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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Smiles Are Back

The Canadiens seem to be getting their collective mojos back and are starting to look like the team we all thought we had.

The rhetorical question that everyone in the media is asking is "Who could have thought the week would end on such a high note?" especially after losing their sixth in a row against the Florida Panthers on Monday then with upcoming games against the Flyers and the Bruins? Not me, that's for sure.

Now winners of their last 3 after a solid 4-2 win over Boston last night in Montreal (while not giving their opposition any points either) the Canadiens now have the next few days to recharge, re-motivate and work hard towards keeping this momentum moving forward towards their next game on Friday against the surging Ottawa Senators.

Smiles were aplenty pre-game in the Habs' locker room, notably from power-forward Erik Cole, who over the last few games has performed the way we had hoped he would when signed over the summer.

The Habs are beginning to play like a team that's ready to fight for eachother. The team celebrates its 4-2 win over Boston last night in Montreal.

Sports psychology is a funny thing. Michel Bergeron on RDS was astute early on in his comments about Cole. When he first signed he was all pearly whites.

When he came to the locker room in the preseason, he was happy. After the first few games after not playing on the powerplay and averaging about 11 minutes a game, he was downright dour.

Now that Martin has seen the error of his ways, kissed and made up with big Erik like I asked him to, the powerforward is playing the powerplay, using his speed to create chances, parking himself in front of the net and playing closer to 18 minutes a game.

And the smile is back.

It's amazing what a couple of wins can do. Martin is off of the hot seat; Price is rounding into form; the powerplay and penalty kill seems to be heading in the right direction; and the Canadiens' d-corps is slowly coming into shape, buoyed by the return of Spacek who has become a shotblocking beast with 18 over the last 3 games.

Add the fact that the Canadiens are getting scoring from their entire lineup (all this without any input goal-wise from P.K. Subban) and you have a team that we all thought we were going to have when Cole was signed: 3 scoring lines that can do the job on both sides of the ice.

Lars Eller continues to keep chugging along, finally scoring his first of the season while obtaining a few more quality scoring chances. He's now playing with Kostitsyn, which worked last season as well. Although he was the victim of a giveaway on the Bruins' first goal of the game, Eller looks to be getting better and better.

Now who thinks we got the short end of that trade with the Blues for Jaro Halak?? Jaro is riding the pine in St. Louis and has seemingly lost his job to Brian Elliot. We got their first round pick and he's starting to show why he was a first-rounder. Hey the kid is still young, and he's got a long way to go still, but that's what makes me excited because I like what I see from him right now.

It's only three games but all I can say is that their tough start can only be a good thing now, if anything just to keep the team grounded and focused on what it needs to do to succeed. Now that this edition of the Montreal Canadiens has felt the wrath of the fans and media alike when the team struggles, it should now be very clear that it's not something they want in large doses.

Now what do we do with Scott Gomez when he comes back to the lineup???

Gomez on the fourth line?? Does Martin have the balls???

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Goal That Saved The Season!?

Ay-yoy it was an eventful day yesterday for Montreal Canadiens fans, as well as the team and organization itself.

First, we heard conflicting reports about Max Pacioretty's wrist injury from the previous game. He may require surgery. No he doesn't need surgery. He's for sure not playing against the Flyers. No, he'll be a game-time decision.
Well as it turns out, he did play -- thank goodness for that. Ended up, he was key to the Habs' 5-1 win last night against the Philadelphia Flyers in Montreal last night.

Yannick Weber et al celebrate his goal with 2.6 seconds on the clock to end the first period last night. Was this the moment where we'll look back and say, this is where the Habs got their collective mojos back!? (Photo: AP).

MaxPac had his first 3 point night in the bigs, is now averaging a point a game so far this season, and although we know the guy has a great wrister, his two goals were of the dirty variety.

About 90 minutes out from gametime, the team announced that one coaching head did roll, but it wasn't like we thought (and maybe hoped). Perry Pearn, a long-time friend and colleague of Jacques Martin, whose main responsibilities were the powerplay and the defense, was sent packing by GM Pierre Gauthier.

Message to the team? Message to Jacques Martin? Tease as to what's to come if things don't change? I guess we'll have to see.

The panel on TSN last night (which included Marc Crawford btw) was unanimous in labelling Pearn a "sacrificial lamb" and that the intent of his firing was to light a fire under the players and coaching staff alike. Bob McKenzie even went so far as to say he found the timing "puzzling." What does it accomplish? Especially since the Habs have almost all of the coming week off, that might have been a better time to make such a move. But there may still be more moves coming...

