About last night …

Hands way up in the air, everyone who thought in September that the Montreal Canadiens would be tied for the Eastern Conference points lead in February.


And what’s even better is the way they’re winning hockey games.

I loved the third period last night. Leading 4-2, Canadiens ran a clinic on on smart, shutdown hockey:

Chip the puck out, move it efficiently through the neutral zone, pound it deep and paste Philadelphia defenders as the minutes tick down and the Flyers struggle to gain possession, with Carey Price waiting for them 200 feet away.

Maxim Lapierre and his linemates were particularly proficient, and
it was poetic justice that Max wheeled away to score the clinching goal
into an empty net.

If the Canadiens continue to play this way, we’re in for some very happy weeks as the season winds down.

And if Bob Gainey makes a trade, it will be fine-tuning, rather than remedial.

The Canadiens have two solid goaltenders. Their six-man defence corps is as good as any in the East.

So throw a lasso on the Hossa talk. This team is is good. As the young talent gains experience, Canadiens will get better.

Radical roster surgery is not required. And mortgaging the future is not necessary.

Play of the Game was the Francis Bouillon goal. Guy Carbonneau was to mention that the sequence was "typical Philadelphia Flyers, allowing a 3-on-1 break while trying to start a fight." As Jim Vandermeer challenged Josh Gorges, Carey Price saw what was developing and yelled "Wait!" to his embattled defenceman.

I loved Gorges pointing up the ice at Jim Vandermeer, like "hey a-hole, pick up your gloves … we just scored."

So much to like last night:

• Price: not spectacular but good as he had to be and, once again, cool as a cuke through a 17-shot barrage in the second period and six shorthanded situations. 104 saves in his three straight wins.

• The PK, in all its permutations and combinations, killed 11 penalties in the home-and-home series.

• The defencemen were brilliant. Andrei Markov played 28 superlative minutes. Is there a better tape-to-tape passer anywhere? Roman Hamrlik has come back strong from his illness. Mike Komisarek has eight blocked shots and leads the league. Francis Bouillon is playing as well as he did before his knee injury; he and Josh Gorges are rounding into a Top Four level pairing. And Ryan O’Byrne is getting great on-the-job training.

• Canadiens outhit the Flyers 19-17 last night. They refused to be intimidated. Guy Carbonneau has preached team toughness since training camp, and we saw his philosophy in action against an allegedly fearsome Philadelphia team. Steve Bégin set the tone by running Denis Tolpeko. The supposedly soft Canadiens won all four games against Philly this season.

• The Tomas Plekanec line continues to terrify opponents. On Saturday it was Andrei Kostitsyn’s Ovechkinian goal. Last night, it was Pleks’s pass to Alex Kovalev, who is playing hurt and having a career season.

• Another good game for Saku Koivu. That line is working very hard, Sergei K. is a positive addition and the goals are bound to come.

• I felt good for Michael Ryder. The guy has handled a nightmare season with dignity and class.

• One negative: Faceoffs. Canadiens were 24-41. Koivu 7-14, Pleks 9-12, Max 5-9. That they still won easily is a tribute to how well all other aspects of Canadiens’ game worked.

And so the stage is set for an interesting week at the Bell Centre: Rangers Tuesday night, Evgeni Malkin (and maybe Sidney Crosby) and the Penguins on Thursday and Bob Gainey Night on Saturday, with Columbus in town.






  1. The Teacher says:

    We have the space to do it, and I’m sure Gainey is familiar with him after being in the Western conference for a long time. If he does it, he does it, but I’m not expecting anything earth shocking.

  2. showey47 says:

    No kidding the guy is like 19 6’4″ 220 and plays center or wing.

  3. PPQB says:

    Aaah man I had almost forgotten about that Stillman goal. The flies are STILL on that one!!

  4. PPQB says:

    Good point on Ryder.

