Thursday, May 29, 2008

NHL Loses A Promising Young Talent

Canucks' Luc Bourdon in a photo following his draft at #10 overall in 2005.

Vancouver Canucks bluechip defenseman Luc Bourdon passed away today at the age of 21, the result of a motorcycle crash in his native town of Shippagan, New Brunswick.

Various reports have it that Bourdon recently bought the motorcycle as little as two days ago. The motorcycle reportedly collided with a tractor-trailer.

Bourdon's agent Kent Hughes stated that he never knew about his client's new hobby. "I had no idea," he explained to CKNW in Vancouver. "Another client of ours, Kris Letang, said Luc let him know he was riding his dad's motorcycle with some friends a week or two ago. I have since been told - though I don't know - that he actually bought a motorcycle two days ago."

Luc may best be remembered for as a stabilizing presence playing alongside the above-mentionned Letang at the 2006 World Junior Championships, in which Canada captured gold. He posted 6 points in 6 games and earned a spot on the tournament's All-Star roster. He also helped lead Moncton that same year to the Memorial Cup after being traded by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis issued the following statement.

"Luc was an extremely talented player with a bright future. He brought great passion to the game and was a valued team member on and off the ice. He will be greatly missed."

Craig Heisinger, Vice-President & General Manager of the Manitoba Moose, added his voice to those expressing sympathy.

"Luc was a truly passionate person who was also hard-working, and caring of his teammates."

"He was a very talented player who made a great impact on the organization in a short period of time. It is a big loss for the Manitoba Moose family."

Luc was already a fan-favourite in Vancouver, and the Canucks expected big things of him this upcoming season. He played 36 games in the NHL, and the Canucks fans already cheered him with almost every touch of the puck, as they in unison shouted out "Luuuuuuuuuuc!" Bourdon had 2 NHL goals and was a career +6.

He was drafted 10th overall in 2005, the same year that Sidney Crosby and Carey Price were drafted. To put into persective exactly how high the Canucks were on Bourdon: He was drafted ahead and instead of Anze Kopitar, F (11th), Marc Staal, D (12th), Ryan Parent, D (18th), Tuukka Rask, G (21st), and Matt Niskanen, D (28th). The Canucks also refused to part with Bourdon this year as they tried to land Brad Richards out of Tampa Bay. The Lightning reportedly were only interested in Bourdon or fellow defenseman Alex Edler, but then GM Dave Nonis refused to pull the trigger on that deal.

Sincerest condolences go out to the Bourdon family and friends, as well as the Vancouver Canucks and it's affiliates, and everyone else involed with Bourdon both on and off the ice. He will truly be missed. Rest in peace, Luuuuuuuuuc.

Penguins Make It A Series Again

Sidney Crosby scored his first two goals in the NHL Cup Finals as the Penguins were able to fend off the Red Wings in game 3 in Pittsburgh 3-2.

The Pens finally scored their first goals in this series after being shut out 4-0 and 3-0 in both games in Detroit. They were outshot by the Red Wings 34-24, yet cashed in on their opportunities to come away with the win.

Pittsburgh got off to a great start as Crosby broke the series-long goose egg in the goal department before adding another later on.

Johan Franzen then scored a highlight reel goal, stickhandling in parameters as tight as those of the inside of a phonebooth before going backhand-forehand on Fleury to fool him short-side on the powerplay.

Adam Hall then scored a critical goal to restore Pittsburgh's 2-goal lead. The Pens grindline got the puck deep behind Osgood's net, and with Osgood off position and desperate to cover up, Hall took control of the puck and banked it in off of Osgood from below the goal line.

Mikael Samuelsson made it a one-goal game again later in the third, taking a shot that redirected off of Brooks Orpik and passed Fleury who had no chance to react fast enough to make the stop.

Fleury would then make a clutch cover-up on a late Detroit powerplay to preserve the Pens first win of the finals. Detroit now leads 2-1.