Then again, fans and writers alike were calling for something to be done right away. So we got something alright.

So even with all the pregame drama, it was the Flyers who came out like a house on fire, completely dominating the Canadiens and taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Hab-not and Plekanec buddy Jaromir Jagr.
In fact, the Habs were so flat, they didn't have a 5-on-5 offensive shot on goal all period...and didn't have a shot for a span of 15 minutes.
But then...

But then with just under a minute and a half left in the period, the much maligned Erik (I'm being used the wrong way by Jacques Martin) Cole used his speed and power to create an interference penalty on the Flyers. And with 3 seconds left on the clock, Yannick Weber drilled a one-timer past Flyer goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to tie the game at 1.

It was a big moment.

It was if the Habs -- to a man -- had that mighty heavy weight suddenly lifted from their shoulders.

It was if they were free.
Because come the second period, they looked like a transformed team. They came out flying. They supported eachother. They went hard to the net. They did the right things. AND for a change, they had some bounces go their way. Like on Andrei Kostitsyn's 3rd of the season, where the puck caromed off of his leg and into the net.

It was the game winner.
And when Kostitsyn scores a dirty goal like that, you know things are going Montreal's way. It's also going their way when SOMEONE ELSE misses an open net, that someone being Wayne Simmonds who had a gaping wide net only to put it off the post. Kostitsyn's strike came soon after.

Later down in the defensive zone, Carey Price made a terrific pad save and then a short while later, the puck bounced right to Pacioretty who put it home to make it 3-1. And the team never looked back.

Price got rid of the pink pads, made all the key saves when he had to (like the breakaway by vanRiemsdyk to open the 3rd period) and finally picked up his 100th win in the NHL. MaxPac showed why if he were in the lineup, the Habs would have beaten the Bruins last spring and why he's so important to this team. Erik Cole showed the kind of hustle that makes him the kind of player the Habs need and why Gauthier signed him in the first place. There were other strong performances. If Lars Eller were more of a goal scorer, he could have easily had 2.

So will we look back at Yannick Weber's powerplay goal with 3 seconds left in the 1st period in this game against the Flyers on October 26, 2011 as the moment where it all turned around????

It's just one game. One win. But you never know...

Hey if the Habs win the next 9 games in a row, this will all have seemed like some weird dream. Just like when Pamela woke up to see Bobby showering in that infamous "Dallas" episode :)

At least the team has some confidence going into their home-and home series against Boston that begins tonight. And everyone can focus on that instead of who is going to replace Martin as head coach.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Open Letter to Pierre Gauthier

Mnsr Pierre Gauthier
General Manager
Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club
Bell Centre
Montreal, QC

Dear Mr. Gauthier,

First off let me say that I do not envy you. Your job is very difficult. Especially when there are millions of people who think they could do it better than you. It's easy for me to sit back, crack open a cold one and shout at the television screen and pretend that I know what I'm talking about. It's easy for me to think that I would have made all the right moves for the Canadiens in the offseason.

Although I must say, I have been watching and playing hockey for almost 30 years and I do feel I know a think or two about the game, especially where the Montreal Canadiens are concerned.

It's also easy for me to think that immediate action needs to be taken to put to a halt this epic and record slide for our team to start the 2011-2012 season. A season, I will inform you, in which I boldly predicted the Montreal Canadiens would win the Stanley Cup.

And while I'm still not throwing in the towel on that seemingly foolhardy prediction, I do think that you need to face up to reality and get with the program -- which is to start making the very tough decisions. Okay, start making more tough decisions.

I know it was tough letting Mr. Roman Hamrlik go this offseason. I know it was tough signing Mr. Andrei Markov to a 3 year contract when he's barely played for the past two seasons and still has no definite timetable as to his return. You have a difficult job with many tough decisions. And you make them.

That's why it's so important for you to make another one now and relieve head coach Mr. Jacques Martin from his current duties.

Mr. Martin is a professional coach. A winning NHL coach. A good guy who speaks French and is respected by many people. Unfortunately it is becoming very clear that he does not have the respect of his players -- the players that you assembled -- to put forward our best chance to winning a championship this season.