  5. 24 Cups says:

    Mike – I just meant that they were the last team to roll the dice on this guy and they lost their gamble at last year’s trade deadline.

    The Original 24 Cups

  6. Sehs says:

    We did manage to “steal” Markov though, maybe Komi will go for a bit less than maybe expected after all…

  7. MikeL says:

    Why Nashville? He wasn’t coming back there anyways…

  8. MikeL says:

    Completely agree. I’d say Fedorov is likely on Gainey’s wanted list. And like you said, it wouldn’t cost very much. I’d be very happy if Gainey picked him up.

  9. 24 Cups says:

    Wencz – Poor Nashville – gambled and lost big time.

    The Original 24 Cups

  10. 24 Cups says:

    likehoy – All of these Staal brothers may have had their development rushed too much after Eric broke through in Carolina. I’s take Jordan Staal in a heartbeat out of Pittsburgh. He’s just what we need for the final piece of the puzzle up front.

    The Original 24 Cups

  11. P St. Pierre says:

    I think Fedorov would look good on the third line. All your points are well taken.

  12. 24 Cups says:

    likehoy – Thanks for the info. I’ve been saying this for a while now – the cost of signing our young players may be more than we (the HIO posters) think. Who knows where the market will be this time next year? One interesting fact – half the expected increase in next year’s cap can be attributed to the rise in the Canadian dollar. That’s not the most predictable revenue stream in the world.

    The Original 24 Cups

  13. Wencz says:

    Your defense of Gorges reminds me of when he came to the aid of Sergei after the Hollweg after the Hollweg hit, which I’m sure is still fresh in all of our minds. But, I never called him a pacifist, Mike. I just don’t remember him ever dropping them coming out of a situation similar to that with Vandermeer. If he’s got that in him, I haven’t seen it yet.

  14. 24 Cups says:

    Habs-Kat – Detroit will be in the mix too but the Jackets may want to trade him to the other conference. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Good call on Montreal beating Philly in both weekend games. You were right – I was wrong.

    The Original 24 Cups

  15. Habs-Kat says:

    I like the idea of adding Sergei Fedorov. He’s Russian, he has tons of experience, has once said that growing up his favourite NHL team was the Montreal Canadiens and wanted to play for them, and he’s currently ranked 23rd in the league in Face-Off %. Of the 22 players ahead of him, none of them are on the Habs. It won’t cost much to get him, except salary space – but he’s a UFA at the end of the season. If the Jackets decide that the playoffs are out of reach, I could see them dealing Fedorov.

  16. Wencz says:

    ya, I think that the Ryder thing could’ve been handled better too. but who knows what’s been going on behind the scenes.

  17. Wencz says:

    I would prefer Holik. Both he and Gratts are two-way players that are big and strong. Although I think Gratts has more of an intimidating presence, Holik has a better scoring touch, great in the faceoff circle and is very strong defensively. Both are UFAs. I like Silly too, but Holik can also win faceoffs and his scroing touch and Stanley Cups make him the better of the two, IMO. Question is, what do you have to give up?

  18. Blitzen says:

    I like the way you think!

  19. JB says:

    just catchin up on some posts here – have the day off –

    sorry guys don’t agree at all – have heard not one media person mention carbo as a coaching canidate. I think we all could have picked these lines – in fact i think carbo throws names in a hat and picks them out.

    Loved him as a player – and really want him to succeed as a coach – but keeping a 30 goal scorer in the dog house all year while playin lesser players is beyond me.

    In reality we have one line – we need some consistency here over the last quarter of season.

  20. TheCharles says:

    Ryder has all the tools I think he’s just having a bad season as well. Possibly the pressure of the contract year is getting to him. I think they re-sign him and the pressure will be off and we’ll see Ryder go back to his old form. You could probably get him on the cheap.

  21. Cable Guy says:

    I’ve seen this kid play 3 times this year, I wouldn’t touch him. Horrible skater and he looks lost out there most of the time. Bloodlines don’t mean anything,
    Wayne and Brent Gretzky, Marcel and Marion Hossa as examples.