Game 4 goes Saturday in Pittsburgh, with the Pens looking to tie it up to force a sixth game in 'The Steel City'.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Red Wings / Penguins: 2008 Stanley Cup Final

The Detroit Red Wings ended what the hopes of a 4-game come-from-behind series steal for the Dallas Stars, sending them packing in game 6 in Dallas.

The Penguins dusted off a minor scare from Philadelphia, routing them 6-0 after dropping game 4 four to two, eliminiating the Flyers in 5.

Detroit now plays host to Pittsburgh to open up the Stanley Cup Finals series. The series gets underway on Saturday.

Getting to the finals:

DETROIT (12-4): Finished 1st in the Western Conference and in the NHL's overall standings.


Nashville (6)
Dallas (6)

PITTSBURGH (12-2): Finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference

Ottawa (4)
NY Rangers (5)
Philadelphia (5)

For the Red Wings to win the series, all of their big guns will have to execute to perfection, and Chris Osgood will have to shake off those two rattling losses in the Dallas series to be at top form for the Penguins offence led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Nicklas Lidstrom will without a doubt be as solid as rock, as he always is; he will have added motivation to capture the cup this year, as he would becomed the NHL's first European captain to do so. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are arguably the only other NHL duo that could duplicate the productivity of a Crosby/Malkin tandem, therefore they will need to be at top form as well. They have not faultered thus far, and I doubt they will faulter now when it means the most. Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary will need to continue wreaking havoc in the crease and will need to get in Fleury's grill early, often and effectively. Niklas Kronwall and Brian Ralaski will have to contribute steadily on the backline and aging veterans like Kris Draper and Chris Chelios will have to play their roles to perfection...the scary thing is, every player and role mentionned above is certainly not out of reach; in fact, it's expected: These Wings' players have performed superbly all season long and all playoffs as well. It would be interesting to see a Hasek appearance in this series, as his highly unorthodox style would present a scenario completely foreign to the Penguins these playoffs, who thus far have had to deal with highly orthodox goalies in the likes of Lundqvist and Biron (also Gerber, but he isn't all that great despite being orthodox). Detroit's expereience and previous let-downs in previous years in the playoffs may prove to be the intangible that gets them over the edge in this series...we will truly see if age, experience and disappointment in the past (Detroit) is more valuable than highly-talented, first-timer youth (Pittsburgh).

For the Penguins to win, Sidney Crosby and Evegni Malkin will have to find ways to stay open. They will be heavily shadowed all series long, but Detroit will HAVE to catch a penalty or two here and there, and Malkin and Crosby will surely see about 80% of each powerplay's time, which will surely lead to a few goals from either of these superstar forwards. Marian Hossa will have to continue his great playoff play this postseason, and the good thing is that Hossa has clearly been gelling at a better rate with every passing game playing alongside Sid the Kid. Sergei Gonchar will have to be a solid offensive conrtibuter, which he will be, of that I'm sure...but he will also have to continue his stellar defensive play, something which has flown under the radar these playoffs with the main focus on the young guns at forward. Pittsburgh D-line has been one of - if not, THE steadiest in the playoffs this season. They are definitely the most under-rated. The addition of Hal Gill for a couple of draft picks at the trading deadline has proven vital, as he is providing a very stabilizing presence all the while killing crucial penalties and protecting the young stars by being the first to stick up for them while on the ice. Tyler Kennedy has also been playing the best hockey of his career, as he has been demonstrating true grit and character with every shift entrusted upon him by coach Therrien. He is the first into the corners to fight for a loose puck, which is surprising when taking into account his small frame. Marc-Andre Fleury will have to step up his already sensational playoff performance just one last notch to block out a Detroit attack that can strike in all kinds of different forms and waves. He will need to officially show the world why he was drafted 1st overall. 19 year old Jordan Staal will also have to continue his outstanding two-way play, some of the best seen these playoffs of any team as well. The key to the series for Pittsburgh will be to stay out of the penalty box, eliminate Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom from their comfortable roles, and lean hard on their defenceman, particularly the vets such as Lidstrom, Chelios and Rafalski.


