Saturday, December 19, 2009

HERO'S RETURN



Markov, ready as ever. (photo taken from rds.ca)

posted by habsbloggergirl

To be honest, I’m a little scared for this game. Terrified actually.

This is the day that our defensive star returns after missing 35 games. It’s the game that can become the 6th in a series of losses, or the 1st in (hopefully) a streak of wins. It’s against the Islanders, who have somehow caught up to us in the standings, but are ahead due to their game in hand. We sit in 12th, only ahead of Philadelphia, Toronto and Carolina.

The past few games have been grim at best. With little secondary scoring, Plekanec, Cammalleri and Kostitsyn are dragging this club along, and Plekanec is particular (due to his heroics on the PK) is showing signs of exhaustion. Our defence as a whole is mediocre (if that), and with the loss of the Hamrlik, we’re pretty subpar. We have taken an enormous amount of penalties. To win our goalies have had to have been incredible, but lately they have only been good. Not their fault, it’s hard to be perfect, and with scores like 3-1 and 2-1 in the past two games, perfection would have been the only way for us to win. We know this, and have been going over and over it for a few weeks. It has been extremely frustrating, and the only possible solution is that someone, or rather some people, need to step up.

On L’antichambre the other day, they said that someone needs to get mad in the locker room. Although that may be one solution, most of our team doesn’t fit that role. Perhaps a better one would be for someone to step up and play their heart out on the ice. Now I’m not talking about those mentioned so far. Plekanec et al. do it every night. I’m talking about Maxim Lapierre, Matt D’agostini, Max Pacioretty... The young guys really haven’t been bringing much to the table lately. I’m also talking about Scott Gomez and Marc-Andre Bergeron. Honestly, most of the team has been a bit off lately.

Markov leads on the ice, no question. But we can’t expect miracles from him. He’s just one player (albeit one player who can affect the course of a game). I’ve always been a bit jealous of Pittsburgh, Washington, LA... with guys like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kopitar... it’s a little frustrating that they were rewarded for playing badly, but that’s beside the point. They have these “franchise players”... amazing talents. In Montreal, it seemed like we never had one of those uber-talented stars. But I realize that Markov IS in their league, and am quite thankful that we still have him. When Bob Gainey blew up the team this summer, this is one piece I’m thrilled he kept intact. He may not have been 1st overall in the draft (actually it’s a bit unbelievable that he was still around in the 6th round!), but his play in the past 8 years has shown otherwise.

Whether he has a great game or doesn’t, I’m thrilled to finally have him back, because honestly the Habs haven’t felt like the Habs without him. I’m still member of the Markov for captain fan club, and I think no one would do a better job. I also think we need a captain ASAP. At the beginning of the season, when Jacques Martin said not having a captain would work, I knew it was a bad idea. There are a lot of leaders in the room, yes, but without one clear leader, it’s hard for the others to organize themselves. If everyone stepped up in the room it would be too chaotic, and so, though many may want to, no one does, and nothing gets done. Captains exist for a reason, and with our lacklustre performance this season, you’d think Martin would realise that. It won’t solve all our problems, but at least we’d be going in one direction instead ten different ones.

I think we can pull it off tonight. Ending the losing streak now would keep our confidence levels from hitting rock bottom. Markov’s return should give them some form of fuel, and hopefully he can make a difference in the game.

On that note, I’d like to wish him a very happy (early) 31st birthday, and good luck tonight! We’re probably going to need it.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

UNSUNG HEROES




Hamrlik doing what he does best: Keeping talented players from scoring goals. (Photo taken from habsinsideout.com)


posted by habsbloggergirl

Every year we think we have it bad injury-wise. Players drop like flies on a daily basis. Last year was out of the ordinary in that department for the Habs, but it almost seems like this year is going to top it.

We have not been having an easy time, starting from day one when Markov went down. We lost (in my opinion) the most important player on the team, and although we did have other capable defenseman, losing Markov was heartbreaking. We not only lost a great player, but a leader, and someone who is greatly respected among his teammates and the fans.

However, our remaining defensemen have played incredibly hard to make up for Markov’s absence. In fact, I doubt anyone would disagree with me when I say that Roman Hamrlik is the Canadiens’ unsung hero thus far. He logs an unbelievable amount of minutes for a 35-year-old, and he plays as though he’s 10 years younger than he is, but with the added bonus of wisdom and the fact that he makes very few mistakes, if any. He almost seems to know what’s going to happen before it does, and he’s arguably the best 1-on-1 defenseman we have. He has a calm demeanour on the ice that most others do not, and you can tell he thinks things through very carefully before he does them, but never hesitates either. Without him, I honestly believe we would be lost; another season down the drain.

It’s strange to me that when Jacques Martin initially picked his alternate captains, he didn’t include Hamrlik among them. But I suppose there are a lot of leaders on the team, and it was a tough decision. It’s strange to think that of the three he chose (Markov, Gionta and Gill), all three are, or were in the case of Gill, injured. Now that Cammalleri wears an “A”, I often worry that he may eventually suffer the same fate (though obviously I seriously hope nothing will ever happen!!). If Hamrlik is the defensive hero, then Cammalleri and Plekanec are the offensive ones, having really dragged this team to their current position in the standings. In fact, it irks me that Gomez’ lack of production is being rewarded by an inexplicably high salary, when Plekanec, who is making about 1/3 of what Gomez is, has more than double the amount of points. And I doubt we’d be able to get rid of Gomez at this point, because honestly what team in their right mind (other than us apparently) would take on a 70-point-per-year player for $8 million a season?

Anyway, another positive this season is goaltending. Now I know that there are A LOT of Halak haters and Price haters out there, and this bothers me to no end. They are BOTH good goaltenders. They BOTH have the confidence of their coaches and teammates. They clearly get along and work well together, motivating each other along the way. So we need to deal with the fact that they BOTH play for Montreal. I don’t understand why everyone seems to think it needs to be one or the other and that there are no other options. People keep talking about what’s best for Carey or what’s best for Jaro... Personally I think what’s best for them is that everybody stop fighting over which one is better than the other... AND I don’t understand why everyone thinks that we SHOULD be thinking about what’s best for either of them in the first place! Instead we should be thinking about what’s best for the TEAM (which they are currently BOTH a part of). They have each done a lot for the team this season, and without them we would not be where we are.

My favourite thing about the 2009-2010 Canadiens is that they rarely go down without a fight. Yes, there has been the occasional blow out game, but most of the time each player plays their little heart out every night or at least gives some effort – something we haven’t always seen in the past. I miss a lot of the 2008-2009 Habs: Koivu, Kovalev, Higgins, Lang, TK. They were good guys, and I especially missed Saku at the centennial celebrations the other night. But, I think we have finally started to move on, and that this group of mismatched misfits is finally starting to forge an identity, something they may have been missing for most of this season. Good things happen in cohesive groups, and hopefully when Markov returns (which I’ve recently heard may be sooner than we thought) we’ll be fighting for our playoff spot (or division title, who knows! Buffalo is only 6 points ahead of us), and showing the rest of the NHL that Gainey’s so-called “chemistry experiment” worked.

Monday, November 23, 2009

ODE TO LATENDRESSE


Latendresse looking happy at practice last year. (Photo taken from habsinsideout.)


Note: I apologize in advance. Enough said.


In the wondrous city we call Montreal,
Stood a guy named Guillaume at 6’2 feet tall.
Hockey was the sport he called his own,
The Habs were the team that he called home.

The media loved him, the fans did too,
So much so, that he skipped some steps, just a few.
Coming straight from the Q to the NHL,
The media pressure put him through hell.

His name was heard often while watching a game,
Even more often when he wasn’t in the frame.
The media praised him, and he became cocky,
This was a distraction from playing his best hockey.

A point per game, they thought he’d get,
Compared him to Crosby, which made some upset.
They may not take the blame, but I think they should,
They drove him out of town, like we all knew they would.

Minnesota is now his new destination,
From what I hear their winters are no vacation.
We wish you bonne chance, avec politesse,
We’ll miss you notre ami, Guillaume Latendresse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

REGULATION ZEROS / OVERTIME HEROES



Mike Cammalleri on his way to score his shootout goal versus the Bruins Thursday night.(Photo taken from habsinsideout.com).


posted by habsbloggergirl

Price’s expression at the end of the shootout Thursday night said it all. The game’s first star was a mixed bag of emotions; confident, tough, determined and even a little frustrated. And, he had every right to be.

For what seems like the millionth time, the Habs played one of their signature wishy-washy games: good enough, but not wonderful, for most of 3 periods, only to have it crumble in the last few minutes.

Another night, another trip to overtime. It’s so common this year that it’s not even that much of a novelty anymore. We have only had 1 win in regulation. ONE. It reminds me of those Leafs jokes that have been going around the past few weeks, you know the... “What does a triangle have that the Leafs don’t?” ones (the answer being 3 points)? Kinda sad that it can easily be applied to us (3 points in regulation anyway).

But then again, is it? Sad, I mean. We may not be able to finish during the game but we sure as hell finish during the extra five and the shootout. Our goalies seem to handle the extra pressure extremely well (in fact in most cases Carey and Jaro were the real heroes), and our forwards and D-men step it up. And we win. Every single time.

I don’t know about you, but lately I have almost felt relief when we went into OT. Sudden death OT should not = relief.... but for some reason, this year it does. We know how to finish and we want to, but can’t seem to do it in regulation... but in OT something changes.