Mr. Gauthier, I call on you to begin the process of replacing Mr. Martin as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. No matter what the press and media say, there are some very viable options out there. I have already come forward to present Marc Crawford -- former NHL coach and former Stanley Cup winning coach as a potential candidate. There is also Ken Hitchcock, who although has not had much success of late as a head coach, is a professional and dedicated man who could bring a new structure to this team. And he worked for Bob Gainey in the past, winning Dallas' only championship.

There are others, too.

I truly believe the pieces you have assembled for this year's edition of the Montreal Canadiens are strong and although we have a few injuries, if healthy, this is the best team Montreal has iced since our last championship in '93. I know I'm not the only one to think this.

But your team is not playing up to its full potential and I think I know why. They no longer buy into Mr. Martin's system and they are not playing the kind of system that would help them to prosper and excel. Namely, a system that would allow them to maximize their full potentials.

Mr. Gauthier, it hurts me to see my beloved Montreal Canadiens in such a state. It hurts me to listen to people kick the Habs while it's down, especially in Toronto. And it hurts me to see such great and proud players struggle for answers. They know this cannot continue. I hope you do too.

I eagerly look forward to your decision and quick attention to this matter.

Yours very truly,

Ari Grief
Habs Fan in LeafLand

PS: Can I have an autographed Carey Price rook gamer jersey? Thanks in advance. HFLL

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The GOOD, the GREAT and the NOT SO GREAT

My evening last night can be summarized by the good, the great and the not so great.

It started with dinner with my brothers at Fabbrica, Mark McEwen's take on artisanal Italian food here in Hogtown. We tried a bunch of different plates. Washed it down with Italian beer and San Pellegrino. It was good.

Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals pounded 3 home runs in Game 3 of the World Series. First ever National League player to do so. Joined the ranks of Babe Ruth (who did it twice) and Reggie Jackson as the only players to achieve the feat. That was great.

Reggie! Reggie! 

Then with my belly full I watched last night's tilt between the Leafs and the Canadiens in Montreal. Not so great.

Carey! Carey!

Say what you want about this year's edition of the Montreal Canadiens -- and nothing against him -- but when Travis Moen leads the team in goals you know something just ain't right.

He's having a great start to his year, but where is the defense on this team??? Oh yeah! One's in Florida hobbling on skates contemplating his future; the other is nursing sore ribs -- and maybe eating a few too; and the last is out for months after getting potentially concussed in the preseason then playing one measly period in his Habs career.

Former Hab Mikhail Grabovski scores the OT winner past a helpless Carey Price last night in Montreal. Are you ready to come in off the line, Carey? (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

In the locker room after the game, a game that saw the Habs blow leads on multiple occasions to lose eventually 6-5 in OT, everyone was saying the right things:

"We had a much better effort than in Pittsburgh."

"If we play like this, we'll win our share."

"We did a lot of positive things so we have to build on that."

Maybe the effort was there, but the result is still the same. Winless at home to open the season. The Habs have now lost 5 games in a row and earned a measly 4 points out of a possible 14. Ooof!

To put THAT into perspective, the Habs would have to win 46 of their next 75 the rest of the way to achieve the 96 points that put them into the playoffs last year as the number 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Still quite possible. But can you see this team doing that? Especially with a team that can't seem to seal the deal with 3rd period leads? That's twice already: Colorado and now Toronto.

On a night where Hal Gill was honoured in front of the hometown crowd for his 1000th NHL game, it's sad the Habs couldn't muster an inspiring defensive performance that would have been the ultimate honour for Gill.

It's sad the Habs can't score on the powerplay which is powerless. That included a 5 on 3 that lasted for nearly a minute.

It's sad the Habs fumbled around in the defensive zone multiple times last night, leading to goals by Kessel (on a giveaway by Josh Gorges, the likes of we have RARELY seen but already have twice this year) and to the OT winner by Grabovski.

It's sad that Carey Price's numbers are bloated like my belly was last night post-Italian din-din because he really does deserve much, much better. He's being hung out to dry like my mother's tablecloth on a crisp spring afternoon.

You know, there were some bright spots last night. Obviously Travis Moen is doing his part. And Lars Eller, hey the guy is really starting to come along. He made a great play on Moen's shorthander to open the game's scoring, and he also looked strong headmanning the puck on Andrei Kostitsyn's goal to open the second frame.

And although he didn't get any points -- nor did he receive any time on the powerplay -- Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette felt that Erik Cole played his best game as a Canadien. I don't know... I think he's not happy with his icetime. I wouldn't be. Darche was on the powerplay and not him? And supposedly Martin was chippy when asked about it after the game.

