Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
This is still a team that lacks consistency, and can lapse in and out of focus on what seems to be a regular basis. Last night it was an inability to convert on scoring chances that nearly cost them the game, since there was no way it should have been only a 2-goal cushion given the opportunities that were presented. The Canadiens were 1-for-9 on the PP, and missed a number of cross-crease opportunities and open nets. That sort of thing just can't happen if you want to beat teams ranked higher than the bottom three of the league.
Tomorrow will likely be a better indication of just what the team is capable of, as the Buffalo Sabres visit the Bell Center. Should they manage to beat Toronto tonight Buffalo will be only 5 points back of the Canadiens for the 8th spot in the East, making tomorrow a desperation game in terms of the standings for both teams.
The question now is this: will the Habs manage to play like it's one?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The Kovalev/Koivu/Tanguay line exploded for 11 points last night, and the Habs managed to beat the visiting Thrashers 6-3 in a must-win game that at times actually looked like one for the home team. Granted, this wasn't the stiffest competition as Atlanta sits in 27th spot overall, but given that Montreal has looked like some club teams could beat them recently it was still a good win all the same.
Unfortunately, certain issues still remain, as it seems that on any given night only 1 line can score while all of the others simply fill in time. Balanced scoring would go a long way toward making this team something resembling a contender, although as long as the "good line" changes every night I guess that will keep the opponents' defenders guessing.
Carey Price was adequate last night (stopping 22 of 25 shots), but did allow his trademark weak goal and often looks completely disinterested with the game as a whole. You still can't quite be sure what to expect from him down the stretch, and the team clearly needs a solid contribution to make any sort of serious run.
Regardless of these issues, the fact still remains that the two points from last night gives the Canadiens sole possession of 8th place in the East. With games against Tampa Bay and Buffalo on the schedule for this week there is still a reasonable chance to make up some ground in the standings, and any team that gets into the postseason has a shot at making some noise in a run to the Cup (look at Edmonton a few years ago), so who knows what to expect at this point.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Habs suffered a 5th straight loss tonight (5-2 to the visiting Leafs), and now sit at an abysmal 1-3-2 with Bob Gainey behind the bench. Excepting another solid performance from Maxim Lapierre nothing worked well, and it's getting to the point where it's difficult to figure out just why the team has seemingly quit on the season. The effort just isn't there any more, and it's looking less and less like it's going to be coming back any time soon.
On the plus side, with Florida losing in regulation tonight the Habs maintain their tenuous 1-point edge for the coveted 8th place position in the East (and the privelege of getting thrashed by Boston or New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs).
Keep those postseason dreams alive...
Friday, March 20, 2009
After getting a win in his first game behind the bench, the Habs have dropped their next 4 under the supervision of Bob Gainey and still look like a team destined to miss the postseason unless something drastic changes in the very near future. Carey Price was shaky in allowing 4 goals on just 15 shots last night, and was replaced early in the second period by Jaroslav Halak (who played yet another solid game in relief). Price was notably upset in post game interviews, and you have to wonder how many more mediocre outings his confidence can stand. I know he's Gainey's guy and all, but it's looking like he may not be quite ready to lead this team into the playoffs just yet. He is only 21 years old after all, and the lack of a veteran presence to support him at times like these seems like a bit of an oversight.
It's not fair to put all of the blame on Price though, since the entire team (excepting the phenomenal Kostopoulos/Lapierre/Latendresse line) didn't look ready to play a critical game last night. The lack of focus and motivation is quickly becoming the norm for Montreal (regardless of who's behind the bench), and you have to wonder if there's any way to fix it in time. The Habs return home on Saturday night to face the Leafs, and can probably expect to receive a hostile "welcome" from their home fans given their recent performances. This is likely their last chance to stop the bleeding, so they better make the most of it if they want to be taken seriously as any sort of playoff contender.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Case in point was the third period, where the Canadiens were outshot 16-5. If you were to only look at the box score and see that they scored 2 goals on those 5 shots you'd likely assume it was an efficient period, yet the score clearly doesn't tell the full story. The Markov goal was essentially a gaffe by Lundqvist, and were it not for that, the Canadiens would have lost another game at home during this crucial stretch drive. There just doesn't seem to be adequate focus to play an entire game, which is odd, since the switch to Gainey behind the bench was supposed to address that very problem. The powerplay was also less than stellar (1-for-6), and despite a great regulation and OT, Carey Price looked vulnerable in allowing all three Rangers shooters to score in the shootout. I know that it's essentially a hit-or-miss situation when you get to that point, but I still think that you need your
"franchise" goalie to make at least 1 save if you're going to have aspirations of going anywhere.
