About last night …

Not a convincing win, but it was a vitally important W – one of the biggest of the season.

Imagine the nightmare scenario if the Canadiens had gone 0-for-Florda to stretch their losing streak to a season-high four games.

Montreal’s hockey fans would be in an uproar. The talk shows would bristle with urgent trade speculation.

The players would be booed at their annual blood drive today. The pressure to win at the Bell Centre on Saturday would be enormous, and quite possibly more than a young team could handle.

Christopher Higgins saved the bacon last night. Pouncing on a loose puck that Tomas Vokoun misplayed, Higgins gave Canadiens a chance to salvage a point.

Alex Kovalev, who had an off-game by his standards, secured the win – and two very valuable points – with that seeing-eye shot in OT.

But the Man of the Match, beyond question, was Carey Price. This was the goaltender we saw during those early-season road wins in Pittsburgh and Toronto: calm, cool, utterly confident.

Price made 35 saves last night and is a lead-pipe cinch to draw the start against Philadelphia on Saturday. And if he beats the Flyers … well, we’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned goaltending controversy. 

 

Andrei Markov played 30 brilliant minutes last night. His skating and playmaking are off the charts. If, as expected, Roman  Hamrlik reurns on Saturday, Canadiens have three solid defence pairings: Markov-Mike Komisarek (who will have to be at his physical best against ther Flyers), Hamrlik-Ryan O’Byrne, who was excellent last night; and Josh Gorges (playing the right side, where he’s more comfortable) and Francis Bouillon (another moose who’ll be useful against Philly).

Higgins played a great game and so did Saku Koivu. There were signs – admittedly, against a Florida team missing five regulars – that the Captain’s line is about to shake off its lethargy. Sergei Kostitsyn is not completely in sync with his linemates, but he helps out with his hockey sense and smart positional play

A Koivu line resurgence is essential because as good as Tomas Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn and Kovalev have been, they can’t carry the team for the next six brutally-competitive weeks.

And the supporting cast is going to have to step up.

Accepted wisdom is you stand pat after a win, but Guy  Carbonneau may be tempted to tinker with his third and fourth lines.

I’d like to see Max Lapierre centring Guillaume Latendresse and Mark Streit. Because the Flyers are in town, Tom Kostopoulos and Steve Bégin should flank Bryan Smolinski (who was a team-leading 7-4 on faceoffs last night). 

• I  liked the PK last night. Steve Montador’s goal came at the end of a Florida power play and was a fluke deflection. Pleks, Kovy, Koivu and Higgins are great in shorthanded situations.

• Objects in the rear view mirror may be closer than they appear: Canadiens have three more games against the Buffalo Sabres.

• Michael Ryder: Trade the poor guy already. This is torture. Package him with Dandenault and Halak for Jarett Stoll or Chris Gratton.

• Breeze to the pressbox until further notice.

• If, as last night tantalizingly suggested, Carey Price is about to get World Juniors/Calder Cup hot, this city will go bananas. 

 

 

134 Comments

  1. Odie Cleghorn says:

    Hot goaltenders, who lead their team’s deep into the playoffs, usually get into their groove during the last 15-20 games of the regular season. Now is the time to play Carey Price and bring Halak up as the backup. Huet’s value is at its highest right now especially for a wetsren conference team with needs in the net and aspirations of the Cup.

  2. ClaytonM says:

    Makes sense, as I remember Ryder as being the guy that scored a lot of tying, winning and go-ahead goals in the last few years. Those key goals are considered by coaches and GM’s when assessing what a player brings to the ice, as opposed to the guy who scores one during the last minute, when his team loses 4-1 anyways, or who scores the 8th goal to beat the laffs 8-0.

  3. The Teacher says:

    If he had put a comma before the word “finally”, it all would have made sense ;)

  4. krob1000 says:

    Thanks….now I know. I went to public school in a neighbourhood with a very high Portuguese population and I picked up similar habits that my wife always calls me on as well. I often call the ceiling the roof and the ground the floor. Another that bothers her is instead of saying “I’m” I often say “Ing” …..it sounds awful when I hear other people say it but I do it all the time.

  5. RS says:

    Those are the most realistic suggestions I’ve heard yet! And I think it would work for both teams. Obviously, I’m half joking about Detroit needing another Newfoudlander now that Clearly is hurt. And I still relish the thought of Leaf fans booing Murphy out of Toronto and then seeing him thrive in Detroit. I suppose a parallel could be made with a certain St. Patrick, but that was not the Hab fans’ fault.