Folks are getting restless. Which of course is nothing new for us Cup-starved Habs fans. But the hole is getting deeper and this next set of games could put the clock to twelve. After Florida, Boston twice and then Philadelphia.

I don't know if she reads my blog, or if she is the now-infamous Anonymous poster of mine, but here's a comment that one Jessica S. from Alberta left on Yahoo sports:

think the habs need a replacement in the coaching..MARC CRAWFORD is a very good some good players..too bad they got rid of wies..great defenceman..markov's done..GET WITH IT....IT WOULDN'T HURT TO GET SOMEONE THAT KNOWS THE HABS SYSTEM..PATRICK ROY COULD HELP..EVEN LAFLEUR.....GOTTA GET RID OF MARTIN.....

Guy Lafleur as coach!? Okay NOW that is funny. And Patrick Roy!? Maybe some day, but not now.

But it does kind of sound like the comment Anonymous left to my previous post:

Team has to be on board with the coach....I don't think the Habs players respect Martin. This is the main reason for the passion-less play. A really big front office shake-up is coming that may see a few heads roll and a distinct possibility that the over zealous Sir Patrick Roy could be coaching the CH???? Just A sick rumour.....but don't be shocked if it happens.....and don't be shocked at the shake-up if we don't get the two points from the leafs tonight. GO HABS GO !

It's now officially 3 minutes to midnight on the PANIC BUTTON CLOCK. When the clock strikes twelve, it'll be the death knoll for Jacques Martin as head coach of the Canadiens.

Hey as always, win or lose IT'S ALWAYS ENTERTAINING!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anemic Performance Has Finger Hovering Over Panic Button

So get this. My brother who lives in Chicago came to town on Thursday and we watched that night's game against the Penguins. He enjoys hockey and goes to see the BlackHawks every once in awhile especially when the Habs are in town, but he leads a busy life and has other pursuits.

Aaron Asham scores on a borderline highstick for Pittsburgh's 3rd goal October 20, 2011. He always seems to get one of his 5 per season goals against the Habs. The Pens won the game 3-1.

And although he still is (and always will be) a Habs fan he doesn't really follow them, yet he still offers some strong opinions. Some in fact may be just as valid as Red Fisher's or Yvan Pedneault's given he's bringing at this point a somewhat outsider's objectivity to his views.

Lately it's been the unfortunate case that when we seem to get to watch a Habs game together, the bleu-blanc-rouge lay an egg of a game (games against Tampa Bay and Nashville from recent seasons come to mind). And unfortunately last night's game continued that trend with the Canadiens's anemic (his words, not mine) performance, falling to the injury-plagued Penguins 3-1.

Although they had a few flourishes and a few early scoring chances (namely Mathieu Darche on a short-handed breakaway and Erik Cole in front from a nice set up by Lars Eller) the Canadiens really were a flat team on this night. No passion, no fight, no clutch plays, no luck and no goals until just under two minutes left to play in the game, thankfully breaking Fleury's shutout.
Can't blame Price on this one -- he played well and gave his team a chance to win. All three Pens goals were kind of flukey if you ask me...

The expression goes, you make your own breaks. And I believe it. The Habs need to start making their own breaks.

And it's not as if one player stood out as being terrible or whatnot -- just the team as a whole came off as uninterested and flat. Or anemic as my brother put it. It was an anemic performance, the powerplay is verging on the pathetic and the team needs to find answers very soon otherwise they'll find themselves sitting at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.

My brother doesn't know some of the newer Habs and I of course told him to look out for Max Pacioretty who in my mind at least has by far been the best -- and most consistent -- Habs forward so far this year. And he agreed. On a night where most of Montreal's team did their best not to stand out, my brother was impressed by the big winger and commented how he was a presence on the ice.

So how come Erik Cole is not being the same presence?

I don't want to kick him while he's down, but Cole, as well as Gionta and the now-injured Gomez once again were shooting blanks last night. (Maybe Gomez's injury will be a blessing in disguise?)

Hey, if the team lost with an effort like the previous game against Buffalo, I could live with it. But to lose in such a boring, bland and lack-of-any-fight way, that could say quite a bit about... THE COACHING STAFF!

Uh oh!

On October 16th, an "Anonymous" poster left the following comment after the team's 6-5 shootout loss to the Avalanche:

"...Head Coach Jacques Martin is on the block....3 more games...maybe as much as 5...quote me."

