Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ovechkin Gets Revenge...And Then Some!


*Alexander has a GR8 night; tallies 4 goals and an assist in a 5-4 Caps win.

If this is how Alexander Ovechkin rebounds after a bad game, then there is basically no chance of stopping him for the rest of his career.

Alexander the Gr8 figured in on all 5 goals in the Capitals 5-4 victory over Montreal in D.C. tonight, as he scored 4 GOALS to go along with his one assist. It was Ovechkin's second career 4-goal and 5-point game, as he previously turned in the feat on December 29th at Ottawa. Ovechkin leads the NHL with 43 goals and took over the points lead with 70.

Ovechkin came out of the gate running. After taking an early (accidental) high stick to the face courtesy Alex Kovalev, he bulldozed Steve Begin with a legal yet devastating open ice check that sent the latter flying onto his backside.

Ovechkin then got himself on the scoresheet, as he would do 5 times on the evening, by opening the scoring and then adding another after a Kozlov goal which he had set up to make it 3-0.

But the Habs wouldn't lay down and die, a quality we've seen on multiple occasions this season from our "glorieux". Sergei Kostitsyn would cap a nice passing play with a goal, as Lapierre got it to Latendresse, and Latendresse got it cross crease to the unmarked youngster, although it did appear that Latendresse was going for the shot initially. In any case, the pass was the right play as it led to a goal.

Big brother Andrei then got a PPG with 0.7 seconds remaining in the 2nd, as he coralled a Kolzig rebound from a Markov shot and beat the keeper 5-hole as he moved laterally in desperation. That goal had some significance, as it marked the first time that a sibling duo scored in a game for Montreal since Pete and Frank Mahovolich did it in 1974.

Midway through the 3rd, Ovechkin would restore the insurance with his 3rd of the night. Going one on one with Mark Streit, Ovechkin held, cut in at the blue line, and released an almost unbelievably accurate wrister that went through Streit's legs and over Huet's left shoulder...He put that one where Uncle Jimmy keeps the Cheez Whiz.

However, 1:17 later, Guillaume Latendresse would go from passer to scorer in this game, as he took a feed from Sergei Kostitsyn and outwaited Kolzig to slot it home into the gaping cage.

Then, in uncommon fashion, the Habs pulled the goalie (not uncommon) and TIED THE GAME! (VERY UNCOMMON!) Plekanec had the initial shot, which got lost in the paraphenalia of a sprawling Kolzig, and as Latendresse waited patiently in the crease for a miracle, that miracle came. The puck was MIRACULOUSLY jarred loose, and wound up directly on Latendresse's stick, who buried it from about a whole centimeter out.

The Habs somehow pulled together and also pulled the rabbit out of the hat to earn a point in Washington, but that is as much as they would get, as Alex Ovechkin once again took matters into his own hands and converted a nice pass from Jeff Shultz who pinched down low to set up the game winner.

The Caps were a much better team on this night than they were on Tuesday, and if they can continue to play the way they did, they really do have as good a chance as Carolina or Atlanta to clinch the Southeast Division Title and clinch home-ice for the 1st round of the playoffs. They outshot the Canadiens 38-21 in the win. Alex Ovechkin had 6 shots on goal and logged a whopping 24:52 of ice time, all while finishing at +4 and dishing out a game-high 5 hits.

That's domination. That's downright scary.

Ovechkin has now scored over 40 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons. Saku Koivu played in his 700th career game, all for Montreal. The Habs will now return home to prepare for back-to-back weekend games on Superbowl weekend, 1st playing host to the NY Islanders Saturday (2pm) before playing host to the NY Rangers on Sunday (also at 2pm). Sunday's game is the only game scheduled on Superbowl Sunday...and that's obviously no coincidence.

Pre-Game Buzz Should Set The Tone

The Habs will look to match a season-high 4-game winning streak tonight as they visit the Verizon Center and the Washington Capitals.

The Canadiens (27-15-8) are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games, and are fresh off a home ice victory against the Caps, having defeated them 4-0 on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. But the buzz today has been about Capitals forward Viktor Kozlov's recent comments in regards to Tuesday's contest.

Kozlov went on the record saying (and I paraphrase here as I do not have the exact quote) that the Habs were trying to embarass them Tuesday by sending out Alex Kovalev's unit on a powerplay with under 1 minute remaining with the score already at 3-0 (a game deemed out of reach for the Caps). The unit ended up scoring with just over 40 seconds remaining.

The main thing about this is the whole issue of unwritten rules in hockey. The unwritten rule states (as ironic as that may sound) that a coach of a team should not designate its top forwards to a powerplay when the game is already out of reach for the opponent. Some will argue that:
A) Carbo sent Kovalev out because he had such a strong game before hand and hadn't had the luxury of obtaining a point, and some might argue that:
B) Kovalev was sent out because he can handle the puck and put on a great show for the home-town crowd.

Some may also argue that:
C) No matter who you have, you shouldn't do something like that (as in sending in a star player when the game is already over), and others will suggest that:
D) Unwritten rules shouldn't even be followed, and that running up a score is all part of playing a 60-minute hockey game.

Well, it happened, and the great thing about it is that it will set the tone for tonight's contest in Washington. The Caps definitely have revenge on their mind, and they will come out looking to blow the Habs away on home ice. Might we be seeing the beginnings of a rivalry from such a random event? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: Emotions will run high tonight in D.C.

The Habs have won 10 straight Thursday night contests, and have only lost just one, dating back to October 18th where they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Senators in Ottawa in their 1st Thursday evening match of the season. The Habs lead the season-series 2-1 and have never scored less than 4 goals against the Caps this season, outscoring them 13-7 thus far. The Habs' #2 ranked powerplay will match up against Washington's #25 ranked penalty kill.

The goalies slated to get the starts are Crisotbal Huet for Montreal and Olaf Kolzing for Washington. No lineup changes for Montreal, as Brisebois and Dandeneault continue to sit it out.

Pcuk drop goes at 7:08. Enjoy the game!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Huet, Habs Blank Capitals 4-0


*Big '8's collide as Mike Komisarek checks Alex Ovechkin into the boards. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz/ESPN.com.



The Habs extended their winning streak to 3 games as they defeated the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre Tuesday night by a 4-0 scoreline. Cristobal Huet notched his second shutout of the season, making 35 saves in the contest.


The Habs kept Washington goalie Brent Johnson busy as well, as the high-shooting tilt saw Johnson turn aside 36 of 40 shots fired his way. It was a visibly disappointing game for Alex Ovechkin, as he only got 4 shots away, not many of them quality. He was checked very well most of the night by Mike Komisarek, and even when things looked good for him, they didn't end up so well, as he had pucks roll off his stick on shots, and shots deflected into the crowd by Habs' defensemen. He also took a few solid checks from big Mike, but dished out some of his own as well.


The Habs got goals in all 3 major situations in the 1st period. First off, Mark Streit one-timed home the eventual game-winning first goal of the game on the powerplay, set up by Andrei Markov and Michael Ryder. The Habs then scored shorthanded, as Alex Kovalev did a great job killing off a 5-on-3 powerplay for the Caps, which eventually led to Tomas Plekakec intercepting a pass in his own zone and blowing by the rest of the Capitals squad. Fresh out of the box, Sergei Kostitsyn was able to join the rush onside to create the 2-on-0 against Johnson, and Plekanec slid him a perfect pass which Sergei then fired home passed the beaten Caps' netminder. Before the period's end, Steve Begin hounded down a loose puck behind the Caps net, and as Johnson hesitated to play the puck in fear of playing it outside the trapezoid, Begin threw it back out front to a streaking Koivu, who released a quick wrister that beat Johnson glove-high.

The 2nd period saw no scoring, but did have some great saves and missed opportunities at both ends, and also featured some absoultely mind-boggling moves put on by the show that we know as ALEX KOVALEV. This guy has SO much talent, doesn't he?

The final goal came in the last minute of the game, as Alex Kovalev was able to bang a loose puck through Johnson on the powerplay for a much deserved 1st point of the evening. Assisting on the goal were Plekanec and Streit, giving them 2 point nights.

Kovalev was rewarded with a goal after blocking a slapshot from Tom Poti earlier in the game. He was icing his thumb throughout the rest of the match, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Kovalev going for x-rays tomorrow. He played the rest of the game without missing a shift, so there is little reason to worry.

Josh Gorges has a standout game on defense, blocking 5 shots. Komisarek also blocked 5 on the night, and played a key role in the victory once again. Guillaume Latendresse was limited to just 10:53 of ice time in 13 shifts.

The 2 clubs meet again on Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington.

Live Every Shift Parody Video

I stumbled upon this video from a different blogger site...worth a watch, I just love the only words Ovechkin says (he'll say it twice, thats what makes it so funny.)

Enjoy!


video

Monday, January 28, 2008

Habs Open Up Home-&-Home Hosting Capitals

The NHL's leading goalscorer comes to town as the Habs open up a home-and-home series against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

The Caps found themselves dead last out East early on in the season. With Glen Hanlon behind the bench, the Caps were a dismal 6-14-1, and were looking like they were going to miss out on yet another post-season appearance.

And then they fired Hanlon, and replaced him with the then farm team head coach Bruce Boudreau...and they never looked back.

Since Boudreau has been at the helm, the Capitals have gone an astounding 17-8-4, and have averaged more than 1.1 goals a game...and Alexander Ovechkin has been playing his best hockey since the coaching swap.

Ovechkin has registered 25 of his 39 goals and 17 of his 26 assists since Boudreau took over. Ovechkin is also on pace for 64 goals this season - no one has scored 60 in one season since Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) in 1995-96.

Also breaking out have been rookie standouts Mike Green on defence, who leads ALL NHL defenders with 14 goals, and Nicklas Backstrom at center, who has been racking up points (mostly assists) playing alongside super-sniper Alexander the Gr8. Backstrom is second in the rookie points race, behind Chicago's Patrick Kane, therefore throwing his name back into the Calder mix.

