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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best Habs Facial Hair

Thankfully Movember has only a few hours left as many men reach for their razors to rid themselves of the horrors growing on their upper lips.

Some men just aren't meant for facial hair; others do it with style, panache and ease.

In sports, baseball seems to breed some good growth, probably because they have so much time on their hands.

This year's winning S.F. Giants had quite a few on their roster, led by their closer, Brian Wilson -- who looked like he was wearing a fake beard because he dyed his jet black, giving him less of a Goose Gossage look and more of an intimidating Mad Dog Vachon one instead.

But nobody did it better than Rollie Fingers (above with the Oakland A's).

My brother reminded me of some of the great Habs facial hair from the teams in the seventies -- pretty much everyone had sideburns then, but he forgot the best one of 'em all: Larry Robinson!!!

I still think he looks funny now that he goes without the 'stache :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Tale of Two 'Staches

I'm a much happier camper today.

Habs continued their recent trend with a solid bounce-back victory last night over the listless Sabres 3-1. Next game is Wednesday night at the Bell Centre against the Edmonton Oilers, a game they must win because the next night they play in New Jersey -- and we know what that means.

Hopefully they can start stringing some victories together and increase their lead at the top of the Northeast division.

A couple of statistics as it stands right now:
  1. Habs are 2nd in the league in victories (15) -- which bodes well given the rule changes this season in regards to wins in regulation vs. extra time.
  2. Habs are 2nd in the league in goals allowed (47) -- but league-leading Boston (42) has played 3 less games.
Last night's game was proof that no matter how good a goalie is, if the team in front of him is deficient, there's not much he can do. Ryan Miller played great but it still wasn't enough. Credit to the Habs though for keeping the pressure on him all night.

Is it only me, but isn't it more special when Andrei Kostitsyn scores? I seem to always be happier when he contributes. He was in the right spot to pot the first goal of the night, and made a sweet pass right on the tape for Gionta's first of the night on a 2 on 1. Even though we'd like more production from him, I think he's been very solid since the first puck drop this season, and hope it continues.

Kudos once again to Carey Price last night and too bad he didn't get the shutout, but no matter. Although he didn't get tested early, it is always a challenge for a goalie to stand for long sequences without much action -- which was the case for him last night.

Now that December 1st is right around the corner, the shavers will be coming out to trim off all of those ugly Movember 70's style mustaches. But maybe Carey should keep his? He looks like a young Bernie Parent -- someone who had some success in this league :)

Although Parent didn't need to use a Sharpie marker to colour his in!!! Good one CP!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Canadiens LOSE on my BDAY!!??

It was a good day yesterday as it always is for me on November 26th -- my birthday. Work followed by a few pints followed by some burgers from my favourite burger joint, followed by a rare Friday night hockey game to watch on tv. Things were good.

I was psyched to watch my team dismantle the Thrashers. I was hoping (read: expecting) the team would come out and assert themselves as the better team, and help me end my special day with a win!!

But I didn't go to bed happy.

Here's the deal. In recent years, the Habs have had trouble in Atlanta, never fully playing up to their potential. Although I think they won there last year, usually the team doesn't perform that well in Atlanta. Maybe it's the relatively long trip, maybe it was the fact that they were playing on a Friday, maybe they just underestimated the Thrashers.

Whatever the "maybes" are, it all equaled up to a sound loss for the Habs, losing 3-0 to the Thrashers. Shut out for the 2nd time this week.

Yeeesh! I thought me and the Habs were tight!? Right!? Like, they of course would deliver a solid, 60 minute road game and bring home the bacon on my bday. Well it started off like that might happen, but they couldn't find the net after a few power plays in the opening 10 minutes. Then after some fumbling around by Hal Gill in the last minute of the 1st right in front of poor Alex Auld -- who probably feels like a crisp, white sheet today after being hung out to dry by his team last night -- the Thrashers made it 1-0 and never looked back.

So far this season, the 2nd period hasn't fared all that well for the Habs, and last night may have been the worst 2nd period they played all year: giveaways, losing faceoffs, taking penalties, losing battles. If it wasn't for poor "he's big, he's bald, he's Alex Auld," this game could have been a total write-off. Auld was solid in nets and did everything he could to keep his team in the game. So we definitely can't hang this one on him.

Honestly, this was the kind of collective effort the Canadiens tended to reserve for Carey Price last year. So if there's one good thing about last night, it's that CP didn't play, so he didn't have to take this kind of abuse.

