About last night …

A win, two valuable points to move within one of the Senators … but it was oddly unsatisfying.

You like to see your team at its best in the late stages of a game. Example: Eli Manning driving the Giants down the feld with the clock ticking down.

Your Montreal Canadiens: Four shots in the third period. The tying goal was inches from the line when Francis Bouillon swept it away. Saku Koivu (more about the captain later) lost a late faceoff in the Canadiens’ end, and were it not for a heroic zone-clearing effort by Steve Bégin, that one could have headed for OT.

Playing without Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley – both of whom will be back for the rematch at Scotiabank Place on Saturday – the Senators fired 12 shots at Cristobal Huet in the third period. They buzzed his net, harassed him, forced the Frenchman, he admitted later, to lose his habitual cool.

What is it with Canadiens’ three-goal leads? Nashville, the Rangers … and Ottawa darn near. I’m not enough of an Xs-and-Os guy to analyze the way Canadiens protect leads. But whatever the system is, it’s not working.

But a win is a win. Cristobal Huet was excellent … again. The defence played well without one of its stalwarts, Roman Hamrlik. And the Canadiens’ indisputable number one line – Tomas Plekanec centring Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn – is treating Montreal fans to thrills we haven’t had since Jacques Lemaire was centring Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt.

Gotta love those European skill levels. And the magic seems to extend as far west as Switzerland. Mark Streit scored his ninth goal last night. That’s one fewer than Koivu – and he’s matched the captain’s 29 assists.

With his ability to play on defence and up front plus QBing the power play, Streit is one of the most valuable players on the team.

He’s certainly Canadiens’ best bargain at $600,000. Unlike Michael Ryder, Streit is setting himself up for a very nice UFA contract.

Sign him, Bob.

The Canadiens GM might also think about re-signing his other bargain-basement defenceman. Josh Gorges, who played almost 23 minutes last night, makes $495,000 and is an impending RFA.

Streit and Gorges together are making a shade under $1.1 million. Mathieu Dandenault makes $1.75 million. Life is not fair.

• The Captain is making $4.75 million. And you hate to say it, but Saku Koivu is not earning the money. Yet another offensive-zone hook put Ottawa back in the game –  just as Koivu’s penalty had done against the Rangers.

Is it fatigue at this stage of the season? Koivu is an older player, and we all know his heroic medical history.

Is it instability on his line? Ryder has had a nightmare season and Christopher Higgins has blown hot and cold. Sergei Kostitsyn was better off on the Kid Line.

Koivu was benched for most of the third period last night. That shouldn’t be happening to a team’s captain and leader … although the leadership role is starting to migrate one dressing room stall over to number 27. 

• Chris Neil gave Andrei Markov a shot at the final siren. We’re going to see a lot of that down the stretch and into the playoffs. I’m not overly concerned, although I sometimes wish Tom Kostopoulos were three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. It’s great to  have a Chris Neil, but Brian McGrattan played three minutes last night.  Tom the Bomb played 11:41. Guy Carbonneau’s insistence on rolling four lines all season may help explain the extraordinary good luck Canadiens have had with injuries.

• Speaking of pests, Maxim Lapierre has to  step it up. His line, with Dandenault and Guillaume Latendresse, did nothing last night, and they barely played in the third period. 

• With the Senators screening him and slapping him around, Huet made 26 saves –  many of them difficult. He’s a very good goalie.

 • Carbo wouldn’t tip his hand, but we’ll probably see Carey Price against Toronto tomorrow. The Leafs lost 8-0 to Florida at the ACC last night. How sad is that?

• After the game Kovy said Canadiens need 35 more points to make the playoffs. Canadiens have 67. François Gagnon thinks 94 should do it, so Canadiens need 27 points in their last 28 games.

 

 

127 Comments

  1. Wencz says:

    Good points.

  2. krob1000 says:

    I sure hope not. I think around 2.5-3 million is probably more like it. Markov does everything well. Streit gets points but his versatility is also a reflection of his inability to cement himself as a legit top defensman. He is a big part of our success and he should be rewarded and will be. I would figure he will be resigned fairly early on for two or three years. I can’t see him wanting out and not wanting to be part of what’s happening in Montreal.

