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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mired in Mediocrity

1 out of 4 possible points over the weekend is just not good enough.

Not when the Canadiens keep losing ground to teams in the Eastern Conference.

Not when they are about to embark on a tough western road trip and needed to take 2 points at home.

The Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity, teams have games in hand on them, and if they can't come out of their upcoming western swing with a minimum of 4 points, the team will be in serious trouble.

The Philly game on Friday afternoon, I knew from experience that scheduling didn't favour the Habs.

But last night, the team should have been rip-roaring to go, show Crosby et al that they were ready, and take the 2 points in their building. AND IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY TO BOOT!

So what happens? They give up a goal 21 seconds in to Malkin.

The Desharnais - Pacioretty - Cole line has been the team's best and most consistent line so far this year. But it's not enough. Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images.

And to be completely frank, even with the Canadiens within minutes of taking 2 points last night against Pittsburgh, for all intent and purpose they had no business doing so. Many turnover, many breaks, many great saves by Carey Price and some timely shooting by the Habs' best line of Desharnais - Pacioretty - Cole carried the team to at least one point.

But the game wasn't without controversy. Max Pacioretty, the guy who should know better, clocks Kris Letang with his head down and snaps his shnozz. No penalty was given. We'll see what action the league takes, but I didn't like the hit.

Two Pens goals called back -- both the correct calls. But did that affect the referees's non-call in OT when the whistle should have blown when Carey Price covered the puck up, only to have it stripped from him by Kris Letang and put into the open net for the 4-3 OT winner???

How many times have we seen a Habs goal called back because the referee lost sight of the puck? On plays where the puck was clearly loose???? Last night, there's no way the referee could see that puck.

Kris Letang checks his marbles after getting clocked by Max Pacioretty last night. The Habs lost 4-3 in OT to the Pens. Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images.

But let's focus on what's really wrong here:

Why is Letang standing uncontested in front of Price with the opportunity of doing what he did?

Why does Coach Martin not furiously argue the non-call on the OT winner? Why is there no pushback?

On the first goal called back, who is taking Kunitz in front? On the second goal called back, why is Kunitz on a shorthanded breakaway???

Why aren't the Canadiens scoring on the powerplay?

Why is Brian Gionta MINUS 4 on the night??? And the Plekanec line a combined minus 9???

What the hell is wrong with Michael Cammalleri??? His voice was cracking in the pregame interview with Chantal Machabee of RDS and the first goal of the game came off a Penguins rush after an extremely soft and weak forecheck by the sometimes sniper.

Methinks changes are a comin'. Rough night for Gill and Weber. And honestly, I like Cammalleri but his play of late is starting to get me mad. Either he's not 100% or he's not happy. Because if the guy isn't scoring, get him off the ice. Because that's his job, his only job and he's not doing it at all. When a guy like that has less goals than Travis Moen, you know something just ain't right. And nothing against Moen, he's playing great and giving us more than we should expect from him. His goals should be the icing on the cake.

Gionta has on nights been one of our worst forwards and last night -- boy that's a game I'm sure he wants to forget. And now the two are bringing down Plekanec who is our best player. That line was in the shit all night.

The group has a few days to think about it and for Gauthier to work the phones. Giddy up Habs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Start Weak Finish Strong?

Start weak finish strong? A metaphor for the Canadiens' 2011-2012 season?

But it was exactly just that with last night's 4-3 shootout win in Carolina over the struggling Hurricanes.

Carey Price and his team started slow, fell behind early 2-0 but fought back to tie the game on two separate occasions to eventually win in a shootout.

A few positives from this game:
a) Nice to see the team come back from behind to win, especially in the third period;
b) The team finally won a shootout on Brian Gionta's goal (even if he was -3 on the night);
c) The team won a game when Carey Price didn't have his A-game;
d) Lars Eller scored a short-handed goal in the 2nd period which gave the team some momentum;
e) Scott Gomez injured!?

Travis Moen tips the puck past Cam Ward last night in Raleigh. Canadiens won the game 4-3 in a shootout.