This may have been collectively one of the worst games the team played all year, although to their credit, they didn't play terrible in the 1st and 3rd periods -- it's just that 2nd period which completely put the game out of reach. I mean, getting outshot 23-4!? That's pretty sad, especially when you can only wonder what was said after the 1st when the team gave up a last minute goal to make it 1-0. The game was still in reach at that point.

Hal Gill probably had his worst game in a long time and Gorges didn't look that much better. Subban wasn't his usual self, and although he finally dropped the gloves to fight Zach Bogosian -- guess he wanted to "learn those lessons" Mike Richards was speaking of. Unfortunately it didn't help to fire up the team, and Subban was largely ineffective last night.

I could go on, but no point singling out each player.

One alarming trend that I hope the Habs are able to curtail soon is their end of period play. Many times this season, they have taken late period penalties and start the next on the penalty kill. Luckily, their PK has been terrific, but it puts a kink in their flow. Last night, they were scored on with less than 20 seconds left in the 1st, then took a penalty in the first minute of the 2nd. This needs to stop.

Got to give the Thrashers their kudos though. They came out and really competed. They wanted to win and pressured the Canadiens net all night. They really are a transformed team now that they're in the post-Kovalchuk era. They have a strong young goalie (Pavelec), some great young talent (Evander Kane, Little, Peverley) bolstered by the Blackhawks' cup-winning cast-offs in Byfuglien (absolutely love that guy), Ladd, Eager and Sopel. Then add Jonny Oduya which they got in the Kovalchuk deal, and you know? This team might actually make the playoffs this year. They're a fun team to watch. But I had my fill after last night, that's for sure.

All I can hope for now is that the Habs continue with recent history and bounce back strong after a loss. They seem to be stringing wins and losses together lately, and they play a still insecure Buffalo Sabres squad tonight back home at the Bell Centre. Even with Ryan Miller in nets, the Habs should by all means take this one, and there's no excuses for playing last night, because the Sabres also played on Friday (beating the Laffs 3-1).

I think the Habs owe me this one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Canadiens at the Quarter Mark

Let's not get too out of whack after last night's loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Sure they should have fared better, up 2-0 after the 1st. What happened? That's for Martin to iron out. I'm not worried. Good to have these lessons learned now.

Your Habs are doing quite well after 20 games (now 21). Things could get better but it could also be a lot worse. Let me remind you that our beloved team was 9-11 at this point last year, struggling to find their way.

You may be wondering why I didn't post anything after the Habs victory over the Leafs on Saturday. One reason was travel. But the main reason is that this game is such a write-off, such a non-news item, that I treated it with the due respect it rightly deserved. That is, it was a no-brainer the Habs should have defeated the Maple Laughs at home, on Pat Burns remembrance night of all nights. It was only close due to the Habs inability to finish (which would come back to bite them against the Flyers last night) and because Gustavsson was very solid (and is the only reason Leafs fans have any inklings of hope for this season or the next).

Two things I do want to mention about this game though:

1. Carey Price's shutout is the first against the Leafs at home since Ken Dryden did same in 1977 -- hard to believe, but true. About time then. I like seeing Price's name next to Dryden's.

2. Mike Komisarek -- when he was on the Habs, I loved the guy but did feel he too often put himself in bad positions and made bad turnovers -- something that has become more pronounced now that he doesn't have Markov backing him up. LeafLand is not that smittened with him and for good reason. Well, I still love the guy. Why? Because of the kind of plays he makes consistenly, like the one in the 3rd leading to Cammellari's goal.

After 20 games, the Habs are (were) 13-6-1. Pretty good for a team that most pundits picked not to make the playoffs, which I find kind of mindblowing...sure there was risk in letting Halak go. But they have a good if not potentially great team on paper and are well coached.

A few things of concern are obviously: the power play; the lack of consistent production from some of the top players; and relying too much on Carey Price.

In any case in my humble opion there are ultimately three reasons why the Habs are in such a strong position after the quarter mark, third in the conference and tops of their division:

1) CAREY PRICE -- VEZINA BOUND!? Carey Price has done everything he needed to do to silence his long list of critics (which famously did not include me). Play his tail off and stop pretty much everything thrown at him. That pre-season game against Boston where he asked us all to "Chill out" is just convincing me even more that no matter what we may think, he knows the score, he knows what he can do and he also knows what he will deliver. Thankfully so does the Habs brass.