It's going to be one of the best finals in recent years, that is certain. What isn't certain is the outcome. This series in all likelihood will go the distance, 7 games. It could also go 4...who knows! Basically, it boils down to experience vs. youth... Detroit has seen it's fair share of disappointment over the recent years, and will surely use that experience to stay calm all the while gunning on offence. The Pens have already learnt a great deal by just being in the Finals this year with such a young team, but one has to wonder if destiny isn't already pre-written for Crosby and Malkin to hoist the cup high already in 2008.

I believe it is.

I'm going PITTSBURGH in 7.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Finland Comeback Begins With Ghost Goal

As you saw in the video above, this goal was REVIEWED and it STILL COUNTED!

And in case you're incredibily blind, here's what happened: Ville Koistinen's one-timer beat Robert Esche by going THROUGH the side of the net!

If this video goal judge doesn't lose his job, I'll eat my hat. And, since I really don't wear hats all that often, I'll eat a plate of pasta.

Even if he does lose his job, which he probably will, I'll eat pasta.

I guess this turned out to be a good thing for me then.

The goal got Finland to within one, trailing 2-1. Finland would add two more goals for a three-goal 3rd period to complete the comeback win over the U.S.

U.S. head coach John Tortorella declined to suggest human error, but did proceed with suggesting "blindness". I feel for you, Johnny boy, that was as brutal a call as I've ever seen, taking into account that the replay was shown on TSN about 10 times before the refs gave a verdict.

Canada faces Finland Monday afternoon in the IIHF World Championships.

Friday, May 9, 2008

What's In Store For Habs Hockey-Talkey?

With the Canadiens out of the playoff race a little earlier than we expected (or at least hoped), some of you loyal readers may be wondering what will go on with this site...

I will clear that up to the best of my abilities right now.

Expect in the future (no real dates for any of these, they will be posted when the time is right):

-Stanley Cup Finals recap;
-Awards preview and predictions;
-2008 "Stamkos Sweepstakes" Draft coverage;
-One-by-one look at the Habs draftees of the 2008 draft;
-One-by-one in-depth update of the Habs top 20 prospects;
-July 1st: Free Agent Frenzy;
-2008-2009 Canadiens training camp overview;
-Other news as it develops around the league.

ALL OF THAT IN STORE, so remember to keep visiting the site daily! Add it to your favorites list and check it once a day, if nothing's new, navigate away! It's that easy!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Canadiens Miss Out On Fabian Brunnstrom

Fabian Brunnstrom has decided who he intends to sign with to make his NHL debut next season, and despite Bob Gainey's strong pursual (amongst a few others), it won't be with the Montreal Canadiens.

Brunnstrom has chosen the Dallas Stars as his inaugural NHL team, and it seems that a contract will be made to him sometime today. The deal will reportedly be a two-year entry level contract, and will likely follow along the lines of a top 5 NHL draftee, which could translate into a cap hit of over 2 million dollars per season.

Brunnstrom, 23, visited Dallas before visiting Detroit and Montreal, other possible destinations on his personal shortlist. Brunnstrom chose Dallas based on his belief that a combination of both roster depth and opportunity will exist when he arrives on the scene for training camp.

Anaheim, Toronto and Calgary were also believed to be heavily interested in Brunnstrom, who, like Evgeni Malkin a few years ago, has been dubbed by many as "the best player outside of the NHL right now".

"In the end there was no wrong decision. All of the organizations involved were extremely professional and respectful in their approach and the opportunity was carefully explained. The Dallas option was simply the best one overall for Fabian and he is very comfortable with his decision," said Brunnstrom's agent J.P. Barry.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Gainey Speaks About The Future For Montreal

From / Canadian Press - Having a big, tough team suits some NHL clubs, but isn't the top priority of the Montreal Canadiens.

So don't look for general manager Bob Gainey to dismantle his smooth-skating club after their playoff defeat to the bruising Philadelphia Flyers.

''Every team has its strengths, and I think ours is based on speed and quickness and intelligence and opportunism,'' Gainey said Tuesday at a packed Bell Centre news conference.