  22. likehoy says:

    brent seabrook, 22, signs for a 10.5 million 3 year deal, averaging out to 3.5 million a year….that would mean Komisarek makes at least 5 million. despite seabrook having more of an offensive upside, seabrook isn’t known as the most physical player despite his size.

  23. Jay in PA says:

    I’ve been looking for a way to do that kind of thing. Can you let me in on the secret? If you would rather do it offline, e-mail me at rjweiss at gmail.

  24. likehoy says:

    my favorite story of sunday night was the gorges-vandermeer debacle with price telling gorges to wait! brilliant…you can’t make that stuff up.

    Gorges has consistently increased his level of play. He showed promise during the pre-season games with his skating and passing, but now he’s added a physical edge as he’s not scared to use his body. He does what it takes to make a good play. (Craig Rivet eat your heart out).

    Cube’s on fire. The guy goes through shifts throwing the body like a little pinball. I don’t think any player fancies a 200 pound hard as rock bull like frankie running into them at any speed.

    The emergence of our 3rd pairing will stabilize our defense for the next couple of weeks, bar any injuries.

  25. likehoy says:

    i question the bloodlines…they’re all top picks…but marc staal hasn’t shined much this year…eric staal is unable to reproduce his dominant 100 pts season and jordan staal just sucks this year…

    They’re not bad…but not as good as people make them out to be…a little over-hyped…but only time will tell considering they’re all still young guys.

  26. nightmare_49 says:

    I’m leary of the concussion issue and Detroit’s in the picture as they try to sell more game tickets and Federov may help , they are desperate.

  27. ebk says:

    Nah, I’m a bit of a computer geek, fairly easy to do.

  28. ebk says:

    you are correct Mr. Boone
    A pacifist out here is known as an ex-easterner 🙂

  29. showey47 says:

    This was the guy i was thinking about also, i’ve seen him play. He is big, strong and has a nice set of hands. He is 6’3″ and 200 pounds and will fill out. His skating isn’t as bad as advertised but like your last statement says, bloodlines and proper attitude.

  30. nightmare_49 says:

    This draft is deep and the Habs may be able to address the missing links this year. Good idea.

  31. Jay in PA says:

    Actually, this makes me chuckle…

    1. Forsberg comes back and signs with Philly.
    2. Philly promptly trades him and Vandermeer to Toronto for Sundin and a first-rounder (Forsberg’s quote: “WTF?”)
    3. Both Philly and the leafs miss the playoffs.

  32. Jay in PA says:

    Excellent stat on W/L without Breezer. Where did you get that? Don’t tell me you calculated it by hand???

  33. J.T. says:

    Completely off topic, but you know what would be funny? If, after all the hype and speculation, Forsberg comes back to the NHL and signs with Philly, then Philly misses the playoffs. That would make me smile.


  34. nightmare_49 says:

    On the TBC’s hot stove they mentioned Waddell stated that he definitely didn’t want draft picks or untested players for Hossa but a player or players that could step right into the lineup and make a difference which is only logical as he is the coach and GM whose expiration date is around the corner.

  35. 24 Cups says:

    Exit 716 – Just as a point of information, we don’t have a 5th or 6th round pick this year.

    The Original 24 Cups

  36. Exit716 says:

    He wouldn’t cost a roster player, just a draft pick.

  37. showey47 says:

    In jared’s defence, he is 17 years old and is second on his team in points while playing on one of the worst teams in junior hockey. He still has at least 2 years of junior hockey left after this one. By then he will be a top 5 or 10 player in the league. If he had wheels he would be a top 5 pick like his brothers instead of being ranked either at the end of the first round or early second. He was also on the eastern all-star team.