Fortunately, things weren't all bad, as Maxim Lapierre put in another inspired performance and scored a nice goal for his efforts. Andrei Markov was also solid with a goal, two assists and a +2 rating. There were certainly signs that the team may still have enough talent to make the playoffs, but they need to get it together in a hurry if that's going to be the case.
The next game is Thursday night in Ottawa against the Senators (6-3-1 in their last 10).
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Tonight's game is the biggest of the year, at least so far and maybe overall. Gainey's had us doing basic drills, and a victory would be a huge confidence booster and give us some breathing room. Price needs a big game as well. Kovalev is back, Tanguay is a game time decision. Should Tanguay be too ill, Latendresse is in.
Go get 'em boys.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
With the loss, the second Bob Gainey era now sits at a mark of 1-1-1. More disconcerting than just the record is the complete lack of defensive effort (to go along with a sputtering offence), allowing a staggering 48 shots on goal last night. For anybody still thinking that this is a legitimate playoff team, you have to question just who they'd be able to beat in a first round match up with the effort we've seen in the last week or so...
The 8th-place Rangers will be the next opponents to visit Montreal (Tuesday night), and with playoff positioning slipping away this will likely be a must-win situation. Whether the team will be up to that type of challenge remains to be seen
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
This trend of sitting the hottest goalie is a bit confusing, since this is the second time in a couple of weeks that it has happened (Halak lost his starting position after 4 consecutive wins even after recovering from the flu). With Carbonneau behind the bench you could at least chalk it up to his lineup roulette, but with the much more calculating Gainey in charge it just seems a bit out of character.
In other lineup news Patrice Brisebois will play career game #1,ooo on Saturday night, replacing Ryan O'Byrne. The bigger story with respect to milestones will invariably come from the visiting Martin Brodeur though, who looks for victory #551 to tie Patrick Roy atop the all-time list.
Game time is 7 PM from the Bell Center.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Needless to say, it should be an interesting situation that will play out in the coming months as a decision ultimately nears.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Habs managed a 4-3 victory over the visiting Oilers last night despite playing one of the worst second periods in recent (and distant...) memory. Fortunately, other than that aberration the team actually looked quite impressive in the first game under the Bob Gainey regime, carrying the rest of the play and getting solid contributions from virtually the entire lineup. Carey Price continued his renaissance, and Saku Koivu scored late to tie the game and again in OT to seal the victory. The one obvious blemish was that the performance of Alex Kovalev was somewhat lacking (his only "contributions" came in the form of minor penalties), but given his strong relationship with Bob Gainey and his solid linemates, it is unlikely to be a prolonged slump.
The Habs continue their extended home stand on Thursday night, when they welcome the New York Islanders. Although recent games against Eastern bottom-feeders like Atlanta have been far from inspiring performances, you can be sure that Gainey will have the team prepared and focused for this one at a key point in the season.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
- Sergio Momesso, everyone's favourite ex-Hab, has been named an assistant coach in Hamilton
- The Canadiens will now practice every day out of their Brossard facility, and no longer at the Bell Centre
- The Canadiens now has three assistant coaches: Jarvis, Muller, Lever. Who heads up top on a headset, and who stays behind the bench?
While it isn't uncommon for the coach to become the scapegoat for an underachieving team, I was a bit surprised to see Carbonneu take the fall during the year. I had him finishing the season with the team before being moved out over the summer, so this certainly comes as a surprise to most parties involved. Conversely, we've seen Lou Lamoriello fire coaches with 3 games left in a season where the Devils set a regular season record for wins (again the unfortunate Claude Julien was the victim), so this sort of sudden move isn't exactly uncommon. What remains to be seen is how the Canadiens as a team react to the change. We won't have to wait too long to find out, as they're home to face the Oilers tonight (7:30 EST start).
Monday, March 9, 2009
unconventional adj 1: not conforming to accepted rules or standards; "her unconventional dress and hair style" [ant: conventional] 2: not conventional or conformist; "unconventional life styles" [ant: conventional, conventional] 3: not conforming to legality, moral law, or social convention; "an unconventional marriage"; "improper banking practices" [syn: improper, unlawful]
4: Bob Gainey
For the first 25 minutes the Habs looked hopelessly outclassed, yet a goal by Andrei Kostitsyn early in the second period surprisingly squared the game at 1. From there, the Canadiens went on to score two more times on only 19 total shots and coasted to a 3-1 victory over the Stars in Dallas. Carey Price was again outstanding, making 30 saves and keeping the team in the game during a first period that saw the Canadiens take 9 minor penalties and put forth about zero effort.