''I think that we want to play a fast game. We don't want to be vulnerable to (tough play). We have big guys. Perhaps we can be bigger and more rugged, but I think our philosophy is: We're quick, we're exciting, we're on the attack, we play to score, we're going to play to beat you within the rules. We just need to do it a little better.''

Gainey and Carbonneau met with the media to discuss the season that just ended, in which the unfancied Canadiens finished first in the Eastern Conference and in goal-scoring in the 30-team league.

They squeaked past gritty Boston in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs before bowing out in five games to the Flyers, who won despite being outskated and outshot in most of the games.

Much of the media analysis after the series suggested the Canadiens weren't tough enough, but Gainey and Carbonneau say playoff grit will come with experience for their young players.

''I don't see our players not playing their best because of the physical play of their opponents, but I've often seen teams have a lot of problems with our speed,'' said Gainey.

Carbonneau agreed.

''People said all year we don't have a physical team,'' he said. ''I heard it every day, but we finished first in our conference.

''During the season, nearly every game we played against teams that were supposed to be more physical than us, we won. Against Philadelphia, we played well. We just lack a little experience. Maybe that hurt us.''

Gainey said he his top job this summer will be finding help at forward and is ready to go hard for an unrestricted free agent if the right one becomes available.

''We'll be open to trying to find another forward,'' he said. ''Our defence, we have some long-term sustainability.

''We have players under long-term contract and players we have rights to. So our forwards are a place where we'll focus our attention. If there's a player to come in from the outside, that would be our first priority.''

Gainey said he's yet to identify which free agents he might pursue in the off-season. At the Feb. 26 trade deadline, the Canadiens made a failed bid to land Marian Hossa but the Pittsburgh Penguins winger might be available again as an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Last summer, the Canadiens made a big offer to centre Daniel Briere, but he opted to sign with the Flyers.

At that time, Montreal was coming off a rebuilding year in which it finished 10th, but attracting top players may be easier now that they are closer to being Stanley Cup contenders.

The Canadiens are also on a short-list of three teams trying to sign Swedish forward Fabian Brunnstrom, who visited Montreal last weekend. Gainey said the 23-year-old prospect is expected to make his decision by the end of this week.

''Our evaluation is that he has the talent to play in the NHL,'' said Gainey.

The Canadiens must also decide whether to try to sign their own unrestricted free agents Mark Streit, Bryan Smolinski, Michael Ryder and Patrice Brisebois. Another group of restricted free agents includes defenceman Josh Gorges, winger Andrei Kostitsyn, centre Maxim Lapierre, defenceman Ryan O'Byrne and back-up goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Gainey said there were contract talks with Streit in November that fell through, but talks will resume.

''If we're both on the same page and if he wants to come back, we'll find a way to arrange that,'' he said.

He will be in touch soon with checking centre Smolinski and defenceman Brisebois, two aging veterans who were strong in the playoffs and who want to come back for another season.

Ryder, whose goal production dropped from 30 last season to 15 in 2007-08, was a healthy scratch on many nights during the season and dressed for only four of 12 playoff games.

His is expected to move on, but Gainey had kind words for the 28-year-old, pointing out that 13 of his 15 goals were at even strength, while 15 of his 30 last season were on the power play.

''Michael's a little bit maligned,'' Gainey said. ''Our team got better and sometimes when that happens, roles within a team change.

''Michael didn't get all the playing time he had before. He worked hard to get back in the line-up, but ultimately the feeling was that we were a stronger team using other players.''

But when asked if Ryder and winger Mathieu Dandenault will be back next year, Gainey said: ''I don't know.''

Dandenault has one year left on his contract, but was used sparingly and there is a suspicion he may be bought out.

No one took the loss to the Flyers harder than rookie goaltender Carey Price, who said this week he let the team down. Brilliant down the stretch drive to the playoffs, Price shut out Boston twice in the opening round, but struggled against Philadelphia.

The 20-year-old was pulled for the third period of Game 3 and sat out Game 4, then had a letdown in the final game as Montreal wasted a 3-1 lead before losing 6-4.

Carbonneau said the gifted young goaltender was taking too much blame on himself.