Maybe we are just generous. Here Toronto... 2 games, 2 points on us, free of charge! Atlanta? Here’s one for you too, no need to even ask! And the Islanders... since we beat you by so much the first time, one for you too, no big deal!

Maybe we thrive in pressure situations.

Maybe we are only willing to take a risk when it matters most.

Who knows?

But more importantly, who cares? Its working right... why question it?

The thing is, there may come a day (cross your fingers that it’s not in the foreseeable future) where we won’t be able to finish. What then?

What then indeed.

Instead of waiting for that day to come, let’s hope the Canadiens can go on a scoring spree the next few games and rack up a few regulation wins. They have been working overtime this season (no pun intended), and with all the injuries on defence, they deserve a little bit of a break.

Though it’s a little too early to think about playoffs (though come to think of it, it’s never too early), today we sit in 8th, just one point ahead of Tampa.
Coincidentally, we are playing them tomorrow night. We need to win, and although the Habs love to give, it’d be nice to be on the receiving end of two points tomorrow night, within the 60 minutes.

Though if we do go to overtime, I wouldn’t be too worried.

Friday, October 2, 2009

ONE DOWN, 81 TO GO




Markov before his injury, along with Price and Spacek. (Photo from habsinsideout.com)


posted by habsbloggergirl

What did I think last night in the first 3 periods of the Montreal-Toronto game? There may have been a lot of change, but these are still the same Montreal Canadiens as they were last year: slow to react, a little spaced out (I’m talking to you Andrei Kostitsyn), needing their 4th line players to get them the big goals, seemingly unconfident and unable to finish. Then of course Markov has to get injured, by his own teammate no less. It was a game that you just wanted to be over... or at least I did.

Price was good but I still don’t think his confidence was 100% back, though as the game went on, it seemed to slowly return to him.

O’Byrne was also great. I noticed him, as usual, but this time it was for doing good things, really good things. He really worked hard the entire game, and with Markov’s injury it looks like he’ll be a top 6 D for a while and he deserves it.

Last season when we lost Markov, we lost our chance. We stopped winning entirely, squeezed into the playoffs and played a gruesome 4 games against Boston, only to embarrass ourselves in our centennial season.

But we won this game (although he was only gone for about 15 minutes). It was a bit of a shock... When we got to overtime, I was just hoping it would go to a shootout because Price is pretty good in them and we have Gionta et al. to possibly give us a boost in that area. But Cammalleri pulled a Kovalev, and Gorges pulled a Markov and we got ourselves a goal.

Gorges seems to thrive in situations where he is needed. Last season with Komisarek injured, he stepped up big time and played wonderfully with Markov. Here again, a important guy goes down, and looks who steps up. He’s a great guy who really leads by example, and I’m happy Martin chose him to be in his “Committee”... though I think in a couple of years (or even sooner) he’d make a wonderful captain.

One of the things that looked great last night was the team cohesion. Everybody looked happy to be around each other and at points looked like they were actually having fun. Let’s just hope it continues that way.

With Markov gone we have a troublesome road ahead, but they showed last night that they aren’t willing to give up that easily... Even if it took Metropolit, Moen and Gorges to score some important goals.

The one thing that bothered me was that on RDS they were REALLY tough on Gill... I didn’t think he was that bad, but for example, on one of the goals against us, he was covering two guys and there were three other Habs in front of the net, and when he couldn’t clear the puck entirely (because he had the two Leafs right near him) and it ended up on the stick of another Leaf (who no one was covering), they blamed it on him. Personally, I think blame is overrated... but if you really need to blame someone, it’s probably one of the 3 guys in front of the net who weren’t covering anyone, not the guy who was covering 2 Leafs. He’s already the scapegoat after only playing one game... not quite fair.

Plekanec was also unfairly judged on RDS. I thought he played really well. But every time he did something they had to comment that maybe it wasn’t the right move. Or they would make comments like “Plekanec is not playing THAT badly tonight”... That’s a backhanded compliment if I ever did see one. He had 2 assists, 5 shots on net and was a +1.... I definitely wouldn’t call that a bad night.

The one guy I didn’t hear much about was their favourite player Latendresse (well they mentioned him a few times but not throughout the entire broadcast as usual). He was invisible last night. I didn’t really notice that third line at all... I thought the fourth line was much better (as did RDS... they also credited Laraque for setting up the Moen goal when I thought Metropolit was the one who did a good job behind the net... but that’s another story).

Saturday against Buffalo should be interesting. How will the team fare in 60 Markov-less minutes? Will RDS stop hounding Gill? Will Gionta and Cammalleri play as impressively as they did last night? Will Price keep his head in the game? All we can do is wait. Go Habs Go!

And by the way, I was wrong. These aren’t the same Montreal Canadiens as last year. These guys can finish.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A FIRST GLIMPSE




Carey's new mask (paying tribute to Gorges - note the #26)! What do you think? (Photo taken from habsinsideout.com)


It’s been freezing here in Montreal the past couple of days, and you know what, I don’t care! HOCKEY IS BACK BABYYYY...... With the first (of MANY) pre-season games starting tomorrow, I can’t help but get excited for what’s to come. There are a couple of things on my mind of course; the captaincy, rumours involving another Russian player, whether or not Gainey’s explosion of the team during the offseason will pan out, whether a certain goalie will step it up this year and how he’ll deal with the pressure... well you know what I mean. But most of these things have been on my mind all summer (other than the Markov incident of course) and for some reason they just don’t seem to want to get out of it.

Tomorrow. It’s that close... though unfortunately the game won’t be broadcasted on tv... but hey, 5 games in 5 nights, we’re bound to catch one of them.

So far there have been quite a few pleasant surprises at camp, and I’m hoping they’ll continue. Personally I think it’ll end up like this (though not necessarily these lines):



Price – Halak



Markov – Mara

Hamrlik – Spacek

Gorges – Gill

(O’Byrne)



Cammalleri – Gomez – A. Kostitsyn

Gionta – Pleks – Pacioretty

Latendresse – Lapierre –Moen

Laraque- Metropolit –Stewart

(D’Agostini, S. Kostitsyn)



Unfortunately for the others, currently there is just no room... and unless Gainey pulls one of his signature moves there will still be no room by the end of camp (though you never know with him these days).

As for the captaincy... I still think Markov is our guy, though I’m not quite sure he feels the same way. He seemed a little hesitant when he was asked about it the other day. Hamrlik may be a good option though. I read Francois Gagnon’s blog this morning about Hammer and he made some good points, and to be honest, he swayed me a little. I still would rather it not be one of the new guys... I just think that it’s too much pressure, and personally I feel like I’d rather our captain knew the city well, as well as the fans and the media. It’s one thing being told how things are. Living it is another thing entirely.

Now when it comes to Price, I think he’s got the talent, the skill etc... I’m just waiting to see how his confidence is this year. He has the (almost magical) power to exude a confidence over everyone watching the game when he’s feeling secure, but when he’s not, it’s nerves city for everyone, not only him.

I have higher hopes for this team than I did when Gainey signed all the new guys, but yet I’m still not 100% convinced. I just hope that come October we’ll be a tight knit group, ready to take on anyone! Guess we have to wait and see! Until then, Go Habs Go!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

THE DIRT ON: BRIAN GIONTA



I guess he can do the splits! (photo taken from slam.canoe.ca)


Yes, the Habs signed a bunch of new players this year, and yes, most are talented, but how much do we really know about them? With that question in mind, I decided to write a series of blogs profiling each of the new players. With some of the players, I’ll have tons of information, others very little, but my goal is to shine some light onto who these guys are, on and off the ice.



Name: Brian Gionta
Position: Right-winger / top six forward
Age: 30
Hometown: Rochester, NY, US

So who is Brian Gionta really? We all know he was one of the Devils’ big stars. We know he’s a small but lightning fast player. That’s about as far it goes. But we all know a person has more layers than that. Let’s try to dig a little deeper.
Gio, as he was nicknamed by his teammates, was Captain of his Boston College team, the Eagles, and led them to a National Championship in 2001.

He has won a plethora of awards in his junior days; from Rookie of the year, to being named a member of an All-Star team, to Player of the year, and perhaps his most prestigious, the Walker Brown Award for New England’s outstanding American-born college player, which he shared with Ty Conklin. He also won two awards while with the Devils: Rookie of the year (2001-2002) and Fan Club Player of the year (2005-2006).

Gionta was drafted 82nd overall in 1998 by the Devils (in the 3rd round). His scouting report at the time was as follows:

“Assets: Has excellent speed and acceleration. Plays with loads of feistiness and energy. Shows excellent offensive upside and two-way ability. Possesses nifty skills and instincts around an opposing net.

Flaws: Needs to continue staying in tip-top physical shape in order to withstand the rigors of the pro game because of his smallish stature. Needs to avoid big hits at center ice. Does battle inconsistency in terms of production at times.

Career Potential: top 6 winger”

It seems to be bang on. He is a top six winger, he’s feisty, can skate fast, and is a really skilled guy. Though he may be only 5’7 (second to Nathan Gerbe (who played 10 games for the Sabres) for smallest in the NHL... Although we all know Marty St. Louis is overestimating his own “official” height of apparently 5’9), he doesn’t play small.

When he started in the NHL, he was mentored by Marty Reasoner, and in his first full year with the Devils (he had spent half his time in the AHL with the Albany River Rate the year before), he won the Stanley Cup.

