About last night …

As we do after every game, Patrick V. Hickey and I were  waiting for Jacques Martin to arrive in the press conference room.

Hickey was looking over the game stats, and he had a question:

“Did Chris Higgins play tonight?”

He did. The former Canadien/Ranger/Flame played 17:21. Higgins had two shots on goal and a couple hits.

No goals. No assists. Absolutely no influence on the final score.

I’m recalling this not to trash Higgins, who was and probably still is a bright, personable guy who always had something interesting to say to the media.

But here’s the point: It wasn’t all that long ago when fans and the people who cover the Canadiens talked about number 21 as a future captain. It was going to be either Higgins or his fellow Long Islander, Mike Komisarek.

That did not come to pass, and you know what?

I’m glad.

I like this team better than the one that had Higgins and Komisarek as the rising stars.

And the captain is number 21.

I liked last season’s team more than the one that preceded it, and I like this team even more than last season’s.

Cosnider the stats that Steven Hindle Tweeted late last night: Through 52 games this year, the Canadiens are 29-18-5 for 63 points. They have scored 136 goals, allowed 127.After 52 games last season, the Canadiens were 24-23-5 for 53 points. The GF were 134, GA 144.

Stats can be deceiving, but these numbers don’t lie: With 30 games left, this sixth-place team is better than the one that squeaked into eighth.

And they’re winning without Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and, for a while still, Michael Cammalleri.

Now I’m not saying we should stock up on beer and munchies for a deep Stanley Cup run.

But it’s gratifying for a fan to be able to chart progress over the last three seasons, from the Higgins-Komisarek-Koivu-Kovalev team to the Montreal Canadiens we’re watching now.

The team has veteran leadership – from number 21, Hal Gill, the old Czechs, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche.

Carey Price is excellent, and Alex Auld, his inexpensive backup, is a great teammate who’s 4-2.

What’s really exciting, though, is the Kiddie Corps.

P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty were brilliant last night. David Desharnais and Yannick Weber are looking more and more like bona-fide NHLers. Lars Eller continues to develop.

Tomas Plekanec is the best of Canadiens in their mid- to late-20s. Cammalleri and James Wisniewski also have years of good hockey ahead of them. And if Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot can play up to their potential …

Bottom line: Your Montreal Canadiens are a good hockey team.

They play hard. They don’t quit. They are disciplined and committed to their coach’s system.

You couldn’t say that about Christopher Higgins and his friends.

•  •  •

Guest Comment from our old friend J.Ambrose.Obrien:

Roman Hamrlik has received a lot of criticism in the past on these
boards, but lately he’s been terrific. Jumping into the rush at key
times, and making smart defensive moves. Hall Gill on the other hand…
What was he looking at on that first goal by Timmons?

I’ve also
been impressed by Yannick Weber’s improvement. His speed is a big asset
in winning races on d-zone dump ins. He still gets bodied off the puck
too easily, but if he develops his upper body strength in the
off-season, he’ll be a keeper.

Speaking of which: Max
Pacioretty!!! He gets better with every game. He’s gaining confidence
and a realization of his abilities. As such, he no longer panics when he
has the puck, and is willing to patient and try bold moves. And playing
with Pleks certainly helps.

Meanwhile, how must Gomez feel
watching all his ex-wingers prosper once separated from him. Like a guy
seeing his ex-girlfriend happily in love with a wealthier,
better-looking guy? We need more GM’s like Glen Sather in the league so
we have someone willing to take him in trade in the off-season,
because I just don’t see his value going forward. Only the millstone of
his contract weighing us down. Frankly, I think Desharnais is
out-playing him, and should be our second-line center (although that
will never happen). And what happens when Cammy returns? Surely JM won’t
break up that Pleks/Patches/Gionta line? So Cammy and AK — two
under-performing scorers — have to try to get their touch back with
Gomez? And I don’t even want to talk about his on-going brain-dead
penalty habits.

Speaking of AK, he is clearly suffering from a
lack of confidence. The fire-in-the-belly that Ovy is renown for goes
hand-in-hand with his firm awareness that he is better than 90% of the
others on the ice — and visa versa. AK looks uncertain, and that
affects his passion. As many have stated, his problems are between the
ears. But if he ever starts to believe in himself again, watch out. He
has wonderful hands and is more solid on his skates than almost any
other player. Well, except for on that hit from Ellerby.

