About last night …

There’s not much point dwelling on that ridiculous win.

This is Saku Koivu Day, and the big game is tonight at the Bell Centre.

The joint will be rockin’, and the home team will have momentum.

It got to the point last night when I wasn’t enjoying the game. That’s how bad and non-competitive Ottawa was: the Canadiens didn’t even have to try very hard in order to put seven on the board.

And it could have been more, if Max Pacioretty, James Wisniewski and Andrei Kostitsyn had cashed good chances early, when the game was still in doubt.

Ah, it was never in doubt. The Senators are that bad.

The question to be answered tonight: Are the Canadiens that good?

I doubt they’ll put seven pucks past Jonas Hiller, who’s right behind Carey Price in the NHL’s goaltender rankings.

But the team is on a mid-season roll: 6-1-2 in January, sixth-place in the Eastern Conference and six points clear of  ninth-place Carolina.

Two games remain before the All-Star break, and they’ll give us a good measure of where the team is at, heading into the final 32 games of the regular season: a visit to Philadelphia on Monday.

The Ducks and Flyers are not the Senators.

No, the Senators are unique in their awfulness. Their goal differential of minus-51 is the league’s worst, they’re locked into bad contracts with Alex Kovalev and Sergei Gonchar, they got skinned alive on the Dany Heatley trade and they’ve quit on Cory Clouston.

I feel for the good hockey fans of Ottawa, who deserve better than what they’re watching.

The best part of last night’s game – apart from big confidence boosts for AK46 and Benoit Pouliot – was the luxury of rolling four lines in a laugher. Jacques Martin gave his fourth line – tarvis Moen and the Hamilton call-ups – double-digit minutes, which means everyone will be as fresh tonight as you can be in the second half of a back-to-back.

Also, the Canadiens had a short bus ride home. So scratch fatigue as a factor tonight.

You have to think Martin will dress the same lineup.

Barring injury, Alexandre Picard is going to be eating a lot of pressbox food between now and the end of the season.

Jeff Halpern’s return probably will send Andreas Engqvist back to the Bulldogs. But Ryan White, who had six hits and a fight in Ottawa, will have a chance to solidify a spot on the team against the rugged Ducks and Flyers.

There was a good deal of trade speculation yseterday on the radio talk shows and on L’Antichambre.

Chris Phillips to solidify the D?

Maybe. But he’d be expensive, and many teams will be in the hunt.

Kovy?

An intriguing thought. He loves Montreal and might – I stress might – be up for a Last Hurrah.

I wouldn’t do it.

I think one of the Canadiens’ strength is team chemistry. The room is happier and more harmonious than it was in the last days of the Koivu era.

Yes, last year’s playoff run was a Jaro Halak Production. But the ancillary benefit was great esprit de corps that has carried over into the beginning of the Carey Price era.

On L’Antichambre, Michel Bergeron said Pierre Gauthier does not like to trade for players in the twilight of their careers. Gauthier’s background is in scouting, and he excels in the assessment and appreciation of young hockey players – like the 26-year-old Wiz.

So maybe Kovy lovers shouldn’t hold their breath.

Fans of Saku Koivu, on the other hand, have only a few more hours to wait.

•  •  •

Guest Comment from Bill:

I don’t care if the Senators are a crappy team, because all too often
that’s the kind of team that gives Montreal fits. Nice to see them do
what they’re supposed to do with a team like that, which is KILL
THEM.

The other day – after the injuries – I posted that on the bright
side, the Habs were finally a team that was suited to playing JM’s
stodgy defensive system. And ironically, without Cammalleri or Markov,
they come out and administer an offensive ass-kicking.

It’s a funny
game. So many likes. If I may continue to stump for AK46, this guy has
been having a good season no matter what anyone says. It’s not like he’s
getting top-six minutes all year, but he’s still producing more than
most players on the team. And he still leads the team in hits, if I am
not mistaken.

The score is somewhat deceiving in that Ottawa’s goalies
playeds like crap, while Price was super-solid all night. Even out the
goaltending a little, and this really could have been a 3-2 or 4-3 win.
Kudos to him for staying focussed all game and making it a rout.

I am
continuing to appreciate Gomez and his strong recent play. For the first
20 games of the year he was just not really there, but lately …
playing a top-two centre without a doubt.

So, we’re all happy, right?

Wrong, Bill: Montreal hockey fans are never happy.

24 Comments

  1. Nina76 says:

    Wonderful JT I have been wanting to say this for a long time I am tired of all the complaing alot of people should be coaches @ GM’s Give me a break….I have been a Hab fan for over 55 years @ always will be.You have the right to your opion but stop slam

  2. CHasman says:

    It was great to have two extra bodies out there banging opposition players around.  Enqvist and White did finished checks and skated hard. Combined with Moen (who has been playing his best hockey of the season lately) we had a real grinder line out there.