While his old buddy Jaro Halak is starting to stall in St. Louis, it looks like CP is just getting going. His numbers including last night's tilt are: 12-7-1 with a GAA of 2.05 and .932 SV% as well as 4 shutouts in 20 games -- melaka. Took him almost 200 games to get his first 4 shutouts. The guy is posting Vezina trophy numbers, maybe even MVP-worth, given the Habs would be quite mediocre if he wasn't playing at this high level.

Now that his critics have been silenced, hopefully once and for all, and he's shown he can perform at this level for real stretches, the Habs faithful can finally focus on something else and aim their collective wrath towards someone worthy...cough cough Gomez...

2) TOMAS PLEKANEC IS AN ELITE PLAYER!!! Not sure why I'm the only one putting Plekanec onto this pedestal. It's fully deserved! It's as if the media is afraid to go out on a limb too soon. Too soon!? For the last 3-4 seasons, TP has produced no matter who he's played with. His breakout year was excused to playing with Kovalev. Then after putting up still decent numbers on a down year for everyone, he posts a banner year last year, sans Kovalev, while playing with a revolving door of wingers.

This year, same thing. He puts up points consistently no matter who he plays with, and whoever plays with him suddenly racks up the points. Playing with Kostitsyn and Cammellari, they were the team's top offensive line. Then Gionta is mercifully separated from Gomez to play with TP, and all of a sudden Gionta starts producing. Kostitsyn is playing with Gomez, and suddenly he's gone silent (though still playing well in my opinion). I"m thinking Gomez should start playing the wing with Plekanec!!

Everyone recognizes he's been great, but nobody wants to give him the full kudos. Well I do.

This guy wins faceoffs, kills penalties, scores big goals, makes everyone better around him... he does it all! That's why I don't like the fact he was knocked by much of the media for his production in last year's playoffs. He can't do it all by himself. True, he needs to produce, and he did. But when a guy plays such a good two-way game like him, in the playoffs, it's that part of his game that's going to take precedence when those games are ultimately decided by winning a faceoff here, picking off a pass in the neutral zone there. Leave the scoring to Gionta, Cammellari et al. And that's exactly what happened.

Gauthier got TP at a steal this summer!!! Everyone's writing what a gamble Gauthier took by signing TP, letting Halak leave and staying with CP in goal. From my perspective, this was the only decision and not a risk at all!!! Price is the better goalie and just needed some ripening on the vine. Plekanec is an elite 2-way player who we groomed to play at this level... so we weren't about to just let him walk away. Now we have TP for all of his prime. Nice.

He also represents the Czech National Team and is one of the top players on that team. He's a great team player, never complains and always takes the heat when he deserves it. I think he's a class act and truly worthy of wearing the CH jersey.

Both Carey Price and Tomas Plekanec should be the Habs' All-Star selections this year. Plekanec probably won't be picked, but he should.

3) P.K. SUBBAN -- CALDER CANDIDATE!? We all knew that P.K. would start this season where he ended up last year. Or did we? Well one never knows. Man can this guy skate. He's playing over 20 minutes a game and makes it easier to forget about Markov. He's single-handedly improved the Habs' defensive zone breakouts, which were very tedious last year. He gets under the opposing side's skins (hi Mike Richards) and he can produce offensively (and will do so more frequently the next quarter of the season, methinks). He's a great team player, he's well-spoken. He's Canadian. He's strong. He's fast. He doesn't back down. He can do it all, and he knows he can.

Who else has generated this kind of excitement as a rookie since maybe Kjell Dahlin!? That's right, I said Kjell Dahlin!! And he eventually tanked. No wayyy that's going to happen with P.K. We haven't had a player come right out of the AHL and make such an impact so quickly and so profoundly. It's about time... our drafting has been mediocre at best over the last 15 years.

He will have to drop the gloves as was suggested last week. He'll do it when the time is right. He also knows that's not his job, but it's just one of the rites of passage for this gifted d-man.


That's it folks. It's been an entertaining and satisfying first quarter of the season. But there's a long way to go. Honourable mentions have to go to Jeff Halpern, who's had the best start of his career and seems to be a good fit on this team; and to Roman Hamrlik, who even though he missed training camp with his own injury, dusted off the rust very quickly and picked up some major slack with Markov out.

Let's hope the Habs stay healthy, Gomez starts producing and Price continues to be my boy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jaro Pulls a T.C. Chen !!