Eller? I
just don’t see what others are apparently seeing. IMO, he should’ve been
down in Hamilton for months now gaining confidence. I still don’t see
the talent that tempted PG to give up the team’s most valuable trading
asset in many years. 

Pouliot on the other hand looks to be on the
brink of a big break-through. He had a brilliant 1st period, and even
drew a penalty. The P, D & D line was easily are second best line,
and early on, our best. However, he is still prone to dumb plays,
like in the previous game when there was a delayed penalty on the Caps,
Carey went to the bench, and Pouliot just dumped the puck into the Caps

Finally, when was the last time we led after the first
period? I LOVE the fight-back, never-say-die, but why do we start off so
flat so often?


  1. wild flower says:

    “A hate on for Benny.” Au contraire, JM is the main reason Benny is on the team – they come from the same area (franco-Ontarians) and JM knows the family as friends. 

  2. olematelot says:

    I’ve just watched the replay 10 times and keyed on Gionta, he never made contact with Vokun

  3. Chris says:


  4. HUDSONHAB says:

    I agree with what you say and if Gomez was making $2 mil there would be no bashing. If you could take $5 mil and buy a player who is actually worth $5 mill to add to this team oh what a team it could be.


  5. Mr.Hazard says:

    “Rising stars” LOL

  6. wild flower says:

    By that logic everyone should be ecstatic with Kostitsyn.

  7. CBrady12 says:

    I just looked at the stats sheet and hes only got 2 less points than gionta, yet gio is the shit and gomer is shit

  8. arcosenate says:

    Just got back from the beer and munchies run.  All stocked up!


    Gionta is the man. He’s picking up his game when it matters and he’s leading by example. And it’s obviously paying off, he is holding the team accountable with his work ethic.  Well, except for his good friend Gomez. Who is such a major disappointment. Does he simply not have anything left in the tank? He can’t match Gionta’s foot on the accelerator? It’s getting sad to watch frankly.

    But Pacioretty is playing awesome, it’s his realization of how strong he is that’s making the difference for him I think.  He pushes people off the puck pretty easily, it’s impressive to watch him develop. Kind of what we were hoping Latendresse would be for us but never could be. Pacioretty goes to the net Gui, it makes a hell of a difference.

    Anyway, 4 points in the bank and 4 more to go for the perfect week.

    Gotta go put my beer and munchies away!

  9. Chris says:

    It’s interesting how the narrative develops for a player depending on perspective.

    Hickey was looking over the game stats, and he had a question:

    “Did Chris Higgins play tonight?”

    He did. The former Canadien/Ranger/Flame played 17:21. Higgins had two shots on goal and a couple hits.

    No goals. No assists. Absolutely no influence on the final score.

    I’m recalling this not to trash Higgins, who was and probably still is a bright, personable guy who always had something interesting to say to the media.”

    Now, that is probably a fair statement given that Higgins, because of his own early career scoring (which if we were being honest, surprised everybody), is expected to provide some offence for the Florida Panthers.


    On Stephen Weiss’ third period goal, Chris Higgins was the guy standing in front of Alex Auld screening the goalie, tying up Hal Gill’s attention such that Stephen Weiss was wide open off to the side for the empty net goal. That is not “no influence”…that is doing your job, but no credit for doing it shows up on the score-board.

    Furthermore, we celebrate the Montreal Canadiens’ role players like Tom Pyatt, Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern for helping the Canadiens’ effective penalty killing. Higgins played 3:17 of his 17 minutes on the penalty kill, helping Florida kill off 5 Montreal power plays.

    Higgins’ career went off the rails, no question. But I think he’s finally starting to get back on track, despite not contributing any points last night. He’s got 5 goals and 12 points in 18 games since December 1st, missing 8 games with a hamstring injury. That’s actually comparable to Tomas Plekanec’s production rate over the same time period (9 G and 19 points in 28 games). Higgins was not a huge factor last night, but he seems to be coming around again after a couple of nightmarish seasons for him. And I’m glad…as Mike pointed out, Higgins was one of the few accountable Habs during that awful 2008-09 season.