  38. 24 Cups says:

    This is way off topic for today but I noticed that Jared Staal is ranked to go somewhere near the top of the second round in this year’s junior draft. The knock against him is his skating and the fact that he’s slow to develop (in junior) in comparison to his brothers. Let’s assume that we hang onto our #1 pick and that it is near the bottom of the first round. Maybe we should take a chance on this guy. 6’3″, plays RW, and loves to set up in front of the net. He could go back to junior for another year or two and then play in Hamilton. Bring him along slowly. His skating can’t be any worse than Lats. Plus, you know you’re getting the bloodlines and the proper attitude.

    The Original 24 Cups

  39. Jay in PA says:

    It depends on where and when you peg your expectations. At the beginning of the season, HIO had post after post with links to “experts” picking the Habs to finish out of the money. By those standards, it’s a joy to see the experts eat crow and will remain so even if we bow out in the first round.

    But now that we’re approaching the playoffs, expectations are clearly changing. Once a team is in the playoffs, it is held against a different yardstick and the question is whether it has the right composition to go all the way. Any team in the playoffs has a chance (no matter how small) to win it all, and you have to respect that as a GM. Therefore, if you are confident of heading to the playoffs, you have to do what you can to set yourself up for success without sacrificing the future of the team (unless you’re the leafs).

  40. showey47 says:

    I know we are winning but the faceoff thing needs to be addressed, and if we are gonna compete with ottawa we need a shutdown answer for spezza,heatly and alfy.

  41. HabsInBlood says:

    I think another difference one could point out between us and last year’s Pens is that we have a core group of young players we drafted that are now starting to pay dividends. Contrast this with the Pens who had a #1 and #2 (one via the post-strike draft lottery, no?) overall pick in consecutive years who you could say were carrying the team and raising the level of play of the players around them. So I think there is a distinct difference in the flavor of “youth” between the 2 teams.

    People keep saying we might just win a round. Is there any reason all y’all view this team to be weaker than the Habs in 02, 04 and 06? Anything can happen. One other thing. Price’s shutout on Saturday was the first game I can remember this year where you can really say that goaltending won the game for us. That was not the case when we made the playoffs in the previous years I noted above. My point being that this is the strongest I can remember the Habs playing outside of the crease in a long time. Our goaltending played a larger role in our success in the past 3 playoff years.

    As we all know the most important piece of the puzzle in the playoffs is goaltending. If Price takes over the #1 over the remainder of the season, I wouldn’t bet against us. If Huet remains #1, I don’t think he will be able to take us deep … I just can’t erase the memory of Stillman’s OT clincher in ’06.

  42. Mike Boone says:

    Gorges has charged fearlessly into scrums all season. Pacifists don’t become captains of teams in the Dub.

  43. Ed says:

    I thought I noticed that about Markov too. He seems very strong, and can not be intimidated.

  44. V. says:

    No trades please. The team is good the way it is, well as long as they win.

    Max Lapierre is playing great. (met him at the blood drive, he’s awesome).

    I was so happy for Ryder. My dad thinks he shouldn’t be traded. Just because hes had a crappy season so far doesn’t mean we should trade him.

    Hope they can continue playing great this week and beat those freakin rangers who I hate so much and then beat the stupid penguins. I hate them all, lol.

    Yeah I just forgot whatever else I was going to say. Have a great day all.

  45. showey47 says:

    I will be the first to admit i was very tough on him earlier in the season especailly when saku had guys like t.k., dandy, streit, smolinski,begin etc…playing on his right wing instead of ryder. Funny how lots of us were bashing him most of the season and he will probably be up for coach of the year.

  46. Jay in PA says:

    I’m not as worried about a game-breaking forward as others seem to be. Kovy’s as close as we’re going to get, and you never know what the Kostitsyn brothers might do as they continue to mature so quickly. Ryder and Higgy may wake up just in time (though Ryder has a tendency to vanish in the playoffs). We actually have a lot of weapons–they just don’t all fire at the same time.