''He had an extraordinary season,'' the coach said. ''We put a young player in a difficult situation - to take us to the playoffs.

''I think he did that well. Toward the end, he became a little mentally tired, which we weren't aware of. I understand that he's taking a big part of the blame, but I think everyone did after the game. I told him we win and lose as a team. The playoff experience he got was tremendous and he'll benefit from that.''

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Lookback At The Habs Season...A Tad Too SOON!

The Habs salute their very loyal fans, raising their sticks high to a standing ovation. Montreal lost game five 6-4, and Philadelphia took the series 4 games to 1 to head to the Conf. Finals.

R.J. Umberger, or Richard Junior as we should all know by now, went from casual 4th liner to goal-scoring dynamo in a short series vs. Montreal.

Umberger had two goals and an assist to finish the five-game series with eight goals and one assist after he had a goal and an assist in seven games against Washington.

Talk about an increase in productivity...

The Flyers wound up achieving the seemingly impossible; not only simply eliminating the East's top team, but doing so in such short fashion, requiring but five games to accomplish the feat.

Although credit must go where it's due, one cannot overlook the obvious fact that Philadelphia was extremely lucky throughout the series, be it an unlikely and improbable Biron save, or a shot from one of our own players that would RING OFF THE POST; Philly owned the horseshoe.

There is not a single game I can honestly point out in this series and say 'Philly dominated us, they deserved the win'. That simply didn't happen. What DID happen was Montreal failed to cash in on most of their opportunities throughout the series, whereas the VERY opportunistic Flyers seemed to have the power to take a shot from anywhere and wind up having it go in.

Maybe, then, it should be said that Montreal didn't flat out dominate as they were expected either.

But, it can't be about excuses all the time, right?

There is one excuse left however, which really needs to be pointed out: Carey Price WAS exactly what Carey Price IS: A 20 year old, inexperienced and rattled goaltender.

This is something Carey is unaccustomed to throughout his career; having some success, but having that success shattered in an instant (in this case, 5 games). "The goalie of the future", who has gone on to capture WJC Gold and the AHL Calder Cup, got a wakeup call as to what it really is going to take to go the distance in the NHL for a shot at attaining Lord Stanley's hardware.

Carey let in a bad goal on more than one occasion throughtout the series, and, at times, in a single game alone (i.e. game 5). His play at times helped to completely swing the momentum in Montreal's direction, but it also, and more prominently, sometimes gave Philly that slim hope of winning another game; and thanks to guys like R.J. Umberger, Philly cashed out.

I'm definitely NOT abandonning ship on Carey Price; I still believe he will materialize into a quality backstop over the years, and I even feel he will be heading to Vancouver in 2010 in a backup role should Marty Brodeur not be able to make it. But, it has become evident that Carey Price wasn't himself in these playoffs, as the reality started to sink in to himself that it would be a LOT harder to dominate at the league's most elite level in the NHL at such a young age.

The keys to Montreal's exit in the playoffs: The ineffective powerplay. A powerplay that provided so much muscle in the regular season, finishing first, got undone by a great penalty-killing effort from Philadelphia...and luckily, we didn't get eliminated by Boston, who I believe killed Montreal's powerplays even more effectively. The goaltending was also very inconsistent, as Price started so strong, but fizzled so rapidly, never really recovering.

This team should have made it to the Conference Finals, but didn't...what can we do but cheer for a season that analysts and experts predicted to be abysmal.

All in all, the entire season for this young Habs team, including Price, should be taken as a learning experience. EXPERIENCE - what a key word.

This team is very young and only getting older as the years go by. If the team could accomplish 1st in the East already, then they need not have much to worry about. Although they didn't stand out as much as I'd expected, the Kostitsyn brothers are going to benefit heavily from the rigors of the post-season, and for them, the most important lesson to learn is that you have to brace for a hit, because it's coming: don't shy away, but BRACE for it, and work through it.

Guys like Lapierre, Begin and Bouillon showed that they will not shy away from anything, and they seem to know what it takes to go deep in a cup run...although that run won't happen this year.