Despite the win, things are certainly not all well in Montreal. The startling lack of effort and discipline last night should never have amounted to a win (the stagnant Dallas powerplay helped things immensely), and more games like that will yield significantly different results down the stretch. As well, the team seems destined for a goaltending controversy with Carey Price wresting control of the starting position from Jaroslav Halak on account of an ill-timed bout of the flu. Halak was clearly the better choice before falling ill, and it seems reasonable to suspect that he'll be a bit upset about his new position on the bench.
-The team returns home on Tuesday night to face the Oilers.
-Patrice Brisebois should likely be back in the lineup for game #1,000 of his career; an event that will greatly impress his legions of adoring fans in Montreal...
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
The return of Alex Tanguay to the lineup did not have the desired effect on team scoring, although with just under 14 minutes of ice time it's clear that he's still rounding back in to game-shape after missing an extended period with a shoulder injury. Perhaps more disturbing were the body of special teams play, with the Canadiens taking a number of undisciplined penalties and the powerplay going ice cold after a brief stretch of success. Although the outcome wasn't greatly affected by either of these factors last night, if the Canadiens were playing a team with aspirations for Stanley rather than Tavares it would have been a much worse result to be sure.
Now sitting only 2 points clear of 10th place in the East, the Canadiens need to pull things together quickly or they'll be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. We'll see if they manage to right the ship on Sunday in Dallas (a 6 PM EST start), or if the gradual wreckage of the once vaunted Centennial season continues.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
With trade talk now firmly behind them until the offseason, the Canadiens can turn their focus to the Buffalo Sabres (who they'll face tonight at the HSBC Arena). The Habs put their four game winning streak on the line, and are expected to start Carey Price in goal with Jaroslav Halak forced out of the lineup on account of the flu.
Many fans will be disappointed by the lack of trade activity from the Canadiens today (and the inevitable indictment by the TSN crew during the broadcast of the game tonight will do nothing to improve the situation), so hopefully the team can pull out a victory to ease at least some of the sting.
- Boston is apparently after Mattias Ohlund as Chris Pronger negotiations have broken off. (Sportsnet)
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
- CKAC in Montreal reports that the Canadiens are interested in Michael Nylander. My take: How? He makes $4.75 million. Not to mention he's old and fairly slow. Doesn't make sense. I call bull.
- Boston radio reports that the Bruins have offered Patrice Bergeron and draft picks for Chris Pronger. My Take: This is close to the rumoured deal from the weekend. I could see this one happening.
- Bob McKenzie is now saying the Vancouver Canucks have entered the Jay Bouwmeester sweepstakes.
- Ryan Smyth could be heading to San Jose for a package including Jonathan Cheechoo. Source: Denver Post
- Bob McKenzie of TSN suggests that to get Jay Bouwmeester, the Philadelphia Flyers would move goaltender Martin Biron and go with Antero Niittymaki as their starter for the playoffs. He notes that the Bruins are taking a similar approach with Manny Fernandez.
- Dominic Moore and Nik Antropov healthy scratches tonight for the Leafs (tsn)
- Pierre Lebrun at ESPN says that Derek Morris will likely be going to either Philadelphia, Boston or Washington.
- Sean Avery...is a New York Ranger, again.
- Wild sign Backstrom to 4 year extension. He is OFF the market. The Red Wings better start looking elsewhere, fast.
- Anaheim waives Brendan Morrison, NYR waive Aaron Voros (Sportsnet)
- Rumours abound that Miroslav Satan has been placed on waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins
Two questions to throw out to our readers then:
1) Do you think that the number of players with uncertain contract status for next year has really been a contributor to some of the struggles the Canadiens have had?
2) Should Bob Gainey work harder to sign/extend his free agents during the season, or is waiting until the offseason still the more prudent choice?