It's been a tough week for poor Jaro Halak.

After a sizzling start with his new team, Jaro has been pummeled of late, giving up 19 goals in 4 games -- all losses of course. He was also pulled the other week. Well there's another stat he has up on Pricey -- Jaro has been pulled once, to Price's none.

I watched the game the other night that saw Jaro facing his old d-man Ryan O'Bryne, now on the Avalanche (btw O'Byrne got smoked in a fight). He gave up 3 goals in the 1st period, and looked a bit rattled. If Halak's GAA was on the stock market you'd want in, because it is going up up up!

Last night Halak got shelled for 7 goals against the Red Wings. But it was the first Detroit goal that's getting all the attention because Jaro scored on himself by pulling a T.C. Chen!

Now for those of you not literate with such semi-obscure cultural references, first you should learn everything there is to know about "Jumping The Shark."

T.C. Chen will always live in infamy in the sporting world, and specifically the golfing world, because of what he accomplished in the 1985 U.S. Open. In the 4th round, he hit a chip shot twice (in the same swing) that ended up costing him the tournament.

Jaro accomplished the same feat last night. A bit of bad luck, but a T.C. Chen nevertheless -- right into his own net:

Ultimately, I think the Blues' deficiencies are starting to manifest after a great start and there's not much Halak can do about it. The loss of T.J. Oshie to injury hurts big time and they just don't have the kind of offensive punch needed to succeed in their conference. When a guy like Matt D'Agostini is leading the team in goals -- that's right, that Matt D'Agostini, then you know you have a problem. Nothing against D'Agostini. I liked him as a Hab. He has a great shot. But as we are all well aware, his production tends to drop off, big time.

I just can't wait until the Habs play St. Louis this year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

HABS Make Statement Against Phooey Flyers

So the HABS sans Markov Part 3 keep rolling on with a solid, 3-0 victory last night at the Bell Centre. ALAKA!

On a night where the left-for-dead Maple Leafs gave Leaf Nation their trademarked glimmer of hope, the HABS continued to show the NHL-at-large they are a force to reckon with. Somewhere Bob Gainey is smiling. Or whatever he does when he's happy.

So is it just me, or can we all agree this team IS FOR REAL!?

Pierre LeBrun has a nice piece about the game last night, which you can read here.

My comment on was as follows:

It's true, it's only November. But the HABS have been one of the most consistent teams so far this year. Their special teams are becoming quite dominant. They are strong 5 on 5. They have deft playmakers but these same players have bought into Martin's system (I'm looking at you, A. Kostitsyn) of playing a tight defensive game.

I still find it mind-boggling that after such a nice run in last year's playoffs, most pundits/experts completely discounted the Habs this year, even predicting they wouldn't make the playoffs. This team is for real. They've found the formula, found their identity and are a hungry bunch. This isn't a cocky, swagerring bunch like the Flyers, or an over-confident group like the Caps who think they can take 2 periods off and still win. This is a dangerous, for real team with proven winners in their lineup. If they are playing like this come April, those who picked the Canucks as Canada's cup contenders will be wearing red instead.

The Flyers are a good team no doubt but I sense they're a streaky team, like they were last year. I think there's more of a question whether the Flyers goaltending will continue at a high level than with the Habs. The Flyers give up a lot of quality scoring opps. For Bobrovski to continue at this pace would be asking a lot. And I was never a big fan of Leighton, he just went on a fortunate run last spring but his bubble was popped by the Hawks -- possibly never to return.

Jaro who??

As an aside, the Flyers were playing their second game in as many nights, so expect a much more spirited bunch for the rematch in Philly on Monday. Then we'll see how the Habs react.

Also, I really like Peter Laviolette as a coach. He really knows how to motivate his players and make 'em believe. And when the game is lost, as it was for the Flyers las night for sure, send a message for next time. But I think it got a bit out of hand last night, no? Putting Jody Shelley on the powerplay? Give me a break...I wouldn't mind seeing Martin chew him out between benches next time. But this also shows a small hole in the HABS' lineup. Who's our enforcer? Laraque was a waste. Lapierre can't fight for his life. O'Byrne wasn't the answer either -- who btw, got punched out in a fight the other night against St. Louis.

We need someone specifically for these games. To me Moen is the closest we have to a reliable enforcer, but we need him more to continue doing what he's been doing. Any idears?

Monday, November 15, 2010

La première étoile, the first star... mais oui, it's CAREY PRICE!