The Caps are red hot lately, as they have gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. They will, however, be facing another red-hot Eastern Conference team that is oozing confidence.

With 60 points through 49 games, the Habs are surprising many of their pre-season critics - including, myself. Yes, I'm embarassed to admit it and I'm ashamed to have had lost faith in the first place, but I wasn't the only pessimistic fan. Many pundits had the Habs missing the playoffs, and I am in effect thrilled to see that they are going out there night after night and earning point after point. They are a confident bunch, but they are definitely not satisfied with where they stand just yet.

Chris Higgins said: "There's still a team ahead of us in the standings and it's dangerous thinking, thinking that we've accomplished something. We haven't accomplished anything. We still have 30 something games remaining and you don't accomplish anything with that many games left. None of our markers or goals have been met yet. When we make the playoffs, that's a marker. The ultimate is to win the Cup and that's our goal."

Added Chris: "The goal is to finish as high as we can in the standings. That's something we've talked about recently since we've been playing better. Before, we were talking about separating ourselves from the pack below but, now, it's about catching who's in front of us. That's a healthy way to think about things."

The Habs find themselves with the 2nd most points out East, yet they are 4th in the conference as Ottawa has 66 points. They are 6 points out of 1st spot...but, looking at this in a glass-half-full kind of way, they are also 6 points ahead of the 9th place New York Rangers. These are crucial times now, and every team will be leaving the extra effort on the ice from here on out. Games will be much more intense and points will be much harder to come by, so expect some things to change for some teams.

As the going gets tough, we will see if the tough can get going...or if the tough will soften and fall out of the race.

Puck drop: 7:38

Quack! Quack! Selanne's Back!

The Anaheim Ducks and UFA forward Teemu Selanne have reportedly agreed to terms on a one-year contract (expiring at this season's end), and Teemu will join the Ducks this week to get some practice before playing again.

Teemu will make a little under $600,000 for the remainder of the season, and the Ducks are in such good salary cap condition that as of this day they can trade for a player whose annual salary is $5 million. Should they wait until the Feb. 26 deadline, they will be able to sign a player with an annual salary close to $6 million.

The Ducks are looking like defending champions on paper...can they gel together in time once again to look like defending champions on ice? Time will tell as the NHL braces for what should be an absolutely thrilling final stretch where almost all 30 teams are still within reasonable reach of a playoff berth. The final pit stop en route to the playoffs will be the trading deadline, February 26th.

Nash & Nabokov Shine Despite 8-7 Loss

*Rick Nash pulls off four moves to fool 2nd period Eastern netminder Tomas Vokoun for his second of three goals in the All-Star game. AP Photo/John Bazemore/ESPN.com.


The Eastern Conference won the game, Eric Staal (East) was named All-Star MVP, and Rick Nash (West) dazzled the crowd with a beautiful trio of goals.

Oh, and Andrei Markov had a a great All-Star game debut, tallying a goal and an assist for the East.

The East got off to a commanding 5-1 lead, but thankfully that lead was cut down and eventually equalled by the West. The East then took a 6-5 lead before allowing the West to go up 7-6. The East would rally for two goals in the third period, including former Thrasher Marc Savard (East)'s game-winner with just over 20 seconds remaining.

Rick Nash was the talk of the game, even though he was snubbed as MVP. His first goal (his least beautiful, wristing the puck passed DiPietro on a Markov giveaway) came 12 seconds into the game, breaking the record for fastest opening goal in the A-S game set by Ted Lindsay in 1950.

Nash then scored in the 2nd period, taking a breakaway feed from Pavel Datsyuk and going forehand, backhand, forehand and backhand to completely fool Tomas Vokoun and slide the puck by Vokoun's left skate (as seen in the above photo.)

Nash's 3rd goal came in the third period (that's right, 1 goal per period for Rick). Nash took a pass from Iginla at his own blue line, then without warning turned on the turbo boosters, creating himself another breakaway, this time eyeing down Tim Thomas. Nash came in, converted himself to a backward-skating position, dragged the puck on his backhand, and lifted it over the shoulder of the lunging goalie, capping the fan-pleasing hat-trick.

Nash had a chance for 4 (which would have won him a car), but was stoned in the 3rd by Thomas.

Ryan Getzlaf (West) scored a real beauty as well, sneaking in through two Eastern defenders and sniping a shot from in tight, practically at the left side of the crease, putting it top shelf passed the surprised Thomas...a real beauty of a shot that left the crowd wondering "How did that go in?"

Only Evgeni Nabokov (West) was able to shut-out the opposition, denying all 8 shots he faced in the 2nd period. Nabby absolutely robbed Ilya Kovalchuk, as the latter took a feed from behind the net and wasted no time at all releasing the one-timer, but was robbed by the flashing leather of Nabby. That's what I like to call 'SNAGGLEPUSS!' Nabby then robbed Kovalchuk again, this time on a breakaway, stacking the pads to deny the hometown hero of a goal. Kovalchuk threw his stick in frustration, which was great to see as it indicated his intensity and willingness to score for the home fans. Marian Hossa (East) did wind up with a goal, though, to get the crowd cheering.

The West lost the game despite outshooting the East 51-33. No penalties were taken in the contest. Chris Osgood (West) allowed the most goals of all 6 goaltenders, letting 5 get passed him on 16 shots. Phaneuf, Lidstrom, Kopitar, Ribeiro (West) and Kovalchuk (East) registered -3 ratings on the night, all game-lows. Niedermayer (West), Chara and Savard (East) were game-high +3's. Rick Nash took a game-high 7 shots on goal to add to his game-high 3 goals.

Least Used West Player: Jason Arnott, 12:26 TOI.
Most Used West Player: Dion Phaneuf, 22:28 TOI.

Least Used East Player: Scott Gomez, 13:26 TOI.
Most Used East Player: Brian Campbell, 23:19 TOI.

I needlessly remind you that next year's All-Star Weekend will take place right here in Montreal, to celebrate the Habs' centennial.

NHL regular season action resumes Tuesday, with the trading deadline under 1 month away.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Skills Competition: Hit or Miss?

I will be the first to admit it that I had high expectations and elevated hopes for the hype surrounding this year's version of the Skills Competition, and I'll also be the first to admit that I was once again disappointed with the outcome.

I must admit though, the most pleasant surprise came from the YoungStars game. That game was fast paced, 3-on-3, and loaded with action from players who actually cared as opposed to last year's brutal waste of time.

That about does it though for what impressed me.

The new "Obstacle Course" that kicked things off sucked, and I couldn't wait for it to end. It seemed as though the cameramen had no previous indication of what was going to happen in that event, and it made it hard enough to follow. At least Markov did well in his portion of that challenge...

The fastest skater was loaded with technical problems that saw the slowest skater of the East (Brian Campbell) qualify with the fastest time because it was the only REGISTERED time, so that kind of ruined it.

The "Elimination Round" was fun for one reason: Dion Phaneuf. He was the ONLY scorer for the West, and had to face 3 qualifiers from the East in the elimination round... and he wound up being the only scorer of that, too, to win the event.

The YoungStars game was excellent in my opinion, but I am still disappointed at the fact that David Clarkson was chosen to be there instead of Andrei Kostitsyn. I know that sounds biased, but who is David Clarkson anyways? He sure did shut me up though with a goal on the first shot for the Eastern YoungStars....but still, I'd rather have seen A.K. 46.

The Shooting Accuracy challenge was alright. Tomas Kaberle went 4-for-4 in round 1 and 8-for-9 overall, as he defeated Jason Arnott in a 1-on-1 showdown. I guess this will get Leaf Nation upset, as Kaberle proved he can shoot like the best of them, but refuses to when it comes to an actual Leafs game.

The Hardest Shot competition offered a pleasant surprise as Vinny Lecavalier registered 101.9 m/ph, but was not able to hold off big Zdeno Chara and his 103.1 m/ph shot. I had chosen Lacavalier to pull the upset even before the competition started, and it literally came down to the last shooter and the last shot to screw me over.

And then there was 1... the over-hyped, massive FLOP of a "Breakaway Challenge".

Not only were most of the shooters VERY DISAPPOINTING in their choice of trick-shots, but a certain goalie that I'm embarassed to call out decided to ruin things further by challenging a certain player nearly halfway to the blueline, and pokechecking him on both occasions. WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT, EVGENI?!?!? Oops, I let the cat out of the bag... Seriously, Nabby...I always speak so highly of you, why did you go and take the BREAKAWAY CHALLENGE so seriously?

All jokes aside though, Nabby's gaffe wasn't what ruined the event; the shooters ruined the event.

They seemed to not care about dazzling the crowd with ridiculous out-of-the-box type moves, as we all expected to see. For what reason I'll never know, but apparently Gary Bettman was quoted as saying "They (the shooters) weren't adequately prepared, they'll be better next year."

They better be, because the Montreal crowd is going to boo them out of the country if not.

A good way to start would be to look back at Ovechkin and Gaborik's attempts. Ovechkin tried dazzling the crowd with some high-level-of-difficulty tricks, which wound up winning him the event, while Gaborik was the only shooter who made use of the area behind the net (legal for this event). The shots on the 2k previews were all individually better than what we saw from our stars, which is a disappointment in itself. And was it just me, or do the 2k games look absolutely AWFUL compared to the EA Sports hockey games? I wouldn't even take 2k's game as a gift.

All in all, what it comes down to is basically the same old story: All-Star weekend is a disappointment, year after year after year. It has its moments, but not enough moments to make the event memorable. To me, this year's memorable moments for the skills competition are: Iginla missing the net on a slapshot, Nabby pokechecking St. Louis, who for sure is furious, and Chris Pronger falling down while tyring to ruin Corey Perry's interview, and laughing so hard that he couldn't even get back up.

Are any of those memories even skills?

No.

And that's why the Skills Competiton was a miss.