- Anaheim GM Bob Murray says Scott Niedermayer "is not available"
- Dominic Moore and the Leafs are a million per year apart on a contract, the Toronto Star calls his trade inevitable
- Give teams (including Les Canadiens and Calgary) are still bidding for Olli Jokinen
- Jay Bouwmeester is likely staying in Florida
- The Minnesota Wild are leaning towards dealing star goaltender Niklas Backstrom. My Take: This could be THE move of the deadline. If the Red Wings grab Backstrom, watch out
- The Bill Guerin trade watch continues, and the belief is he is headed to Washington, should they be able to trade Michael Nylander
- TEAM 990: The Devils are pursuing Anaheim defenceman Scott Niedermayer, and will do so right up until the deadline.
- SI's Jim Kelley says the Sabres are making inquiries of "every available goaltender," suggesting that they are not comfortable with Patrick Lalime down the stretch.
Monday, March 2, 2009
- Martin St. Louis: He's good, he's French, he's a leader, and he's cheap. Next year's contract is for only $4 million, a steal for a guy +10 and a point per game on Tampa Bay.
- Teemue Selanne: I've said it before and I'll say it again. This guy has serious chemistry with Koivu. He'd be an awesome addition to what has, at times, been an anemic offence.
- The Latest and Greatest...
- Ryan Smyth has been linked to Calgary (various outlets), Vancouver (Globe and Mail) and now...Edmonton? (Sportsnet) Could Captain Canada really head back to the city he spurned for a few thousand dollars? And how could the Oil fit him under the cap?
- The Sens and Pens have discussed a Jarko Ruutu trade that would see him returning to his old team. (ESPN)
Perhaps they're focusing their efforts on Pronger?
Also be sure to check out The Insider video link on the main TSN page this morning, where Darren Dreger discusses a lot of interesting tidbits about the upcoming deadline. Included among them is the possibility that the Blues will be buying rather than selling; a disappointing proposition for all of those teams who were looking at Keith Tkachuk as a reasonable solution for their postseason push.
- Philly wants to get rid of Briere, realizes it was a bad signing
- Bob Gainey is still shopping for a top six forward, likely a center, Dominic Moore is a possibility
- As far as he can find out, Kaberle to Boston rumours have been fabricated
- Toronto will definitely trade Antropov and Moore, unless Moore signs a contract extension today, and likely Ponikarovsky
- Ottawa will trade both Kuba and Neil
- Phoenix does not want much for Olli Jokinen, McKenzie called this a "soft deal" to be had, they simply want to get rid of him as the relationship has not worked out
Sunday, March 1, 2009
- Stan Fischler of NYP fame is saying Sunday on the Devils broadcast that the Flames and Avs have been discussing a deal that would bring Ryan Smyth to Calgary. The ultime screw you to Edmonton? My Take: This deal has legs. The Avalanche desperately need to clear some salary. I would say a package of Lombardi, Aucoin and a 1st would do it. Getting Smyth off the books would be a big win for Colorado's owners.
- Bill Guerin has been traded, but where? The pundits are saying Washington is the favourite, followed closely by Montreal, Boston, Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Whoever grabs him may not like what they get, because Billy G's playoff stats, in over 100 games, are essentially .5 points per game. Not exactly first line material. My Take: He's going to Washington, probably for a 2nd round pick and perhaps a prospect, no more.
- Nasville is after Ponikarovsky, according to The Fourth Period. The Preds are looking to deal Radek Bonk. My Take: The Leafs want picks, not Bonks. Ponikarovsky for a 3rd and a 4th, and Nashville picks up a decent, gritty, top nine winger.
- Steve Sullivan: If, and it's a big if, the Predators decide they're not in this, then perhaps they deal Sullivan to the East. I would think Boston or Montreal would love his speed. But could his body take the beating that is the NHL playoffs? I'd have to think the Predators would be happy with a prospect and a late pick in return. After all, two months ago, he hadn't played in two years.
- Mathieu Dandenault: He wants out, the Canadiens want to shed his salary, and the Red Wings always liked him. I bet he gets shipped there as playoff depth, probably for a 5th or 6th round pick.
- Pascal Leclaire to Ottawa for Antoine Vermette, http://blog.dispatch.com/cbj/2009/03/leclaire_to_ottawa.shtml My Take: This makes sense. Ottawa desperately needs a goalie, and Columbus needs a centreman. I could see this one coming to fruition.
- Gary Roberts is available, but has confirmed that he will definitely retire for good at the end of this season. My Take: Roberts is going to a contender that needs a veteran presence. Look for Pittsburgh to take a look. He could also head back to Calgary, or perhaps Vancouver to join his old buddy Mats "the sellout" Sundin.