The future is now

Are your Montreal Canadiens a better team today than they were when the weekend began?

For sure. The acquisition of Alex Tanguay saw to that.

Are your Montreal Canadiens poised to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup in their centennial season?

That depends.

They need three autographs on contracts: Mats Sundin. Andrei Kostitsyn. Jaroslav Halak.

And then they have to decide who wears number 40, Tanguay or Max Lapierre?

Once that’s cleared up, Canadiens are looking good. Here’s how I see the forward lines and defence pairings:

Sundin between Tanguay and Alex Kovalev.

Tomas Plekanec centring the Brothers Kostitsyn.

Saku Koivu with Christopher Higgins and Guillame Latendresse.

Max with Kyle Chipchura and Steve Begin; Tom Kostopulos and Gregory Stewart as reinforcements.

On D:

Andrei Markov – Mike Komisarek

Roman Hamrlik – Ryan O’Byrne

Josh Gorges – Francis Bouillon

Goal: Carey Price – Halak

This is a better team than the one that finished first in the Eastern Conference and led the NHL in scoring. But don’t stake out a good vantage point for the Stanley Cup parade just yet …. certainly not until Bob Gainey has secured the aforementioned players.

And even with that lineup, Canadiens will be hard-pressed to equal their point total of 2007-’08.

Will the Canadiens get through their centennial season with no serious injuries – a rarity in the NHL, but something they accomplished in ’07-’08?

Will they go 8-0 against Boston and 4-0 against Philadelphia?

How will they fare in more games against the Western Conference?

Many questions.

I can’t wait for the answers.


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The future is NOW

Carey Price:
26 saves.
Superb puck-handling.
Great positioning and net coverage.
Ice water in his 20-year-old veins.
And Herculean efforts by his teammates.

And Price – the Next One – is a 3-2 winner in his first NHL start.

“It was a lot of fun, the guys played great in front of me,” Price tells Renaud Lavoie of RDS.
Right … on both counts.
And he’s the coolest cuke since Georges Vézina.

So let’s get the goaltender controversy going:
Who starts Saturday night?

The answer, for me and a lot of fans has one syllable.

Jacques Demers says Scotty Bowman told him Carey Price is a can’t miss prospect.
And when Bowman talks, people – if they’re smart – listen.
There’s a coach, scout or usher in the NHL who doesn’t think Carey Price is going to be a star.

Men of the Match: Price, of course; Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev, Roman Hamrlik (steady as a rock), Francis Bouillon, Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins (four shots … and one has to go in eventually), Andrei Markov, Mark Streit, Mike Komisarek, Kyle Chipchura …
Oh, you know what?
The whole effing team.
What a win!

And how about five of a possible six points on the team’s season-launching road trip?

• • •

Third Period 00:27 Terrible icing by Smolinski

Third Period 00:43 Neutral zone faceoff. Fleury on the bench.

Third Period 01:35 First line, with Smolinski for Ryder, eats big minutes.

Third Period 03:00 HUGE saves by Price.

Third Period 05:11 Steelers coach Mike Tomlin in the crowd. RDS guys call him “Timlin”

Third Period 05:40 Whatever happens, this has been a heckuva start for Price. And the Canadiens have played great in front of him. This is what the team has to do every night.

Third Period 06:22 Smolinski with Pleks and Kovy. DEE-fence.

Third Period 07:41 Carbo is rolling four lines and throwing out short shifts.

Third Period 08:41 The fourth line has played a quietly effective game.

Third Period 10:33 Man, an insurance goal would do wonders for my blood pressure.

Third Period 11:45 How is that NOT a penalty on Roberts? He definitely got his stick up on Kostitsyn. First dirty hit of the game.

Third Period 14:00 Canadiens have 30 shots.

Third Period 15:00 The Koivu line has been just outstanding.

Third Period 16:12 Slick pass by Malkin to Talbot.
No chance for Price.
3-2
Now Pittsburgh will crank it up.

Third Period 17:09 No sooner do the RDS guys point out that Markov has four points in three games than he pots one from the faceoff circle.
3-1

Third Period 18:00 RDS guys point out what I’ve missed: Francis Bouillon has been great. They don’t think much of Gorges.

Third Period 18:40 Guy! Guy! Guy!, who’s been decent tonight, just had his first shot on goal of the season.

Third Period 19:30 Crosby hits the end boards and is shaken up.

Third Period 20:00 Will the Canadiens go into a defensive shell? That rarely works. Correction: with the Canadiens, it never works. Gotta hustle and get that third goal.

• • •

The mighty Columbus Blue Jackets have pumped three goals past David Aebischer.

• • •

Good game.
No cheap shots.
Lots of skating and skill.

• • •

Gut check time.
Pittsburgh scored first, after Crosby knocked Price down, and some teams would have folded.
This one didn’t. Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev took charge, and the Canadiens are leading.

Benoit Brunet likes what he sees of Price. This is a galtender who has taken 40 minutes to show he belongs in the NHL.
He and Jacques Demers are less enamored of Gorges. Bad penalty on Crosby, jittery with the puck. I think they’re a bit hard on him.