He's my boy!

If this keeps up, I'll have to start a column titled "What Did I Say!?" because what I write today seems only to happen tomorrow. I always knew I was ahead of my time. Maybe I should start picking lottery numbers!?

In any case, for my latest "What Did I Say!?" moment, Carey Price was named the NHL's 1st star for the past week, as I had predicted in yesterday's post:
PS: Carey Price will undoubtedly be one of the NHL's three stars this week if not #1, going 3-0 with 1 shutout and 3 goals allowed in 4 games. Nice...
Mnsr. Carey Price won all 3 of his starts this week, allowing just 3 goals and posting a 2-0 shutout over the Vancouver Canucks, with a goals-against average of 1.00 and a .970 save percentage. The Canadiens goaltender improved to 10-5-1 with a 2.18 GAA with a .923 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 16 appearances this season.

Yepper. I have to say, this one is feeling good. For those of you in my hockey circles, you know then that I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS BEEN ON CAREY PRICE'S SIDE, through thick and thin. With all the dissing, booing, then dissing once again to the point where the fan base almost ran him out of town, I have stayed true to the young man. I'm a goalie too, and know what a cruel position it can be when the the puck doesn't bounce your way. I also know what it feels like when a team hangs you out to dry, which is what happened to Price wayyy too many times last season.
Hey, last year was tough. I just want the HABS to win, and so if Jaro Halak was doing the job, I was fine with that. And boy did he play his heart out. I wish him well and he's doing well with St. Louis. And he made Alan Walsh a ton of dough. But that was the best he could play. And we still lost!!!
So I knew the Habs would keep Price. In any case, they needed to sign Plekanec so ultimately Halak was expendable. Price has won at every level, with poise and sportsmenschip. Thank god Bob Gainey et al didn't listen to the fanbase and stuck to their guns. Maybe it will turn out that last year was the best thing that could have happened to Carey. He's come back stronger both mentally and physically.
And the kid's only 23. So in my next "What Did I Say Moment!?" -- that will only be cashed in in about 15 years -- I say Price will be the NHL's next Marty Brodeur. That's right. He will win cups. He will break records. He will be on the Habs for his (I hope) entire career. Don't be surprised if he gets locked up big time for his next contract. Oh, and he will be a top 2 goalie for Canada's Olympic team next time around.
I have always believed, and still believe, that he is our franchise goalie, and will be in nets when the Habs win their next Stanley Cup (yes, he'll be in the Habs nets, fools!).
And I can't believe the chorus of people who still think he's a bad goalie or who think this run is lucky. When a guy dives to make a save when his team is up 5-2 in the 3rd period, you know he means business. Wake up and smell the smoked meat folks. Admit you were wrong. He's da man. He's my man. He's our man. He's Carey Price.

Oh. Also the Pens' Sidney Crosby and the Caps' Alexander Semin were the second and third star. Yawn. We know first-hand that Semin will run and hide in the playoffs.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perfect Week for the HABS Until...

There it was. The HABS were comfortably ahead of the pesky Hurricanes 5-2 and things were looking great. The top scorers were scoring. Price was continuing his stellar play. The Habs were about the wrap up a perfect week of hockey, going 3-0, winning two games against two of the most-seemingly powerful teams in the league, the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins (both overrated if you ask me) and on the verge of defeating their nemesis in the 'Canes, when all of a sudden, we saw a total replay of Markov's injury against the Pens in the second round of last year's playoffs.

Markov Goes Down

Hoo boy what a waste. Just when his game was coming around. Well after all the talk about the team's depth this week after O'Byrne's trade, it'll get put to the test now. The funny thing is I don't think the loss of Markov (rumoured to be three months but unsure until tests come back) will be as much of a negative impact to the team as it was last year. The Habs have their identity and Markov is slowly becoming less important to the team, especially with the inspired play of young Subban. This week saw the team play the kind of hockey that they were playing in last year's playoffs. Outstanding goaltending, followed by strong special team play and timely goals.

Let's wish Markov a speedy recovery. But boy it was essentially the same play as in last year's playoffs, Markov falling awkwardly into the boards trying to make a play in the corner...

Markov gets hurt against Pens


There are three Habs on the official All-Star ballot touting the experiment the NHL is trying for this year's bore: Gionta, Cammelari and Markov. Obviously, these were made over the summer...we know this because Mark Streit is on the ballot for the Islanders and he hasn't even played a game this year. Not only should Price be on the ballot -- which everyone was calling for this week -- but what about TOMAS PLEKANEC!!! 