    I agree with others who have called for us to trade for a big third-liner who can win faceoffs and shut down the Daniel Alfredssons of the world. There’s nothing you need more in the playoffs than a big third line and a few big D-men.

  47. 24 Cups says:

    This might be a good point in time to give Carbo some credit for where the Habs presently find themselves in the standings. When I first joined this site guys were constantly criticizing Carbo’s decisions and coaching style (I was guilty as well). Surely he has to be partly responsible for the team being at the top of the standings today with Ottawa. Maybe we should give credit where credit is due.

    The Original 24 Cups

  48. 24 Cups says:

    Wencz – The playoffs will be a totally different world and our inability to win faceoffs will kill us big time in the post season. And it’s not just one of our centres that is weak at this important skill – it’s all of them, especially Pleks. Names like Gratton and Holik have been thrown around but another possibility is Mike Sillinger of the Islanders. They may want to trade him at the deadline if they continue to slide out of the playoff picture. He’s also signed for next year. Ideally, I’d rather have someone larger but we can’t get by with what we have now. Chipchura was terrible at faceoffs earlier in the year but that may have improved playing with Don Lever in Hamilton. Regardless, it’s our Achilles heel right now.

    The Original 24 Cups

  49. showey47 says:

    I don’t know if ryder wants to resign after the way carbo has treated him this season. I know some of it is warranted but sitting him constantly when guys like lats and smokes (till yesterday) get a free ride doesn’t give ryder much of a reason to stay.

  50. Wencz says:

    that’s true, picks are an important thing to consider. i’m not sure that we’d deal Huet though unless it was part of something that helped us immediately. he’s too valuable if Price were to get injured or drop off and I also don’t like the optics or dealing him for just a pick at this point.

  51. Wencz says:

    This team has shown that it is good enough to play with and beat the best right now. But, we’re also not mature enough to maintain that level of intensity and focus against everyone — this leads to slumps and losses to lower calibre teams. I would be surprised if we are able to continue being this successful even throughout the week (hope we can). What this should show us is that with the pieces we have, we are CAPABLE of defending, scoring and winning. IMO, our two biggest weaknesses (when our goalie is on and our defense is healthy) is winning faceoffs and shutting down top lines. Let’s forget about mortaging the future for an all-star scorer and go out and pick up an shut-down centreman who can win faceoffs. Add that to the pot and we have the horses to compete, so long as they do COMPETE.

    Two other things coming out of last night’s game. One, Markov seems to be developing a mean streak (or maybe it’s just for Briere). Two, I’d like to see the PK be a bit more aggressive on the puck. I know when teams play like that against us it gives us fits. I don’t like letting the opponent just pass the puck around and take shots, I’m too worried about a deflection or our goalie being screened.

  52. showey47 says:

    you do lose something, souray for example we could of easily have gotten a first round pick, high end prospect and a roster player. We got gorges and a first rounder for rivet. But at that point of the season last year it was a no win situation for gainey if he trades souray the fans and media rip him because they think he is throwing in the towel for the season. I think huet could at least get us a first round pick if the right team needs a goaltender, that pick could be turned into something we need or at least part of a trade. Thats my opinion anyway.

  53. Dan23 says:

    Great game last night and on Saturday by the Cube – gotta give credit where it’s due. I think his goal and Gorges’ dance with Vandermeer are among my top 10 moments of the season…

  54. Dan23 says:

    I’m just a tad nervous about facing the Rangers at home, especially considering that they’ve been good of late (watch out for that Avery fella…).

    While I would like to give Ryder another chance, I think the only way you’re going to see that is if Gainey comes out and tells the media to get off his back. No such vote of confidence has been forthcoming at any point this season, which leads me to believe he’ll either go by Feb. 26 or at the end of the season.