Let me know what you thought about it!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All-Star Weekend Brings All-Star Rumours

For the fans, the All-Star weekend is a time to relax, let loose, and watch our favorite players play with our most feared rivals, all in the name of good clean fun. But, for the GM's, the All-Star Weekend is a time to set the table for potential blockbusters at the trade deadline.

Here's a list of the most common names rumoured around the NHL:

Olli Jokinen - I begin with him for a very specific reason. Jokinen is apparently fed up of the playing style offered in Florida, and his agent went so far as to say "We aren't demanding a trade, but we would definitely not get in the way of a deal being made." Jokinen would like to start WINNING, and really, who can blame him? This guy has never been to the post-season yet, and if his regular season play is any indication, he should pan out to be a lethal power foward center in the playoffs, with an uncanny ability to get goals on special teams. Jokinen is rumoured very strongly to go to either one of two teams, and oddly enough, they are both Eastern Conference teams. He is most favoured to go to Buffalo, where he would be a much needed and welcomed veteran presence. The Sabres have not been the same since losing star centers Briere and Drury, and the addition of Jokinen would do them a great deal of good, more so than most of the other NHL clubs. The other team reportedly strong in the running: The MONTREAL CANADIENS. The Habs are apparently heavily pursuing Jokinen, and that should be enough to get Habs fans extremely excited. Jokinen would be a very welcome faceoff man, besided the fact that he can dish out great passes, score clutch goals, and unload lasers from the point on the powerplay. No word yet on who the Habs would offer in return, but expect the demands for a proven performer such as Jokinen to be high.

Rob Blake: Blake has been on and off, denying, and then not denying rumours that he would be willing to waive his No Trade Clause to play for a contender. What he has made clear though is that he would be returning to L.A. in the off-season, which can't be good for Kings management, who will likely see a decrease in the quality of offers for the veteran. Rumoured destinations include Detroit, Chicago and New York.

Alex Tanguay: Rumours were hotter before, but Tanguay's name continues to be thrown around here and there. Flames GM Darryl Sutter was spotted scouting the Canadiens/Penguins game, adding fuel to a nearly dead fire once again.

Mats Sundin: Sundin is a heavily coveted asset for the Leafs, but in reality, they would be wise to give him up and bail on the season early. This team will NOT make a run for the cup, that's for certain, so why not deal him now, lose some games in the process to fall in the rankings and earn a higher draft pick, receive some quality talent (prospect & veteran) in return for Mats, and re-sign him the offseason? Sundin WILL be moved, and the front-runners are rumoured to be Calgary and Vancouver, with the Rangers remaining in the thick of things.

Speaking of the Rangers: Rumours are circulating that NYR are planning to make a multitude of deals, and teams are listening. The Sharks are rumoured to be eyeing one of the Rangers "high priced forwards", and I would not be the least bit surprised to see Jaromir Jagr moved. Also, apart from the interest in the players mentionned above, NY would be interested in J.M. Liles, David Vyborny, Jason Chimera, and moving D-man Marek Malik. The Rangers will be active this year.....are you surprised?

Marian Hossa: Rumours will circulate with Hossa until the deadline. His failure to get an extension with the Thrashers thus far should be taken as a sign that Hossa would likely prefer being moved to a contender, then testing his worth on the open market. Rumoured teams include Pittsburgh, San Jose and Detroit.

Brian Campbell: Contract talks have come to a halt between the star d-man and the Sabres, but all indications are that Campbell is willing to re-sign with the Sabres. As the deadline approaches, expect talks to resume. It was rumoured that Campbel and the Sabres were less than $1M away in negotiations, so expect them to settle. Should they not, for whatever reason, Campbell will then be moved, but expect that to be a deadline-day move, not a day sooner.

Vaclav Prospal/Dan Boyle: With the ownership change being priority, the Lightning will need to keep their star forwards Lecavalier and St.Louis, but may be willing to part with Dan Boyle or Vinny Prospal for the right offer, so long as they receive "equal or greater star-power players". GM Jay Feaster would like to keep everyone on board, but he will make a move if the team does not rebound in the near future. Also worth noting, the Dallas Stars have been scouting the Lightning's recent games, and in what may be the blockbuster of the year (should Jagr not move to San Jose), the rumour is that Dallas would ship out Marty Turco in exchange for Martin St.Louis, a deal that would help both teams with their priority needs. Frankly, I can, and can't see this happening...Dallas would like to take Turco into the playoffs as opposed to riding Mike Smith, but they have been coveting a top-line winger since this past off-season...that will be interesting to follow.

Markus Naslund: Naslund's name has been rumoured lately, though not as much as the other forwards mentionned above. Don't expect a Naslund move until both Peter Forsberg is signed and Mats Sundin is moved, as Naslund could play a key role in landing those fellow countrymen. The team most rumoured to be interested in Naslund? The Montreal Canadiens. I don't remember the last time I heard so many rumours about players coming to Montreal...

Patrick Marleau: Add him to Montreal's shortlist. The Habs have reportedly been in serious talks with San Jose all season, and the fact that Gainey and Wilson like doing business leads many to believe that these two clubs will strike a deal by the deadline.

The L.A. Kings: This is probably the only team right now that are certainly considered as sellers come deadline day. This team looks very solid on paper, but being in dead last is proof that the game is played on the ice. Every defenseman is available (barring Jack Johnson) and most forwards are available, excluding only Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Patrick O'Sullivan. Rumours have Michael Cammalleri being dangled as bait as well, but I wouldn't believe those rumours too quickly.

There are many other rumours out there, including names like Huselius, Kaberle, Commodore and Demitra, but there aren't enough sources to indicate which teams are interested, therefore I have chosen to ignore them for the time being.

Enjoy the All-Star festivities! The Skills Competition goes tonight, and the game goes Sunday night.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Habs Break Jersey Curse, Win 4-3

*Hamrlik and teammates Sergei Kostitsyn (right) and Chris Higgins celebrate the latter's eventual game-winning powerplay goal, as the Habs break a huge slump at the swamp. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, courtesy ESPN.com.


The Habs came into New Jersey on a bad note, but used the 3rd period to score 3 goals to eventually come back from 2 goals down and win the game by a 4-3 scoreline, stretching their road record to 17 wins this season.

Bryan Smolinski got the first two Habs goals, and slumping forwards Koivu and Higgins got the equalizing and winning goals respectively. Montreal outshot New Jersey by a stunning 32-13 count, including outshooting them 20-3 in the third period.

New Jersey's loss was the first loss to the Canadiens in the last nine meetings overall and only the second in the last 20 in New Jersey.

The Habs' powerplay went a measley 1-for-7, but that 1 powerplay goal was the one that put the Habs up for the first time in the game with 5:29 remaining in regulation, and stood up as the game winner.

The Devils seemed to get lazy to start a third period in which they carried a two goal lead. They took the only 5 penalties of the 3rd period, putting the habs in a great position to take the lead, as they eventually did on Higgins' marker.

Coach Brent Sutter was furious with his teams lack of effort and discipline, and immediately sent the team to practice on the auxiliary rink following the final buzzer of the game.

"I'm disappointed in the whole team and its commitment to win. Their play was brutal. They already had their plans to head to (Las) Vegas or wherever the hell they're going before the game was half over. It's totally unacceptable. Everything it takes to win a hockey game, we didn't do. It was a total lack of effort from everyone."

"For whatever reason, we had a lot of guys who wanted to do their own thing out there," Sutter said. "We had a 2-0 lead and had a 5-on-3 power play and had four or five quality scoring chances, but they were thinking of themselves instead of the team. We've had two-goal leads in our building and let them slip. It shows a lack of commitment to want to play. It tells you that this is not a mentally strong hockey team."

Added Sutter, "To be honest, they should be embarrassed. It's hard for me to sit on this for four days. It sure as hell better be hard on them as well. We were brutal."

The NHL now rests as the All-Star weekend is upon us. The Habs play again on Tuesday, at home to host Washington in the first game of a home-and-home with the Capitals.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Polar Opposite Rival For Habs Tonight

Montreal continued its domination of the Bruins a couple of nights ago, as expected. But will the Devils continue their domination of the Habs at the Prudential Center, as expected?

As the Habs earned their 9th straight win over Boston on Thursday, the Devils are looking for their 10th straight against Montreal. This is clearly a North/South situation for the Habs with regards to their opponents this week.

Here's where it gets particularly ugly.

The Habs' statistics for games played in New Jersey are down right humiliating. When playing host to Montreal, Jersey has gone 21-1-4 over their last 26 games! The Habs' most recent win in New Jersey dates back to February 5th, 2002, when Jose Theodore was able to shutout the Devils in, (you probably guessed it), a 1-0 win. If you think that's long enough ago, then you probably wouldn't want to know the date of the last Habs victory in N.J. prior to that one, but I'm going to tell you anyway, because here at Habs Hockey-Talkey, we do humiliation right!

Patrick Roy was able to shutout N.J. as well in a victory earned WAY BACK on October 26th, 1993!!!

If that isn't alarming enough, or isn't enough of an indication of DOMINANCE of one team over another, then I don't know what is. Boston should feel pretty damn good in comparison to that dreadful record.

Cristobal Huet has never earned a single point against New Jersey, going 0-6-0 career against the Devils with a 3.29 GAA.

And to SOMEHOW make matters even WORSE than what they already are for Montreal? The Devils were on the winning end of a 7-3 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night in Philadelphia, another team they have been dominating this season. The surprise there (in case you don't know) is that New Jersey is not an offensive team, in fact, they're far from it. They have been relying on living legend Martin Brodeur to backstop the defensive minded to team to win after win, year after year, and it has more than paid off, with Jersey claiming a couple Stanley Cups over the years.

No word on any lineup updates yet, as I am writing in the wee hours of the morning now. I will update tomorrow should any changes be made to Tuesday's lineup, of which I doubt heavily.