Yes Gomez did not finish the game with a supposed lower-body injury...good or bad my friends!?

Minus Brian Gionta, who really misses the guy? He hasn't been an impact player at all for the Habs, and frankly takes up valuable playing time away from guys like Eller who was slowly coming into his own when Gomez was out previously.

One game out of 15 in Gomez's case is not good enough. We know that. Jacques Martin knows that. Pierre Gauthier must certainly know that. So why is he playing so much??

For the last few seasons the Habs have kind of limped into the playoffs. I wouldn't mind them getting on a roll late in the season for a change. Maybe this will be the year. After passing the quarter mark, the team is out of a playoff position, but only a few points back. So lots can happen.

And what are the positives thus far?

The emergence of Max Pacioretty as a Johnny Leclair type power-forward for the Canadiens.
The acquisition of Erik Cole, who has finally given the team power and speed on the wing and a net presence.
The ever-present, consistent play of Tomas Plekanec, our best all-around player and one of the NHL's most underrated players.
Josh Gorges regaining his previous form after a tough start -- proving he's the real deal and playing himself into a nice contract starting next season.
Travis Moen scoring more goals in 21 games than all of last season, with 7? Now that's a bonus. He must really want to stay with the Habs for next season.
The young defence play of Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz and to a lesser extent Alexei Emelin, showing they can play and be effective on the backend in this league. Now you can add Frederic St. Denis to the mix.

And finally ...

Andrei Markov skating with the team... and set to make his return. Soooooon, we hope.


There's plenty of room for improvement, including more consistency from Price; more production from Gionta and Cammelari; more production from the powerplay; and more consistency from Subban.

Tough game in Philly on Friday afternoon. Habs need to put together a winning streak to keep pace with the other teams in their division, especially if the Toronto Kesseleafs keep fluking off wins...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tough One

Habs lose to Bruins 1-0!? Ech! Tough one to take. After a solid game followed by a crappy game on Long Island followed by a total team game on Saturday against the Rangers, the Habs came out and played hard but didn't get the bounces -- or the puck -- past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.

Montreal played a good game and came very close to scoring in the first period -- really nothing to fault except not taking advantage of the 4 minute powerplay from the late 2nd to early 3rd period courtesy of former Hab Benoit Pouliot.

Timmy Thomas played an excellent game and was the game's first star.

Mo' saves makes for a great Movember! Timmy Thomas' moustache bests that of Price as the Bruins beat the Habs 1-0 in Montreal tonight.

Carey Price couldn't be blamed on the only goal of game by Andrew "it was an equipment malfunction" Ference.

And d-man Alexei Emelin played the kind of rough and tumble game that we've all be waiting for, making smart plays and using his body against the boards which was great to see. The inexperienced Montreal blue line is still holding up for now. Hal Gill should be ready for Wednesday night in Carolina.

Price was named the league's first star of the week for the 2nd time this year after his two shutouts in a row. Unfortunately he needed a 3rd shutout in a row to get the job done tonight.

The Habs are playing well so this is the kind of game that, even with the loss, still needs to be used as a positive to push them forward and start building a winning streak of their own.

Meanwhile the Bruins have yet to lose in November and have won 9 in a row. No likee.

Tough week ahead as the Habs head out on the road for their game against the Hurricane on Wednesday to then play an awkward afternoon game in Philly against the Flyers on Friday due to Thanksgiving holiday in the States. I already don't like the sound of that.

Then we host the Crosby show on Saturday. This could be a rough week.

MEANWHILE, in Pittsburgh, Sidney "someone please get that Steckel" Crosby made his triumphant return -- in style as all the elite players seem to do -- scoring on his first shot on goal and ended the night with 2 goals and 2 assists. Nice one Sid the Kid. Can't wait until Pittsburgh plays the Leafs again -- I really hope someone takes that Steckel out. Wishing him all the best, except when he plays the Habs.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nailbiters Will Be the Norm

It's tough to win games when you're only scoring 2-3 goals a game.