His best season came when he was on a line with Patrick Elias and Scott Gomez, which eventually became known as the EGG line. I think the entire city is banking on the chemistry between him and Gomez this year, and I can just imagine what will happen if this “experiment” doesn’t pan out... city-wide pandemonium!

He has a respectable 0.66 points per game efficiency rate, with 473 games played, 152 goals, 160 assists for a total of 312 points. He has played in 67 playoff games and had 19 goals, 21 assists, totalling 40 points, for a 0.60 efficiency rate, meaning that he’s pretty much able to seamlessly move from the regular season to the playoffs. Another positive is that he shoots right, and we seem to have an abundance of left wingers.

He has had 8 injuries in his career (keep in mind he has only been playing 7 years!): ankle, broken right leg, ankle, facial, groin, groin, leg and head.
He has only ever played for the Devils organization, that is, until he signed a 5-year, 25-million dollar contract with the Habs.

Well, now that you know all the details about his game, let’s lighten things up a bit with some fun and interesting facts. His nickname given to him by the media is the Rochester Rocket. His childhood idol was Pat Lafontaine. He’s close to his family, and has a brother Stephen, who plays with the Devils’ farm team. His wife’s name is Harvest and they have two kids, a son Adam and a daughter Leah. He spends his summers working at the family hardware store. His typical game day meal is chicken, pasta and vanilla ice cream.

He wore #14 in New Jersey, but since Tomas Plekanec currently owns that jersey number, he went with #21, (which funnily enough belonged to his fellow New Yorker Chris Higgins (who is still missed!) last year).

Gionta will be a big asset to the team this year. His speed and excellent +/- ratings (he’s had only 1 year in the minuses, and is +62 over his career) will really help the team defensively and he definitely has the skill to get us some points when we need them. The only question mark for me is whether he and Gomez will still play well together, something we’ll find out very shortly (Training camp starts Saturday!). We can only hope for the best.

Stay tuned for the next installment coming soon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE DIRT ON: CURTIS SANFORD



Curtis Sanford (photo taken from canucks.nhl.com).

Yes, the Habs signed a bunch of new players this year, and yes, most are talented, but how much do we really know about them? With that question in mind, I decided to write a series of blogs profiling each of the new players. With some of the players, I’ll have tons of information, others very little, but my goal is to shine some light onto who these guys are, on and off the ice.


Name: Curtis Sanford

Position: Back-up goalie / AHL goalie

Age: 29

Hometown: Owen Sound, ON, CAN



What did I know about Curtis Sanford before researching for this blog? Well I knew he played in Vancouver and was Luongo’s back-up, but that’s pretty much it. Back-ups aren’t interviewed as much as the starting goalie, and the team doesn’t focus on them for their website info as much either, so it was extremely difficult to find new and interesting things about him, but I managed.

Let’s start with his on-ice performance. What I came across over and over again was that he had an excellent work ethic and personality and that his coaches and teammates really liked him. He was signed in 2000 by the St. Louis Blues, having been passed over in the 1998 and 1999 drafts. His first NHL game was October 17th 2002. Although the Blues won that night, he was not credited with the win. What had happened was that the starting goalie was injured in the first period when the Blues were up 3-0. Sanford replaced him, and the team won 7-1. So since the winning goal was scored before Sanford was in nets, the starting goalie got the win. He didn’t have to wait long for his first official win though, because 2 days later, he was in nets, beating the Stars 5-3.

His scouting report put him as a #2 goaltender, stating that he had a tremendous attitude and perfect demeanour for the position, and that he had the ability to make big saves at key moments. It also stated that he wasn’t durable enough to be a starting goaltender. Looking at his injuries over the last few seasons, this has proven to be true. He had a sprained ankle in 2002, hip flexor injury in 2005, knee injury in 2006, groin injury in 2006, another groin injury in 2007, back injury in 2008 and another groin injury in 2008. But he works extremely hard at getting back into game shape each time, so hopefully it won’t be too much of an issue.

Now for his stats. He’s played for 4 AHL teams and 2 NHL teams before joining the Habs. In his NHL career his Goals Against Average has been about 2.70 and his Save Percentage hovers around 0.900. Nothing too impressive, but not too bad for a back-up. He’s had 5 shutouts, has won 37 games and lost 37 games, and has had 16 ties. He has never played in an NHL playoff game.

He likes very intense practices that make him feel as though he’s in a game situation. Because he was with Luongo he didn’t have too many opportunities to play, so he wanted to make sure he was ready when the time came.

His Vancouver mask was actually designed by a fan who was chosen through a contest. It featured an orca with its teeth open surrounding the cage part of his mask.

Off the ice he seems to be a nice guy. He’s married (his wife’s name is Malinda) and they have 2 sons, Landon and Kendrik. He loves cycling, and is a fan of Lance Armstrong. His hockey idol is Wayne Gretzky. He goes to Blue Jays games, has been to Scotland a few times and loved it, and likes playing golf.

Whether or not he actually plays in NHL games for Habs this year (most likely he’ll be in Hamilton most of the time) I think he’s a good veteran presence that will be nice to have if needed. Personally, I think Halak does a stand-up job as a back-up, and I don’t think Sanford will be used that much, but I think that he might be a good person for Price and Halak to talk to if problems arise, because he’s been in the league for a while, but is still young enough to relate to them. Overall I think that Gainey improved by getting him instead of resigning Marc Denis.

Stay tuned for the next profile in the series, coming in a couple of days!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

IN SEARCH OF THE RIGHT "C"



Two longstanding C's. (Photo taken from habsinsideout.com)

It’s summer, the weather is finally starting to get warmer, and here I am thinking about hockey. The loss of all of our unrestricted free agents, as well as Chris Higgins, was a bit of a shocker, at least to me, and I had resorted to ignoring hockey for a little while. I needed to sort out how I felt about the team, and to be honest, I’m still not so sure. They sure aren’t the Montreal Canadiens we knew and loved anymore, not without Saku or Kovalev, even Komisarek and Higgins. But for the first time in a long time, we actually got some players when the free agent market opened, but what that means is still unclear to me. Right now our team seems like a bunch of randomly chosen players that don’t seem to fit together in any plausible way. We are all hoping that chemistry forms between some of the newcomers, and that Mike Cammalleri finds a way to repeat his great season, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low, because on the off chance they do have chemistry, I wouldn’t mind being surprised by it. It’s sure better than being disappointed if things don’t go our way.

There is something worrying me though, and that is the fact that Jacques Martin is at least entertaining the possibility of not having a captain. I think this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. He claims that it worked in Florida and on some other teams, and so it may be an option for Montreal. Did it really work though? Florida didn’t win a cup... so not really. They didn’t even make the playoffs. In my opinion, there needs to be a set leader. Without one, there will be no one who sets an example, no one to talk to players who are having difficulty, no one to step up in the room after a bad period, and no one to make everyone feel like part of the team. Even with co-captains, I think that it wouldn’t work as well. It would cause decision-making to take longer, and I feel as though it would be more of a hindrance to have two opinions in that type of situation than a help. So a little obsessively, I decided to see how right he was right by compiling some data. In NHL history (but only including the current NHL teams), there have been 101 occasions where there was no captain or more than one captain. On only 3 of those occasions have teams ever won a Stanley Cup. Twice it was the Bruins, in 69-70 and 71-72 who had no captain, and once was the Flames in 88-89 who had Co-Captains. For both the Bruins’ cups they had Bobby Orr... No offense to Gomez or Gionta, or any of the rest of the newcomers, but none of them even come near to the point totals or plus/minus he had, and he was a defenceman! We can’t compare exactly, because clearly the league was different 40 years ago, but still, no one compares to him. So if that is the case, how can we even think that we can get far without a captain!

The question is... who? Personally, I think that it should be Markov. Despite the language barrier, he is clearly a player that all the others look up to. His English is not bad at all, and if they make Lapierre and Gorges alternate captains, the entire city would be happy and Markov wouldn’t have to do as many interviews, since they could take care of a lot of them for him. There is no one else left. Some are suggesting Gomez, but I really don’t think that would be good. He’s new in town and doesn’t yet know the pressure that the Montreal fans and more importantly the media provide. Markov is our best player. He loves Montreal. He’s not a fan of change so would want to stay here for a while. He’s a good person. Whoever has to fill Saku’s shoes is in for a challenge. I think Markov is the man for the job.

Friday, June 19, 2009

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ... SIDNEY CROSBY?



Jean Beliveau won the lifetime achievement award at last night's NHL awards. (Photo taken from Yahoo! News / REUTERS / Mike Blake)


Does anyone else find it weird that when watching the NHL awards last night, Sidney Crosby was nowhere to be seen?

So much has been made of the handshake snub involving Sid and Detroit captain Nick Lidstrom, and many hockey columnists were suggesting they would meet at the awards and Sid would have a chance to apologize. Yet, seemingly he wasn’t even present. There is a chance that he was there and that I just missed him, but generally when Sidney Crosby is at an NHL event, the focus is on him. Malkin and Talbot were the ones to bring in the cup, an honour which is usually bestowed upon the captain of the Stanley Cup winning team, and Malkin didn’t even have a chance to bring in his Conne Smythe! Sid's absence left a big hole...

Other than that, I think the awards were a lot better than previous years, although I could have probably done without the Chaka Khan numbers... The players seemed to really enjoy themselves and laughed quite a bit. My favourite line of the evening came from none other than Alexander the Great, something to the effect of “Don’t worry Geno, at least your English is better than Pavel’s”. Datsyuk’s half-glare half-smile was priceless.