    Regarding the game:

    Man, did Andrei Kostitsyn ever get thumped. Where were his teammates warning him he had just been given a suicide pass? 🙂 One thing I like about Kostitsyn that rarely gets discussed is that when he gets hit like that, he gets up and goes back to playing. No shenanigans as he looks to exact revenge for a perfectly legal hit. If that was Gomez or even Plekanec, you can get Ellerby would have been slashed.

    How much do you want to bet that if an opposing team scored a goal like Plekanec’s last night, Habs fans would have been howling about goalie interference? Gionta skated straight into the crease on that goal and had his skate into Vokoun’s pads…that was a textbook goaltender interference call. Good on Gionta for going to the net, but he got away with one there, and it cost the Panthers a goal.

    Pacioretty continues to impress…watch how he drives the net on Gionta’s goal. He might not have scored, but that goal was created by Pacioretty. On the Plekanec goal, it was Pacioretty’s stick on the back check that caused the turnover, deflecting a pass intended for Higgins on the wing directly to Plekanec, who was Tommy on the spot and made some nice moves to get the shot on net. Pacioretty’s turning into the player that Montreal has needed for a long, long time.

    And the formatting seems to be buggy again on the website. Grr.

  10. Will Longlade says:

    The Gomez bashing is getting kinda old. He’s not having a good season by any stretch, but those in the know recognize what he brings to the team. Gomez has the ability to carry the puck with speed into the o-zone. He’s a gifted distributor of the puck (who makes an occasional bad pass – somethings that’s easy to do when you’re the the set-up guy rather than the shooter) and he’s an above-average two-way player. I’ll measure Gomez’s worth by the hardware the Habs bring home.

  11. mjames says:

    Good objective post . I enjoyed reading it.



  12. Chris says:

    Measuring a player’s worth by the hardware the team brings home is hardly a good metric. By that logic, players like Daniel Sedin, Shea Weber or Rick Nash are not particularly worthy, as none of them have brought home any hardware, either personal or for their respective teams.

    Gomez is criticized because of his high salary, the lofty expectations for him personally when he was acquired (many were pointing out that he was hands down an upgrade on the center he replaced, Saku Koivu), the fact that his vaunted reputation of “making the players around him better” has not really been in evidence for three seasons and to a much lesser extent, his personality.

    I’ve always personally felt that Gomez was hugely over-valued, even dating back to his Devils days. The teams of which he was a part that won the Stanley Cup did not feature strong performances by Gomez in the playoffs. This isn’t to take away credit where it is due…he was a very good NHL centre from 2000-2006. Unfortunately, his days of being a top centre are a bit far back in the rear-view mirror, with only one season (2007-08, when his stats were definitely bumped by a superlative season by an elite level talent in Jaromir Jagr) supporting the idea of him being a upper-tier #1 centre and 3 seasons supporting the idea that his production expectation might be 55-60 points. Those are good numbers for a #2 centre in the NHL. He’s not hurting the team on the ice…there aren’t many teams who have a stronger #2 centre than Gomez. But that contract DOES hurt Gauthier’s flexibility in building a contender (just like Lecavalier’s boat anchor has hindered Tampa Bay and the Redden deal had been hindering the Rangers) and understandably makes Gomez a lightning rod for criticism.

  13. CBrady12 says:

    I just looked at the stats sheet and hes only got 2 less points than gionta, yet gio is the shit and gomer is shit

  14. Chris says:

    And that is a great example of where expectations often lead to false impressions of a player. Gionta was brought in to be a 30 goal scorer. With 19 goals through 52 games, he is on pace to score 30 goals. Gomez was brought in to score 65-75 points. With 26 points through 50 games, he’s on pace to finish the year with 42 points.

    So Gionta has met people’s expectations of him when he was signed, whereas Gomez has unfortunately not done so.

    I’m not in any way implying that Gomez is hurting the team on the ice. He’s a decent #2 centre, both offensively and defensively. My point was that when people let their expectations distort their impression of a player, that’s when the bashing begins. I always felt that expectations of 65-75 points were overly ambitions for Gomez at this point in his career and that people were setting him up to fail.