But the Canadiens were able to pull out 2 wins doing just that, with subsequent OT winners first in Phoenix then in Nashville last night. The Habs finally ended their scoring futility against Predators goalie Pekka Rinne and got out of Nashville with 2 big points because of a nice wrister by Max Pacioretty in OT.

For the second game in a row the Habs had to battle through adversity with players coming back into the game after spending time in the dressing room, only to then come back and be difference players.

You da winning goalie!? You get the Subban low-five. Peter Budaj continues the tradition with P.K. after a solid 2-1 OT win last night in Nashville. (Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
In Phoenix it was Plekanec who took a bad a fall only to then ignite the Habs' offense, while last night P.K. Subban came back to the game after a big hit to then set up MaxPac for the game winner with some nifty puck control in the Nashville zone.

Once again, the Canadiens powerplay went 0-fer, but there was good puck movement and some nice opportunities so if the team continues this way it's only a matter of time it begins to break through with some regularity. Coach Martin has to be a bit concerned though especially with the fact that the team gave up another shorthanded goal last night.

Nailbiters will be the norm if the Canadiens can't score a bit more moving forward. It makes for exciting ends of games but I'd prefer a bit more cushion, thank you very much. In any case it's always positive for a team to win OT games.

Kudos also to the Habs defense for tightening things up for their goalies; Price was great in Phoenix and last night backup Peter Budaj was solid -- which has to be somewhat comforting for Coach Martin especially after Budaj's previous shaky performances.

And the return of Scott Gomez didn't seem to hurt at least. Played on the 4th line and powerplay, perhaps the Habs and Gomez are committed to make that move last. It's not a bad thing...if he can help the 4th line generate some speed and chances, it really makes them that much tougher to play against. Evolving to the 4th line is not the end of the world and it's something the Habs weren't able to do with Saku Koivu as his productivity started to slow. We just can't have a void on the first few lines like Gomez has been giving us. Meanwhile he was still a -1 last night.

Much needed wins help the Canadiens keep pace with their other rivals as things slowly begin to tighten up in the middle of the conference. Now back to playing 500 hockey, the Habs get the chance to build upon that when they play the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre on Monday night. A big game to keep things moving in the right direction and pick up a big 2 points on their division rivals.

The Sabres will be coming in hot and angry after they took a beating from the Bruins last night, highlighted by head goon Milan Lucic's hit on Buffalo goaltender Miller.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Start it Up Again

500 hockey on a back-to-back!? 2 weeks ago, we'd be happy with that.

Win 4 of 5!? 2 weeks ago, we'd be absolutely thrilled with that.

Losing the game because of completely unbalanced and maybe even, unfair officiating? Today, we're pissed with that!

But your Canadiens have no reason to be pissed except only to use last night's loss 5-3 at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers as motivation and a rallying call moving forward.

Brad Richards looks to thank last night's referee after scoring in New York last night. The Habs lost 5-3. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images).

The Canadiens were shot in the foot right from the get-go with penalty after penalty. The Rangers had nine powerplays. Subban even got 2 minutes for snow-showering Lundqvist.

But the Habs never gave up and fought hard, and when they weren't killing penalties, looked like a confident team who played like they could come back and pick up some points. When Gionta scored late, they at least had a chance. But it didn't work out. It just wasn't our night. The bounces -- and officiating -- didn't go our way.

But the team needs to be better to adapt in these situations when the officials decide to take the game into their own hands.

Habs still have a ways to go in the standings but they have every reason to hold their collective heads high after last night's loss. Pacioretty had his best game in a few. Erik Cole continued to play well, barging into the Rangers zone on multiple occasions and creating scoring chances, even hitting the post in the second off the rush. The penalty kill was great; and the powerplay scored. Carey Price really can't be blamed, but I'm sure he'd like that one against Richards back, even if he was partially screened.

Hopefully the Habs will come out strong and hungry on Tuesday night when they face the upstart Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre and start it up again for a new winning streak.