    It seems to me that this season Ryder has been trying to do too much – he was never really a complete player, but it was okay as long as he was scoring goals. Now he makes more passes than I’ve ever seen him make, is trying to be more responsible defensively, which seems to make him second-guess his scoring opportunities, and he’s had to contend with media pressure and being a healthy scratch. It hasn’t helped that his usual linemates are having ordinary to sub-par seasons.

    I wish him well and hope he scores another bunch of goals before the deadline, but I think the only way that might happen is if he gets the chance to play with Kovalev, and that’s probably not very likely.

    All that said, I enjoyed watching the Habs play this weekend – entertaining hockey with good effort. I’d echo some of the comments here – a blockbuster deal before the deadline should be balanced against its potential negative impact on the chemistry of the team. I think I might actually prefer adding some more grit and faceoff help as opposed to a Hossa. I don’t mind waiting until the end of the season to see if guys like Hossa, Lecavalier or others are available. I have to think Montreal will be a much more attractive destination for free agents this year than last…

  55. ebk says:

    Great weekend for the Habs, great weekend to be a Hab fan. After 15 years of trying to slink into the play-offs and hoping not to be embarrassed once they are there, The Habs appear poised to kick the door down and announce, “We’re back”.

    I’d trade for Hossa if and only if it would not disturb the core of young talent already there. If Atlanta would take some picks and Grabovski types, then I’m all for it but Higgins and a #1 is to much for a rental.

    I think the biggest area of need now is upgrading the 4th line. Smolinski, Begin, Dandenault and Kostopoulos all play ok at times but they have trouble when used in a checking roles against team’s top lines. That could come back to haunt the Habs in a huge way down the stretch and in the play-offs.

    Ryder played a very good hockey game. He is clearly better that a lot of their forwards and it stumps me why he seems to be the scapegoat when things go wrong. I really like him on LW with Koivu and Higgins as the 2nd PP unit. Sergei K was doing a good job of feeding Ryder for a one-timer. If this unit stays together on the PP, I can see it being productive. Ryder was always most dangerous on the PP and especially when he plays LW.

    Hope we have seen he last of Brisebois. Smolinski as well, I’d really like to see Chipchura back, along with Grabovski and maybe even Valentenko. The kids have made a big difference so far in the season and the players these three would replace have not been that effective.

    Finally, How about Frankie the Bull, glad to see him get some ink on the site, he deserves it.

    17-4-4 without Brisebois in the lineup. Roughly 20 points out of a play-off spot

  56. Wencz says:

    i agree with showey, what we need is a strong shut-down 3rd liner who can win faceoffs. detroit has some gritty, skilled guys that would help us i think. montreal has also shown in the recent past that it is able to elevate its game during the postseason (e.g. we stole 2 series in a row against boston and gave the hurricanes all they could handle).

  57. RS says:

    JAY in PA “If we have any fantasies about going more than a round or two, we need to add some key pieces, cheap.”

    No fantasies here. If the Habs make the playoffs and lose in the first round, I’d still consider this to be a reasonable success for this team and part of the building process. That said, with this team playing like this, they just might win a round.

  58. Wencz says:

    let’s remember Josh isn’t exactly a fighter either, i wonder if he would’ve dropped ’em regardless of the play heading up ice.

  59. Wencz says:

    i think that the prospect of signing ryder cheap is compelling. i know we have some young blood coming up, but this guy is a proven 30-goal scorer who has had an off year under tremendous pressure.

  60. Wencz says:

    interesting point. who might we covet the most from the wings?

  61. JB says:

    our best course of action is to do – Nothing – except maybe very minor moves – ie adding a little toughness/grit. Might be alright to have a heavyweight in the pressbox if things get tough in the playoffs.

    Other than that – I’m happy with a 1st or second round playoff appearance and we’ll see where it goes. Let this team mature togther. No need to mess with this chemistry. 3 things killed us last yr 1) the flu 2) no backup goalie 3) the aweful demotion of Lapierre for a couple of weeks mid season the killed the chemistry. So far we’ve avoided that – and really grew as a team from last yr.