    A more reasonable expectation would have been 50-65 points, with even that being downgraded by the fact that he has lost his #1 centre role to Plekanec. 42 points is a decent total, and I suspect it will be closer to 50 by the time the season ends. It doesn’t put him at the same level as the #2 centres of this year’s acknowledged Stanley Cup contenders’ #2 centres (Kesler in Vancouver, Zetterberg in Detroit, any of Philadelphia’s centres, Malkin in Pittsburgh), but he’s right there in the mix with the rest of the teams in the league.

    Gomez isn’t the first to suffer this fate. Vladimir Malakhov, Patrice Brisebois, Brian Savage, Chris Higgins, Richard Zednik, Alexander Perezhogin and more recently Guillaume Latendresse, Sergei Kostitsyn and even Andrei Kostitsyn have all been unfairly maligned because of what people expected they COULD bring to the team as opposed to being happy with what they DID bring to the team. Professional sports is one of the most notable areas of life where you are rarely judged on your actions, but on what people think your actions should have been, usually based on some metric that is known only to that particular critic.

  15. StevieRay says:

    Gomez .. -10…lowest on the team .

  16. Chris says:

    You didn’t peg Chris Higgins as a rising star for the Habs after he had scored 72 goals in his first 225 NHL games? Compare that to Cammalleri’s 74 goals in his first 220 games and it doesn’t look so bad, does it? Or how about Gionta’s 79 goals in his first 248 games?

    And you also weren’t excited about a 6’4″, 237 pound defenceman that could skate well enough to play on the first defence pairing and who was very strong defensively, both even strength and on the penalty kill?

    Wish I had your crystal ball, because I was absolutely giddy about the Habs’ future after the 2007-08 season due to the performances of Plekanec, Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn, Komisarek and even Sergei Kostitsyn.

  17. CharlottetownHabbies says:

    Agreed.  Wonder when the mob starts to have him banned?

  18. Chris says:

    Given that I was posting long before some members of “the mob” (whoever that is) even knew about this website, I’m not too concerned.  😉

  19. HardHabits says:

    Gomez’ most glaring fault this season are his retaliation penalties. He needs to nip that in the bud. The rest is just people trolling because Price has trumped Halak so there’s little else to bitch about.

    I got a new one. How about the Lightning? 3rd over-all. 6 game winning streak. Boucher is the real deal. I so hope we meet them in the play-offs. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the Habs have a great coaching staff, have a system in place that takes into account the farm teams and prospects, and that element is stocked with young players capable of making the grade to the NHL.

    DD is playing great. So is Halpern. Neither can replace Gomez’ role. What role is that? Gomez is the lightning rod. Now people focus on him. He eats all the sh*t. The team can move on to developing slowly without people bitching about PG or BG or Price or whatever. It’s all Gomez all the time. It’s quite stupid too because it’s fuelled by the over-kill of the complainers wheel squeaking. If the Habs don’t win the Cup it’s because Gomez hasn’t produced and anybody else  or any 2-3 players at his cap hit would guarantee victory, or so the story goes.

    Like I said. Gomez’ big fault up to now are the bad penalties he’s been taking, penalties he’s been taking out of frustration. He’s human, albeit a highly over-paid one. Nevertheless, his game issues are mental. I bet you he wishes he was making 5.5 million instead, he’d probably be producing more points with less pressure on him to perform just because he’s the highest paid player on the team.

    Players have scoring slumps. He’s no liablity out there and moreso is one of the better pieces on the team.

    I watch his game and apart from the bone head penalties he’s been drawing, I can’t see what the issue is.

  20. wild flower says:

    I think some in St Louis are saying the same, “could have done much better.”

  21. Habnofear says:

    Crosby’s head shot was a bad one and imo should take the year off plus playoff’s…

  22. habs001 says:

    i was hoping dallas wins in boston…but 4-0 bruins after one…how are the bruins allowing so few goals yet scoring…

  23. HardHabits says:

    You’re much cockier since your return from your self-imposed exile.

  24. Chris says:

    Re-read my last sentence as “If I was going to get banned for opinions, I would have been banned long, long ago.” 

    Because I’ve been cocky and opinionated since day one.  🙂

  25. RetroMikey says:

    Great to see the team win……but we are going to get thumped in the playoffs by bigger and stronger physical teams.

    Gauthier (and Gainey  secretly behind him) have to make big decisons down the stretch if this team is going to go far if they make the playoffs.