  3. likehoy says:

    we have many future captain material on our team…komisarek…chipchura…plekanec…i don’t think being a “future captain” is going to make or break his career as a Hab. It offers no protection as Carbonneau, Muller, Keane, Turgeon, Damphousse have all been traded away after wearing the “C.” (I may be mistaken but i think Lyle Odelein may be part of that crew too)

    what’s important is what bob sees about who will contribute the most in the next 10 years, marian hossa or christopher higgins? And from what I see, higgins is a long way to fulfilling his potential. It’s the second year in a row where everyone thinks he’s on the verge of breaking out, then loses form for one reason and another and is unable to recapture it. He’s still on pace for a decent season, 24g 27a for 51 points, but with his current form, he might not even break 45 points.

    Hossa is a perennial 40 goal scorer and an allstar with questionable heart, but a player who can score 40 goals year in year out has to be doing something right. All this talk about Hossa disappearing in the playoffs doesn’t mean squat cause there are plenty of players who break out in the playoffs after having poor runs to contribute positively (alfie, marleau, thornton). It’s not a question of “oh it’s the playoffs i might as well pack it in and not try” but a question of how teams key in on him and keep him in check and he has trouble fighting through the checks of tough playoff opponents. The right system and chemistry can easily offset that. Also it’s no secret that Hossa wants to win a cup as he only wants to go to a contender (as he previously said in an interview)…so he’ll be ready to perform if he’s picked by a team in contending position.

    now i’m not taking sides on whether higgins should be traded for hossa or not, those are just things to consider when valuing both players. I would dearly miss higgins if he were to leave, but the ultimate goal is the cup.

  4. Mike says:

    no, i don’t think so, and if he would i suggest a trade right now.

    Streit is overacheiving offensively and is not strong defensively (Sourray anyone?) although he is not as bad as sourray defensively. He still can not play defense and he should not be kept if he is payed over 1.5 million a year.

  5. krob1000 says:

    I want to say Gretzky went to Europe for skating as well. I didn’t know that was why Tiger changed his sswing…makes sense though. Tiger is in his own world.

  6. The Teacher says:

    GO HABS GO
    GO HABS GO
    GO HABS GO

  7. showey47 says:

    Off topic but i noticed that streit has already surpassed his offensive totals from last season and is currently only one point behind markov. Does anyone see the possibility that he may command markov type salary? Or something close to it? Considering his versatility also. Thoughts?

  8. Hockey11 says:

    Hey Ed,

    Since Dandy doesn’t play PP ever her are the scorers minus PP goals

    Pleks 12
    Latter 12
    Kovy 10
    Kostitsyn 9
    Higgy 8
    Dandy 7
    Ryder 7
    Koivu 6
    Smokes 4
    Kosto 4 total
    Lapierre 3 total
    Begin 3

    And Dandy has been playing the least minutes and still producing top 6 forward in even strength goals. Carbo is clueless as how to manage these guys and play to their strength.

  9. Wencz says:

    Also, this is only Higgins’ 3rd season with the Habs. If you take a look at his offensive output from his 2nd season (last year), it’s quite similar to that of Hossa’s 2nd full season with the Sens (if you adjust his ouput for games played). Add that to all the other things he brings to the table and I don’t think it’s a good trade. But then again, it’s not a bad trade either of course, but I doubt Bob will do it.

  10. Chorske says:

    It’s a lot of work but often an early intervention can help prevent long-term problems. Imagine if someone had done proper orthopedic surgery on Forsberg- I’ll bet with corrective surgery and orthotics, he would have played more games later in his career. Tiger Woods redesigned his swing while he was at the peak of his game because he was worried about developing wrist problems. I’m sure that Lats would benefit from intensive skating training, but it’s hard work and he has to want it badly- and from what I’ve seen in interviews, he simply doesn’t see “fast skating” as part of his role on the team.