Chara came in a close second for the funniest remark, when he thanked his wife for listening to him complain all the time after games. I saw a softer side of him I hadn’t seen before, and I really think he is one of those players whose personality is completely different on and off the ice. On the ice: huge hard-checking defenseman. Off the ice: the BFG.

As for fellow Bruin Tim Thomas, his Vezina speech was quite moving and he got the crowd laughing when he said he was more worried about getting his name on a roster than on the nominee list for the Vezina. He really has come a long way and I think that no matter which team you’re a fan of, his win brought tears to your eyes.

As much as I liked having the awards in Canada in previous years, I think that Vegas had a certain appeal and that Michael Bublé trumped Ron McLean in terms of hosting ability (at least his jokes weren’t cringe-worthy), and that they should ask him back next year. I’d love for them to come to Montréal but I doubt that’ll happen for a while.

Speaking of a while, it’s hard to believe that another hockey season has come and gone. They seem to go faster with each passing year, and as much as I love the summer, I don’t mind when it ends because I know I have something to look forward to come September. Let’s hope this offseason brings lots of rest for the players and that they come back refreshed for training camp to start this emotional rollercoaster once again. By this time next year a new team will be raising the cup over their heads, feeling joy unlike anything felt before. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

Have a great summer everyone!

Friday, April 24, 2009

ALL THESE THINGS THAT I'VE DONE



Koivu's reaction to Kostitsyn's goal: Another thing that should be on my list! (Photo credit to habsinsideout.com)

O’Byrne, coming down along the boards makes a blind pass in front of the net. But Price is on the bench for the delayed penalty! It’s in! #!$%##!… I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life!

That, my friends, was my favourite moment of this unlucky, albeit unusual, centennial season.

After the loss Wednesday night, I’ll admit I was quite sad. I didn’t want the season to end on a seemingly endless losing streak, but let’s face it, the minute Grabovski laid that hit on Markov a couple weeks back, it was over. Actually when you think about it, it has pretty much been over since the All-Star Break, other than a couple of heroic performances by a certain Mr. Jaroslav Halak, and a few games where we learned what it would be like to have a first line that could really do some damage out there. Instead of dissecting the inexplicable hell that was February, the wishy-washy unsteadiness that was March, and the dreadfully disappointing month of April, I think it would be fitting to list my 10 favourite moments of the 2008-2009 season (in no particular order). Feel free to sound off on yours in the comment section below!

1) Well I think I made it clear above, but when I think of my favourite things, the O’Byrne “goal” tops the list. It provided some much needed comic relief, and although it would have probably been funnier had we won the game, it still tops my list!

2) 2 was more difficult to decide, but I think I’m going to have to go with Carey Price and Tom Kostopoulos sacrificing Josh Gorges’ stick, to try to bring him some goal-scoring luck! Funny thing was, it actually worked (though it took a couple of games to sink in)!

3) I’d have to go with my favourite unlucky jerseys… Montreal tends to be known for its nice classic jerseys. I think that this year after the barber pole striped ones, our reputation has changed!

4) Getting Mathieu Schneider. What a difference a player makes… to the power-play that is. We went from being at the bottom of the barrel to coming up somewhere in the middle. He really helped us out there.

5) Grabovski also getting linked to gang members. Not sure how many of you heard about this… but about 2 weeks or so ago, I saw a news piece linking him to the same gang member as the Kostitsyn brothers and Roman Hamrlik. Looks like they did hang out together when he was still in Montreal…

6) Speaking of Grabovski, (and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner) these comments about Sergei Kostitsyn were probably some of the funniest I’ve ever heard: “I think he is not Belarussian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarussian guys. I don’t know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we’ll go in the street and every minute of every day I’ll wait for him and we’ll fight.” Oh Grabovski…

7) Chris Higgins’ hat trick versus the Sens early in the season. What can I say, he’s my favourite player and the rest of the team gave a great showing that night as well.

8) Kovalev returning after his “vacation”. I was really scared that Kovalev would be gone, after watching L’Antichambre, where Michel Bergeron said he could never come back after that embarrassment. I was angry at the Habs. I was angry at the media. I was just angry in general. But thankfully he came back, and it made me really happy, and I think it made most of Montreal happy too. Kovalev may have off days, but he is the talent and one of the prominent leaders of our team. Without him, we’d be lost.

9) I know this has little to do with the Habs, but it has to do with Montreal, and I was there, so I thought I’d include it anyway: The Skills Competition. Ovechkin’s skills competition get-up was really funny, and was made funnier by the fact that it was Malkin, his alleged enemy, who dressed him up. But the real hilarity came from Mark Streit, who when skating, tripped over a wooden triangular blocker, smashing into a million wood chips and falling to the floor himself. He was okay after thankfully but it was just really funny, especially watching it again afterwards, since they were filming his face, and all of the sudden he was gone!

10) Last but not least, I think I need to include Marty Brodeur’s win a couple of weeks ago. Again, it wasn’t a great achievement for us, but seeing Brodeur tie Roy’s record with Roy in the crowd was really an emotional experience. It was also special since Brisebois played his 1000th game that night. Speaking of Roy, his jersey retirement should probably have a place on this list too.

So there you have it: my ten favourite moments of the season. This season has been full of ups and downs, and next year I fear we’ll be seeing a very different team… I really hope not, but re-signing that many free agents will be difficult.

I’m not bitter about this season or angry… It’s tough to win when most of your team is in the infirmary instead of on the ice. It’s also tough when rumours are spread, when players get suspended and when they are linked to gang members. This centennial season may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations. But hey, at least we can say it was interesting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FEELS A LITTLE LIKE '93?



They won't be smiling for long. (Photo credit Yahoo! Sports)

posted by habsbloggergirl
allhabs.blogspot.com

“Come playoff time, I guess you don’t have too many friends.”

That sentence was a little gem provided by Michael Ryder, who I’ll admit I miss quite a bit, if not just for his smile and generally positive disposition (though his 30 goal seasons were nice too).

Less than an hour ‘till puck drop, and seeing our good friend Rydes, and all I can say is that the term ‘underdog’ barely even begins to describe the situation the Habs are in. But then again maybe not.

I’ve only been hockey-obsessed since after the lockout, so have only 4 seasons of experience (so to speak) and only 2 of playoff experience (well of the Habs’ playoff experience anyhow), with the third starting very shortly. In those two years we’ve played Carolina, Boston and Philly. 3 teams, 3 completely different stories.

In Carolina, we chased Marty Gerber from the net and led Carolina to discover the invaluable asset that is Cam Ward, who led them to a cup that very year. In Boston, we learned that history means nothing (regular season), but yet it means everything (rivalry). In Philly, we made stars out of Marty Biron and R.J. Umberger.

I think we have to face the fact that the Canadiens are in the business of making stars. And unfortunately not out of our own players. How many francophone players play well against us? How many Eric Coles and Rich Peverlys are there, who aren’t too bad but look like Ovechkins and Crosbys when they’re in town? How many players profess their love of the Bell Centre, while in the visitors’ dressing room?

This needs to end. Right now. BEFORE anyone steps onto the ice tonight. We don’t need Shawn Thornton scoring on us again, or anyone else on the fourth line for that matter. Other teams tend to step up to face us, not necessarily because of who we are today, but because of who we’ve been. I think it’s time we push them back down a step.

The thing is, with Boston it’s different, just like with Toronto it’s different. No matter how bad these teams are (or how bad we are) when we play them, they play like they are number one in the league. And, usually we rise to the occasion as well. No boring games in the cards there…

I’ve read countless articles saying that the rivalry is what will give us a chance. But as Kovalev so eloquently explained yesterday, it’s the media who builds up this rivalry. Not that it doesn’t exist, but it’s possible that it doesn’t hold the value the media believes it does. Anything is possible (come playoff time anyway).

So what does this mean? Will tonight be an evenly weighted game, or will Boston pummel us? Will we play the underdog card, and somehow pull off a couple of wins? As I have mentioned countless times, Kovalev is the key. If he plays to win, we will, as long as Price doesn’t give up too many softies.

One thing’s for sure. Boston’s not gonna give up easily. But let’s just hope the Habs don’t either. All I can say is that they’d better be ready for anything and everything.

Feels like ‘93? We’ll see soon enough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NOT YOUR AVERAGE CINDERELLA STORY



Tanguay and Latendresse were two of the main injuries the Canadiens had to deal with this season (photo credit to habsinsideout)

****

Why is it that the Canadiens always seem to have to do things the hard way?

This season has been nothing but a series of tests and trials. Injuries, illness, an incessant rumour mill, gang connections, firings, signings, suspensions (for the least likely of candidates I may add), players coming and going, bad stretches, good stretches, bad goaltending, good goaltending, players being “asked” to take vacations…we’ve seen it all. This was supposed to be OUR centennial season. A year to celebrate all the Habs teams of the past, and look towards all the teams of the future. A year to win cup #25 (while improving our Stanley cup winning rate to 25%) – an insanely high number for an insanely storied franchise.

While, at first, we did celebrate and express our joy, so many other distractions got in the way, and somehow we have still not clinched a playoff spot, and there are 2 games left in the season. While fans and players alike are going back and forth in their heads trying to make sense of all this, I prefer to look at it from a “let’s see how far we’ve come” perspective.