    I do respect Dandy (which is why I think a smart team like Detroit might find a useful place for him), but it is his contract and our overabundance of 3rd and 4th line guys. Trade Ryder since he is not playing well and is going to be a UFA. Trade Dandy because he’s playing okay, but has another year left on his deal.

  6. arcosenate says:

    It occurred to me today that the standings might be a bit different today if Ryder was up around 20 goals. It is quite possible that we would actually be ahead of the Senators right now. Pretty crazy, but it goes to show you how much his lack of production has actually hurt. Too bad, I like Ryder alot, what a terrible year personally and teamwise to have a slump.

    The other stat that jumps out for the coming weekend is that Daniel Briére is a -20. Now that’s wild on a team like the Flyers…

  7. RS says:

    Thanks for the explanation. The light thing I am familiar with, but that finally really did throw me.

  8. Chorske says:

    I’m not worried. Our second most consistent Dman, Hamrlik, has been out all week. Breezer has been in all week. Huet is having a mini slump. Every team has been through major slumps, we’re going through a miniature funk and we will bounce back. We’re in way better position than we expected to be, and other teams are having to claw up to where we are, rather than the other way around.

  9. Chorske says:

    LOL, that’s a Montrealicism. I use it too. It’s an adoption of the french “enfin”, put at the end of a sentence to mean “in the end” or “as it turns out”. It isn’t supposed to mean ‘finally’ as in, “it’s about time”.

    I’ve been teaching in NY state since August and I make my students laugh sometimes with my Montrealisms/francicisms. This is just one of many we do without even noticing, such as “open/close the lights”. Most people find it charming once you explain where it comes from.

  10. nightmare_49 says:

    Ryder and Carbo were not to be , Carbo is very intence behind the bench as he was during his playing days and Ryder doesn’t let anything bother him and only shows excitment when he scores a goal which we haven’t seen too often this year unfortunately. It’s just a clash of personalities and i bet that there hasn’t been a bad word between the two. If Gainey was coach Ryder would get more breaks probably cuz Bob’s temperment is similar to Ryders so the best thing for Michael would be a trade and a new begining. Don’t be surprised in the last few hours of the deadline that a contender jumps up and makes a surprising offer for Ryder especially if their competition has had a great day of trading. The potters are always sought at the trade deadline to take the pressure off their stars who will be checked differently in the playoffs.

  11. likehoy says:

    so did gainey and carbonneau.

  12. mjames says:

    After ten games you make that assessment. Give me a break!

    mjames

  13. 24 Cups says:

    likehoy – I’m only responding to the trade proposal because somebody else posted it. The guys I listed are young kids in the Detroit system – you might remember Helm in the world juniors a few years ago. I don’ think Detroit is going to pick up Ryder and then send a roster player back our way. That just nulifies the whole purpose. Last year Detroit wanted Bertuzzi badly and they gave up a young kid named Shawn Matthias. Big mistake. He’s a keeper. If Detroit wanted Ryder to give them depth for a playoff run then they might just give up a young prospect (although they might be shy after Matthias). If they win the Cup then it doesn’t matter how good the kid turns out to be – they still win.

    As for Dandy, they already have lots of “Dandys” on right wing. But I do think that some guys on this site undervalue what Dandy brings to the team and I certainly don’t think he is as bad as some people make him out to be. I guess the big issue is he makes $1.75 mil a year for a job that should pay no more than $750000. AND he’s signed for next year as well. Same goes for Tom the Bomb and Begin. It will be interesting to see how that all shakes down this summer.

    The Original 24 Cups

  14. projectpete19 says:

    c-c-c-c-c-combo breaker!

  15. nightmare_49 says:

    There’s the Habs annual blood drive today and many of the players have certain times to show up at this event rather than all being there at the same time.

  16. likehoy says:

    i think the idea was to turn higgins into a powerforward…at centre he probably wasn’t able to use his grit as much.

    the question is… can he win a faceoff?

  17. krob1000 says:

    Glad to see Ryder out there. Hamrlik is a good sign too. I also would have expected to see more out of the grinder crew but most of those guys that showed up are kids and they don’t need the rest as much. Huet and Price need all the time they can get because they will probably split the home and home with Philly.