    We still are not guaranteed a playoff spot.


    “We will win the Cup one day only with ? in the nets “

  26. OneTimer says:

    Anyone notice how much more articulate HI/O posts are following a Habs win? Quite a few good ones on the front page of the Commentariat today. I think the average HI/O fan wants to actually contribute meaningful content to the site, but the usual gang of trolls can only mash the keyboard with their knuckles. Anyways, good win yesterday, let’s keep rolling boys! Go Habs go!

    PS: my highlight of the night last night, Pacioretty driving the net hard to create the 3rd goal. How long have we been waiting for a player like that? Honorable mention: Subban’s cut to the middle and backhand to create the 2nd goal. Nice job boys.

  27. OneTimer says:

    Great post about being the lightning rod, and the boneheaded penalties, HH. And Will before you too. One thing though: if Gomez isn’t a liability, why is his +/- so bad? (From a Gomez defender)

  28. andrewberkshire says:

    After Colton Orr’s goal against the Panthers earlier this season, I’m guessing Panthers fans don’t even know what goaltender interference is anymore. For some reason they can’t buy that call.

  29. HardHabits says:

    I never said you weren’t. I said you’re even more now than you were then. 😉

  30. HardHabits says:

    The Habs keep on getting scored on just as Gomez is leaving the penalty box too often. 😉

  31. wall2bay says:

    Am I the only one that thinks Pouliot deserves more of an opportunity to be on one of the top 2 lines?  The guy is making the most of his time playing on the 3rd line and deserves more.  The guy hits, shoots and can skate for a big man.

    I’m not a hater of Desharnais but why is this guy on the PP and of all places in front of the goalie!!!  Wouldn’t Benny be the better option here??  He doesn’t seem to go through the brains farts that AK46 goes thru every now and then.  Has more experience than Eller and even showed some chemistry with Gomez and Gionta last season.

    Why does JM have a hate on for Benny?


    “I kind of feel sorry for players who never got a chance to be a Montreal Canadien” – Cammalleri

  32. andrewberkshire says:

    Don’t remember it off, hand. Perhaps I’ve mentally blocked it out.

  33. Chris says:

    Good point.

    Anybody remember that goal years ago where the Toronto Maple Leaf forward (I want to say it was Tom Fitzgerald) basically bowled into Montreal’s Jeff Hackett as he was covering the puck, freeing the puck and scoring into the empty net?

    That one always stands out to me as the worst non-call of goalie interference that I’ve ever seen.

  34. HUDSONHAB says:

    Maybe his guy is changing at a bad time and Gomez is just stepping on to the ice when they get scored on. 🙂


  35. Chris says:

    I like that answer! 🙂

    The lack of offence is probably the culprit. People too often use +/- as the sole measure of a player’s defensive prowess, when the statistic is intended as a measure of a particular player’s overall impact on the game, whether they were on the ice for more goals scored than given up.

    A very good defensive player can still be a net minus if their line isn’t scoring. Perhaps the best example of this is Samuel Pahlsson, who was considered as one the league’s best defensive forwards for the past decade. Despite that repuation, he only had a “plus” rating once in his 9+ NHL seasons. A defensive forward should be rated on how their opponent does relative to their average performance, not using a +/- metric that punishes a line for focussing exclusively on neutralizing the opposition’s top line.

    Tomas Plekanec was +2 against the Penguins in the playoffs last season, which most take as a sign that he was a decent defensive forward. The more telling statistic was that Sidney Crosby, against whom he was most often matched up, was held to 1 goal and 5 points in 7 games after blitzing the Ottawa Senators for 5 goals and 14 points in 5 games the previous round. Plekanec basically played a major role in neutralizing Crosby at a time when Crosby was scoring at a historic rate in the playoffs. That +2 doesn’t even come close to measuring the defensive impact of Plekanec.

  36. The Teacher says:

    OK. Thanks for the opinion.

  37. The Teacher says:

    I think Pouliot needs to stay on the third line and build on what he has been doing for the last little while. I am fine with Desharnais on the power play because HE GOES IN FRONT OF THE FREAKING NET a la Darche (another guy I love).


    I agree with the other guy’s post stating that Andrei K. Is very solid on his skates, he has been playing pretty well this year and is now playing a stronger defensive game as well. I see a more consistent effort from him this year, despite everyone’s attacks on him.