This guy has been the engine for the Habs offensively and is an elite player and proves it every night. Here's a guy who took less dough than he could have got on the open free agent market, plays his heart out every night, puts points up on the board no matter who he plays with, and plays a terrific two-way game. Man is he underrated in the eyes of the league, but you can be sure that when teams play against the Habs, his name is always on the board in their dressing room as one to keep an eye out on.

Great week for the Habs. Gionta looking like he's coming back and even Gomez scored. And Kostitsyn got a goal last night which will hopefully wake him up. Except for Markov going down, damn good week for the Habs, solidifying their lead atop the Northeast. KEEP IT UP!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Boyd Stays, O'Byrne Traded -- What Did I Say??

So Ryan O'Byrne's rough and tumble time with the Habs has now officially come to a close. Too bad, I liked him, he was big, but he never quite gave the team the kind of consistent play that someone like Gorges is able to provide. I think his downfall ultimately was that he didn't show any improvement this year and this is what the team is looking for. Get better. That's what Gorges ultimately did and now he finds himself as a top 4 d-man.

Although O'Byrne is a big guy, he never really used his body to the best of his ability. But he left us with some memorable moments, unfortunately both not so good:
  1. "Pursegate" -- Team is getting set to play the Lightning. The night before, O'Byrne walks out of a Tampa Bay bar with some girl's purse, accidentally!?
  2. Against the Islanders 2 years ago at home, he scores on his own net.
Anyhow his fate was pretty predictable, like I wrote in my last post:
I think we can all agree that Picard is now ahead of O'Byrne in the Canadiens depth chart. Chances are, O'Byrne is going to be traded unless something else happens or someone gets injured.
So O'Byrne takes up residence in Denver for the Avs, while the Habs get the young, French Canadian prospect Michael Bournival in return. Since the Habs are looking pretty deep in the defense department right now, given Weber is also chomping at the bit on the farm, this was probably the right move to make. The deal also takes O'Byrne's $941,667 cap hit off the Canadiens' books.

Bournival is an 18-year-old centre from Shawinigan who was Colorado's third-round choice, 71st overall, in the 2010 draft. He's currently playing with the Cataractes in the QJMHL.

It'll probably be some time before we see him with the big club. With even more wiggle room under the salary cap, don't be surprised if GM Gauthier makes another move soon.

As a result we'll wait to see what happens with Dustin Boyd. Personally I was a bit surprised that no other team picked him up... right now, Ryan White would certainly be an upgrade if he shows the kind of spirited play that he presented in the preseason.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Story of Sergei K. and a Bag O' Pucks

So probably like many other Habs fans I was a bit surprised to learn yesterday that Dustin Boyd was placed on waivers. "Soumis au ballotage" is how I first saw it. It's not that surprising because his play so far has been subpar, or because he's already sat out quite a few games, but more because of how Mr. Boyd came to the Canadiens in the first place.

As you may recall, the saga began in the summer when Sergei Kostitsyn was finally given his walking papers in a trade to Nashville for Boyd and goalie Dan Ellis. This was of course after the Halak trade and Price was annointed the number one goalie (once and for all). Ellis, you may also recall, had no intentions of  being Price's backup, and ultimately signed with Tampa Bay, where he's gone on to whine about the difficulties of being an overpaid athlete. That left Sergei for Dustin. Now, Dustin is on waivers, shocked, rattled and surprised to be in this position.

What does this mean!?

Well, by putting Boyd on waivers, if he's not picked up by another team today, he will most likely be sent down to Hamilton. Which means the Habs free up some cap space, potentially to make some sort of move. There's been a lot of rumblings about Bill Guerin becoming a Hab, but personally I don't see it happening, given Guerin's age (he's 40) and the fact it's going to take him that much more time as a result to get up to game shape.

I think Boyd is a good, young 2-way player who has lost his way and has yet to find his "niche" -- as Jacques Martin put it. But with the Canadiens struggling to find the net, maybe something needs to be done sooner than later, and this may just be the start of something else to come. We'll see.