    Carey Price had a great game and his play in the first period while the game was still in question was superb.  I am so happy to see him return to top form because I thin it is more difficult for a goaltender to do.

    I have to throw out something about Mike Cammaleri.  I have noticed some comments from him in interviews where he downplays contributions from other players (especially Subban).  I may be wrong but I get a ‘me first’ vibe from him.  I love having him on the team but you have to wonder why a player who produces everywhere is moved so often.  Before HIO and being able to see all the video we get now I might not even be having this thought but I am wondering about it now.

     

     

  3. Chips says:

    What was that foul odor eminating from the Ottawa area last night?????? Sens were that bad! Liked what I saw from Enquist and White knows how he needs to play to stay in the NHL.
    Keep it rolling boys!!!!

    25 in 2011

  4. Graves says:

    “On L’Antichambre, Michel Bergeron said Pierre Gauthier does not like to trade for players in the twilight of their careers. Gauthier’s background is in scouting, and he excels in the assessment and appreciation of young hockey players – like the 26-year-old Wiz.” Music to my ears. I really like what Gauthier’s done with this team in the relatively short time he’s been here.

  5. StevieRay says:

    Wondering how Ryan White looke last nite . I watched the first period and was somewhat disappointed ..he seemed quite tentative and his skating dismal and didn’t quite seem to fit …. jitters maybe .. i really like the kid so I’m hoping he looked better in 2nd & 3rd period ? I know he’s not our savior but was looking forward to him being a fourth/3rd liner …he does have some grit

  6. Graves says:

    He picked it up a bit in the second and third periods. Went to the net, threw some decent hits, and had a fight (short scuffle is probably a more accurate description) after Moen was run from behind late in the third. Don’t think he did anything grievously bad defensively either, but I should say that I stopped paying close attention to the game after it became such a laugher. All in all though, I thought he did what was expected of him in adding some jam to the lineup.

  7. tony d says:

    I think all the Kovy lovers out there saw his true colours, a kinda pale cellophane. If he came back to showcase in hopes of getting Gauthier’s attention, uh… mission failed. Like i said, uh the last thing vee need is a moody enigma on the team.

  8. Habnofear says:

    Remember when the Sens were a powerhouse and whilst playing the Habs one game had a character of a young lady drowning beside’s a boat”lower than weasel bellys”…I feel better now!  D D looked good last night,have to give him a sniper!

  9. Rugger says:

    I’m happy Bill.

  10. mjames says:

    Good post Bill  -

     

    mjames

  11. HardHabits says:
    Here’s my trick. Use the <dl> tag.
    to get:
    ———————————-
    Paragraph 1 goes here
    Paragraph 2 goes here
    ———————————-
    do the following:
    ———————————-
    <dl>Paragraph 1 goes here</dl>
    <dl>Paragraph 2 goes here</dl>
    ———————————-
    The trick is to disable rich-text. I hit preview comment button and stop the page from loading fully while the rich text function hasn’t fully loaded yet. ;-)
  12. solomio says:

    Thing is, as is JM’s wont, we’re in jeopardy of turning a gifted offensive player into a defensive player and imo we really need Wee DD to produce with goals and assists.

  13. NoTinFoilCups says:

    The people who are “trashing” Kostitsyn are mainly looking to try to improve the team. As you say he will probably always be inconsistent. Then if we can deal him for someone who brings it each and every night we would be a better team. 

  14. JF says:

    The only thing I didn’t like about last night was the way we seemed to sit back after going up 2-0.  We stopped shooting and allowed the Senators to carry the play and set up in our zone.  If Price had been less solid, the game could easily have been tied by the end of the first period.  I was relieved to see the team step it up to start the second.  And after Gionta’s goal, they never looked back.

    I agree with Bill on both Kostitsyn and Gomez.  People love to trash those two players and speculate about trading Kostitsyn and how to dump Gomez.  Kostitsyn will probably always be inconsistent, but he’s still a much better player than he was last year.  He’s very good defensively, he doesn’t take bad penalties, he finishes his checks, and he’s just more involved.  The play of the game might have been his stealing the puck in the corner and making a beautiful pass to Plekanec for his first goal of the night.  I wouldn’t give him a big raise, but I certainly wouldn’t trade him either.  As for Gomez, he’ll never be worth his contract, but he creates great chances with his speed and passing.  There have been a lot of times lately when he’s looked like a good first-line centre.

    Kudos to Max Pacioretty for coming back after a scary-looking injury and playing a solid game.  He looked very comfortable and in no way intimidated or nervous.  He certainly has guts – even a minor bruise to the ribs is extremely painful.

    I don’t know whether David Desharnais will find a permanent spot on the team, but he’s good enough to play in the NHL.  He compensates for his lack of size with sheer hard work and tenacity.

