About last night …

On the way to game yesterday afternoon, I listened to Dany Dubé – my favourite hockey analyst, along with Pierre McGuire – on CKAC. His insights were borne out by the 6-3 game result.

The key to what I think we can safely call Canadiens’ resurgence is three lines that can score. That kind of balance translated to four even-strength goals last night. And it deprives the opponent of a shutdown option – not that Tampa Bay has that in their repertoire.

Take a bow, Guy Carbonneau.

When the coach blew up three of his four lines after the Dallas debacle, I thought he’d lost it. Particularly loopy was seaprating Christopher Higgins from Saku Koivu.

Well, guess what?

Higgins is playing his best hockey of the season with a new centre, Maxim Lapierre. Higgins is the leader on the line, and he’s brought Michael Ryder back from the brink of oblivion.

Ryder was excellent last night: two goals and an assist in less than 13 minutes of ice time. Underrated and often overlooked as a physical player, Ryder also contributed two hits and battled for the puck all night.

Max Lapierre had four hits. Once he starts converting some of the chances Higgins and Ryder are creating for him, that line will be dynamite. 

Koivu has been re-energized by the addition of Sergei Kostitsyn. And they’ve elevated the game of Guillaume Latedresse, who’s a much better player with guys who can score, as opposed to plumbers.

I also was astounded when  Carbo sent Kyle Chipchura to the pressbox for the two games in Florida. But Chipchura, centring Mathieu Dandenault and Tom Kostopoulos, played his best game of the season last night. He scored a goal and even outskated Lightning defencemen on a couple occasions.

Memo to Bryan Smolinski: Take all the time you need. 

The only line Carbo left intact continues to shine. Alex Kovalev shows up for every game and stars in most of them. And Andrei Kostitsyn got his 10th last night and is on track for 20 … or more.

Kostitsyn made a couple of bad passes during the second-period lapse that let the Lightning erase a two-goal deficit and climb back into the game. An earlier incarnation of Guy Carbonneau may have benched the kid for at least part of the third period. But the 2008 model Carbo didn’t, and Andrei K scored the game-winner.

The defence corps was part of the second-period letdown but was solid overall. Mark Streit had four shots on goal, two assists and two hits. He and Roman Hamrlik formed a nicely complementary pairing.

Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek weren’t able to shut down Vincent Lecavalier this time. But Markov had a typically excellent night and Komisarek blocked four shots and had four hits, one a crusher on Martin St. Louis. 

Josh Gorges played 12 minutes. I wouldn’t alter a winning lineup, but nor would it surprise me to see Gorges in the pressbox tomorrow to give Patrice Brisebois some playing time.  

And I wonder if the forgotten man, Carey Price, will get a start against Washington. 


  1. The Teacher says:

    WOW, Gainey’s gonna talk to the press on monday.

    Is that unusual or what?

  2. Yeats says:

    I lived in Inwood until I finished grade school (Good Shepherd). We moved to the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx. I went to All Hallows High School where I played on the varsity hockey team for four years. I used to wear a Habs’ jersey whenever I could to counter the effect of the blue and white uniforms we wore in games. Never got beat up because most of the guys I played with and against were Ranger fans. Not the toughest lot to be sure. I used to play roller hockey at the asphalt softball field next to the U.N. I never knew until I got older why we always had a tough time there. You want to defend the uptown net because there is a slight tilt to the surface. There really were several games that I skated up hill for two periods!

  3. Ian G Cobb says:

    Good morning Brian, was thinking of you when i was watching the Jr.s. It was closer than the score, we also scored one when we were offside and they didn,t catch it. Not going to be a cake walk against the Sweeds either. Later Ian

  4. mjames says:

    Thanks – any reason why he is sitting out . With your scouting report he should at least see a few minutes. The other Canadian JR defensemen are good but not great.


  5. Ian G Cobb says:

    He has to stay in junior next year, he is only 18.

  6. 24 Cups says:

    My feeling is that Subban is going to need plenty of time, not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially for a young defenseman. He might even find it beneficial to spend another year at the junior level.

    Te Original 24 Cups

  7. howtathor says:

    I was impressed with the work of Max Pacioretty in a losing cause for the Americans. He showed some real hustle and grit around the net. He’ll be a solid addition to the Hab’s future.

    As much as I’m happy to see the Canadian juniors in the gold medal game, I’m a little ticked with Mark Habscheid.
    You’d think with a 4-0 lead he would give P.K. Subban a little ice time. P.K. didn’t see a minute yesterday although he was on the bench. Correct me if I’m wrong. I can see where Jonathan Bernier is coming from in his recrimination of the Team Canada coaching staff. There is too much emphasis on winning at all costs. These are juniors and the game is supposed to be fun.