Puck drop: 7:08

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bruins Awaken Habs' Offense...Again...

*Maxim Lapierre, right, celebrates his goal with 3 seconds left in the first period against the Boston Bruins with teammate Mike Komisarek. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson, courtesy ESPN.com.


When times get tough for the Montreal Canadiens, there is just nothing like a date with the division rival Boston Bruins to cure any offensive ailments.

The Habs rattled Boston for 8 goals in an 8-2 victory, the third time this season that the Habs offense has ignited for over 7 goals. 2 of those times, the Habs played host to the Boston Bruins. They were polite in the process on Tuesday, leaving Alex Auld and Tim Thomas to share the honours of allowing 4 goals a piece. Montreal was also interested in sharing something else: The goalscoring. Only Andrei Kostitsyn scored twice, one for each goaltender, and each line was able to figure in on the scoring in the FIRST PERIOD alone!

Tom Kostopoulos scored so early in the first period, tempting me to use the phrase "if you blinked, you missed it". It took 14 seconds for T.K. to score on a Steve Begin deflected shot. Tom reached for the puck, spun around, and fired into the gaping cage, as Auld was off position by a mile by having committed to a Begin shot. Ryder then tipped home a Koivu wrist shot just 2:58 later to double the Habs advantage to 2 goals. After Boston halved the deficit on a Marco Sturm rebound goal, the Habs shifted into top gear again, answering the Boston tally with goals by Andrei Kostitsyn and Maxim Lapierre. All of this went down in period #1.

The second period allowed for 2 more Canadiens goals. First, Steve Begin played a pass from behind the net onto the stick of Bryan Smolinski, who made no mistake one-timing a wrister from atop the crease into the top corner, passed relief goaltender Tim Thomas. Tom Kostpoulos got an assist on that goal as well, which should be remembered for a little later...

Mike Komisarek then made it 6-1, finishing off a beautiful passing play.

A.K. 46 fed Komisarek at the point, who threw one down low along the boards to the awaiting Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec drew two Bruins players' attention to him, then returned the feed to the pinching Komisarek, who coralled the puck and released a wrister that beat Thomas 5-hole. Thomas was visibly upset with the coverage (or lack-there-of) on Plekanec, flailing his arms wildly and staring to the heavens.

Tempers flared after this point. Sergei Kostitsyn caught David Kreijci with an open ice hip-check, which in turn led Zdeno Chara to cross-check Sergei down to the ice from behind. Sergei had enough time to get back to his skates before Chuck Kobasew came out of nowhere, dropping the gloves and going after the young Kostitsyn. Sergei held his own pretty well in the tilt, and had to face a fighter in Kobasew who did not remove his helmet with visor.

Kovalev then added to the scoring on the powerplay, taking a beautiful cross-ice pass from Mark Streit, and sending a partially fanned butterfly slapshot towards the goalie. The puck went off of Aaron Ward's knee, and re-directed into the net, giving the Habs the 7-1 lead.

Now, back to Kostopoulos...

Steve Begin was playing a puck in his own zone with his back to his blue line, when Shane Hnidy activated from defense and laid an absolutely class-less hit from behind into Begin, who had to leave his first game back from a shoulder injury with what seems to be a re-aggravation of the same left shoulder. As the play ensued, linemate Tom Kostopoulos came with a full head of steam at Hnidy, dropping the gloves and standing up for his teammate.

In case it has slipped by you........ Tom Kostopoulos recorded a goal, an assist, and a fight. That's right, a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick for T.K.!

Nokelainen and Kostitsyn exchanged goals before the end of the game, as the Habs wrapped up their 9th straight victory over the Bruins, and improved their perfect record versus the Bruins this season to 6-0-0.

Tom Kostopoulos was apparently surprised with his 1st star nomination, as he came onto the ice in shorts and skates after having been sent to the locker room for his 10 minute misconduct penalty for his fight with Hnidy, which occured with 8:44 remaining in regulation. In a nice display of fan appreciation, the fan-favorite gave away two hockey sticks to two lucky members of the crowd during his 1st star salute.

The game wasn't without it's controversy though. Mathieu Dandeneault sounded off prior to the game, indicating his unhappiness with being sat out for yet another game. He made clear that he was not requesting a trade, but said he would be upset even further should he be scratched again this season. With the way the Habs played tonight, all signs point to Carbonneau sticking with his current lineup, which will certainly create a buzz over the next couple of days. The Habs travel to New Jersey to face a red-hot Devils team on Thursday. The Devils were on the winning end of a 7-3 rout on Tuesday night as well, this one coming against their own division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers.
It is reported that Begin's injury isn't as serious as initially feared, as a quick analysis suggests that it is only a pinched nerve. Details should be made clearer tomorrow as Begin will receive a scan to detect for any damage.

What did you think about the game? Would you make any changes to the lineup for Thursday's road game? Comment below!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

History Says Habs Will Rebound vs. Bruins

The Montreal Canadiens are one of the best teams on the road, yet are having an enormous amount of trouble playing the same way in front of their own fans at the Bell Center. After going 3-1 on a 4-game road trip, the Habs returned home on Tuesday to face the Penguins...and got shut-out by a Crsoby-less squad, 2-0.

The schedule continues to be very friendly to the Habs, as it seems that whenever they need a morale-boosting effort, the exact right team seems to be next in line.

And what better team than the Boston Bruins?

Montreal (24-15-8) have gone 5-0 this season versus Boston, and are 8-0 since losing 3-1 in Boston back on March 3rd, 2007, and are 17-4-0 since the start of the 2005-06 season. They have outscored the Bruins 24-10 in those 5 games this season.

The Habs have gone cold on the powerplay recently, having failed to score a powerplay marker in each of their last 3 games, going 0-for-8 in that span.

The Bruins (24-18-5) have gone 3-1-1 in their last 5, with that only regulation loss coming 5 games ago vs. the Canadiens. They have taken points in each of their last 4, including registering back-to-back wins over the Rangers in a home-and-home on Saturday and Sunday. Chuck Kobasew is beginning to emerge as a dangerous goal-scorer, and he leads the Bruins in goals with 17 on the year. He had a short-handed goal and an assist Sunday after netting two power-play goals on Saturday, indicating his ability to score in any situation, a la Patrick Sharp/Mike Richards, though his overall development is not quite the same as that of those two centermen.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:38 p.m.

- If the Canadiens practice this morning is any indication, expect the forward line to be juggled again tonight. Saku Koivu practiced with Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder on his wings, while Bryan Smolinski centered a line flanked by Sergei Kostitsyn and the returning Steve Begin. The K-P-K line will remain in tact, of course, while the 4th line will consist of Lapierre centering Latendresse and Kostopoulos.

- Patrice Brisebois' MRI revealed two breaks in bones in his left foot, and therefore will miss some time. Mark Streit will likely play defense, which means that Mathieu Dandeneault is expected to be scrated tonight.

As an added bonus, I would like to share a video with you that I just saw posted on habsinsideout.com. It is a video of Alex Kovalev stickhandling and shooting for Warrior hockey gear, and it will definitely get you excited to see Kovalev tonight. This guy is overflowing with talent, here's proof if you haven't had enough already watching him live...


video

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sabourin Blanks Canadiens; Pens 1-0 Without Sid

Dany Sabourin stopped all 31 shots he faced in his first start since December 21st, a 12-game layoff. PHOTO > AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz, courtesy ESPN.com.


Dany Sabourin made 31 saves for his second shutout, Jeff Taffe scored in the first period, and Pittsburgh beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 Saturday night.

Sabourin, who got his first career shutout in a 5-0 win in New Jersey on Nov. 5, made his first appearance since Dec. 21 one night after Ty Conklin took his first regulation loss in his 11th straight start.

Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss Friday to Tampa Bay was particularly costly because Crosby sustained a high ankle sprain that will almost certainly sideline him for next weekend's All-Star game in Atlanta and may keep him out of action for several weeks.

Crosby didn't travel with the team and had his sprained and swollen right ankle re-examined Saturday by the team's medical staff. No prognosis for the defending NHL scoring champion's return will be made until the swelling subsides.

The Penguins were 0-2-2 in the four previous games Crosby had missed since he began his NHL career at the start of the 2005-06 season.

Taffe scored his second goal of the season 6:14 in when he beat Cristobal Huet on a setup by Penguins enforcer Georges Laraque. Laraque was treated like Wayne Gretzky by Canadiens defenders as he was left untouched while he held the puck behind the net. He carried it out the right side and passed to Taffe, who beat Huet for what stood up as the winning goal.

Evgeni Malkin put a backhand into an empty net with 12 seconds remaining. Montreal, which returned from a 3-1 road trip, fell to 8-8-5 at home. Huet had 25 saves in the loss.

Montreal next plays as host to the Boston Bruins, a team in which they have registered 5 wins in 5 attempts this season. Boston is red hot, having swept their home-and-home weekend matinee series with the Rangers.
*This report is based heavily on that of the Associated Press, courtesy NHL.com.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home? Habs Host Crosby-less Pens

Despite the Penguins losing one of the most exciting players to watch in Sidney Crosby for up to 6 weeks, it couldn't have come at a better time for the Canadiens.

The Pens (26-17-3) had gone an incredible 9-0-1 in their 10 games previous to last night's loss to the Lightning. In losing Sid, they not only lost a potential Art Ross / Hart trophy winner and current captain, but they lost the game, and were shut-out by the lowly Lightining, one of the worst teams on the road in the NHL. Tampa went on to win 3-0.

The trifecta of bad news was culminated by Ty Conklin suffering his first loss in regulation since his call up. He had gone 10-0-1 in the 11 games he played before taking the 3-0 defeat last night.

The Habs (24-14-8) are 7-1-2 in their last 10, but return back on home ice for the first time in 5. They're stellar record on the road is thankfully taking some of the spotlight away from their less than decent 8-7-1 record on home ice. The Habs and Pens have met twice already this season, with Montreal coming out on top both times in 4-3 and 3-2 victories. However, it is worth noting that hot prospect Carey Price was between the pipes in each of those victories.