Well well well I am now officially quoting you Anonymous (are you GM Pierre Gauthier?). And I'm starting to believe that I may be quoting you again very shortly.

Has Jacques Martin lost the room?
And if he gets the axe, who will replace him???

My brother and I laughed: "Hey let's bring back Scotty Bowman! One more time!" If he could win the cup with this team, he really would be the best coach ever! Not that he isn't of course.

But Scotty is too old... and too smart, to take this job. But seriously, after running through the options with another Habs Fan in LeafLand, you heard it here first that hair boy Marc Crawford is probably starting to lick his chops and readying his coiff for the big show once again, falling into a long line of former TSN panelists to jump back into action (Torterella, MacTavish, Burke).

Makes the most sense. He's won the cup as a coach, he's available, he's tough, his wife is a Quebecer, he coached the Nordiques -- and what I really love the most -- he's got a great head of hair :)

And speaking of heads, fans are calling for Martin's head. On a block with a little sauce, please.
Now I'm a supporter of Martin, but now even I have to admit, I'm not liking what I'm seeing:

-- I don't want to see Plekanec on the point during the powerplay. It's been tried and doesn't work. He's best down low. Give it up and find new solutions. As my brother said last night, if the point men are being pressured on the powerplay, it's up to the coach to give them options to do something about it.

-- I don't want to see line-tinkering with lines that are clearly working, like the Desharnais-Pacioretty-Kostitsyn line. Leave them alone will ya!? Poor Frere Andrei... and give some time to the others before tinkering. This team needs time to gel and you keep disrupting that process!! When you make a souffle, if you open the oven too soon, it gets ruined!

-- Make up with Erik Cole and give him the minutes and the powerplay time -- jeez he couldn't be worse than Scotty G. You lost this guy from the get-go, we need him and his use by you from the start of the season has been questionable.

Love (but not kisses),
Habs Fan in LeafLand

Habs play the Toronto Phil Kessels tonight in Montreal. Lose this game and Anonymous may just be heralded as the official cryptic fortune teller for Habs Fan in LeafLand.

Here's an interesting read about the team's slow start and reactions from Yahoo's Puck Daddy:

Sunday, October 16, 2011


DESPERATION!!! And I don't mean Habs Nation should be desperate. I'm talking about the way the Canadiens need to play to be successful.

Carey Price makes the save against the Avalanche's Milan Hejduk last night at the Bell Centre. Montreal lost the game in a shootout 6-5.

Off to a slow start last night and down 1-0 early on, the Canadiens ramped up their energies and began playing with desperation. And it started to show results.

For stretches last night, the Habs put a lot of pressure on Colorado and generated many scoring opportunities. There was desperation to their play and they were able to come back and take leads in various stages of the game, the last coming off of a two goal in 20 seconds spurt in the 3rd period to only give up the tying goal late while killing a penalty by Diaz.

So this is -- as they say -- a work in progress. There were a lot of encouraging signs for the team though. Cole, Gomez and Gionta ended their 0-fers. The Desharnais - Pacioretty - Kostitsyn line was great last night -- Pacioretty showed not only a scorer's touch but playmaking abilities as well on that sweet feed on Desharnais' goal -- which by the way was created only by the hustle and insanely good backhand pass of Andrei Kostitsyn.

Plekanec was... Plekanec. Too bad he hit the post in the shootout but dem's the breaks.

Price had an off night. He knows it and he'll be better. There's no doubt about that. But the defense does look a bit soft. Gill and Subban both had rough nights, Subban having his pocket picked in centre ice by Paul Stastny who then came in alone to slide the puck between Price's pads for Colorado's 4th goal of the game.

This team needs to play hungry, desperate hockey for 60 minutes until their defensive-end coverage finds its identity. It's also obvious for the time being that for the team to win, Price has to be practically lights-out game after game -- and he wasn't last night.

We're getting there. Last year we didn't start hard out of the gates either. And there's more optimistic news. Reports say that Andrei Markov will begin skating with the team next week. Let's hope he's not that far off from making his return. Not that we shouldn't put all our hopes onto his shoulders, but let's face it -- the Habs are a much, much better team with him in the lineup.

Next game is at home against the Buffalo Sabres -- the first real test of the season.

Friday, October 14, 2011

No Slow Starts Allowed!!

Should we be concerned after a 1-2 start by the Habs?

