A truncated version today because I have to get into town, on snowy streets, to record the podcast.
If there are gaps, then, I’d encourage readers to fill ‘em.
An ugly W last night. But to start their season, the Canadiens have 13 of a possible 16 points and their goal differential of plus-11 is the best in the league.
The schedule has been weird and continues that way through next week. But then the Canadiens start playing three and four games a week and continue until the Christmas break.
As Guy Carbonneau said last night, frequency of games will allow the team to correct mistakes and tweak whatever needs adjustment.
Like the power play, which has scored four goals in the last 25 man advantages.
The passing has been great. There were a couple times last night when I thought I was watching the Soviet national team during the glory years – especially since the PP participants included Andrei Markov, Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Tanguay, who passes like a Russian (and more about him later).
But the Canadiens need a big body to crowd the crease. Last night it was Saku Koivu. The Captain has the heart of a lion, but this gig needs the body of a Johan Franzen.
Guillaume Latendresse? Maybe, but he was very ordinary last night.
Georges Laraque? Might be worth a try, once in a while.
Speaking of Gui!, he may be playing his way off the Koivu-Tanguay line. After the game last night, Pat Hickey was suggesting it’s time to move Christopher Higgins onto that line, and he may be right.
Pat had another idea: if Tomas Plekanec continues to struggle (one goal, two assists, minus-1 in eight games), Robert Lang should be promoted to centring Alex Kovalev, with whom he made sweet music in Pittsburgh, and AK46 (who was brilliant last night, after an understandably tentative start).
Pleks could centre Gui! and Sergei Kostitsyn.
Carbo will want to see more before breaking up last season’s best line. And maybe you don’t juggle three lines on a winning team, but it’s something for us to argue about over a beer.
Something else fans can do today is pray Roman Hamrlik isn’t injured. The stalwart defenceman took a shot off his foot in the third period last night and barely made it to the bench. He played less than three minutes in the final period andnot at all in OT.
Hamrlik’s partner, Ryan O’Byrne, logged 10 shifts and 8:27, both lows among the defence corps. Sitting out a game did not snap the big guy out of his funk; and I hate to belabor the point but this team needs another Top 4 defenceman – especially if Hamrlik is injured.
Markov played 30:18 but was held off the scoresheet for the first time this season. He might have had an assist or twoif Canadiens had cashed a few opportunities – "open nets," said Carbo, "but really wide-open nets."
Not too many open nets with Carey Price this season. GAA of 2.06, save percentage of .932. And how about that shootout?
God knows what is contracts are going to be, but barring injury this kid is money in the bank for 15 years.
Speaking of money, the Canadiens highest priority re-signing may be Alex Tanguay.
Six goals in eight games on an otherwordly shooting percentage of 40.0 (Kovalev’s is 11.5, Plekanec 3.6). It took tanguay more than 25 games to score six goals in Calgary last season (explain to me again how Mike Keenan keeps getting jobs in the NHL).
And the passing! Once Tanguay gets totally in synch with his linemates and PP partners … well, they’re going to need a good supply of fresh bulbs for the goal light.
So, 10 per cent of a long season is in the bag; and without playing their best hockey, your Montreal Canadiens are sitting pretty.
Wins won’t be easy. Teams are gunning for them this season.
But Price gives them a chance for a W every night. And if the D can solidify and the forwards get in gear, it’s going to be a fun ride.
Tomorrow night in Minnesota: Koivu vs. Koivu, Carbo vs. Lemaire.
And who knows, maybe BGL vs. Boogard?