    This group now needs some playoff experience. Remain calm and please play Ryder. If he plays to form over the last quarter and the playoffs – that’s as good as any pickup we could make without changing anything.

  62. J.T. says:

    I agree Jay. We tend to gloss over the team’s weaknesses when they win. Everything looks just a little shinier than it really is. I think the team can do alright without a big name goalscorer if all the lines contribute offensively. But a couple of areas that MUST improve for the playoffs are faceoffs and their ability to shut down big lines like the Alfredsson line in Ottawa. I think that’s what Gainey must be shopping for before the deadline.


  63. showey47 says:

    If i can throw in my 2 cents i think the pieces we need is a big, physical third line center, who would rule the faceoff circle and maybe even chip in with some offence. This would essentially be to match up with the likes of spezza etc. As for huet to detroit, this deal could be a possibility i don’t know what they would be willing to offer that could help us now. Perhaps the likes of johan franzen who could play right wing with koivu, or their first round pick which could be used for another deal to address our current needs.

  64. Rugger says:

    Unless an offer is Godfatherlike (i.e. can’t refuse) I do not mind keeping our UFA’s until summer. You don’t really lose them for nothing, the $ is turned around for a replacement as in Hammer for Sourey’s money.

  65. JF says:

    The difference between us and last year’s Penguins is that we have a much better defense than they did. But your point about our difficulties against Ottawa, New Jersey and the Rangers is good. What pieces do you think we should add and who should we deal? Someone on this blog suggests a deal with Detroit for Huet, since Hasek is injured and they are left with Osgoode and a backup. It would mean taking a chance on Price, but Huet hasn’t really shown the consistency and mental strength you need in a playoff goaltender. And much as I would like to keep him, I can’t see him re-signing with us. Any thoughts?

  66. sag says:

    Little Doggie,
    Enjoy the ride!! You may be right, but we are supposed to be sitting 14th according to the experts! This season has been a pleasure on so many levels. Never mind the negative predictions…everything is gravy at this point.

  67. Jay in PA says:

    The good news is that the slump that had us all depressed last week was brief and shallow (let’s hope we can say the same about the U.S. recession). We were pulled out of it by good goaltending, followed by solid team play, and now we’re looking up again. So far so good.

    Yet, as we all look toward the playoffs, I wonder where we should pin our hopes. Right now, this team looks to me like last year’s Pittsburgh Penguins–we’re young, we’re under the radar, and we’re surprising everyone with the quality of our play. Yet the Pens were easily crushed in the playoffs by an Ottawa team that raised its game in a way the Pens simply could not. Similarly, Ottawa has given us trouble this year, as have the Rangers and the Devils (except that last game). These teams will only play more intensely come playoff time.

    In the playoffs, you have to have a special quality of coaching (Carbo may have it but is untested), a playoff goalie (Huet showed flashes a few years ago, but not since; Price is an unknown at the NHL level but all signs are promising), and players who can raise their game (Kovy for sure, Koivu somewhat, but the rest of the boys are already overachieving as it is). That’s a lot of question marks.

    This is a team that can certainly make the playoffs if it can continue to play the high-caliber hockey we’ve seen. But is this the team that we want to put up against Ottawa, Detroit, or Anaheim? I don’t think we’re there yet. If we have any fantasies about going more than a round or two, we need to add some key pieces, cheap.

  68. moser17 says:

    I read Mike’s “UN-BE-LIEVABLE” like the têtes à claques ad guy says it. (www.tetesaclaques.tv)

    I didn’t know Price yelled to Gorges to wait when Vandermeer fluffed up his feathers like that … THAT was smart hockey from a young goalie. And good job by Gorges to know what’s what and walk away, like Mike said, with a kind reminder to Vandermeer to remember what’s what next time he abandons the play for a street fight.