Should we be worried the team let their fans down with such a weak performance to open up the season against a playoff bubble team at best -- the Calgary Flames -- who were winless before last night's 4-1 whooping against the Habs??? Mad and disappointed maybe. But worried? No.

The Habs have seen regulars go down already and a lineup that appeared quite good in August has yet to be iced due to injury: Markov, White, Cammellari, Spacek, Campoli. That's enough!!!
Lars Eller made his debut last night and looked like he wanted a spot on the top two lines.

And why not? Because once again this year, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are off to lame-duck starts. No points in 3 games. Toss in Erik Cole -- who by all accounts is being misused by Coach Martin -- who is also pointless, and so goes the Habs' fortunes.

Does Gionta really need to play with Plekanec to get his game going like what happened last year? As one statistician pointed out, he had more penalties than shots on goal last night.
What does this say about Gomez? What happened to his bounce back year? 3 games in, it's a bust!

You can talk all you want about how Kostitsyn needs to produce or how good P.K. Subban is going to be (he's off to a rough start too) or that Max Pacioretty is going to be that power-forward we haven't seen since John LeClair wore the bleu-blanc-rouge, but if the veterans don't lead this team, we're in trouble.

Our powerplay is essentially 0-fer this year with the sole goal coming from Yannick Weber in Winnipeg. Plekanec is obviously not the answer on the point -- back to the drawing board Jacques.

But we also need to be concerned with Erik Cole because he hasn't been much of a presence so far. True, Martin has been criticized early for not using him enough but the guy's a veteran who needs to contribute whenever and wherever he plays. He's also used to playing with the best players (Staal on Carolina) so he may have some mental adjusting to do.

Adjust away Erik -- but make it quick -- otherwise it'll just force Martin into more line tinkering.

I think I can speak for many Habs fans that we'd like to see the lines stay together for a bit in order to create some consistency and chemistry. This is a challenge when your best players don't perform and others go down to injury. So I'll give Martin a mulligan for now.

I'm confident the team will get it together. But let's get going -- at least lose in style and with some fight. That gives the fans something.

And that's who I am, a fan. Just not a concerned fan... yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Get HabsFan in LeafLand Right to Your Email!!

Now you can get HabsFan in LeafLand right to your email!!!

I know, it gives me the warm and fuzzies too.

Add your email using the feature on the right-hand side of this page and you will receive my latest blog postings and updates hot and fresh straight to your email.

Looks great, tastes great and best of all it's convenient and less filling. It even reads great from your mobile phone.

So you know, I do not have access to your email information nor will you receive any SPAM that's associated with this site.

I've tested this out with my email and I love getting my own postings... you will too!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Price of Admission

Well well. The Winnipeg Jets have officially taken off and good for them. After 15 long years, NHL hockey is finally back in Winnipeg and let's hope this time its for keeps.

Habs rally around injuries to play an all-around team game last night in Winnipeg. Montreal won the game 5-1.
Photo: REUTERS/Todd Korol

Especially if the Habs keep getting results against them like they got last night with a 5-1 win to ruin the Jets' party. But unfortunately as has been the case over the past few seasons, the price for the Habs to win was extremely high.

Both Jaro Spacek and Mike Cammalleri left the game in the 1st period: Spacek was checked into the boards by Evander Kane and was favouring his ribs -- oh oh; and Cammalleri, who scored the first goal of the night (as well as the first in Winnipeg for 15 years and for the Habs' season) with a great individual play picking off an Oduya pass then sniping it past Pavelec's glove -- was cut in the lower thigh by Yannick Weber's skate blade. Hoo boy.

Last time we saw something like this, it was the beginning of Markov's snafus with injuries. They say right now that it'll be 2 weeks -- let's hope that's all it is, because if tendons were torn, he's out of months. Spacek I'm guessing is a goner with a broken rib. Just the way he immediately reacted makes me think he himself heard a crack, but let's hope for the best.

Price is making the big saves and looks to be picking it up where he left off from last season. Photo: REUTERS / Todd Korol

Is there more of a dangerous position these days than to play defense for the Montreal Canadiens??? Better not be akin to playing drums for "Spinal Tap."

But to Jacques Martin's defense, he juggled a few players around and made the night work. And to Pierre Gauthier's defense, our newly acquired depth seemed to pay off with contributions throughout the entire lineup.