You've got to feel for a guy like Chris Higgins whose inability to finish golden chances may have played a part in the Habs demise (although he did score in game 5 on one of his rare shots that SHOULDN'T have gone in). Chris, although being used as a top 6 forward, played a perfect checking-liner role.

I believe that Montreal was indeed missing the one thing Gainey openly admitted before the trading deadline: An impact player, a real difference maker.

With the season over, here's a lookback at some of the Habs notable performers:

Canadiens Player of the Year: Alex Kovalev...what a great season he provided, allowing us to have so much to cheer about on so many a night. His uncanny skating and shooting ability was an absolute thrill to watch, and with his career winding down, we can expect possibly one more great season out of AK 27; luckily, that season will be Montreal's Centennial, and he will be inspired to play the same calibre hockey as he did this season.

Canadiens Breakthrough Player(s) of the Year: Undoubtedly, there are a few, but I will try to narrow them down to the utmost important:

Josh Gorges - all you need to do is remember the fear in Josh's eyes when he received the puck just a season ago, when he was used sparingly as a 7th defensemen. Compare that to the stable and reliable, panic-free play we saw from him this year, and it's hard to argue that anyone improved more than he did.

Tomas Plekanec - Although he had a slow start to the playoffs, he eventually got going, even though it was too litte, too late. He showed maturity by calling himself out, stating that his own play was similar to that of a little girl's. The regular season was a different story entirely, as he, lined up with Kovy and AK 46, provided 1 third of one of the most exciting line in the NHL (take it from me, I watched a solid TONNE of hockey with the CentreIce package.)

Roman Hamrlik - Though he could hardly be considered as a breakthrough player at his age, he really turned Montreal's defensive hole left by the departed Sheldon Souray into a mountain. His calmness, stability and efficiency on the backend really played a HUGE role in Montreal's seasonal success. All in all, the Hammer turned out to be one of the top 3 free agent signings last off-season, behind Detroit's Brian Rafalski on defense. Good call, Bob.

Canadiens' Disappointment of the Year: I hate to have to put him in a negative group, but Chris Higgins honestly belongs here (although not ahead of Michael Ryder of course, whose tenure with the club is 99.9% over). Higgins was counted on at the start of the season to lead by example, but just like in the playoffs, Higgins failed to convert chance after chance after chance. It may be a little harsh to say he's one of the biggest disappointments, but his misses in the regular and post season figure in too strongly against the 27 goals and 52 points he garnered.

Michael Ryder was, hands down, the biggest let down of the season. The two-time 30 goal scorer was given his fair share of chances, and night after night he showed the inability to convert when he was setup. His decision making was poor all year, choosing to shoot rather than pass on so many occasions when the latter option was the most obvious. I shutter at the fact that he will sign with a new NHL team this summer, and will tally at least 25 goals, possibly 30 once again.

Canadiens Unsung Heroes: Mike Komisarek - blocked a league-leading amount of shots and dished out almost the same quantity of hits.

Mark Streit - although I'm not his biggest fan, he was a powerplay dynamo in the regular season, and his versatility came into effect on multiple occasions as he was sent out to play forward.

Andrei Kostitsyn - eventually, the Kovalev torch will pass, and Andrei is really picking up as a 10th overall draft pick should, scoirng 26 goals. He had 8 playoff points in 12 games as well.

Tom Kostopoulos - The greek! What a series he had, and what a signing he turned out to be. Sticking up for his teammates throughout the year in a heartbeat, not only on, but OFF the ice as well (anyone remember a certain PURSE SNATCHING incident in Tampa?) Kostopoulos played a gritty game and figured in on the scoresheet at KEY moments of games, overachieving at his limited role to earn a spot on the Unsung Heroes list.

And now, here comes a name that I can't believe I'm typing: Patrice Brisebois - OK, LET ME EXPLAIN! He still is one of the slowest players on the team, and possibly in the NHL. But, it cannot be overlooked that he actually provided a stabilizing and efficient presence in the playoffs, which was completely unexpected, even though he scroed a goal in his own net this past series. Breezer's time here should be over, but he did after all play a key role in the playoffs, especially on a bone-dry powerplay.

