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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.

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