The team rolled up its sleeves led by Tomas Plekanec who was strong on all sides of the puck. After penalty trouble put them down two men at the end of the first, Plekanec and company shut it down, the Jets going 0-7 on the night with the man advantage. Later, Plekanec stole the puck from Oduya (who had a tough night obviously) and went in alone to beat a helpless Pavelec with a snipe off the high post.

Yannick Weber went back to the blue line and contributed with a power play goal, showing off that shot we've been waiting -- and hoping -- to see.

Travis Moen was moved up and played a solid game, creating a few chances and potting his own goal on a breakaway. The man with hands of steel showed a deft touch on this play.

And Max Pacioretty showed the world that he's back and not ready to let Gomez or Gionta fall into an early season funk by picking the top shelf for Montreal's 5th goal.

But on a night where the Jets carried most of the play, I really liked what I saw from Raphael Diaz and really loved what I saw from Josh Gorges -- who slowly but surely seems to be getting back into the swing of things.

Then of course there was Carey Price, who is living up to his pedigree as Prime Minister Harper looked on in the audience. Price was outstanding. Nothing was fancy or overplayed but boy was he focused and sharp.

When a team sees their goalie playing like that, they decide to work hard too and good things can happen and they did last night for the Habs -- on the scoreboard at least. Price is giving notice that he's prepared to carry this team because at times last night the Habs looked confused and disorganized in their own zone and were prone to penalty issues.

But with Price and Plekanec playing their best, the Habs could be that opportunistic team we saw in the 2010 playoffs. In fact, last night kind of reminded me a bit of that. The Habs were outshot and maybe outchanced but when they got a scoring opportunity they were able to capitalize.

Habs return home for some turkey and to prepare for their home opener on Thursday against the Calgary Flames.


We'll know more about Cammy and Spacek in the coming days, but unfortunately for Chris Campoli the news is not good. Campoli is out for months with a torn hamstring

And it seems the Habs couldn't bet on Betts. Blair Betts was sent back to the Flyers because he was injured. Why should we pay for an injured player. We'll have to go without him. But with Lars Eller set to come back to play any day now, we should be okay. Engqvist was solid last night too.


Leafs GM Brian Burke, who was at last night's game in Winnipeg, was in serious discussions with Pierre Gauthier. Will there be some body's moving down the 401?


... but couldn't find the exact play I mentioned in my last post -- the one with Chris Nilan on a breakaway as called by Dick Irvin. But this is as close as it gets:

Classic. Bob Cole with the call, Gary Dornhoffer on colour. Mats Naslund, Guy Carbonneau, Larry Robinson and Craig Ludwig on the ice to congratulate "Knuckles." Man we had it good and when I watch old clips like this, it just makes me that much more adamant that it's time for the Habs to bring the Stanley Cup back home where it belongs...


The CBC put out a statement over the weekend distancing themselves from Don Cherry and his outdated rants/opinions. What a cop out. Do the right thing and lose the guy. I read somewhere that when others have slipped up in the past (like Jimmy the Greek on CBS during a football telecast in the '80's) they're given their walking papers. And why not Cherry? Grow a pair CBC.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Just Another Job

Things are starting to reach the boiling point around the world of hockey where fighting is concerned.

Chris Nilan is one of the hockey heroes from my youth. To this day, my brothers and I still repeat Dick Irvin's call from back in the '80's in that whiny voice "...Chris Nilan on a breakaway. Scores!"

I didn't see it but more than a few people came up to me the day following the Habs' 2-0 loss to the Leafs this past Thursday night talking less about the game and more about Don Cherry's rant on "Coach's Corner."

Good for TSN to air a response from those former tough guys accused by Cherry as being cowards and hypocrites. Chris Nilan was one of my favourite players growing up and it hurt me to learn of his problems with drugs and alcohol. I would never doubt this man's character and the guy has millions of fans across Quebec who would go to battle for him like he did for the Habs in the 1980's. "Knuckles" Nilan -- you're my hero bro. Way to shake your demons and hope you're on a better road now, once and for all.

You know when I was a kid I liked Don Cherry for a variety of reasons. First, I loved the fact that he hated the Habs because I knew they always got the better of him and his beloved Bruins -- especially in 1979 with the famous "too many men on the ice" call from game 7 in that year's semi-finals. Second, he brought an air of honest and frank commentary to CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" that I found very amusing.

But it's not funny anymore. And it hasn't been for years. It's disgusting as a matter of fact.