This could also be seen as an implied gesture of confidence to Ryan O'Byrne, who has been sitting for most of the season due to an underwhelming training camp and mostly, a lack of confidence. Although in reality,  O'Byrne is precariously close to the same situation Boyd is in. With Markov now back in the lineup all the defensemen are healthy, and Alexandre Picard, whose play has been solid, has recently been relegated to the press box. I think we can all agree that Picard is now ahead of O'Byrne in the Canadiens depth chart. Chances are, O'Byrne is going to be traded unless something else happens or someone gets injured. Personally, I'd rather see Spacek get the heave, but the chances of someone taking on his salary are next to nil.

GM Gauthier's moves up to this point have been somewhat dodgy. Last year, he made a somewhat questionable move in trading a 2nd round pick for Dominic Moore. Many, including myself, didn't understand the need for it. But that's why I'm not the GM. Obviously he saw a gap in the Habs lineup. And Moore ended up proving Gauthier right because he was a key factor in the Habs playoff run in the spring.

Then of course, the Halak trade. While Jaro has now officially hermetically sealed his net in St. Louis, the jury is still out on that one as we have yet to see the best of Lars Eller. Personally I like the kid, and he doesn't look out of place. He just needs to assert himself more on the ice and everything should be fine. I've got a good feeling about him, as I'm sure the Canadiens brass do.

Later in the summer out of the blue Gauthier signed Jeff Halpern, a veteran faceoff guru. I was puzzled because I thought Moore, who was now part of the core that seemed to help the team turn the corner and find its identity, was a better option. Now maybe it appears that Gauthier again knew something I didn't, because Halpern is having the best start of his career and is very reliable in the faceoff circle -- something the Habs needed help with. There's no way his current pace will continue, but he provides veteran leadership and a will to win. He's also somehow kickstarted Benoit Pouliot -- which ultimately could be Halpern's biggest contribution to the team -- and hopefully that will continue.

I guess ultimately the team is pretty deep in 3rd/4th line players. Moen is Moen and that's usually a good thing. Darche is playing well and Lapierre is solid if not underwhelming at times. Then there's Ryan White and Aaron Palushaj (who the Habs got from the Blues in the D'Agostini trade) both who had strong camps and are sitting by the phone.

Seems as if Gauthier specializes in making good moves that aren't evident right away. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.

So...if Boyd IS picked up on waivers, the Canadiens still save his 650K salary, but they get absolutely nothing for him. Zero. Nada. Which then means the Habs got ZIPPITY DO DAH in return for Mr. Sergei. Not so good methinks. Even if Sergei is riding pine in Nashville.

Guess that bag o' pucks deal is starting to look pretty good in retrospect.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

HABS Win in WingLand, but Loss at Home Not Surprising

Shuffled off to Buffalo to watch the HABS play the Sabres on Friday night and it was well worth the trip. A few of my buds in tow, after dropping our stuff off at our hotel and chugging a couple of beers we made our way to Anchor Bar restaurant to mange on the obligatory wings pre-game din din. Never a disappointment.

 After an entertaining taxi ride to the arena by a driver claiming to be hiding in Buffalo from the mob, we got to our seats about 7 mins. into the game. From the shots on goal, we could tell the Sabres were hot out of the gate and Price was obviously the difference in the 1st period. There didn't seem to be much flow from both sides but definitely the Sabres had the better of the chances, finally cashing in with Mike Grier making a slick move to deke Price out of his pants on the backhand. However, on this night goals against only seemed to serve as motivation for the HABS as Jeff Halpern would tie the game with a wrist shot from the slot on a nice feed from Darche a little over a minute later. Not sure if Lalime had much of a chance on that one.

Second period was pretty much a repeat of the first, except this time the HABS seemed to find their legs and were generating more opportunities and tested Lalime, forcing him to make a few nice saves. Sabres though took the lead when Leopold wheeled in from the point and batted in a fluttering puck behind Price, but once again Montreal had an immediate response when the resurging Benoit Pouliot took the puck on the side of the net and moved out into the slot to slide it between Lalime's legs, tying the score under a minute later.

The Halpern line was definitely the strongest line of the night for the HABS, on a night where the team's top lines were somewhat flat. Gomez, off to a slow start this year, didn't drive towards the net on one opportunity which led to a turnover that resulted in the Sabres rushing up ice and scoring their second goal. So it was good timing for the Halpern line to get some timely goals for the team. Just what the doctor ordered, so says Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, who after the game tagged them as the PhD line: Pouliot, Halpern, and Darche. Good one.