First of all, read this list of players: Koivu, Tanguay, Higgins, Lang, Latendresse, Komisarek, Markov, Schneider, Bouillon, Price, Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Kostitsyn, Dandenault, Laraque, Gorges, Hamrlik, Brisebois.

And add these names: Kovalev, Halak, Higgins again, Price again, Koivu again, Begin (when he was still here).

These are players who were either injured (first list) or ill (second) at some point during the season. Not one player on the Habs roster has played in all 80 games. Hamrlik and Gorges are the closest, having played 79 each (they each missed only 1 game when they were injured).

Who does that leave? 3 players: Kostopoulos and Plekanec, who both had suspensions this season so missed some games and Maxim Lapierre, who was a healthy scratch for 3 games after saying on TV that Georges Laraque told him that now that he’s with the team Lapierre doesn’t have to try as hard… I’m sure Carbo loved that one (I’m omitting Metropolit, and most of the young guys who haven’t played for more than a few games). Only 3 players out of 20-something guys were not injured or sick at sometime during the season. That is honestly unreal.

They keep saying they shouldn’t make excuses, but honestly losing that much of a team IS a big deal. Just as losing your coach is a big deal, losing a teammate (Begin), having horrible rumours spread about you (to refresh your memories, Jean Perron accused Higgins, Price and Sergei K of partying too much, and went as far as calling Higgins an alcoholic (according to a source quoted on a Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports)), being linked to gang members (Hamrlik and the Kostitsyn brothers)… These are all important facts to consider… most of which most likely did influence their play. Not to mention the centennial craziness: the all-star game, the almost nightly pre-game presentations, the even more intense media coverage than usual (if that is even possible).

The thing is though, after all of this, they are still here, in the playoff hunt, with two games to go. Even when February hit, the month that could be compared to the Titanic (i.e. colossal disaster) didn’t sink the organization (sorry couldn’t resist haha). Halak won games for us, seemingly playing 60 minutes of 6 on 1 hockey, with a few sporadic goals from the least likely candidates and we got points, enough to get us this far. Without him, all would have been lost, and unfortunately this brings back memories of the 2006-2007 season when Huet got injured and Aebischer got bad… and Halak nearly saved the day. In the second to last game of the season, when Huet was finally back (as Jaro’s backup to give him one more night off), Jaro was pulled in favour of Huet after letting in 3 goals, which eventually resulted in a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Carbonneau was the coach at the time, and faced the decision of putting Huet or Halak in the net in the last game of the season versus Toronto. Need I mention that it was a must-win if we wanted to make the playoffs? Carbo went with Huet, instead of Jaro (who had carried the floundering team during his absence). He was wrong. Michael Ryder scored a hat trick that night. Chris Higgins scored 2 goals. But it wasn’t enough. The Leafs won by a score of 6-5 and Huet was never pulled despite letting in 6 goals. I still maintain that he made a mistake putting Huet in that night. Jaro deserved it, and Huet had just come back from injury so wasn’t 100%. He made another mistake when he didn’t pull him. And these mistakes were costly.

All I hope is that Gainey doesn’t make the same mistakes. Price wasn’t the main reason we lost yesterday, but he did not look well. He was shaky, nervous, and fought the puck all night. If he doesn’t feel ready or still feels sick in any way, Jaro should play. He may not have won the last game, but it wasn’t completely his fault either, and it seems that he has consistently been the more confident of the two for the past 3 months. I’m not saying he should play both games, but all I’m saying is that if there’s any doubt on Price’s behalf, he should voice it and Jaro should play. The team at least deserves that.

The biggest problem facing us now is the loss of Markov. With Komisarek still having a tough time, he and Gorges did not make a good defensive pairing. I think that Hamrlik and O’Byrne should be placed back together, as well as Gorges and Brisebois or Dandenault and then Komisarek and Janik. That way it will be a bit more balanced. The way it is now, all 3 pairings made me nervous.

Markov is not just some other defenseman. He is the most valuable asset to our team. I don’t even want to think of where we would be without him… but even more so, I don’t want to think about where we WILL be without him. Even if we make the playoffs, what are our chances, especially since Schneider’s gone too?

The one thing the team has going for them is at least it’s clear that they are able to overcome adversity. All these tests and trials I’ve talking about?… they’ve gotten by them all so far.

All that remains of this centennial season are 4 days, 2 games, 120 minutes, and 4 possible points… There’s nothing more anyone can do at this point but wait. Maybe, just maybe, this statistical impossibility of a gut-wrenching / heart-warming season will be extended.

Hollywood couldn’t have written it any better.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

RETURN OF THE WHERE'S WALDO JERSEYS? NOT QUITE.



photo taken from AP photo / The Canadian Press

Bob Gainey woke up this morning and made the odd but albeit sound decision not to let the Habs players play in the vintage barber pole jerseys… You know, the ones when last worn, resulted in a bad loss to Boston and two injuries all in the same night? Don’t remember? Then try this. The last jersey Robert Lang wore before his season-ending injury? Still no? Then how ‘bout this. The really ugly ones? Ya those.

Well obviously we can count on the players being happy he made this change… anyone who is the slightest bit superstitious (and a lot of people think hockey players are) wouldn’t want one of those on their backs. First of all, how do we know Latendresse and Lang’s injuries weren’t caused by Boston players who were so nauseous from the spinning multicoloured stripes that they just banged into them, without intending to, and that those almost hallucinatory episodes were the actual causes their injuries? We’ll never know but why risk it a second time ‘round.

Plus, who could stomach wearing one of those awful striped pajama-looking sweaters in general (though I believe Kovalev admitted he liked it when he modelled it a couple of months back)? On him, if I remember correctly, it actually wasn’t bad… but on the ice it looked like there were 5 red, blue and white bees swarming around the puck. Enough to give you a bad headache. Or worse.

So they are instead wearing the ones they wore against the Leafs Saturday night. Not much better luck-wise, but at least they’re a bit more visually pleasing (though my one complaint is that the numbers on their backs don’t stand out enough). Let’s hope the second time’s a charm and that we can somehow come alive against Chicago. Worse comes to worse, if things aren’t going well after the second, we can pull our favourite eye-sores out of the closet and take ‘em for a spin around the rink, until some Chicago player yells “my eyes, my eyes!!”, while we all nod in agreement at home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

It tends to be hard to be inspired enough to write about a hockey club that is doing so poorly. When a team who had been steadily working from October to December, dives into a tailspin, one which spans almost 3 months, it’s a little bit hard to digest. I keep thinking, maybe a bit naively, that one day they will just come out of it, and resume their hardworking philosophy that seems to have been long forgotten. We all thought this would happen at the beginning of March, when Carey Price finally seemed to have found his game again, and Jaroslav Halak was winning games despite facing inflated amounts of shots every night. The team was starting to follow. But then came that game in Dallas, and shortly after Carbo was gone. And the truth is, it was a mistake to fire Guy Carbonneau.

Last night after our horrendous showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who usually bring out all of our emotion, even in the worst of times, Bob Gainey said that the team does have momentum, but it’s in the wrong direction. So what does this have to do with Carbonneau, you are probably wondering? When Carbonneau left, the team was finally winning. The goalies were great, and slowly the team was starting to follow. But as we all know, the firing of a coach usually results in a momentum swing, this time in the wrong direction. What message does it send to the players if a coach is fired when the team is finally starting to find its feet again? We know that not all of the players agreed with Carbonneau’s style of coaching, and I could get into the whole communication debate, but I’d rather not. Was Carbonneau the right coach to bring this team back around? We’ll never know, but my point is not that he shouldn’t have been fired, it’s that he shouldn’t have been fired when he was. We had been in a slump for weeks before he was fired. Why did Gainey wait until the team was turning around to fire his friend? He should have done it earlier, or not at all.

It’s too late to do anything about that now, but something has to be done to jumpstart this team. We’re running out of time. There are 10 games left, 3 weeks, and if Florida didn’t lose last night, we’d be sitting in 9th, 1 point out of the playoffs. Some players care. You can tell by the way they speak about hockey in general, by their body language on the ice, and by the way they analyze their teammates. Case in point: Guillaume Latendresse. After the game last night, he was on the post-game show on RDS. Although the media obsession with him has always driven me crazy, I never realized how smart and perceptive he was. Yes, he talked about a lack of confidence, and that when the other team scores, the whole team deflates. He spoke about his good friend Max Lapierre, who is playing his heart out. He talked about many things we already knew, but he was so insightful (although he really seemed at a loss when trying to explain why some players are playing like they care, and others aren’t). The point is: we can’t say they don’t care.

We have been talking about the horrible defence for months on end it seems, but it’s not getting better. Markov is definitely the team MVP. Without him, we would probably be at the bottom of the standings by now. Hamrlik is great one-on-one, but isn’t as good as he was last year. Gorges plays his heart out, but makes a few mistakes here and there. All Komisarek does is make mistakes. Schneider was great the first couple of games when he got here, but something happened and now he really isn’t playing to his potential. O’Byrne has been alright, but was pretty awful last night. Breezer has his moments, but they are usually followed by defensive errors. This brings up the question: Why isn’t Dandenault out there? We can only hope that Gainey at least gives him a chance, because honestly, what can it hurt?

Our offense is lacking just as much, as it seems that only Plekanec, Lapierre and Latendresse are capable of scoring. A lot of goals are determined by timing, but it seems that as a team, we are just off lately. We can’t complete passes, we don’t know where the other players are on the ice, we are moving too slowly at times and too fast at others. All this adds up to a team who just isn’t a contender.