  18. showey47 says:

    He is 11th in the league in scoring and i’m pretty sure he is under contract for another season. We own his rights till 2011, then he is a ufa

  19. likehoy says:

    i’ll give him the “great checker, and good face-off man” whole deal…but he’s at the end of his career and he’s not getting any younger. I rather pick up on a player that we can use long term than someone for short term (isn’t that reason on one wants to trade for hossa??). Maybe I’m still unfazed by the shaun van allen and jim dowd moves that we make heading into the playoffs…

  20. krob1000 says:

    I think he used us as the leverage. I said during the preseason that I’d like to see Higgins give center a shot. I think he’d be the ultimate third line center. HE has the speed, strength and work ethic to be top cover guy ad he could score soem goals going the other way. There must be a reason they have never tried it though but it would make for an interesting experiment …..especially if we did pick up one more winger. It weould force him to be more aware and allow him free reign over the whole rink to dart into open spaces. We’d probably lose more faceoffs though and we all know how important that has become in the powerplay filled “new nhl”.

  21. showey47 says:

    2 games in 2 nights in florida then the flight home, plus the drinking binge on sunday,lmao. Its not surprising that most would take the day off.

  22. teamplayer says:

    how is perezhogin actually doing overthere? how long is his contract?

  23. showey47 says:

    I’m pretty sure he was pissed by the way carbo used him in the lineup, besides there was no way gainey was gonna match the offer he got to play in russia. It would of worked out to something like samsonov type money. Thats alot of coin for 15 points. I bet he would of looked pretty good playing the right side of the koivu line

  24. teamplayer says:

    also noted by tsn, canadiens held a optional skate, and only nine players took part (Hamrlik, S. Kostitsyn, Latendresse, Lapierre, Ryder, Begin, Huet, Price and O’Byrne).

    i thought there would be more guys that have been healthy scratches would be out there. i.e. dandenault, kostopolous.

    good to see both goalies out there though

  25. MikeL says:

    Please explain to me why you wouldn’t want Kris Draper.

  26. likehoy says:

    i was surprised to see him go..i thought he was doing it for leverage a la zherdev…

    i actually thought he would re-sign…he would have been perfect for our team this year with the speed game and would have definitely contributed a lot more…and he’d pretty much completely 3 full scoring lines (except one line would be composed of 3 wingers unless higgins converted)

  27. krob1000 says:

    And Higgins or Komi’s off ice work ethic……St. Louis is a little big man……what there is of him is solid muscle.

  28. krob1000 says:

    Perezhogin hurt more because he was already strong on the puck, able to take the beating and had a quick release of an above average shot. I want Perzehogin back too.

  29. showey47 says:

    i wish corey locke had grabovski’s speed then we might of had something that resembles st.louis

  30. likehoy says:

    that makes sense…but I don’t feel as if grabs will ever have a place on this team. Speedy, offensively creative…but lacks real finish, no defensive awareness and no face-offs. I guess carbo brain washed me with his need for defensive play and to win faceoffs.

    Though with his potential..i really don’t want to lose him for nothing to russia cause i’m still smarting over perezhogin, whom i really liked.

  31. krob1000 says:

    I never said he’d be a Hart trophy candidate like St. Louis but his speed creates chances and causes opposing defenses to give more space. If he was a little stronger he’d have stuck with the big club but a lot of times speedy guys have the same long learning curves as big guys (see Blake, St. Louis, Afnogenov,etc). Their hands and heads take time to adjust to the speed of the NHL guys coming at them when they are travelling faster then the guys that are coming at them.

    Remember the first time you drove on a two way highway??? a heck of a lot scarier than cruising down a one way street….now imagine the oncoming traffic was trying to hit you and you are in a small sports car……that takes some getting used to. I just read that analogy and I have to admit it is weird …but it makes sense in my head so I am leaving it anyway.

  32. Gooner says:

    Price did play well last night and I hope he continues to but lets not get too hasty and trade off Huet. They are both capable goalies. Remember Price started out like this and then faltered. I hope it doesn’t happen again but it could. I wouldn’t want to go into the play-offs with two rookie goal tenders.

  33. likehoy says:

    sorry but gabs will never be marty st-louis…and it’s unfortunate. We should make him someone else’s problem as soon as we can…he’s on his way back to russia too as soon as his contracts over so we might as well cash in so we don’t have another perezhogin.


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