    The Habs are going to have to start drafting some “skilled” forwards pretty soon. Last year we passed on Esposito and Cherapanov in favour of D and grit. Captain K and Assistant K aren’t getting any younger (although he has said that he’d like to play as long as Chelios), and we’re going to have to fill those holes up front on the first two lines. Couple that with the potential loss of Ryder, creates some gaping holes in the scoring potential.
    I’m elated with the progress of the Kostitsyn brothers and hopefully Grabovski will get another shot. The upcoming draft is supposed to be a very strong one and while we may not get the top picks, I hope we go for skill this time around.

    Is Sweden the exclusive territory of the Detroit Red Wings in the way that Quebec used to be for the Habs?
    I can’t remember the last time we had a Swedish player of any import since Mats Naslund. Mats along with Borje Salming opened the door for Swedish hockey players in North America. Since then I don’t think we’ve drafted a whole lot out of Sweden.

    We seem to be focused heavily on the U.S. college system (Mcdonagh, Fisher, Pacioretty) or Russia (Kostitsyn, Kostitsyn, Grabovski, Valentenko, Yemelin). Just because we got burned on Chouinard, Turcotte, Ryan, etc etc doesn’t mean we should negate Canadian hockey or leave them for a later round pick.

    Anyway, I can’t complain with the success the team is having and the Canadian first round picks we have (Price, Chipchura) are awesome so there, I eat my words. Just something to think about for Trevor Timmins in the future.

    Look forward to seeing Alex O today. Bob, please sign him a restricted offer sheet!!!

  8. likehoy says:

    but how PK’s positional play? not very good I presume. Markov and Hammer will teach him where to be when he has to be hopefully. I’m sure he’s going to be an unreliable double-edge sword his first few years in the league playing less than 12 minutes a game. He might be a good trade piece if you ask me, cause I’ve heard nothing about his defensive game…all about his transition and offensive game.

    Weber though, from all I’ve heard about him, he’s the second coming of Markov, makes me excited since both valentenko and yemelin are supposed to be more stay-at-home dmen…weber can add another dimension. The other guys Fischer and McDonagh will prob bring reliable games. Our defense is set for the next 10 years…Bye Bye Dandeneault, Bouillon, Brisebois. Sooner or later even streit will lose his place…but our defence is definitely our best trade commodity with so much to choose from.

  9. Yeats says:

    Growing up in NYC, my mother never understood the game but always liked the end of a playoff series when the players lined up like gentlemen and shook hands. That’s the way I always feel after a well-played game. The outcome has been decided honorably and, as fans of the game, it’s time to take our hats off to the victors. We will meet at some time in the future and it will be my pleasure to buy several rounds. All the best, Brian

  10. ebk says:

    doubt I’ll ever do the summit but hey you never know. I’m off for a pint or two tonight. Just the thought that one of them was paid for at least in theory by my buddy yeats will be enough to put a smile on my face and make that guiness taste extra special

  11. Yeats says:

    Way to go guys!!! Total spankification of the U.S. in the World Junior Tournament this afternoon. I wish you all the best against Sweden tomorrow. Yes, I am on the hook for several rounds. If you’re in the metro NYC area drop me a line and we can get a good snoot on at the Bull & Bear at the Waldorf. Otherwise, I’ll be ponying up at next year’s summit. Hope you’re all thirsty because I am. (I don’t mind buying as long as I get to participate!) All the best, Brian.

  12. Ian G Cobb says:

    I like him a lot. i just don,t get a chance to see him play.

    But i like all our picks over the last 4 years!

    Great kids and they are starting to show up !

  13. Ian G Cobb says:

    MJAMES— About your question pertaining to P.K. Suban.

    He was a walk on at 16 years old for the Belleville Bulls training camp and made the club. He is now 18 aqnd has developed into one of the OHL,s better offensive defenceman.

    His 1st pass out, is generely hard tape to tape or off the glass. He can carry coast to coast and often does when safe to go, and has so much speed, he can get back into position or catch up to the play to break it up. He has a cannon on target that many goalers can not deal with, therefor giving up rebounds and creating double scoreing chances.

    He is very easy to coach and has a magnetic personality.

    He will be on our blueline within 5 years.

    He loves to entertain both on and off the ice with class and humour.

    Hope this answers your question.


  14. oshawahabsfan says:

    I love it, just after Canada made it 4-0 Gord Miller said it’s a wonder why a great player like Ryan MacDonough, first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens is not here for the Americans. Pacioretty has looked pretty good for the Americans, he’s very quick on his feet, with the puck down low and he’s fiesty, didn’t back down after one of our d-men had him in a headlock. Can’t wait to see these two in the bleu, blanc, rouge.

  15. Deano says:

    Scotty Bowman is the “Coach’s Coach” … the one everyone else can learn from.

  16. leafs67_andcounting says:

    So when’s Tortorella going to get axed?
    He played his top line for 25 minutes last night. Sure they got all 3 goals, but were also a combined minus 9 in the third period when the they lost the game.
    This happens a lot in Tampa.
    I dont see him lasting much longer.