Cristobal Huet will be in goal once again for Montreal. He is 8-1-2 in his last 11 starts, and sports a perfect 3-0 career record against the Penguins, and on the first full game for the Penguins to cope with life-after-Crosby, the Habs find themselves in decent position to come away with a much needed, confidence-building win on home ice.

Even though 21,273 people will be disappointed to be missing out on the Crosby show tonight, they should come away with some satisfaction, as the Habs should be able to convert the Pens' misfortune into momentum and carry that through for the win.

I wouldn't like to be one of the ticketholders if the Habs were to lose tonight...

Puck drop scheduled for 7:08 p.m.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Another 3-2 Result, This One Favoring Montreal

*Andrei Kostitsyn slips one five-hole through Kari Lehtonen for the shootout winner. Associated Press/John Amis

The Canadiens and Thrashers have now met 3 out of 4 times this season, and each game has required a shootout to break a 2-2 tie. With Atlanta winning the first two shootouts, the Canadiens decided to force-feed Atlanta their own medicine last night.

Andrei Kostitsyn was the talk of the game, as he scored an absolutley dazzling goal in regulation, following up by scoring the shootout winner.

Prior to last night's contest, Montreal was the only NHL team to have never won a game when trailing after the 1st period, but that stat is now history.

The Thrashers opened the scoring late in the first with their 1st of 2 flukey goals. Marian Hossa set up along the goal line, and tried to thread a pass cross crease to Eric Perrin, but the pass ended up catching the inside of Huet's blocker, and was redirected behind Cristobal and into the net.

Early in the second, Andrei Kostitsyn took a pass from Tomas Plekanec and streaked through the neutral zone, first making a move to elude Perrin, then stickhandling to get by Ken Klee, and finally forehand-to-backhanding to beat Kari Lehtonen for the high-light reel marker.

The Habs got their first lead early in the third, when a passing play between Smolinski, Latendresse and Ryder culminated for a goal. Latendresse threw the puck towards the goal, and Ryder stretched his stick out to jab the puck, managing to deflect it up and over Lehtonen's shoulder.

But, the Thrashers would eventually tie it up, on a very weird play created by Cristobal Huet.

Huet came out to play a puck along his goal line, but somehow froze solid when faced with the decision to either pass off to a waiting Hamrlik, or wrist the puck around the net and along the boards on a common reverse play. Instead, Eric Perrin introduced Huet to option 3, as he skated in and jarred the puck free to the top of an unguarded crease, allowing Pascal Dupuis to cash in on the open cage. Christmas 2008 came 11 months early for Dupuis...

The shootout saw Kozlov up first. Straying away from his usual patience tactic, he tried to fool Huet by releasing a quick shot. Kozlov wound up missing the net.

Andrei Kostitsyn was up next, and he converted on some nifty stickhandling to slide the puck five hole through Lehtonen.

Marian Hossa tried his luck, but was denied by Huet, who stayed with the fake provided by Hossa and stuck the pad out for the stop.

Koivu had the chance to end it early, and he made the early exit possibility a reality. Moving in with great speed, Koivu released a simple low wrist shot that caught Lehtonen's left pad slightly, but not enough to stop the resulting momentum from carrying the puck across the goal-line.

-Atlanta have never defeated the Habs 3 times in a season, and now have one game remaining to accomplish the feat. With the OTL, Atlanta now own sole possession of 1st place in the Southeast, as the Hurricanes lost 5-1 in Ottawa.
-Montreal's 4 game road trip result: 3-1. They are the 2nd best road team in the NHL, all the while improving to 24-14-8 overall. The Habs have not allowed Ilya Kovalchuk to register a single point against them through 3 games this season. They return home to host the red-hot Penguins on Saturday night.


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PLEASE, if you haven't already seen it, tune in to any sports highlight station now, and catch Rick Nash's game winning goal against Phoenix last night. Phoenix seem to have the bad luck of having ridiculous goals scored on them (Alex Ovechkin on Paul Mara, anyone?)

The Ovechkin goal came on January 16th, 2007. Nash's goal: January 17th, 2008. I can't wait for January 18th, 2009 already...someone better schedule the Coyotes for a home game that night!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yvon's Blunder, 1 Year Ago Today

Alright, so it's not EXAAAACTLY one year ago today, it was actually 364 days ago (January 18th, 2007) that the classic video that you will find below had aired live on RDS. Close enough though...

I had the pleasure of seeing this vid a few days after it was originally released last year, and now, I share it with those of you who haven't yet had the privilege of realizing that Yvon is, in fact, human.

Thanks to lepool.com for reminding me of the release date.

Also, since the video is on YouTube, I don't believe I'm infringing on any copyright laws... It's all for a good laugh people, come on now!

P.S. This was before a game between none other than the Habs and Thrashers, nearly one year ago today, as I've already mentionned. Enjoy!


video

15 & Counting?

The Canadiens' 15 road wins rank them 1st in the East and 2nd in the NHL, looming in San Jose's shadow with the Sharks having 16 wins away from home.

Earning that 16th road win will be no easy task tonight in Atlanta as the Habs wrap up their road-trip.

The Thrashers (23-22-2) have really taken form since the firing of Bob Hartley and hiring of interim head coach and GM Don (or 'The Don') Waddell. After starting the season 0-6 and finding themselves dead-last out East, the Thrashers have heated up significantly, and now own an over .500 record. Most impressively, thanks to Tuesday night's romp of the Red Wings, the Thrashers now sit tied for 1st with slumping Carolina in the sub-par Southeast Division. In fact, if it weren't for seeding the top team in every Division 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the Thrashers would find themselves behind the Bruins and in 9th place, one spot out of a playoff berth. Not to mention, the Bruins currently would have 3 games in hand on the Thrashers, but I'm beginning to digress too much here...let's get back to it.

The Thrashers have 2 wins in 2 games against the Habs this season, both by 3-2 scores, and both results of shootouts. Rookie defensemen Tobias Enstrom has been an unsung hero for the Thrashers. Having seen his role increase dramatically with the arrival of bench-boss Waddell, Enstrom now finds himself complementing deadly shooter Ilya Kovalchuk on the point on the man-advantage. He is the league leader amongst all NHL rookies in average ice-time per game, averaging just over 24 minutes a game. And, most suprisingly of all, Enstrom ranks 4th on team scoring, as his 28 points (3 + 25) rank him ahead of such veterans as Slava Kozlov, Mark Recchi, and Bobby Holik, not to mention more than doubling the output of winger Pascal Dupuis, who's 13 points in 46 games is downright embarassing.

The Canadiens (23-14-8) had a good outing Tuesday night on Long Island, posting a 3-1 win to improve their current 4 game road-trip record to 2-1, all the while improving their overall road record to 15-7-3. But, the Habs visit to Atlanta could not have come at a worse time.

The Thrashers strolled into Detroit on Tuesday as the major underdog on the road to the league's top team, yet came away with a convincing 5-1 win, riding a Marian Hossa hat-trick. No matter how tired a team is, or how badly it had been playing prior, a team that goes into the top team's building and comes away with a huge win is bound to carry over that momentum.

Unfortunately for Montreal, the Thrashers got a rest Wednesday, and had been playing relatively well already in their previous matches, suggesting that the win in MoTown will only boost them further.

The Habs will need to make the most of their powerplay chances (if they are given any), and must refrain from taking un-necessary penalties (coughSAKUcough) against a team that boasts the likes of such superstar snipers in Hossa and Kovalchuk, the latter of whom is currently riding a 10-game points streak, tallying 8 goals and 8 assists over that span.

However, the Habs have gone 6-1-2 in their previous 9 games overall, therefore have pointed in all but one...should I remind you which game it was in which they failed to earn a point? Didn't think so...

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:08 P.M.

-Steve Begin has been cleared to play, and x-rays were officially negative on Patrice Brisebois' foot (sorry, negative means NO FRACTURE...), but no word yet on who will be scratched this evening.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Plekanec Scores 2, Cracks 40; Habs Win 3-1

Plekanec (center) has a two-goal outing at Nassau Coliseum. Photo from The Canadian Press, courtesy Tsn.ca.

Where Chris Higgins failed to continue his success against his hometown team, Plekanec filled in in fine form.

Tomas Plekanec got it done for the Habs tonight, registering his 39th and 40th points of the season with goals, opening the scoring at even strength and then adding to it with a shorthanded tally as the Habs cruised to a 3-1 victory over the Islanders on Long Island.

Plaky's first goal came shortly passed midway through the 1st period, when Isles forward Andy Hilbert failed to collect an outlet pass from Bruno Gervais. Plekanec picked up the loose puck, faked-and-then-released a slapshot to beat DiPietro glove-high. Plekanec then added his 16th of the year, shorthanded. After Huet robbed Miroslav Satan on the doorstep, Kovalev beat Mike Comrie to the loose puck, eliminated Comrie with a bodycheck, and flipped the puck forward, managing to get it passed Chris Campoli to create a 2-on-1 for Plekanec with Markov. Plaky held and released a wrister, beating DiPietro low-glove this time around to notch his 40th point of the season, 7 shy of his career high of 47 posted just last season.

The Isles heated up midway through the second, generating a solid 5 minutes of attacking hockey. The save of the game occured in this span, as Mike Comrie picked up a loose puck at the Habs' blue line, and, due to a poorly timed line-change, Mike had himself a clean-cut breakaway. Streaking in from the right wing, Comrie cut inside and through the crease in an attempt to go wide on Huet, but Cristobal read the play perfectly and followed through with Comrie, eventually stopping the shot with his right pad.