    I don’t think JM has a hate on for Benny, he is just trying to get him to play a style that is more effective. Playing with Darche is great for him. Darche is a great great addition to our roster. I can’t say enough about Darche. I wonder why he is NOT on the power play these days when I don’t see him.

  38. PeterD says:

    I like Pouliot on the 3rd line…this is building his confidence which is the only part of his game he needs to build on.

    I would love to see Pouliot moved to the center position, he has good size, great speed and skating skills and he moves the puck well and sees the ice clearly and can find his linemates in tight situations…maybe a summer of center school with Muller might be a big boost for him.

    I also would like to see AK46 and Gomez permanently moved down to the 3rd line to play them where they can be more effective and help the team. Move someone else up to the 2nd line with Cammi.

    Dream trade…Gomez and AK to anywhere and we get back a big, young, motivated, scoring LW Power forward that goes to the net…someone Patches can learn his trade from…

  39. Habitoban says:

    I’m a a big Benny booster as well. I think he is the type of guy that would thrive getting more minutes rather than chilling on the bench. I wish he could put that big shot (102MPH)to better use some how. For some reason he doesn’t get a lot of respect from many at HIO. For example, last night he beat out an icing call, and then got into a tussle with the defenceman who was penalized — yet no mention in the Live Blog. Hmmm. What annoys me is that people are always talking about him living up his potential as if he were underachieving. I think his development is probably where it should be given his age and years in the bigs, the minutes he gets, his linemates and his lack of PP time. I would also note, and I’m shocking myself here, that JM deserves some credit for turning Benny into a more complete hockey player by forcing him to work on his defensive game. He is on his way to being an impact player. I can hardly wait.

  40. habsruleworld says:

    uh oh for Crosby, reports say Crosby has left to visit his parents for 3-4 days,


    I am thinking he had a setback in his preliminary training/conditionning,


    so now he is probably forced to take a break and rest again,


    not good.

  41. PeterD says:

    With his cannon of a shot I would like to see Benny on the point for our powerplay…His shot is the hardest on the team and he shows how accurate he can be with some incredible top corner shots…

  42. Danno says:

    Not guaranteed, true. But looking pretty damned good…



    “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”

  43. rogus says:

    Gotta agree about Eller. Not real impressed with him so far, he doesn’t bring much on most nights. Before you guys start ripping me, please consider there were a lot of other assets St. Louis had during the trade. Unless he develops over the summer, I would say we got the equivalent of Dominic Moore in trade for Halak. I think PG could have done much better.

  44. Chris says:

    I felt his leg was pushing on Vokoun as the puck hit Weiss. He was certainly in the crease and impeding Vokoun’s ability to get across the net, and he skated in there of his own volition.

  45. habs001 says:

    pouliot does not have the skill set to play the point…when pressured he would cough up the puck…

  46. ClaytonM says:

    Did we lose last night? I’m confused with all the negativity being posted, just curious as to why we need to bash Higgins like we’re regretting trading him.  Also, Gill was out of position on the Timmins goal covering for PK being far to the right of Auld and challenging the puck holder, not an error, just a gamble.  Eller has a lot of promise, but not much TOI. Maybe he could use a trip to Hamilton, or maybe that would destroy his confidence about being able to compete at the NHL level. Instead of getting on his back, I’d focus on getting more from Pouliot and AK. Those two and MaxPac could become 3 of the elusive power forwards HIO posters have been whining for in the past.

    As for Hamrlik, he makes it look so easy 99% of the time. Then he makes a huge mental error, usually within 3 feet of his net, and puts it right on an opponents’ tape, very frustrating to watch. I doubt he’ll be brought back next year, and would not be surprised if he was packaged off at the trade deadline for a bonafide top 4 D-man or top 6 forward. The simple truth is he runs out of gas with lots of TOI by the playoffs, and with our top 2 d-men out for the season, I only have faith in PK, Gill, Wiz and Spatch if we go deep. Weber might improve defensively over time, but in 30 games?

  47. Habitoban says:

    Pouliot has a big shot, great vision, perhaps the second best passer after Pleks,size and speed and reach to recover from the inevitable cough ups.  Not a bad skill set for a pointman. 

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