    I want Komi and O’Byrne to take boxing lessons. ;)

  11. krob1000 says:

    I forgot to mention Latendresse last night. This guy has a future and people have got to start cutting this guy more slack. He has an unteachable awareness about the game and his big body causes nightmares for opposing defenders along the boards. He needs to work on getting better position if front of the net sometimes though and his SKATING. Everyone goes on and on about his skating and last night he had two chances that he probably would have converted if he were just a hair faster. I teach power skating (to kids granted) but I notice that Latendresse needs to work on straightening out his stride and getting his legs closer together. I am very new to the pwoer skating game but myself and a twenty year coach had a lengthy discussion about one of our better kids just recently.

    The kid is only 10 years old and is one of the smoothest skaters you have ever seen but his stance is very wide. To make an already long story shorter we decided it was best for him to work on lengthening and straightening his stride as the wide stance doesn’t allow him to get full strides and cuts down on efficiency (takes more strides to get same output). The wider stance is stronger but watching Rick Nash’s breakway last night and his long smooth strides reminded me again. Lats has obviously worked on his balance (for a while he was falling all over the place) but he has to bring his legs in closer and further out front every stride. It looks as though his feet never come inside his shoulders…even in breakaway situations.

    I have no right telling Guillaume Latendresse how to skate in all reality but it does bother me that noone seems to be working on him with it (maybe they are but I never hear about it)because it would help him. Anyone coaching or with kids out there correct this early …please.

  12. Wencz says:

    ya, it’s true, he hasn’t been very good lately. but I still think there is a lot of potential there. I think Higgins is a 30-35 goal scorer but he also brings a strong work ethic and leadership to the table. he’s future captain material, IMO. besides, trading up for hossa would only be for the cup run, as he is a UFA at season’s end; i don’t think bob would sacrafice a quality player like Higgy for that (unless maybe for a trade and sign, but I still don’t think so).

  13. ebk says:

    The Canadiens can’t continue to have these 3rd period meltdowns were they let teams back in the game. The had Ottawa down and out and the allowed them to get off the canvas and make a game of it. If not for a huge Huet save at point blank range off Chris Kelly, this game was tied and they would be looking at back to back blown three goal leads.

    The Canadiens also took three of the dumbest penalties I’ve seen in a long time. Both Smolinski and Bouillon had time to make better plays and Koivu’s penalty was inexcusable. I might not be a true hab fan but I don’t buy into all this conspiracy crap that gets spouted about the refs. Penalties like those cost teams games in the play-offs. Almost cost the Habs the game last night.

    Speaking of that Chris Kelly shot, chances like that can’t happen if you are going to contend for the Stanley Cup. I think it further illustrates that the Begin-Smolinski-Kostopoulos line are not a very good defensive line. The next time they play Ottawa, It won’t be Chris Kelly with that chance, it will be Alfredsson or Heatly and the game will be tied. The bad thing is they may be the best the Habs have for that role, scary thought.

    I really don’t think the Habs missed Hamrlik at all last night. Gorges, Streit and Frankie the Bull stepped up and played decent games last night. Markov and Komisarek also absorbed more ice-time than normal, as well. I also think that Hamrlik has been rather ordinary since early December and I’m hoping he picks his game back up soon. He’s a good defenseman, so I imagine he will

    Frankie the Bull made a uncharacteristic error that cost the Habs the first Senator goal. He gets pushed off the puck because of his size but generally he doesn’t make mistakes in his own end. He and Hamrlik would be my pick for the second D pairing if Gainey makes no changes. He might well be the Canadiens resident tough guy, he knocks much bigger players on their butts regularly and generally plays sound defensively. In my opinion, he is the most under-rated player on the team.

    The Kovalev line just keeps getting better and better. Two absolutely amazing goals. I’m hoping Alfreddson and Heatly are back for Saturday because the only way to find out how good the Habs are and this line in particular, is to take on the best. Ottawa was down their two best players, I want to see how the Habs match up when the Senators are at full strength. I think the Habs will do ok.

    I’ll end just short of a Krob epic novel with a couple of things I find interesting. With Ryder in the line up the Habs 26-13-3, without him, 3-3-0. With Brisebois in the line up the Habs are 14-12-5. Without Patrice the Habs are 15-4-4.

    67 points down, 27 to go to a play-off spot

    Thanks for reading


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