With five sleeps until the regular-season opener, how are you feeling about your Montreal Canadiens?
Still think they should have kept Halak?
Maybe it’s the afterglow of that splendid win in Quebec City, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about the next 82 (at minimum) games.
Goaltending is solid. Carey Price was Carey Price in his final two exhibition starts. And Peter Budaj can’t possibly be André Racicot, can he? (Hey, what’s with the goalies the Canadiens get from Colorado anyway? Didn’t we suffer enough with David Aebischer?)
The Top Six are bolstered by the recovery of Max Pacioretty, the addition of Erik Cole and the renaissance, it seems, of Scott Gomez. There will be goals, and two shifts worth of time spent in the other team’s end.
You need a good third line to win in the league now, and the Canadiens have interesting possibilities: David Desharnais, Lars Eller once he’s ready, Andrei Kostitsyn once he realizes this is another contract year, maybe Ryan White for some sand, Aaron Palushaj if he sticks.
The fourth line is a concern. The Canadiens have no Chris Neil/Shawn Thornton clones (I’ve given up on Travis Moen becoming one), and Jacques Martin has to hope he can get decent minutes out of some combination of Moen, White, Mathieu Darche, Yannick Weber (who has played himself out of the defence corps), possibly Palushaj and maybe Andreas Engqvist, who is running out of time to prove Pierre Gauthier didn’t err in letting Jeff Halpern get away.
To start the season, the D is performing a Samuel Beckett adaptation: Waiting for Markov.
I liked the pairings against Tampa Bay in Quebec City: Hal Gill providing adult supervision for P.K. Subban, training camp revelation (now that Brendan Gallagher is gone) Raphael Diaz freeing up Jaro Spacek to play the side he prefers, the fully-recovered and courageous team guy Josh Gorges complementing the offensive skills of Chris Campoli, who will be evaluated on Sunday after that nasty head shot by Ryan Malone.
(The Commentariat went bananas with rants about the lack of team toughness. Yeah, let’s start a Bring Back Laraque groundswell. Look, Jacques Martin does not coach that way. And thanks to Sidney Crosby, the NHL is waking up to the necessity of eliminating thuggery.)
The power-play looked great in QC. P.K. is a loaded weapon at the point, and Tomas Plekanec looked better back there. Diaz helps the second wave, but just imagine what the PP will be like when Markov gets back.
Be of good cheer, my brothers and sisters.
Your Montreal Canadiens are undefeated in the 2011-’12 season.
There’s a lot to like about this team, and training camp showed some nice talent in the pipeline, notably Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu, Michäel Bornival and Jarred Tinordi – all of whom could be in action at the WJC.
Buckle up for a fun ride.