But the Isles would not be shut-out on this night. Midway through the 3rd, Cristobal Huet played a dump-in from behind his net which was then intercepted along the boards by captain Bill Guerin. Guerin wasted little to no time at all getting that puck on goal, forcing Huet to get down to try and freeze it. Unfortunately, the puck was jarred loose, and a crease-crashing Richard Park was able to chop at it and get it to float in. The Habs were able to hold off all remaining attacks, and with under a minute left and goaltender Rick DiPietro on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Chris Campoli turned the puck over to Alex Kovalev in Montreal's zone. Kovalev had a streaking Plekanec up ice, near New York's blueline, waiting for a pass to earn the chance to pot the empty-netter for the hat-trick, but Kovalev decided he would take the puck zone-to-zone, and he easily skated around a desperately-diving Campoli to bury his 20th of the season.

Huet had 17 saves in the win. The Habs outshot the Islanders 21-18 in a low-shooting, low-scoring affair. Montreal went 0-for-2 on the PP, but did have the short-handed Plekanec marker.

The Canadiens improve to 2-1 on this 4 game road-swing, with the final stop coming Thursday in Atlanta.

The Thrashers cashed in on a Marian Hossa hat-trick tonight to land a rare & decisive 5-1 win in Detroit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Looking for the W on L.I.

The Habs will have to completely flip last Saturday's effort inside-out to have a chance against the Islanders on Long Island tonight.

Montreal (22-14-8) are 1-1 through two of their four straight games on the road, and both 1's represent polar differences (apart from the fact that one means a Win and one means a Loss).

The Habs victory last Thursday in Boston represented a hockey team that was driven and determined to dominate in every aspect of the game, including shooting, scoring, passing and hitting. Playing that way is what gets good teams not only through the regular season, but it gets good teams through the post-season gauntlet as well. However, any team can perform the way the Habs did last Thursday...but any GREAT team knows how to carry over such a performance on a nightly basis, defining the word "Consistency", and the Habs were most certainly not consistent in their transferred efforts from Thursday's win to Saturday's loss in New York (to be more accurate in my vocabulary use, the Habs were INCONSISTENT.)

Rest assured, this isn't English class, but I feel it had to be stressed that what we saw on Saturday must never be seen again if we hope to make it to the post-season.

If history is any reference, the Habs should definitely impress us once again. They were able to hammer the Islanders 4-1 in a game where the Isles outshot Huet and co. 45-33. And, as always, Chris Higgins found success in that game back on November 21st, notching his first road goal of the season. Chris has 7 goals in 8 games versus his hometown team, with 4 of them coming on the road at Nassau Coliseum, and we would definitely love to see continued domination over the Isles from Higgins as he is looking to score goals more regularly, with just 2 in his last 13 games.

Also native to Long Island; Mike Komisarek. The man who can do no wrong lately, Mike is developing into one of the premier defensive defensemen in the league. He leads the league in blocked shots, and ranks 3rd overall in hits with 147 dished out (behind 1st place Dustin Brown; 206, and, tonight's opponent, Trent Hunter; 150). The 25 year old has broken out this season, responding as well as possible to all the added responsibilities bestowed upon him. Playing alongside 1st time All-Star Andrei Markov, Mike knows his role is to shut down the streaking forwards in opponent colours, and man the line when Markov gets offensive. Mike's punishing play has drawn interest from the staff, the fans, and the rest of the league.

Sources indicate that Patrice Brisebois will be scratched tonight as a result of an injury. He took a puck off the inside of his left foot and will undergo X-rays tonight. It is expected that Mark Streit will take his place on the blue line, and Tom Kostopolous will dress and figure in on the fourth line.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:08 P.M.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Veterans Closing In On Return?

Reports throughout the internet suggest that forwards Peter Forsberg and Teemu Selanne are nearing a return to the NHL, with Selanne rumoured to be 1 or 2 weeks away.

Teemu would only be willing to return to the league as a Duck. He has been skating all season long in an effort to keep himself fit and ready to endure the rigors of the remainder of the 2007-08 season. The Ducks reportedly have a plan in place to accomodate the return of their beloved Finnish Flash, but details of those plans remain unknown at these times.

As for Forsberg, it seems that his return can be anticipated sometime around the trade deadline, either in late February or early March. The Flyers (the team closest to the salary cap in the NHL at this time with less than $250, 000 in spending room available) are also rumoured to have plans in place should 'Foppa' choose to head back to the city of brotherly love, and they apparently have a contract all drawn up already. It is also rumoured that the Canucks and Flames would make a big push to land Foppa, as well as "mini-Sweden" Detroit, Ottawa and Colorado. Frankly, depending on what Peter expects as a salary, I would expect all teams to make a pitch for Forsberg, pending proof of a return to health from the oft-injured superstar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

They might as well have not shown up...

Henrik Lundqvist came up big on 18 of 19 shots Saturday night. *Above photo taken from (AP Photo/ Frank Franklin II) courtesy espn.com.

For a team who pointed in 7 straight games, the Canadiens sure looked like a team in the basement of the Eastern conference.

And for a team who dropped 5 in a row, the Rangers completely blew away the competition.

The Habs came out and started the game flat footed immediately. Unfortunately, that effort didn't change throughout the game. They were outshot each period, with the breakdown going like this: 13-6, 15-8, and 13-5. That is flat-out disappointing, even though you're in MSG, where the Rangers are statistically sound on defence.

However, it is fair to note that as poorly as the Habs played last night, the Rangers played in the exact opposite of fashion.

The Rangers were all over the Habs, physically dominating, creating beautiful plays, and finishing off chances. Despite handing the Habs 2 separate 5-on-3 situations, the Habs couldn't capitalize. They were actually having loads of trouble even GAINING THE ZONE on parts of their 5-on-3 rushes.

Andrei Markov's turnover led to the first goal, as Hossa and Drury combined on give and go passing, allowing Drury to skate in and manoeuvre brilliantly in front of Huet, beating him easily and sliding the puck home along the ice at 3:17 of the first.

Later in the first, the Habs players on the ice were just as useful as New York's Statue of Liberty, as all 5 skaters stood around watching Jagr stickhandle between them and then dish off to Straka who one-timed a wrist shot passed Huet.

Petr Prucha converted an absolutely gorgeous set up provided to him by Nigel Dawes. Dawes was heading back towards the blueline when he decided to spin around and whip a beautiful cross ice pass directly onto Prucha's stick, who was standing atop the crease for the easy tip-in (which he unnecessarily put TOP CORNER for added thrill/beauty) passed Huet.

Finally, New York's 4th consecutive goal came with :22 to go in the 2nd, as Dawes skated in from the side-boards on a poor scoring angle and fooled Huet 5-hole. Sure, that one shouldn't have gone in, but in my opinion, one bad goal allowed by a goalie is fine, whereas 4 bad goals allowed by a lazy group of forwards & defsnsemen is a huge cause for concern.

Halak started the 3rd, and paved the way for a minor comeback, as the Kostitsyn's combined on the powerplay to get the Habs on the board. Andrei, standing near the boards, waited for Sergei to streak in back door, and sent a beautiful tape to tape pass directly onto Sergei's stick for the tip-in.

Bryan Smolinski was visible to me last night in many ways, all of them bad. He was the centerpiece of Straka's goal, in which Jagr froze 5 Habs, particularly Smolinski. He was used for 1:42 on the powerplay (1:42 I consider to be wasted) as he failed to set up anyone, shoot a decent shot, or hold the zone properly. He won 4 faceoffs, while losing 7, going 36%. And, he was a -1, which on a night like last night wound up being one of his better stats.

The team is off until Tuesday, where they will head to Long Island for a date with the Islanders. I expect Jaroslav Halak to see a start in goal Tuesday, as he was able to stop all 13 shots he faced in relief of Huet. I will also GUARANTEE Tom Kostopolous to be back in the lineup to face the Isles. I would expect Smolinski to be the healthy scratch.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rangers host Habs at MSG

The Canadiens are in New York looking to improve to 2-0 on their current 4 game road trip.

The Rangers are mired in a 5-game losing streak, their longest of the season. Henrik Lundqvist hasn't won since December 30th, when the Rangers came from behind to win 4-3 in overtime against, that's right, you guessed it, the Canadiens. Brendan Shanahan was the hero in OT, as he took a feed from Chris Drury for a breakaway and unloaded a wrister from way out that beat a frozen Cristobal Huet.

The Habs are the reciprocal of the Rangers at this point in time. They are having no trouble scoring goals, they are getting solid goaltending, and they are winning games, as they are 5-0-2 in their last 7. Alex Kovalev has 10 points (4-6) in that span. He is the league leader in Power Play points with 25.

No lineup changes are expected as of now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Habs Demote Locke; East All-Star Squad Named

The Montreal Canadiens have sent forward Corey Locke down to the Hamilton Bulldogs. Locke's demotion coincides with the return of Bryan Smolinski, who came off IR to play for the Habs last night in Boston.

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The Eastern All-Star team was released today, one day after the release of the Western roster.

Le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge will be represented solely by starter Andrei Markov, who was voted in by the fans. Despite playing very well lately, Alex Kovalev was left off the roster. Also, despite being solid between the pipes, Cristobal Huet will not be heading to Atlanta, as the Eastern backups behind Brodeur are Rick DiPietro and Tomas Vokoun.

Fun fact: Andrei Markov garnered more votes than anyone except for Sidney Crosby on the East ballot, and Red Wings' skaters Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom out West.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Habs Get Physical Against Bruins, Win 5-2

No matter how much I say about Mike Komisarek in the following article, it still won't be enough to rightly credit him.

Mike was a MONSTER tonight, just as Pierre McGuire labeled him in his 'Monster of the Game' bit. He was all over the ice, throwing hit after hit after hit, taking the pain for a blocked shot off his ankle, and not allowing anyone to push his goaltender around. Mike was everything we expected him to be tonight when the Canadiens made him their 7th overall choice in 2001. Komisarek was going at it all game long with towering teenaged winger Milan Lucic (don't be fooled by the name, he's a Canadian boy), and he handled himself perfectly in every situation...even the times that Lucic tried to wipe out Komisarek, Lucic was the one falling to the ice.