It is something that at this point is no longer about technique, it’s all mental. We have all the skills, (just watch Kovy’s DVD). We have the talent. We know we are able to have the drive… but where is it? It’s in players like Kostopoulos, Lapierre, Latendresse, Higgins, Markov, Plekanec (excluding last night’s game) and Pacioretty. They want to win, and are working for it. I don’t think that the rest of the team doesn’t care. I think it’s just that they are discouraged. Gainey told the media he wanted 3 points this past week. The team got 1. When you don’t achieve goals, it discourages you even more. He needs to tell them to forget about the rest of the season; that they need to imagine that they are starting fresh and have a new 10-game season starting now. 6 games at home, 4 away. Only 4 of those teams are in the playoffs as of now. For most teams, that would be a good thing. For the Canadiens, it’s hard to say. When you beat teams like Detroit and San Jose, and then lose to the Islanders and Atlanta, can you really say it will be beneficial to play the latter teams?

Only time will tell. But if the Canadiens don’t stop coasting, they can forget about the playoffs. In their centennial season. What a nightmare.

That’s not to say they can’t do it. For all we know they could win the next 10 games and be primed for playoff hockey. But a change needs to happen, and since Sergei Kostitsyn was just called up from the AHL, we can only hope he brings along with him the same hope and drive he did last year at this time. Because without a little hope, there’s not much anyone can do to help.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poker Face

I was thinking today about how many questions I had and have heard about the Habs and what their future holds, so I figured I’d take note of a couple and leave them all open for speculation and discussion. We may be an inconsistent team, one that doesn’t always work to its potential, but we really have wonderful players, most, if not all, of whom are really happy to be in Montreal, and who really have a lot of heart. So keeping that in mind, keep it positive!

Why was Jaro Halak not smiling when he was awarded the Molson Cup this month? And will he ever get a chance to prove himself, or is he destined to become another Scott Clemmensen, playing a couple of games a year while another star goalie gets all the ice time and credit?

Where did Carey Price’s mind go for the past 6 weeks and whose was playing in his absence?

What happened to Maxim Lapierre when Guillaume Latendresse left?

Did Bob Gainey make the right decision to fire Guy Carbonneau?

Will Gainey borrow one of Carbo’s many lucky ties for the playoffs?

Will Don Lever ever spend an entire game behind the bench?

Is Kirk Muller really feeling like Carbo’s spy as certain media members have been suggesting?

Will the next coach be bilingual? Does anyone but the media care?

When will the fact that Saku Koivu won’t speak French in interviews finally be let go?

What happened to Mr. #2 in the league in hits and blocked shots, All-Star defenseman Mike Komisarek?

When are the media going to realise that when they make fun of other teams (like the Islanders last night) for having a defenseman as their lead point-getter, that they are just making themselves look like idiots, since Andrei Markov, DEFENSEMAN, is in fact the Canadiens’ lead point-getter?

When will Andrei Kostitsyn come out of the clouds long enough to stay focused for an entire game?

What was it about a suspension and a forced break that made Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev turn back into their 2007-2008 selves and where can everyone else get some?

Will Brisebois ever play his 1000th game, or is he doomed to stay at 999?

How do some members of the French media believe that they are credible when suggesting that Guillaume Latendresse will be able to amass a point per game, after getting less than 30 points in each of his previous seasons?

Was it the right decision to take Chris Higgins’ “A” and give it to Mike Komisarek?

Did Dandenault ever really want to leave Montreal? (He seems to be all smiles now!)

How odd is it that the first two players RDS interviewed after Carbo was fired were Maxim Lapierre and Steve Begin? Am I missing something or do they not realise Steve now plays for the Stars?

How wonderful is it that Gregory Stewart actually stands up for his teammates?

That being the case, has Georges Laraque been replaced? And why why why did Gainey give him a no-trade clause?

Does Tom Kostopoulos ever stop working?

Are Max Pacioretty and Matt D’Agostini here to stay?

Why does Glen Metropolit remind me of Michael Ryder? (Had to throw a personal one in there!)

How did Mathieu Schneider’s presence ignite our powerplay, even without his being on the ice?

How did Sergei Kostitsyn single-handedly force his own return to Hamilton?

How did Ryan O’Byrne feel playing the Islanders last night, after tying up the game for them at our last meeting (scoring now-Penguin Bill Guerin’s easiest goal of his career)?

How is Hamrlik so good one-on-one yet having such a tough time with everything else?

Will there ever be anything negative to say about Josh Gorges?

How has Alex Tanguay, a French-Canadian from Quebec, been able to fly under the media radar so far?

Will Bouillon return this season?

Will Lang return the next?

Will any of the UFA 10 be back? What about the RFAs?

Or will we be stuck making a line with the only forwards we have signed now: Laraque-Lapierre-A. Kostitsyn (with Pacioretty and Sergei Kostitsyn looking on from the press box)?

Will Kovalev lead us into the playoffs?

Will we even make the playoffs?

Will this year be known as the overrated centennial season or the season the Habs stepped it up at the end to prove they deserve to be a contender even after a hundred years?

Will Montreal ever see another Stanley Cup? Will Captain K?

There’s no use making this longer than it already is, but I think there is one more question valid enough to ask, one that tops all the others:

Will the Canadiens be able to come together as a team and prove themselves, like so many Canadiens’ teams have for the past 100 years, or will they settle for something less?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE?

So we’re playing Buffalo, the Jaroslav on the other team scores, making it 3-0, and all of the sudden everyone’s really missing our Jaro, who is out with the flu.

The burning question in everyone’s mind is what happened to Carey Price? How did he go from being the most loved 21-year-old in Montreal (though Guillaume Latendresse was giving him a run for his money, at least in the French media) to playing the worst hockey probably of his career?

Being a psych major, I have been thinking about this a lot. Is it his age? Is it a motivation problem? Confidence? Lack of practice (or the right kind of practice)? Not knowing how to deal in stressful situations?

I think it’s actually all of the above, though some points stick out more than others. Here’s my breakdown of the situation:

1) Carey is one of the youngest goalies we’ve had in a while. Huet and Theodore (in the last few years anyway) were older and had more experience. Don’t get me wrong, age isn’t everything. Price is pretty mature and has always showed how calm and collected he is, but right now something isn’t clicking in that department. When I would watch a game that he was playing in at the beginning of this year, it seemed as though he exuded a sort of “calmness” over the entire team as well as myself. How many goalies can do that? Not many. But now, that’s gone… and with it the team’s confidence in their goalie.

2) He doesn’t seem motivated. I think he really cares about what happens, and that he wants to play, but his lack of confidence is affecting this. Jaro is playing well, and seemingly taking his job out from under him, and normally this should cause him to elevate his game, but that’s just not happening. Something is missing there.

3) His confidence is just completely gone. He seems shaky and nervous about a lot, which he never did before. They showed him before the game, in the dressing room, and normally the guys are smiling or just sitting calmly, but he looked so nervous and stressed that it made you wonder if Halak was the only sick one on the team.

4) His practicing techniques have been an issue of late, because it seems when he gets nervous, which has been a lot lately, he goes down onto his knees too early, and people have been saying he should work on this more. He needs to somehow find a way to realize that he shouldn’t go down too early without making him think about it too much. Maybe some mental image or focusing on someone… But I don’t think he has a problem with technique or skill. He works hard, and that’s the most important part. He also needs to realise he had skill and technique before he started playing like this and that obviously didn’t just disappear overnight.

5) He had a good way of dealing with stressful situations before… or rather it came naturally to him, since his personality allowed for it. But now that something has changed, he needs to find a way to adapt, and someone, either Rollie Melanson, one of the other coaches, or maybe a sport psychologist, should be helping him with this. Self-talk (what he should be thinking in these situations) is important, and if he doesn’t know how to do this properly, it can really affect his game in the long run.

So there you have it. Price has a lot to work on, and I think the Canadiens’ management knows this, and I think that they are responsible for some of it. They need to help him get out of this funk. I had said that he had to come back to a winning team, and now that he has and is still not playing his best, I think I need to rephrase what I had initially said: He needs to come back to a team who is winning because they are playing well.

In the past 4 games, Jaro stole the show. To be honest, I don’t even know how much better the team has been playing compared to when they were in their slump except for the fact that Plekanec and Kovalev woke up, our power play has started to click, and that we finally have solid goaltending. Our defence is still pretty shoddy, and though our forwards are working hard, they aren’t producing as much as they can. We can be a better team than the one that has been playing, but it’s so rare that everyone is “on” at the same time.

Carey needs to get back on the horse and realise that he’s got what it takes. People believe in him for a reason. He just has to learn not to give up on himself.

P.S. A little off topic but: Why Luc Gelinas, during the intermission, wished Derek Roy luck for a hat trick, is beyond me… That’s just asking for trouble!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

BÉGIN: GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Also found on allhabs.blogspot.com ! Go check it out!

Just when we thought the month from hell was almost over, this final week of February (which will go down in the record-books as one of the worst months in recent Habs’ history) has brought even more upset.