I find it sad that "Hockey Night in Canada" -- once the gold standard in hockey broadcasting, commentary and coverage, is now just a shadow of its former self. But this didn't happen overnight. It's been on a slow decline for years. From not broadcasting the Habs and providing a Leafs-centric bias, to losing A+ play-by-play men (like Chris Cuthbert) and the iconic "Hockey Song," "Hockey Night in Canada" is now and has been for quite some time a joke and an embarrassment to fans like me across our great hockey-mad country.

I'm sorry, but if Don Cherry was a carton of milk, not only would he be way over his expiration date -- he'd be a curdled lump of mold. And you know, he doesn't look that far off from that in those sickening suits of his.

Don Cherry: why don't you drop the gloves some time and scrap it out instead of sitting behind that small little desk of yours with your lackey Ron MacLean there to cover your endless miscues??

I'm not going to go into what he discussed, rather end with this message to the CBC: your hockey telecast is a joke; you should be ashamed to have such a moronic, bigoted and homophobic commentator on your flagship show who hangs on to whatever he can of an era that's dead and buried; and you should not be surprised that more and more of us turn away from hockey on Saturday nights to do other things with our time.

"Hockey Night in Canada"... you suck!


I wasn't surprised by the Habs' loss to the Leafs the other night and I wouldn't be surprised that they lose in Winnipeg tomorrow night, who'll be amped up to the max for that game. But not to worry, we'll get our mojos going. It was sad they didn't score, but you know -- who cares!? These are the kind of games that are good to get out of the way early...

Too bad for Chris Campoli, hopefully he'll come back strong and soon but in the meantime the Habs continue to work out the kinks for the blue line. You know P.K. will come back strong and with the signing of Joe Callahan and Emelin itching to play, we should be alright.


Habs Fan in LeafLand Greg Chambers sent me a link to the animated version of "The Hockey Sweater" produced by the NFB (also a former shadow of itself, but that's another discussion) and I found this other great hockey short from the early days of the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA. Love those jerseys! When they're back in the NHL, I seriously recommend something like that for the team. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Finishing Strong for an Even Stronger Start

Onwards and upwards for the Montreal Canadiens' 2011-2012 season.

Josh Gorges means business last night after taking on Ryan Malone in the third period last night in Quebec City. Habs won the game 5-1. Photo: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger.

The Habs in Quebec City? Used to be quite the game when the Nords were still in town. Now backing the team from Montreal, Quebec City residents did their job pushing the Habs to their strongest outing of the preseason with a 5-1 romp in the rubber match against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This is what we want to see all season: Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Erik Cole and Michael Cammalleri all scoring with a fluid Tomas Plekanec making plays; a solid Carey Price; a powerplay that creates momentum and a tight defense. Mathieu Darche chipped in the other tally for the Habs.

I thought Raphael Diaz had a good game and looked like he's ready to take a spot on the blue line. Campoli was also solid in his second outing as a Hab, but was taken out of the game after taking a shot to the head from reckless maniac Ryan Malone -- who must be having marital issues or something -- because the guy looked like a ticking time bomb ready to go off the entire game and he finally blew his lid in the third.

What I liked was that Hal Gill came to P.K.'s defense when Malone was about to start bashing on him, and Josh Gorges making Malone pay after the Campoli hit.

No doubt in my mind that Malone will get a suspension, given the precedents that Brendan Shanahan has set so far this preseason.

Is this our opening day lineup? The fourth line is still a bunch of question marks with Lars Eller, Travis Moen and Ryan White all recovering from injuries. Lars Eller has been cleared for contact but no word whether he'll lace 'em up for the opening night tilt here in Toronto against the Leafs. Last night it was Andreas Enqvist centering a line between Palushaj and Yannick Weber. And what about tough-guy Yemelin on the back end?

I actually like Weber up front and Palushaj showed a lot of energy last night. RDS' "Antichambre" crew roasted Enqvist after the game and it's true, he's not a big bruising type (he is Swedish after all) but the guy wins a lot of faceoffs and that will probably keep him in the lineup -- for the time being at least.

Mario Tremblay seems confident that Scotty Gomez will have a bounce-back season this year. So far he looks good and the pucks are going in for him. Time will tell but I can say after watching last night's game that he's definitely trying different things especially in going hard to the net so ultimately he's becoming less predictable -- which could make him a very dangerous player if he shoots when the opposition is expecting him to pass.

The Habs head up to Collingwood for a retreat and practice before their opening game here in Toronto. It all begins for real October 6.