    The Senators’ goaltending is dreadful, but it was great to see us scoring almost at will last night after our recent difficulties.  I just hope a little of that magic will carry over into the rest of the season.

  15. CharlieHodgeFan says:

    The Sens were depressing, but the Canadiens were entertaining.

     

    In a way, Kovalev IS the Sens. A potential threat several years ago, but even then, lacking the drive to take it to the next level, and now, in decline, with no focus and not much of a hockey future in view. If we could have Koivu on this team, I would be glad. But unloading Kovalev was a brilliant move, even if it was a case where Kovalev held on too long and tried to finesse instead of signing.

  16. HardHabits says:
    IMO the way Engqvist played, I don’t think Halpern should be rushed at all and might even need to fight back to earn his spot. It’s only one game but I was impressed with Andreas. As for White, he looked good too. I really can’t see the Habs panicking for a band-aid solution trade.
     
    People talk about how JM is ruining the kids and how bright young turks like PK need a more new-age guide to fully tap into their potential. Well look at this. Both AK and Pouliot were sent to 3rd and 4th line duties. Playing within the JM system they both flourished while not being under the type of pressure that being on the 1st or 2nd units bring. Then when players went down they both stepped up, granted it’s the Sens, but still, on any given day. PK has flourished and is improving tenfold.
     
    What I really like is how Hamilton is on the same page as Montreal. No more two systems at play. Bouchard is going to be a great coach, has done wonders and is already proving himself. Nevertheless in a 7 game series I tend to favour the defensive system over the offensive one. Nevertheless, the Habs have little choice as the haven’t drafted any Stamkos’ or Hedman’s in a little while. The point I am making before I digressed was that the call-ups so far have been seamless. The new players just integrate into the team and they continue playing like a unit. Poor Michel Bergeron bemoaned Cunneyworth as coach for the ‘Dogs because he wasn’t French thus unable to make the leap to Montreal. Hey Bergie, Montreal is no longer a training ground for coaches. It’s a training ground for players.
     
    As for Kovalev. Everything in context. Earlier in the season, way back when the Senators started slipping, I mused if the Sens would become sellers should the Habs make a stab at getting Kovalev for a last hurrah. I merely mused figuring a 3rd round pick should suffice. Since then I shudder to think I even glanced at that thought.
     
    What I am really looking to see is what kind of depth the Habs have on defence, as the forward portion looks solid up to now, and if any other players like Nash or Carle can step in next season.
     
    Anyone curious as to how I got the paragraphs working?  
  17. Castor says:

    I agree with everything except Halpern. That guy has been a blessing. His PK and F/O alone make him worth it.

  18. punkster says:

    Reasonable view David though I still think PG should be out there shopping for bargins. The young talent we have is a just great and bodes well for the future, as in a couple of years when we actually make that serious run for the cup. Part of that bright future will require trades for an experienced D or two and an experienced top six forward or two. If one or a few of those trades can be made now for players who could can become part of the fabric of this team for the next few years then why not.

    Of course, as 24 Cups has pointed out so often, I don’t want to see PG mortgage the future for quick hits today. If the right deal comes along then OK because we do have a fair amount of depth in the system. PG and BG have been pretty good at getting us some talent. I’m sure they’ll continue to do so without laying waste to our farm system or present roster.

    (OK, so bring on the OB/SK/Grabs etc. counter comments ;)

    ***Subbang!!!***

  19. notbigbird says:

    I am curious. I tried a <br /> tag earlier but it just showed up as <br />.

  20. OneTimer says:

    Good post HH, especially this: “Hey Bergie, Montreal is no longer a training ground for coaches. It’s a training ground for players.” I’m assuming you meant Hamilton though?

     
  21. HardHabits says:
    I agree about Halpern being a great acquisition. It’s just that I like Engqvist’s size. A bit of competition is good, no? The bottom line is the Habs have options. If Engqvist proves to be a viable replacement for Halpern this is good for the Habs.
     
    The big question mark over Halpern’s head was about his past knee injury being a factor in his game. Those concerns have been put to rest so far. If Halpern continues to play like he has IMO he’ll get more next season, as he is a UFA this summer, than he is currently making.
     
    Depth is always a good thing. I am thinking long term here. As much as I like Halpern, there are chances that he wont be a Hab next season.
  22. RS says:

    A lot of wild ideas get thrown around here and that’s part of the fun. But seriously, anybody who thinks getting Kovy back is a good idea is just completely out of touch with reality.

  23. HardHabits says:

    I mean the Habs organization. Boucher, Carbo, Julien, Therrien, Vigneault. Now it’s time to develop players not coaches. ;-)

  24. notbigbird says:

    PK’s lack of celebration on his goal was totally disrespectful to me. The fact that he was so blase bothers me.

    I also didn’t care for Gomez’s pass on Gionta’s goal. For $8mln, he should have taken the puck himself.

     

     


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