First, Georges Laraque complained to the media that he hadn’t been used in enough games. Not only was this an inconsiderate thing to do in terms of being a team player, but way to get on Carbo’s bad side Georges! Someone needs to tell him the story of sorry Sergei Samsonov: the player who blabbed to the media and was never seen in a Canadiens’ uniform again. Not that I’d mind if Georges wasn’t playing in a Canadiens’ uniform. I have nothing against him personally, in fact, he usually seems like a nice guy, but I find that he doesn’t really have a role on the team. Gainey got him for toughness, but I can’t even recall one time when he stood up for a teammate (unless you include the voluntary hook he made on Bouillon’s behalf a couple of games back, you know, the one that led to the other team getting a powerplay goal? Well you get the picture…). He doesn’t fight unless someone from the other team willingly consents, and who in their right mind would agree to fight him? All this would be okay, if his salary were not more than, for example, Jaroslav Halak and Maxim Lapierre’s combined!!!!!! He wants to play more, but he is not useful hockey-wise, and doesn’t add much on the toughness side of things (especially considering that Greg Stewart is now playing and can definitely hold his own, as seen by the fight the other night with Shane O’Brien). But unfortunately, he will be in uniform Friday night, and he has disclosed to the media that he has a no-trade clause (what were you thinking Gainey?!), so I guess he’s safe. For now.

Next came the wonderful news, that in the wake of the Kostitsyns and Hamrlik’s link to a drug dealer that the whole team was tested Monday, and if anyone is found abusing any substance, they’d get a 20-game suspension. I’m not saying that this isn’t necessary (it definitely is in pro sports), in fact, I think that IF all the players are clean it will clear the air a little bit with the media, but this extra media attention, on something that probably would have gone unnoticed if it weren’t in this absolutely dreadful month, is a bit unnecessary.

Then came the announcement that Steve Bégin was traded. I feel quite bittersweet about this. I’m so sad to lose him. He is a member the Tom Kostopoulos school of work ethic, and I’d so much rather have him on the ice than Laraque, but seeing as we probably wouldn’t have been able to resign him at the end of the season, and that he wouldn’t be able to play many games because of all the young players coming up, like Stewart, I feel like he’ll have a much better opportunity in Dallas (I can just see the smiles when he and Ribeiro reunite!). He will definitely be missed… especially in the locker room. He was always one to give tons of his time to the media, and was always smiling, with that little twinkle in his eye.

Oh and then came this wonderful tidbit: Doug Janik (who we received in return for Stevey B.) had to be put on waivers to go down to Hamilton! So there is a chance that we will get NOTHING! And while this seems unlikely… it’s still February, which means that anything horrible that can happen to the Habs usually does! (On a side note, this actually did happen recently, when the Islanders asked Wade Dubielewicz to come back to the NHL from the KHL (since their number 1 and 2 goalies were injured) only to have him snatched up by the Blue Jackets since he had to be put on waivers… which is kind of sad, since not only did he come all the way from Russia to play with them, but they were also (standings-wise) the worst team in the league… so it was a little bit scheming on the part of the Blue Jackets, but enough said).

Then, TSN reported that Dandenault had “politely” asked for a trade. Is it just me, or did these past few weeks seem endless? It’s one scandal after another…

I’m not sure what tomorrow or Saturday will bring (though I’m at least hoping for 2 wins!), but all I can say is that come Sunday it will no longer be February, and hopefully the team and the fans can finally put this atrocious month behind them, where it belongs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

WHO SAYS YOU CAN'T GO HOME...

Also on All Habs! Check it out allhabs.blogspot.com

So I just finished watching Friday Night Lights (the movie) and apart from realising what an odd movie it was (basically when a movie’s message is that if you lose there’s a good chance you’ll go nowhere in life, you wonder how it was chosen to be made into a movie –but all things considered I actually liked it!!), I finally realised how the Habs must feel about the constant media rumours and why no one wants to come play here. Granted the guys were only 17 in the movie, but that’s not a far cry from 19-year old Max Pacioretty or 21-year-olds Carey Price, Sergei Kostitsyn and Gui Latendresse.

It’s not as though if they become media “hermits” and stop watching tv, reading newspapers and listening to the radio that they won’t hear about the next “scandal”. All they have to do is walk outside, go shopping, grab a coffee somewhere… if people don’t come up to them to talk about it, they’ll here pieces of conversations related to it as they walk, they’ll see covers of newspapers in store windows, people fighting over whether Gainey made the right move in sending Kovy home for a break, or whether the Kostitsyns and Hamrlik are actually involved in gang related activity. This does not make for a happy hockey player. Fans are great when they are with you, but when the whole city is out to get you, it drives people away. Roy, Carbonneau himself, and so many greats came to know and love Montreal, and were driven away, by the media, by the coaches, by the so-called “fans”.

When Kovalev made the statement that he didn’t actually go to the Russian media after the latest “affaire Kovalev”, I’ll admit I was more relieved than anyone. I had been so upset by Gainey’s decision that when watching the Capitals game, I’ll admit I was angry. So angry in fact, that for a few minutes I didn’t care about the Canadiens. When I saw Ovechkin’s goal, I smiled (well who wouldn’t… it was amazing)…but I was happy. Happy that the Canadiens were being scored on. Does this make me one of those fans, who drive the players away? Maybe so, though I’d like to think not. I wasn’t angry at the players per say. It wasn’t their fault (about Kovalev anyway, though I can’t say the same for their awful play during the past three weeks). It was Gainey who I was mad at.

So many people have been saying that Carbonneau would have and should have been fired, had his close friend not been the GM. And that was why I was mad. How could he make Kovalev look like the bad guy, and just pretend Carbo was in the right, with his funky line change-style coaching? It’s hard to criticize a friend, especially when it’s someone you have known for so long and have gone through so much with. But at the same time, you can’t treat someone differently, when it’s your job not to let that friendship get in the way. I was scared that Gainey was clearly picking Carbonneau over Kovalev, a choice that I thought wasn’t even necessary to make in the first place, but so far anyway, it seems that I was wrong. That it actually was just a chance for Kovalev to regroup. That it wasn’t an excuse to hang Kovalev out to dry the first chance he could.

Honestly if it had been that way, I doubt I’d be writing this, in fact, I doubt I’d be an avid Canadiens fan any longer. I never realised how important Kovalev was in my perspective of the Habs, and I think that without him we have absolutely no chance of going anywhere in the playoffs. It’s not for his skill, it’s not for his leadership, certainly not for his cross-ice passes that usually end up on the sticks of opponents. It’s for his presence. He doesn’t fit into the “norm” of the rest of the players. Most are hard-working grinder-type players who have an ability to score goals – pretty ugly ones – but hey, they get the job done. Kovalev personifies thinking outside the box. His creativity is what separates him from the rest… he thinks differently from them all, and is never afraid to say what’s on his mind. He doesn’t care what people think, and maybe it’s this quality that allow him and Koivu – in tandem – to be able to lead this team together. Koivu motivates, Kovalev calls people out.

The mistake that the French media is making in hoping for him to be traded is that we’d no longer have anyone like that in the dressing room. Everyone is pretty mellow, and some will get visibly frustrated when they lose, but Kovalev reacts differently. With all the things the media puts him through, he still wants to be here. And this is the most important thing of all. In the height of adversity, Kovalev stays. He could have easily packed up and been on the next flight out of Montreal. And this is not the first time he’s been picked on by the media (refer to l’affaire Kovalev #1 – the apparent blasting of Carbo to the Russian media). On L’antichambre the past few days, they have been saying non-stop that there is no way he will ever be able to play in the Canadiens uniform after this again. But they are wrong, and clearly don’t know Kovalev and what he is capable of.

Koivu may be the heart of the team… but Kovalev is the brain. One without the other is useless, but when both are working properly together, only then will things come to life. Kovalev is a necessary component to our team, and without him, we have little chance of getting anywhere in the playoffs. First though, the team has got to prove they can even make the playoffs. We can only hope the brain is a focused and ready come tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

HOW TO FIX THE CANADIENS' PROBLEMS (NO TRADES INVOLVED!!)

Also on All Habs: allhabs.blogspot.com

I, like most Montrealers, have been sitting around lately thinking of what the Habs can do, or more importantly, what Carbonneau can do, to change their play around. So I came up with 10 steps that would greatly improve the team.

This one’s for you Carbo!


10-Step plan to fixing the Canadiens’ problems


Step 1 – Do something about the powerplay


-Start with Hamrlik and Bouillon who both have pretty good shots, and put them on the point. I’d suggest Markov-Bouillon and Hamrlik-Brisebois. This may seem like something small, but before saying we have no one who can play at the point, why not try everyone out?

-Put Markov and Kovalev on the same side (the right side) when they are on the PP. It worked for us last year… even more so than Streit on the point, but you insist upon not putting them together (see Step 2) and in doing so we’re missing a valuable key to our success. Markov and Kovalev have played together for a while and know where the other is going to be and what move the other will make next. Take advantage of that.

Step 2 – Stop with the incessant line changes

-5 minutes with someone isn’t enough to determine whether or not there will be chemistry… you need to spend a lot of time on the ice with them until you start being able to know in advance what their next move will be, but Carbo, you don’t seem to allow this. I think this is one of the most important points I’m trying to make… by giving them a few games to play together, they’ll learn to adapt to each other, and this is the ultimate goal.

Step 3 – Bring on the video replays


-Show them all the horrible things they have done in the past few weeks, followed by great things that they have done in the SAME types of situations in the past. This will help with their confidence, and show them that they actually do have the capacity to do this.

Step 4 – Hold a meeting with Kovalev, Koivu and Komisarek

-You need to ask them for their input about what they think will help motivate the team… Even if you don’t use it, it’ll make them feel like you have confidence in their ideas and make them feel more like the leaders they are.