This offseason should be something very interesting to follow. Gainey will likely try to acquire a marquee player to make this huge Centennial season noteworthy, all the while trying not to disrupt the makeup and chemistry of this current team. An "out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new" movement is to be expected, and vets such as Bryan Smolinski, Patrice Brisebois and Mathieu Dandenault should all be let go.

Kyle Chipchura will likely have a 4th line spot next season, and Ryan O'Byrne should be poised to play in his first full NHL season. Michael Ryder will also be let go, as his interest to re-sign here is probably less than 0%. It will be interesting to see how Gainey handles Mark Streit's UFA status.

Thanks for visiting the site on a consistent basis! I will try to update the rest of the playoffs!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Habs & Flyers: Game 5 + Lineup Notes

The Montreal Canadiens will have a few key elements in place tonight as they host the Flyers in game 5, trying to avoid an early playoff exit.

Carey Price will be back between the pipes for tonight's contest after Jaroslav Halak got the starting nod in game 4. Carey has confirmed to the media that he indeed isn't hurt - although he did so in sarcastic fashion, saying three of his fingers were broken on each hand while holding them up for various media members to inspect.

Carey feels it important to get a good start under his belt.

"I need to try and get a good go out there," Price said. "It's pretty important right now. (Henrik) Lundqvist did it with New York. I think we all need to play our best or else we'll be playing golf."

Apart from having the future of the franchise back between the pipes, the Canadiens will also have an extra special boost in the form of superstition:


Guy Carbonneau's silk Hermes tie, given to him by wife Line on his birthday, is out for another tour of duty tonight as the Canadiens attempt to stave off elimination. It has made 2 of its 3 appearances in the post-season, once to open up the Boston series, and once to close it out in game 7. Only 1 goal has gotten by the 'tenders these playoffs with the tie around Carbo's neck.

The Habs will revert to their bread-and-butter lines of the regular season tonight, as Alex Kovalev will play alongside Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, and Sergei Kostitsyn will re-unite with Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins. Barring any unforseen roster shakeups, Smolinski should center Begin and Kostopoulos, while Lapierre would center Streit and Latendresse.

Koivu and Kovalev are among a group of eight players on the Canadiens who were part of the last NHL team to overcome a 3-1 playoff series deficit.

Montreal came back with three straight wins against Boston in 2004 to win their first round series. No team has since comeback from a 3-1 deficit.

The Canadiens and the Flyers each enjoyed 3-1 series leads in the first round and both lost their next two games to face Game 7.

"Everyone is going to have pressure [tonight], both teams," Carbonneau said. "They are certainly going to want to end it and avoid making the same mistake they did against Washington. For our part, we've got our backs against the wall and it's now up to us to find a way to win."

Friday, May 2, 2008

HHT Gets A Facelift! What Do You Think?

Thanks to the loyal reader that you are (yes, you!), Habs Hockey-Talkey has moved away from its brash, raw look to a more mature, refined and sleek layout.

All features remain the same; all that changes is the appearance!

The site has grown to know such great success over such little time, and it's all thanks to you (yes, YOU!!!!)

Please continue to check Habs Hockey-Talkey regularly for updates, and thanks for your continuous support!!!!

Please drop me a line in the comments section to let me know if you prefer or dislike the change!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

BEGIN-ning Of The End? Habs Down 3-1

Daniel Briere, or "Danny" as he prefers, pots the game winner on the powerplay on a Steve Begin interference penalty. The Flyers would add an empty netter for the 4-2 win and 3-1 series stranglehold.

Steve Begin looked like a hero blocking a Daniel Briere slapshot early in the third period with Philly already leading 2-0; but Begin quickly went from hero to zero late in the 3rd, taking an ill-advised, highly undisciplined interference penalty on Sami Kapanen...and wouldn't you know it, none other than that very same Daniel Briere would score the game winner on the ensuing powerplay.

