About last night …

I hate to say I told you so … but I told you so.
EEEEE-mail has been singing the praises of Roman Hamrlik since the season began.

Against the Sabres, my man played almost 26 minutes, scored a goal, added two assists and was named first star.
Not a bad day at the office.

And not for nothing was Hamrlik drafted first overall, by Tampa Bay, in 1992. (Canadiens, choosing 20th, took David Wilkie).
This guy is an excellent defenceman – through seven games, the best on the team.
Hamrlik is never out of position. He never gets beat one-on-one.
Hamrlik can handle speed. He can handle power.
Hamrlik never gets flustered. He plays within himself, and he’s an ideal complement to Patrice Brisebois.
Hamrlik understands the game. And he’s mastered his role in it.

I’m starting to think of the defensive zone as the Holy Roman Empire.
The current number 44 is WAY, WAY, WAY better than the last guy to wear that number in Montreal.

Some pundits criticized the contract Bob Gainey gave Hamrlik: four years, $5.5 million per for a well-traveled 33-year-old defenceman.
But the Canadiens’ pro scouts – possibly chastened by the Sergei Samsonov debacle – did their homework this time.
Barring injury, Hamrlik is good for several more seasons.
And he’ll be around to tutor Pavel Valentenko and Ryan McDonagh, like he did Dion Phaneuf in Calgary.

Added bonus: Roman Hamrlik’s hometown, in the Czech Republic, is Zlin.
Let the limericks begin.

Guy Carbonneau is getting bettter at late-game strategic thinking.
One the ice for the Canadiens as six Sabres pressed for the tying goal: Hamrlik, Francis Bouillon, Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins and Alex Kovalev. Two defensive pillars, three guys who can skate and handle the puck.

• • •

I liked the second line last night. Carbo may have hit on a combination that works,, with Tomas Plekanec between Guillaume Latendresse (four hits, and a lot of intensity) and Kovy.

I also liked Mathieu Dandenault and Bryan Smolinski on the third line. Still not sold on Mikhail Grabovski, though.
I wonder if Carbo will sit Andrei Kostitsyn for a second straight game when the red-hot Bruins visit tomorrow night.

The coach has also come up with a very capable fourth line. Two gritty vets – Steve Bégin and Tom Kostopoulos – flank a smart, hard-working kid, Kyle Chipchura. The line gave Carbo 10 quality minutes against Buffalo.

• • •

And finally, a big shout-out to everyone who attended the first Habs Inside/Out fan summit.
When I rolled out of Hurley’s at midnight – having gone six workmanlike innings bbefore handing the ball to my friend and colleague, Patrick V. Hickey, the Jonathan Pabelbon of saloon raconteurs – a party that began at breakfast was still going strong.

Props to Jay, JT, Nailah and everyone else involved in putting the event together.
It was great to put faces to the Comments you people have been kind enough to post.

JT is wrong about Patrice Brisebois. And I’m not sure Lee Hays’s electronic offside detector is an idea whose time has come.
But what a pleasure to spend time with knowledgeable, enthusiastic Canadiens fans.

So keep the posts coming.
And let’s do it again next year.

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