Step 5 – Practice, Practice, Practice


-Practice all of situations that the team has been having trouble with… it will make them feel more at ease if they are prepared in advance. Faceoffs, the forecheck, clogging up the neutral zone… we all know this list goes on forever these days, but the only way to improve is to put in the hours of hard work and deliberate practice…

Step 6 – Make hockey fun again


-It’s a game remember… They need to think of it that way, and they haven’t since the all-star break. Stop talking about Centennial seasons, media pressure and anything of the sort, and just tell them that the next game, it doesn’t matter if they win or lose but that they’d better have fun. The players will be a little shocked by this but I feel that getting rid of the outside pressure will take a load off of their chests.

Step 7- Set up a motivation speaker

-In Montreal, we have plenty of them, so it shouldn’t be too hard: Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau- people who have won, and can tell them what it takes to win. They need to be told that they are a good team and that if they dig deep enough, they’ll realize they have what it takes.

Step 8 – Give them time off


-Yes, this seems like a complete contradiction to step 5, I’m aware, but all work and no rest will leave them tired come game time… a day off here and there will do them good. Plus it gives them time to spend with their family and friends, which can take their minds off of being afraid of losing.

Step 9 – Encourage group bonding activities

-Yes, everyone made fun of the bowling, but these type of activities let them release tension and allow them to have fun together in a neutral setting, something they aren’t getting out of hockey these days… So they need to keep at it, and just keep spending time together.

Step 10 – Don’t badmouth them to the media

-These are your players – treat them with the respect they give you. You don’t see any player calling you out as a bad coach, so you shouldn’t be calling them out. Give them the praise they deserve and when there is a problem, talk to them one on one. They will respect you more for it and the locker room will be a much more harmonious place to be.

So there you have it Carbo! By implementing these steps, the team will be much better off. For your sanity – and the sanity of many Montrealers, including myself – I hope that you do something soon. The team needs you. Be a coach.

Friday, February 13, 2009

HEROIC HALAK

Can also be found on allhabs.blogspot.com . Go check it out!

Jaroslav Halak saved the day. Hell, he saved the season.

In a month where any excess confidence seemed to dissipate into thin air, Jaro (whose play in this game should knock down claims that he’d never be a number one goaltender) made 46 saves, mostly without the help of any of his teammates, to lead the Canadiens to a 4 – 2 win over the Av’s Friday night.

This game was important for three main reasons. First, because the Habs needed to realize that they were still able to win (and with that, gave them the ability to have confidence in their goalie). Second, it showed them that they are still able to steal games. And lastly it showed them that they still have much work to do.

Some of the positive points:

- Koivu, as always, is at the top of my list. He sacrifices the body, and makes every effort possible to succeed in his plays.
- Kovalev played a solid game, kept it simple (for once), and made a really nice pass on the Breezer goal.
- Tommy Kostopoulos looked great out there, and I think the line of Kovy-Koivu-Kostopoulos has its merits. And how can you not have been anything but thrilled when he scored his empty netter?! (P.S. I totally called it after he had that great scoring chance with Kovy… He played with fire, and I knew something was coming.)
- Higgins played hard and battled.
- Andrei Kostitsyn slept through most of it… but came up big when he needed to.
- Dandenault played really well, used his speed to create scoring chances, and picked up another assist (hey, it’s 3 points in 2 games… not too bad for a jack-of-all-trades like Dandy!).
- Laraque (yes, that’s not a typo) saved an icing… and I was as shell-shocked as I’m sure everyone else was, even though sadly it lead to a Colorado goal.
- Bouillon scored a beauty, and gave Tucker a wake-up call, so how could I not include him?
- And of course Breezer… well what can I say? Those who were iffy about O’Byrne being scratched (myself included) had a pleasant surprise in store. He had one of his best nights in a long time, and played with the energy of a guy half his age.

Some major problems:

- Markov, Komisarek and Gorges did not look good out there tonight. That’s 3 of our top 4 defenseman. Never a good sign.
- Sergei Kostitsyn was MIA along with his brother… but at least Andrei did something. (Sergei actually got the 1st star of the game – clearly a mix up between the 2 brothers by the Colorado press!)
- Max Lapierre took a really stupid penalty at a really inopportune time. I’m a big Lapierre fan, but that was just not a smart move.

One thing is for sure. The list of pros is way bigger than that of cons. The Habs had an amazing first period, and Jaro did the rest, along with some help from the older Kostitsyn and TK. But Jaro really deserves all the credit for this one. Hopefully the Habs can play off this momentum and take it with them to Vancouver and start building themselves up to where they once were. They still have it in them. It only took 2 awful periods and 46 saves by the young Slovak goaltender to realize it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

IT'S ALL ABOUT INSPIRATION

This post is dedicated to R.P., someone who had amazing heart and lost her life way too early. My thoughts are with you.

This past week the Habs have been having a really tough time finding themselves… Their group identity is slowly disintegrating, and with it, the flow that they had throughout the first half of the season. Not much to be inspired by… but maybe that flow (or lack thereof) is what should be inspiring our boys in blue, white and red. Instead of endless practices, which won’t really help them be anything but exhausted… maybe a different approach should be taken.

At the beginning of the season, it was all smiles, fun and games. When was the last time you saw ANY of the players smile in post-game interviews, let alone crack jokes, throw towels on the Renaud Lavoie’s head, or even laugh? Yesterday, most of them seemed on the verge of tears… Hockey isn’t fun for them anymore, and I think that the route to fixing this starts in mending the bond that they share. They are a team, and need to start acting like one. Once they do that, the points will come, and I’m hoping this road trip will have that effect on them. They need to go to dinner, see movies, whatever… as long as they’re all together. Once they have confidence in each other again, it’ll translate onto the ice.

It’s all about inspiration. From what we think to how we feel, inspiration is an important aspect in everyone’s life. It comes in all shapes and sizes and affects what we do and say. For me, writing is an escape from the day-to-day responsibilities that life entails, and it’s this frustration that inspires me. It can also be a kind gesture that was witnessed; sometimes it can be a person or something as now seemingly trivial as a win or loss. The point is, it’s important to take hold of your opportunities and don’t let them go to waste. Yes, the centennial year comes around only once, but more importantly you often don’t have such a talented team of the perfect mix of young guys and veterans. Seize this amazing opportunity and run with it. Good ones like this only come around every so often.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?

This is my guest article for All Habs allhabs.blogspot.com. You can go check it out on their site as well! My thanks to them for the opportunity!

Montreal has been a sea of rumors these days...
From Vincent Lecavalier, to Brad Richards & Matt Niskanen, from Olli Jokinen to Jay Bouwmeester, it seems the possibilities (or rather impossibilities), are endless.

I still maintain the fact that a trade is not the answer, that the key to our success lies within Kovalev and the fact that Carbonneau needs to be a coach and find some way to motivate him. When Kovalev excels, the rest of the team follows suit, and as seen by their poor performance in the last 30 minutes versus the Sabres Friday night, they are clearly in dire need of some jump to their game.

But what has been concerning me lately (and the rest of the Montrealers who have come to know and love the players on the Habs roster) is the fact that almost half of them will no longer be under contract next year. While Bob Gainey doesn't seem worried, I get the feeling that many of our beloved Habs won't be back in the 2009-2010 season unless the team somehow pulls a Stanley cup out of their sleeve... which is unlikely to happen if they continue playing keep-away with the puck, and skating as if they didn't want to get a ticket for speeding. Personally, I think they have what it takes, but with their overall confidence level slowly approaching zero, it's going to take a miracle (I'm suggesting the return of the 2007-2008 Kovalev or a dual-instantaneous healing of Robert Lang and Alex Tanguay).

That being said, some of the major problems we have are whether or not we have TIME to sign all 10 of our free agents before the deadline, if they'd actually be willing to stay, and how much money they'll be asking for. Case in point: Mike Komisarek.

Komisarek's play has not been great the past few games (the whole season actually, if you ask me). Last season, he was at the top of his game. He was very reliable, he blocked shots, gave out a huge amount of body checks, sacrificed himself... basically had all the workings of an excellent stay-at-home defenseman. The problem is that although he still does most of those things this year, his reliability is a little iffy. Whether you attribute this to his injury, to some innate reliance on Markov, or even find a way for Kovalev to be at fault (he seems to get the blame for everything around here), he isn't playing as well as he can.

The thing is... I love Komisarek. It would be a huge loss if he weren't re-signed at the end of the season. But when I hear numbers like 5 million and 6 million being thrown around... to be honest, it makes me feel a little queasy. Markov is making $5.75 million a season, and he is the best defenseman, if not the best player, on our team. BY FAR. Komisarek is not putting up his amount of points, and is also not as reliable (this year anyway). If he can be signed for 3 million... maybe even 3.5, I'd keep him... but above that, it would not only make no sense, but we also wouldn't be able to afford it, unless somehow miraculously Koivu, Higgins, Plekanec, Kovalev, Lang and the rest of the free agents are willing to agree to pay cuts. Out of all the potential free agents, Koivu is be the number one priority in my mind... but maybe Gainey sees things differently.

I just hope that come July 1st, we aren't a broken team, reduced to the "re-building" stage, which I finally thought we had escaped after so many years. We have all the needed young guns now, and it's the veterans that we'll need to fight to keep if we hope to have any chance of seeing Lord Stanley come home to Montreal in the near future.

Leafs tonight. We can only hope for a miracle. Preferably Sergei Kostitsyn–Mikhail Grabovski related.