R.J. Umberger continued his sensational playoff run tonight with another 2 goals, his 6th and 7th of these playoffs and 6th this series alone. He had 13 in 74 regular season games.

Umberger opened the scoring tonight midway through the 2nd on a 5-on-3 powerplay, wristing a shot past Jaroslav Halak shortside from the left wing. Briere had an assist on the goal.

The Flyers added to their lead early in the third, as Scott Hartnell banged home a Vaclav Prospal rebound that had initially beaten Halak far-side but rang off the post. The whole play started with Bryan Smolinski giving the puck away in the neutral zone, directly onto Prospal's blade.

The Habs would find life late in the game once again, just as they did in game 3 on the undisciplined Derian Hatcher 5-minute boarding major.

Tomas Plekanec would deflect a Josh Gorges point wristshot through Marty Biron's legs to narrow the gap to one goal with 7:01 remaining in the game.

Saku Koivu would then tie the game 57 seconds later with his 3rd of the playoffs, converting a rebound off a Mark Streit blue-line slapper that was blocked down by Randy Jones in front of Biron.

Francis Bouillon had the secondary assists on both goals.

Then, at 15:52, Begin was called for interference as he completely blindsided Sami Kapanen into the Canadiens bench-boards, dangerously close to the closing door. Kapanen had dished the puck on a pass about 3 seconds prior to the hit, effectively removing him from the play and causing Begin's otherwise legal hit to be called as interference.

Daniel Briere needed all but 30 seconds to put the stake through the hearts of the Habs players and fans, swatting home a rebound off a shot that never quite got through to Halak, hitting a maze of bodies in front.

R.J. Umberger added his 2nd of the game into the empty net with just under 2 seconds remaining.

Martin Biron once again out-goaled his counterpart, this time being Jaroslav Halak; he stopped 36 of 38 en route to the win. Halak stopped 22 of 25, and hardly was to blame for this loss.

Halak was tested early in the game, as the Habs came out gunning much in the way they played in the 3rd period of game 3, but did give up a shorthanded breakaway to Jeff Carter which required a great save from Halak. The Habs simply failed once again to give their goalie a lead to work with, despite having their goalie make some pretty big saves to keep them in the game.

Biron also made his fair share of great saves, including a notable stop on Steve Begin shorthanded, who took a feed from a hard-forechecking Maxim Lapierre from behind the net in the slot and wristed it off a reacting Biron's right pad, practically on the goal line.

He also came up huge on Tom Kostopoulos in the first, stacking the pads on a short-side try that was also setup from behind the net by Smolinski.

Biron, who grew up a die-hard Quebec Nordiques fan and used to meet the team returning from road-trips as a child, has got to be loving the fact that he is a potentially major reason of Montreal's exit in these playoffs.

Daniel Briere, who refused to sign a more lucrative, 8-year deal with Montreal so he could play alongside super-sniper Simon Gagne, must be loving this as well.

Montreal went 0-for-4 on the powerplay; Philly was 2-for-4.

The Flyers have now scored the first two goals of the game all four games of the series.

The thought has quickly shifted already to Saturday's fifth game of the series.

"We have to find a way to get it done," Briere said. "We have to go in there with a mind-set that it's Game 7."

He's not kidding.

The Flyers squandered this very same 3-1 lead in the first round, allowing the Capitals to tie the series at 3 forcing a 7th game in Washington. The Flyers needed overtime to win that one off Joffrey Lupul's stick.

Montreal can certainly benefit from the 2 days of rest before Saturday's game. On top of that, the scheduling still favors Montreal.

With game 5 at home, the Habs can rest up and use the home-fans to their advantage. Game 6 (should there be one) would take place the very next night, Sunday, back in Philly, where the momentum gained from a (possible) win in game 5 would easily transfer through. Should the Habs win there, they'd have a day to settle down before (a potential) 7th game back in Montreal on Tuesday night.

This may be wishful thinking, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility, is it?

Despite having a good night in goal, expect Halak to sit game 5 out in favor of Carey Price.

Also, look for the Habs to get Michael Ryder back into the lineup, as the Habs now need any bit of possible offense from here on out.