  69. J.T. says:

    Ah…that was enjoyable! This is soooo much better than last year, it’s almost indescribable. There are big changes of course…like Hamrlik, O’Byrne and Gorges on defence versus Souray, Dandenault and Rivet, and this year’s Kovalev versus last year’s. But there are so many little things that, when you add them together, make the difference between a decent team that misses the playoffs by one win and a consistently very good team.

    Watching Markov penetrate the offensive zone on the PP is a joy. That little hesitation he makes just at the line to throw off the defender and allow him to carry the puck rather than dumping it in is an art. Gorges’ positioning is great to see. Twice last night I saw him rub out a puck carrier on the boards and flip it out to his own player in a quick transition. Plekanec, Kovalev and Kostitsyn’s blind awareness of their linemates’ positions on the ice is a weapon very difficult to defend against…as we saw with the Habs’ first goal last night. The number of shots the team blocks is indicative of a much more determined will to win than we saw last year. Sergei Kostitsyn’s seeing-eye passes are brilliant, and when he stops surprising his linemates with them so often they’ll generate some pretty goals. So many little things…

    Anyone miss Smolinski last night? Anyone? No? Me neither.

    I’d love Ryder to sign for cheap and score 35 next year. He’s a team player and a hard worker who deserves a Kovalevesque chance at redemption.

    Now…let’s hope the Rangers don’t do to us what we did to the Flyers!


  70. Naila Jinnah says:

    I’m starting to feel excited and hopeful about the post season! 😀

  71. MikeL says:

    I know this is likely a bit premature, but Bob Gainey has gotta be keeping a close eye on the Detroit situation. Hasek is hurt, and we all seen that story before…Osgood is playing to his abilities, which are not great at this point in his career. Kenny Holand cannot feel comfortable with his goaltending situation at the moment. I think Gainey wouldn’t be doing his job if he at least didn’t inquire what he could get for Huet out of Detroit. As I have said before, trading Huet and going with Price is a gamble I am prepared to take only if we can improve our current roster.

  72. ZepFan2 says:

    “I felt good for Michael Ryder. The guy has handled a nightmare season with dignity and class.”

    Amen to that!

    I said see, see Mike Ryder
    Oh see, what you have done

    I said see, see Mike Ryder
    Oh see, what you have done

  73. JF says:

    Loved last night’s game for so many reasons. It feels great to sweep the Flyers after Briere signed with them partly because he thought they were a better team than us. We out-hit, out-skated, out-worked and out-scored them in every game. The highlight for me was Bouillon’s goal, with Gorges pointing out at the other end of the ice that it was the wrong moment for a fight. Bouillon’s worked so hard this season and been so effective in a quiet way that he often doesn’t get noticed much; he really deserved that goal. Now I’m just waiting for Gorges to score. Last summer there were posters on this site who thought he was expendable, just picked up to move Rivet and clear cap space, but obviously Gainey knew what he was doing. Gorges plays really smart and contributes a lot.

    I was happy Koivu and Ryder scored. Koivu gets a lot of criticism, much of it underserved. He’s played very well lately and been very visible; this is the time of year when he really steps it up. As for Ryder, I’d like nothing better than for him to get his scoring touch back and stay with us, but I don’t think it’ll happen. He’s handled this nightmare season very well; I hope Carbonneau gives him more ice-time.

    It was a relief to get goals from other sources than the Plekanec line.

    Penalty-killing was great in both games, another area in which we have improved a lot since the beginning of the season. Faceoffs were better last night than the previous game, but are still something we need to work on. The power-play concerns me a bit; lots of nice passing, but not many really good chances in either game.

    One more thing: we are learning how to shut the opponent down to protect a lead late in the game, something we couldn’t do earlier in the season. I used to be on the edge of my seat in close third periods, praying that we would hang on and expecting to see even a 2-goal lead evaporate before my eyes; last night I wasn’t all that worried. The way they were playing, it would have taken monumental blunders for Philly to tie it.

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