this seems a strangely long layoff given both teams have to be somewhere else within a night or two. Maybe there were Icecapades to accommodate? The media momentum is also split. The Boucher phenomenon is fueling the Lightning, while a single win has been enough to light the Habs fire.


Lightning the Habs covet

Steven Stamkos
Big, fast, scorer. When Stu Cowan wrote on the draft, this is the kind of player he was no doubt lamenting. But players like this are hard to come by without losing for a season. He'll be as hard to pry from the Lightning as Lecavalier ever was.

Simon Gagne
A few years ago, I'd have written St. Louis. Gagne is 5 years his younger, though and is just as reliable as a scoring threat. One of the biggest Quebecois stars of the past decade really should have been on the Habs radar when they did their reshake.


Habs the Lightning covet

PK Subban
Guy Boucher owes a lot to PK Subban. An NHL job for a start. PK is the dynamic skating defenceman that every team wants. But teams dressing Randy Jones and Brett Clark just scream it a little louder.

Tomas Plekanec
Last season the Lightning dressed Lecavalier and 50-goal Steven Stamkos at centre. A pretty good one-two punch. Last year the Lightning missed the playoffs by a clear margin. Tomas Plekanec is that rare centre who can swing between offense and defence with ease and in the team-building blueprint, he's a valuable piece to teams who can't stop shedding goals.


Ready-made excuses

Neither team will want to lose, but both can afford to for the moment. i don't think that will have stopped them getting their excuses all lined up:

If Montreal lose:
- Markov is injured
- Guy Boucher is a genius
- The Lightning were better rested
- The Lightning channeled the energy of their home province

If Tampa lose:
- Not in the rhythm of the season
- Boucher is a rookie coach
- Players are still learning system
- It's all written in Yzerman's plan


Impact of this result

I say that both can afford to lose. Of course they can, it's game 2 and 3 for the respective teams. That doesn't mean there won't be an impact.

For Tampa, I think a loss will be quickly swept away. They play Philly tomorrow and only ten fans will have watched it happen anyway (if you don't count their support in our province).

Auld will start the next game and may start to put a credible challenge in on Price. Martin will carry the loss until he faces Boucher again. Hamrlik and Spacek will be panned. And all the good feeling will be turned to bad.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Game #2

Canadiens Beat Newest Rivals

Details



Date: 9/10/2010
Opponent: Penguins
Location: Pittsburgh

Win: 3-2

Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Fleury (L)

Habs goalscorers: Cammalleri (2), Gomez
Opposition goalscorers: Malkin, Letestu



Play of the game

To decide on this night's play, I needed the assistance of instant replay. The instant replay on this particular save opened my eyes. The game was already tied 1-1, the Penguins were beginning to come on stronger and were on the PP again, this time on a 2-man advantage. The play itself from the Penguins was a thing of beauty as well, probably worthy of their play of the night. But with all those things in place, and the pressure on Carey Price to be the best penalty killer, he came through. After he registered no shot from Malkin, he sprung left to follow the pass. When Crosby met the pass in mid air without hesitation he was as shocked as many to find an obstacle. The save was made. Glove hand no less.



Dome hockey team

The 6 players we're playing in a no changes, do or die contest in the dome

Tomas Plekanec
I remember on Halpern's signing, many said it was to relieve Pleks of his heavy load. Maybe some time in the future, but certainly not yet. His PK duty was a team high 4:52 and he's on as the man of choice for those 5-on-3s. PK isn't all he can do, however. There was also the little matter of setting up a highlight goal with lightning feet and clever hands. The best all around player not wearing pads, I thought.

Mike Cammalleri
Showed why he was missed the other night. At times, Mike was invisible, then there were the flashes of brilliance leading to 2 goals. Mike is the type of player that makes the difference between wins and losses. Simple as that.

Travis Moen
I've given Moen a hard time over the summer. I think sometimes for good reason. Tonight, though, Moen played a great Travis Moen game. In fact, it was a great game for any forward, I thought. Though he still never looks like scoring when he bursts around defenders on the wing, if the right linemates are found for him, he may well set them up with his errant shots. His best play was along the boards where he leveraged his size well and won many a puck.

Defencemen

PK Subban
PK played a decent game and was again a great addition to the PP. His biggest and most useful contribution on the night, though, might have been his ability to drive Penguins and their fans to certain distraction. if this is a new rivalry, I think PK will be near the heart of it.

Josh Gorges
I thought Gill had an interesting game. I thought Josh was the more sound. This game was not a great defensive masterpiece for the Canadiens, as they decided to play baseline tennis at times with one of the best baseline teams in the game. Gorges kept the pace and delivered good sound passes throughout. To top it off, he found that little bit of magic that led to the victory, one of those timely seeing-eye shots we've often missed.

Goaltender

Carey Price - Game Puck
It's a fine line between win and loss, success and failure, boos and cheers. Tonight Carey tread that line with few errors. This game will go down as a steal for Carey Price with the highlights vs. Crosby to prove it and is just the kind of game he needed. The next time he needs inspiration for what to do when Spacek leaves him out to dry, it will be refreshing to know he need only look at tape of himself. Going back to Montreal, this was the perfect outing for Price (it'll quell most of the boos), and he should be pleased with himself for pulling it off.


Comments

A good result to prevent an unnecessarily poor start for the Habs. Perhaps the team relied on fortune. However, they deserved that just a bit. As I said in the preview, this won't hinder the Pens, but losing could have created a mess for the Habs. in the interest of a second playoff date, the Habs win was better planning.

I thought the game itself was entertaining too. The contrast between this game and the Toronto game could hardly have been starker. Against Toronto, Montreal looked flat and disinterested. Both teams played out the minutes. The build up was slow, the shots were few and the emotion was measured. There was a lot of hitting on the scoresheet, but little in my memory. Tonight, Pittsburgh took 38 shots and hit (an alleged) 47 players. There was animosity, fighting, roughing (without gloves), and a lot of pace. The Pittsburgh fans even found a way to boo the Habs.

When people ask me if I've always hated the Leafs, I tell them that actually I haven't. When I was younger the Leafs were in a different conference, and probably more importantly were just an inconsequential match-up. Back in those days, I detested the Bruins and Sabres, Flames and Flyers. As the Penguins move towards a fiercer rivalry with our club, I feel the shift again. Perhaps the Leafs are no longer a rival of great importance, perhaps the team takes or leaves those games and gets on with the other rivalries. Who knows?

What's clear is that the Penguins are intent on being rivals of this team, and the Habs players are answering the bell. It's encouraging because the games are exciting. It's also exciting because it indicates that the Canadiens are now, at least somewhat, peers of the contending Pens again. This game was a nice re-acquaintance with the penalty farmers, and I look forward to watching the Habs run with them again.