Ryan Miller's absence became a factor later in the 2nd when Pouliot streaked down the left wing and drove a slapshot from the top of the circle beating Lalime on the short side -- a save he should have made. In the 3rd, the HABS definitely tightened things up and really provided a solid defensive effort in front of Price, who wasn't as busy as the previous periods, but still  made a big stop on a partial breakaway midway through the period.

Somewhat sloppy effort, some timely goals by Pouliot and Halpern, and another strong outing by Carey Price gave the HABS an important 2 points and also may have driven another nail into the coffin of Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, whose Sabres have yet to win at home. Me and my bud agreed, Ruff is a great coach, but maybe the time has come to make some changes in Buffalo.

Unfortunately the next night back in Montreal was a bit of the same: sloppy defensive play led to some breakdowns to a streaking team that is quickly finding its identity with Mike Fisher as the leader instead of Daniel Alfredsson...and guess who would make one of his 8-10 appearances in a game out of 82 this year, but Alex Kovalev who probably is the most motivated against his old club than any other, scoring two goals (both were a bit lucky in my opinion but good for him).

My mother and brother were in attendance and witnessed a pane of glass break during the pregame warmup. Good thing they weren't sitting there at the time:

Honestly the Habs weren't ever in this game even though they had a couple of nice chances. Elliot was solid in nets, but it was Price who made this a game, giving the HABS a chance to squeeze out some points in this one. Gionta finally broke his goalless streak but it was too late and the team fell to the Sens 3-2. Habs looked slow and lethargic, mostly due to the game the night before, and once again, their power play was powerless. They really have to get this going or this is going to catch up to them in a a big way. They've now lost 3 of 4 and a couple of goals with the man advantage would have helped a lot in those games. Let's hope they figure out a way....ultimately with the team not playing their best, I'm sure Jacques Martin is content with with getting at least 2 out of 4 points, but knows they are walking a thin line unless the top scorers begin to find their touches once again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Big Friday Night in Buffalo

HABS have a big bounce back game tomorrow night in Buffalo against the Sabres, who will surely be a surly bunch after taking a drumming on home ice from the Bruins last night. The HABS will be trying to avoid losing three games in a row for the first time this year and hang on to the top spot in their division.

Should be an interesting game. The Sabres will also be looking to avenge the loss the HABS handed to them a few weeks back

I'll be on hand to root it up for the HABS and take some pictures from the game.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Welcome to "Habs Fan in Leafland" -- your source for anything HABS

Born and bred in Montreal, I'm a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan. I used to cry when the team lost (I'm over that now, though I do go to bed angry if they lose). Now I live in Toronto where the Leafs reign supreme. Ech! How a fanbase can blindly support a team that has not won a championship since 1967 is beyond my comprehension.

Fortunately, I don't have to understand it, because the Habs have won 10 cups since 1967, with 7 (and counting) coming in my lifetime. Just to put that into perspective, the idea of Pierre Trudeau as Prime Minister was laughable; Lyndon Johnson was the U.S. President; Star Trek was still on tv; and I was but a thought.

I have to admit though, I do feel bad for Leaf Nation. They're good people. They mean well. They're just misguided. I don't know what my childhood would have been like without those Stanley Cups from the late seventies. Most... who am I kidding... ALL of my Toronto friends have never seen a Leafs championship. Poor souls. As a child I was in awe of my beloved Canadiens: Robinson, Dryden, Lafleur, Cournoyer, Shutt, Lemaire, Savard... they never let me down. THEY ALWAYS CAME THROUGH -- even when the universe was stacked against them, they always seemed to find a way and WIN!

Of course, the Canadiens were bound to have a lull, a lowpoint in their history (and there are many reasons for this which I'll discuss in an upcoming article) where they would have to rebuild, and now it seems safe to say the team has bottomed out and is finally moving in the right direction. Many of you may not agree, but Bob Gainey is the primary reason for this. Personally I think he did a great job and was sickened by the way he was dragged though the press, especially by the French media. However I'm sure you'd all agree that although Pierre Gauthier is the current G.M., it is still very much Gainey's team.

A writer by profession, it was time for me to share with the hockey world my thoughts, observations and perspectives about the Habs and hockey in general.

Another Habs blog!? You're right, who needs it!? But I promise, this one will be different. I won't be posting game summaries or even post after each game. What I will do is provide poignant, smartly-written and potentially heavily-biased articles, comments and rants about the topics the press and media either miss or ignore completely; along with personal stories and memories that make me so proud to be a Montreal Canadiens fan for life.

La premiere étoile, the first star...