To be fair, however, EVERYONE was hitting tonight, and the Bruins looked confused by it.

You would be confused too if young, tiny Sergei Kostitsyn is laying out open-ice hits that are highlight-reel material.

And what about Josh Gorges??? Is anyone recognizing his vast improvement???

This kid is making me proud lately...he's sticking up for his teammates, and more importantly he's holding his ground perfectly against forwards on one-on-one situations, something we aren't used to seeing from the Craig Rivet trade returnee. Also, Gorges is learning to relax with the puck in high pressure situations...he is more and more comfortable with his role, and if he continues the way he's going now, he can really develop into a real steal from my beloved Sharks (that's right, after Montreal, I'm a Sharks fan, for those who don't know). Added bonus: Gorges had an assist on Dandeneault's 1st of 2.

Since I'm on the Sharks for a second: Congratulations to Evgeni Nabokov for his 2nd All-Star game appearance! This goalie has always stood out to me since winning the Calder back in 2001...and let's not forget, he's a 9th round choice, 219th overall (1994).

The Habs continue to roll on offense. They have scored 4 or more goals in each of their 4 January games thus far, and have scored 4 or more goals in 6 of their last 7, going 5-0-2 in that span. That is nothing short of spectacular from a team who does not have a bona-fide superstar forward.

Alex Kovalev was drawing loads of respect from the Bruins players while on the powerplay, as the were visibly staying away from him, which, ironically, allowed him even more time and space to set up. Kovalev had 1 goal and 1 assist, both points on the powerplay. Kovalev leads the league with 25 points on the man-advantage.

Next up: Montreal travels into Madison Square Garden to play guest to the New York Rangers. The 'Blueshirts' were routed tonight, 6-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers, who welcomed Simon Gagne back after missing 25 games due to post-concussion syndrome.

Ovechkin deal longer than initially reported

The contract has been finalized, and is longer than we initially expected...

It was reported earlier today that Alex was to sign a 6-year $54 million deal...but Bob McKenzie reports now that the deal is over 10 years in length, and will pay Alex in excess of $100 million, making it the largest contract ever in NHL history.

Speculation suggests he will earn $124 million over 13 years!

Thats right, Alex may reportedly sign a 13 year, $124 million extension. Stay tuned...

Report: Ovechkin Re-Signs

CAN WE FINALLY STOP SAYING OVECHKIN TO MONTREAL YET?

Maybe this will help...

RDS.ca reports that Alexander the Gr8 has re-upped with the Caps on a 6-year, $54 million contract extension. That's a 9$mil/year salary, but it may be paid out differently year-to-year of course. TSN.ca is now reporting that the deal is imminent but not finalized just yet, which leads me to believe that there are a few tweaks here and there that need adjusting (i.e. bonuses). Expect the official signing to come within 24-48 hours.

Habs open road-trip in Boston

The Canadiens look for their eighth straight win against Boston when they visit the TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday, also hoping to come away with at least a point for their seventh straight game overall.

Montreal (21-13-8) has already beaten the Bruins (21-17-4) four times this season, outscoring them 19-8. But their dominance of their fellow Original Six teams extends back much further.
The Canadiens also beat the Bruins in the last three meetings of 2006-07, and are 19-4-0 against them including playoffs since they trailed Boston 3-1 in a first-round playoff series in the 2003-04 season. The Canadiens went on to win that series with Claude Julien behind the bench - he's now in his first season as Bruins coach.

Montreal is 4-0-2 in its last six games, including a 4-3 overtime win at home over Chicago on Tuesday. Guillaume Latendresse scored with less than two minutes remaining in the extra session after the Canadiens had lost in overtime in two of the three previous games.

*Pre-Game report taken from Associated Press

NOTE: Tom Kostopolous and Corey Locke will sit out as healthy scratches tonight, as the Canadiens will welcome back Bryan Smolinski and Mathieu Dandeneault.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Slam Dunk-Style Shootout @ All-Star Skills Competition?

If I just heard correctly, Tsn's insider panel of Duthie, Milbury, Dreger and McKenzie said that this year's breakaway shootout competition will be signifcantly different this year, as a panel of judges will rate each players moves on a creativity level of 1-10.

Now, before I create an unnecessary buzz, I will NOT confirm it, as I may have misunderstood. Maybe they're just pushing for that idea...I'm not sure. All I know is, I would be a HUGE fan of it. The skills competition has lost it's "oumpf" over recent years...At the bar where I watched it last year (shout out to Bellerose!), we were pretty indifferent to the whole pre-game activities, which consisted of the Skills Competition and the unbelieveably boring Young Guns game, which DESPERATELY needs re-tuning because it was an absolute drag to watch.

I can definitely see Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk and Zetterberg dazzling the crowd with trickery in the shootout, and I would LOVE to see it even more in the Young Guns game...maybe they can have a make-shift shootout after their game? Sam Gagner would definitely turn heads...

What do you think about the All-Star game shootout being judged by a panel? Let me know in the comments section below!

Just what the doctor ordered...

The Habs played host to an Original 6 rival and were able to come away with exactly what they needed: a win on home ice before departing on a lengthy road trip.

The Habs and Hawks put on a thriller which featured heavy hitting and North-South action Tuesday night, which saw Montreal triumph 4-3 in overtime. Guillaume Latendresse played the hero in OT, after completing a nice play set up by Maxim Lapierre. Latendresse now has 12 goals on the season.

Montreal (now 21-13-8) have collected points in 6 straight contests.

Koivu opened the scoring on a nice forechecking feed courtesy of Latendresse, who hustled to create a play deep in the Hawks zone and fed the puck to Koivu who was streaking in through the slot. Koivu deked Lalime, and put a backhander towards goal which first went off the post before trickling passed the goal line. Patrice Brisebois was next to score for the Habs. After Skille got his 1st career NHL goal, Breezer let a slapshot go from the point on the powerplay, which went off Patrick Sharp and fluttered passed the fooled Lalime. Brisebois was just inserted into the lineup after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury. The Hawks then took the lead, scoring 2 goals 18 seconds apart courtesy Robert Lang on the powerplay and Kris Versteeg. Markov was able to tie it up on a slapshot from the point on the powerplay, which allowed for Latendresse's OT winner.

The Habs' #1 powerplay in the league got it done tonight, and will see its stats rise even higher as they went 2-for-3 with the man advantage on the evening. The Hawks were 1-for-4. Chicago is struggling with 7 regulars out of their lineup, most notably forwards Toews and Williams, and defensemen Sopel and Wisniewksi. They have now lost 6 straight (0-4-2).

Montreal will now shift its focus to the 4-game road trip that begins Thursday in Boston. The Bruins lost tonight, a 1-0 heartbreaker to former forward Sergei Samsonov and the Hurricanes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Roster moves take headlines prior to Habs/Hawks affair

The Canadiens have demoted goaltender Carey Price and center Kyle Chipchura to their AHL farm affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.

In exchange, the Habs have recalled Bulldogs' leading scorer Corey Locke, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Both Locke and Halak will be ready to go tonight at the Bell Centre vs. the Blackhawks.

Patrice Brisebois is slated to make his return tonight...Mark Streit is expected to be moved up to wing...no word on who will sit then, as there would be 13 forwards...I would imagine/hope Kostopoulos.

Also of note: Blackhawks' LW Sergei Samsonov, a healthy scratch throughout most of the season, has been claimed off re-entry waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina are now responsible for half of the balance remaining on Sergei's contract (Chicago owes the other half).

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Great move by management. For Carey to not be starting once every 2 or 3 games is detrimental to his development. This goalie is the future of the franchise, on that we can certainly all agree, so to rush him into the NHL at a backup role is simply a waste of both time & developmental practice. With the call up, Halak, who is also capable of being a starter in the NHL (remember, he got us into that final match last season with Toronto...where we had the chance to make the playoffs), can get some more starts and possibly earn some trade value...This may be part of a much bigger picture than just getting Price some development time.

As for Chipchura, I must say I thought he would be sticking around with the big club for the season. His play has been solid, and he has demonstrated some good defensive and puck protection skills, with an added bonus of tallying 11 points (4-7) in 36 games. He is not known for his offensive capabilities, but Kyle can be a leader on and off the ice, and his two way game can develop him into one of the better defensive-minded forwards in the league in due time. But, with a disappointing demotion comes a joyful call-up for me, as Corey Locke should definitely see action for the first time in his career at the NHL level tonight. I am all smiles when it comes to Locke...he has skill and speed, and where he lacks in size (5'9", 169 lbs.), he more than makes up for in heart. Locke has been knocked on throughout his career, criticized only against his size and how that lack in bulk would never get him into the NHL. I already posted about Corey in a previous post, but I just have to say it again, incase you missed it: THIS KID CAN PLAY! Just look at some of his notes: OHL First All-Star Team (2003, 2004) OHL Player of the Year (2003, 2004) Canadian Major Junior First All-Star Team (2003, 2004) Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year (2003), and, not to mention, two-time OHL leading scorer! In the new NHL, size is still important of course, but smaller skilled forwards now have the rules in place in order for them to succeed, and I am certain that Corey will be an NHL'er. I'm not expecting the world of him (at least, not yet in his career), but I am expecting him to impress a lot of the nay-sayers. Show them what you've got kid, you've waited LONG enough for this day, and you're chance has come.

For Sergei Samsonov, the old saying "The 3rd Time's The Charm" better be true, as his future career in the NHL depends on it.