• • •

Second Period 00:40 I should have shut up. Some puckhandling chaos nearly led to a Crosby goal.

Second Period 02:00 Price bails out Gorges, who was stripped by Sykora

Second Period 03:00 KOVY! From PLEKS! Fleury a bit weak.
2-1

Second Period 05:00 Man, can Price handle that biscuit or what! His ability to foil dump-ins makes a HUGE difference in the Canadiens clearing their zone. He’s played 35 minutes, and for me, the kid is Number One.

Second Period 06:53 TOMAS PLEKANEC!!! What a sequence of passing. I LOVE that guy.

Second Period 08:15 Finally, a Canadiens PP

Second Period 11:54 FIFTH Pittsburgh PP. Price loses his mask. Getting ugly here.

Second Period 12:52 Let the record show that Crosby flattened Price, creating the opening that turned into the first goal against in the kid’s NHL career.
Ryan Whitney
1-0

Second Period 13:25 Did Markov think he could get away with that shot on Crsoby?

Second Period 13:36 Play is opening up here, but still no goals. While I’m totally focused on Price, Fleury is making some good saves.

Second Period 15:20 Canadiens make the worst line change I’ve ever seen, but Price saves on Sydor.

Second Period 16:06 It’s official: Christopher Higgins is snakebit.

Second Period 16:42 Another Komisarek penalty. Third Pittsburgh PP. But Pleks hustles Ryan Whitney into a penalty.

Second Period 19:00 Both teams are playing Jacques Lemaire hockey. Ryan Malone backchecked Ryder to foil a break.

Second Period 20:00 I sense an early goal here.

• • •

Okay, it just looked like five saves.
It was four saves.
Whatever, Price stopped nine shots in 20 minutes. He’s a big galoot and gets a lot of net coverage, even on his knees.
The Canadiens had five shots, which is a reflection of the defensive game they’re playing in front of Price.
No Pittsburgh penalties, an indication of little offensive pressure by the Canadiens. The only line that threatened was Koivu’s.

Mark Streit played a solid period, as did the other defencemen. Breezer is not being missed.
Alex Kovalev had two giveaways. And Andrei Kostitsyn was invisible. So that line is a work in progress.
Chipchura played 3:34 and did not look out of place.
Gorges played 5:30 and seemed to find his rhythm as the period progressed.

First Period 00:40 Price must have made five saves in that sequence.

First Period 04:26 Good work on the PK. Canadiens are cranking it up several notches on D to protect Price. They’re getting back, contesting the neutral zone. Playing like a Jacques Lemaire team … and there are worse things in the world.

First Period 06:26 Mike Komisarek goes for a retaliation slash on Crosby

First Period 09:00 Something else Price does well: puckhandling. He jumped on a dump-in behind the net and made a very smart pass to Gorges, who made another smart pass to clear the zone.
0-0 through two commercial breaks.
I’m breathing a bit easier.

First Period 12:24 Price slides to his right to rob Gary Roberts. The kid is very active back there.
And Gorges coughs one up. No damage though.
First commercial break, and so far so goofd. But Crosby is just buzzing out there.

First Period 14:12 First Penguins PP.

First Period 15:00 No sign of Gorges.

First Period 16:25 Price wears a white mask with no decoration. What’s with that?

First Period 18:20 The Koivu lines looks great … again. Teerific start to the season.

First Period 19:07 Bing-bing. Price makes two big saves on Recchi.

• • •

Tomas Plekanec last season before January, centreing Alex Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov: 12 points
After January, playing without Boris and Natasha: 35 points

• • •

Benoit Brunet sings the praises of Kyle Chipchura and compares him to Sammy Pahlsson.
We wish.

• • •

Father Knows Best: Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal live with Mario Lemieux and Mark Recchi, respectively.

• • •

Yvon Pedneault, on RDS, says starting Price is a good idea.
He points out that Price and Kyle Chipchura weren’t kept in Montreal to accumulate air miles.
No point saving Price for an easy game, Pedneault added, because there aren’t any. Too much parity in the NHL.
And he adds a historical note: Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy (22 years ago today; he was 20) both started their NHL careers against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

And Pierre Houde adds a note: 12 first-round draft choices in uniform tonight.
That’s the way to build hockey teams.

• • •

Yay! A practice video clip of my man, Josh Gorges.

• • •

Not everyone thinks this is a great idea … and there’s reason to suspect Guy Carbonneau is among the skeptics.
For the life of me I can’t figure out why the coach has announced Cristobal Huet will start the home opener.
What if the kid shuts out the Kid and the rest of the Penguins?
Does Carbo come back with Huet on Saturday night, with 21,273 fans chanting CA-REY! CA-REY! CA-REY! after the first Carolina goal?

I get the feeling that the coach and general manager are not on the same page this season – which is troubling, because if the Canadiens miss the playoffs again the Bell Centre printers are going to be spitting out CVs.


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