  17. saskhab says:

    Just as important is finding the right players to match up against the opposition’s top lines. Higgins can do that job, but Saku was getting killed in that role. Max might be the right guy… he’s strong enough physically for the role (in comparison to Saku) and he’s quick enough to keep up with Higgins where Chipchura might not be yet.

    That first goal by Ryder I’ve been waiting the whole year to see. On his off-wing, quick wrister from the faceoff circle, top corner. That’s a Michael Ryder goal, and that, more than the two tap-ins courtesy of Ryder (one last night, one vs the Rags), might be the slump buster.

    Onto the D… this version of Mark Streit looks like the version I envisioned there based on his play in 2006-07 when Bouillon and Dandenault were hurt early. Confidence head-manning the puck out of the zone, quick simple plays otherwise. Is it simply that playing with Hamrlik makes one perform to the best of their abilities?

    Keep the D as is with Breezer spotting Gorges every so often while O’Byrne is out. Keep Streit back there and when Begin returns, a tough choice may have to be made up front.

  18. krob1000 says:

    Your Scotty Bowman pic reminded me of something. I just watched a replay of the Steve Yzerman retirement ceremony on the NHL Network…..that guy was classy. He deflected as much attention from himself the entire time and he actually choked Scotty up during the ceremony. He made his own retirement as much about Bowman as himself nearly. Yzerman joked my stats declined but I became a better player and we became a better team. He also mentioned Bowman’s stubborness and unwavering insistence on a defense first mindset. I am in no way, shape or form comparing Carbo to even a relative of Scotty Bowman but maybe his extreme focus on defense isn’t so bad.

    We can disagree with his lineup decisions and that annoying late game defensive shell but in all reality his results are already undeniable. He has Michael Ryder and Alex Kovalev backchecking…..so what you say? If our most talented layer and our leading goal scorer have to work and backcheck then anyone else damn well better too. It is a trickle down effect and it all starts from the top. Noone can deny that Kovalev is a better play since Carbo and as much as Ryders numbers declined he is definitely a better hockey player now than last year.

    We are building (or restoring) a team culture and that is crucial. A culture where defense is more important and where every man is held accountable by his teammates if he does not bring an honest effort. This is what separates teams from groups of players wearing similar jerseys. We are headed there and the character of Kovy and Ryder …..a fellow named Samsonov did not. It is not an easy transformation and I think we are going to benefit from all of his seemingly mad decisions. He is still seeking offense but he realizes that offensive guys are very talented and if their talents can be used effectively on both sides of the puck then you can only be better. I think guys like Kovy realize this finally. Higgins, Pleks and Koivu are all very talented and they all try equally hard on defense. The young guys are learning on the job and they have to follow the leaders or follow Samsonov.

    What an exciting time to be a Hab fan.

  19. Deano says:

    It is not a coincidence that every single one of them spent time in Hamilton (Price too). Carey and Sergei might have had short stays, but that might be a function of how good they are.

  20. NLhabsfan says:

    All Ryder needed was patience and ice time.He was getting neither.The line helps all Higgins, Ryder and Lapierre.They have a new emerging confidence in each other and it is a joy to watch.He didn’t become a flop overnight.Ryder has skills and loves Montreal.It seems to me the line works out to the teams benefit.I hope he is not trade bait because he will haunt us for years if he leaves.Third star for Ryder …who watched the game?

  21. New says:

    Mr Boone, you’re right.
    And the very best part is that the three wins all came in regulation and were full two point wins against conference foes. That’s the type of thing that gets you into the playoffs at season’s end, taking two points for you and leaving none for the other team.

  22. madhabsfan says:

    A few points:

    a) I,too, love what I have been seeing by the habs of late. The Kostitsyn brothers are flourishing beautifully, and Ryder seems to have found his game. BUT – we have only faced tough opposition once since the infamous night in Dallas, and we lost. Tougher times may still lie ahead, so let’s not get into a situation where we go from talking about the birth of a new dynasty to trading Koivu, firing the coach, cleaning up house and starting over.

    b) Good post EBK. I think our surplus of forwards, defencemen, and forward/defencemen has caused Guy a great deal of confusion as to who could help the team and how. These injuries have forced Guy to take one core group of guys, and work with them until they are effective. Hopefully, this will be all the evidence the management needs to decide that i) we have to stick with our youth and ii) we need to unload a few players somehow, or at least glue their asses to the press box. Smolinski and Brisebois are pure surplus, and I fear their presence is just getting in the way of young player development, which is what we are supposed to be all about.

    c) I still believe the habs will have to pull off a big-name signing to be a legitimate offensive threat to the best NHL teams. Unlike many others, I feel this CAN be done without mortaging the future of the team. Ryder is quickly making himself a tradable asset again, we have a surplus of experienced players who no longer fit the mold of our youth movement, we have a few million in the bank, and we have draft picks. Surely, we could get this done.

  23. johnny boy says:

    The most promising aspect of this resurgence?

    Each of the 4 lines has a rookie (or close to a rookie) on it

    Sergei K
    Andrei K

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