Samsonov is now with his 3rd NHL team in 2 years, after spending 06-07 with the Habs, then being moved to the Hawks, and now off to Carolina. The whirlwind comes to an end in Carolina, and if Sergei cannot bounce back and turn heads as he did back when he played with Thornton in Beantown, don't expect to see him in the NHL once this season concludes. Unfortunately, I'm still a believer in Samsonov. I SOMEHOW still think that he can be an offensive force, I don't know why. I had such high hopes for him when he came to Montreal, and despite the nothing he got done for us, I was still happy for him when he went to Chicago, a team where he SURELY would re-juvenate his career. Once more, he disappointed me there, and I thought I would get over Samsonov...but for some reason, I still feel that he is going to explode, now with the Hurricanes. Let's hope as Habs fans that that doesn't pan out, because it would only mean bad news for the Habs to close down a playoff spot.

The Canadiens and Blackhawks square off tonight at 7:30.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Habs earn point in tough loss to Washington

The Habs had the offense rolling, again, yet they were unable to come away with another desperately needed win on home ice...was Carey Price to blame?

Washington won the game in overtime by a 5-4 scoreline. Alex Ovechkin found a way to score his first career goals at the Bell Centre, scoring two on two seperate but equally wicked wrist shots from long range. The Caps are able to score goals, and them scoring 5 shouldn't be considered surprising, as in recent games they defeated Ottawa twice, tallying at least 6 goals in both of those games. The key to Washington's new found success has been the use of Mike Green as an offensive powerhouse. The 22 year-old has flourished upon the announcement of Bruce Boudreau as head coach. He now leads all defensemen with 11 goals, and also picked up two assists in the contest. For those who don't know him, Green was a 29th overall selection in 2004. Bruce Boudreau said "He's a great young player and I don't know too many defensemen his age that can do what he can do at the NHL level." Green has really been the come-out-of-nowhere story of the year so far, and if he can continue to do what he is doing so efficiently, the Caps might win a lot more games.

Nicklas Backstrom and Boyd Gordon were also able to beat Price tonight. Backstrom kept and shot on a 3-on-2, and was able to beat Price from a good way out high glove side with a wrister. That goal, despite the quality of the shot, could have been deemed 'weak' on Price's behalf, but it was nothing compared to Boyd Gordon's. Gordon broke the blue line as he carried the puck in from his own zone, and unloaded a slapshot from the right wing that simply handcuffed and beat Carey Price. Price was looking to the stars immediately after the puck hit the mesh, knowing that he REALLY should have had that one.

The Habs, however, never said die. They started the game with a two goal lead, with the first coming off a beautiful slap pass from Kovalev cross ice to Plekanec, who saw nothing but net with Kolzig down and sprawling to adjust from the surprise Kovalev had created for him. Then, we were able to see a candidate for goal of the week, and possibly goal of the year for the Habs. Andrei Kostitsyn went one on one with Mike Green. He shifted left, then, just as Green bit the bait and focused on playing the puck rather than the man, Andrei made a beautiful drag-through play, passing the puck between Green's skates, and blew past him on the right side. That left Andrei with a tight angle and little time to do anything, with Green recovering and hounding him down. Kostitsyn coraled the puck, made a quick backhand-forehand stickhandle, and released a bomb of a wrister (if you have read ANY of my other articles regarding Andrei, you'll know that the wrist shot is his bread & butter) that beat Kolzing cleanly to hit the far left corner. What a goal...

The Caps went on to score 3 unanswered, and the Habs played catch-up from then on. They tied the game at 3, on a PP goal from Hamrlik, who was able to slam home a deflected point shot that had gone off the backboards. And, after Ovechkin scored his 2nd of the night to put the caps up 4-3, Kovalev came in one-on-two, dragged the puck into his body, and used that momentum to release a beautiful wrister from well out, mirroring goals previously seen in this game courtesy of Ovechkin and Backstrom. Then, in OT, poor coverage from the Kositsyn brothers allowed Fleischmann to get around Sergei, dish off to Nylander, who EASILY got around Andrei, moved in on goal, and passed a beauty over to Mike Green, who had to do well to tap in the puck before Price recovered.

It's safe to say Price did not have a great game, or even a good game, and I will go so far as to say he didn't have a decent game either. Price was weak. That's it. But, as we know, the Caps are rolling right now, and scoring 5 goals or more has been the theme lately. What's important is that the Habs are continuing to play with their new run & gun/creative style, and scoring 4 goals in a game is no bad thing. They maybe didn't get the W, but they didn't get a flat out L either, and that's what they have to tell themselves before they host Chicago on Tuesday. The Habs will see Washington in a home-and-home at the end of the month, with revenge on the menu as the main course.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Habs Electrify The Lightning

6-3!

Once again, our Habs have scored over 5 goals in a game. The new mentality is setting in. Unselfishness is more evident. Passing is more creative. And scoring, much more often as well, as is the example taken from our recent wins.

Montreal took it to Tampa in their first home game since a 6-game road trip, and opened off the new year in style, scoring 6 times while allowing 3. Michael Ryder had two more goals in this one, plus an assist. He can thank Chris Higgins for his re-surgence, as Chris has been directly responsible for setting up 2 of Ryder's last 3. Higgins and Ryder have always been close, so who better than Chris to get Ryder out of a pretty bad funk?

The Habs are continuing to stun me on a game to game basis these days. The reason for me being stunned: they are passing incredibly well.

Playmaking has been the theme recently, and the Habs seem so confident with themselves now that they are letting themselves go full throttle on offense. Just ask Kyle Chipchura. He took an absoultely sublime feed from Plekanec to bury his 4th of the season into the gaping cage (gaping because Plekanec's pass was so unexpected that the goalie focused himself 100% on the prospect of a Plekanec shot). In fact, on the replay of the goal, you can clearly read Chipchura's lips as he tells Plaky "nice f*ckin pass".

Nice f*ckin pass is right! And more of it, please! We, the fans, are loving every minute of it!

With the youth movement allowing themselves to be creative, we can honestly survive as a team. No young forward wants to be in a defensive minded, dump & sometimes-chase system. They want to display their creativity, and the administration is FINALLY realizing that we have more than enough talent to set up plays and score goals, given the right tactical encouragement. Plekanec, Higgins, and the Kostitsyn's can be incredible offensive forces, and are proving it right now. Kovalev & Koivu already have proven themselves offensively-capable, so WHY SHOULDN'T WE go into a more speedy, offensive mode? Everyone is for it, fans and players alike, and finally, we are getting to reap the fruits of its labours.

And the fruits taste fresh...like strawberries on a hot, sunny afternoon.

I really miss the summer, but not so much now, as the Habs are looking like a team I can really enjoy cheering for right now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New year, new mentality?

With the new year upon us, it finally seems as the Habs' resolution is to go with the youth/speed/skill formation that we've all been waiting for for so long.

Thus far, the most impressive line has been without question that of A. Kostitsyn, Plekanec, and Kovalev. No one has been as surprising on the Habs team this season as Kovalev has been thus far, as he already has 16 goals, 2 fewer than the 18 he potted last season.

Plekanec has been a fantastic centerman on the "second line", much better than many anticipated he would be. I'm very happy to say that I completely expected this of him, and he is showing us exactly what he can be when used on a scoring line. He has provided us with some beautiful playmaking sequences that have given us something to cheer for that we normally expect from a team such as the Red Wings (but not quite there yet, as Datsyuk/Zetterberg are hard to touch). Oh, and he is also more than capable of scoring goals. Plaky has 12 goals and ranks 3rd on team goalscoring, behind Chris Higgins' 14 and Kovy's 16. Plaky is also second on team point-scoring with 32, behind Kovy's 35.

Andrei Kostitsyn has been a different player since the promotion of younger brother Siarhei (Sergei) to the big club. Andrei has 21 points on the year, 10 of which have come in the 9 games that Sergei has played with the big club. Andrei, as I mentionned in a previous article, is learning where to position himself on the ice better, allowing him to be free for a pass from capable set-up men Plekanec or Kovalev and let him release that wicked wrist shot. This has been the most promising progression we've seen of Andrei since his stint in the NHL, and I definitely like what I see.

Other young guns with promise include a trifecta of 20 year old's currently on the Habs roster. Sergei Kostitsyn, Guillaume Latendresse and Carey Price are all fresh out of teen-hood, and all display a vast amount of potential that has yet to be tapped. Latendresse needs work on his skating before we can begin considering him as the power-forward we desperately need crashing the net and wreaking havoc on opposing netminders. Sergei definitely doesn't need work on his skating, as he is a quick forward naturally. Sergei has also diplayed flashes of brilliance on the playmaking front, as he has repeatedly made great passes to linemates Koivu, Latendresse and Higgins, sometimes resulting in goals. The only work he needs is the usual work all young forwards need, and that is learning to play without the puck. Carey Price needs little improvement, as he has shown that he already can be the goalie on this or any NHL team. The only thing Carey needs is playing time, but with the absolutely excellent play of Huet recently, don't expect Carey to get a large amount of starts in the next month...unless Huet falls off his game miserably in the coming weeks (HOPEFULLY NOT!)

Higgins is showing that he can be the hard-working two-way captain of the future. His great play at both ends of the ice and consistency in shooting is proof that Higgins was the exact right type of player we needed when we drafted him. He brings an absolutely perfect work ethic to each game, and is able to set-up and finish plays very well, with the exception of some glorious chances he's had but has failed to cash in on on multiple occasions this season.

Mike Komisarek is a towering presence, and with each year has taken on more and more responsibilities. The great thing is that he has perfectly responded to all the added responsibilities imposed on him. Mike is a solid body capable of clearing the net to allow our goalies to see shots, making them easier to be stopped. He is also fantastic on the PK, often getting in the way of shots and clearing the puck. In fact, some of you may not know that Mike leads the league in blocked shots with 129, and is 5th in hits.

So, as you can see, our youth has potential, and while some are close to reaching it, others are no where near. They ALL have their best years ahead of them, and we ALL can be excited for the future. With the new year, I hope we have a new mentality, different from the dump, chase & defend...I would like to see that replaced with pass, shoot & skate, and if the recent weeks are any indication, the coaching staff and administration wants to see that as well.