Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Victorious Habs with a rare Saturday off

The Canadiens played with fire Friday, as they were badly outplayed by the LA Kings, yet skated away with a 6-2 vicotry. Carey Price was sensational, making 44 saves, his most at home since 2010, and Jiri Sekac led the way for Montreal, scoring 2 goals, while PK Subban added a goal and an assist. The Canadiens powerplay scored multiple goals, which is a good sign, as it has been a hindrance much of the year, and Sekac is showing serious chemistry with Sven Andrighetto, who recorded a point for the third straight game, which are of course the first three of his career. Andrighetto has been especially impressive, showcasing good, crisp passes, a great shot, and marvelous hockey sense. The Habs appear to have a strong winger for the future, and it looks very much like he can contribute now.

In another bright spot, Tom Gilbert had one of his strongest games as a Hab, making good outlet passes while appearing better defensively than he has of late. Nathan Beaulieu also looked sharp in the few minutes he played, showcasing his speed and hockey sense. Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty cotinue to develop chemistry on Michel Therrien's first line, and barring a large change of course, I suspect Galchenyuk is there to stay.

The Canadiens are now off until Tuesday, allowing Price some time to rest after a busy stretch of hockey. The Habs sit fourth in the East with 40 points, a far cry off their hot start, but they should feel good after wins against Vancouver and LA. Lars Eller continues to sit on the IR, and Bryan Allen continues to miss time with an illness, perhaps of the mump variety. It's clear that Montreal could still use another top six winger, but with Andrighetto putting on a show thus far, and Jiri Sekac getting stronger game after game, perhaps they've found him and just don't know it yet. 

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Habs go down to Hawks, lose Eller

It was a frustrating night for the Montreal Canadiens. Predictably, they gave up the first goal in Chicago on Friday but, perhaps unpredictably, they fought back, took the lead, dominated the game at times, and hit a post with 4 minutes to go.

However, it was all for nought, as a goal with 27 seconds left gave the Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the Habs. As well, the Canadiens lost the very consistent Lars Eller in the process. All in all, it was not a good night for the Habs.

After the game, the Habs announced Eller was out, and called up Sven Andrighetto from Hamilton. Andrighetto may be the Habs best offensive talent in Hamilton; that said, don't be surprised if Drayson Bowman slots into Eller's spot tonight, as he an play centre. However, it would be fun to see what Andrighetto can do, as he possesses strong speed and soft hands. 

The Canadiens head into Dallas tonight, to play another team on a losing streak. Battle of the losers. At least someone has to win. Look for Dustin Tokarski in net.. 

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A sad day to be a hockey fan

Merci, M. Beliveau. We are forever in your debt.

The world is a better place for having had you, but our hearts of heavy. 

Bonne nuit, Le Gros Bill.

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The Habs thus far

16-6-1. Not a bad start for Les Canadiens, as they sit atop the NHL the last week of November. However, while the record looks good, Carey Price has been solid, and various players have performed extremely well, most of those losses have been blowouts. While a loss is a loss, one has to wonder why a team can win a string of games handily, only to blow-up randomly on other nights. Is it coaching? is it the schedule? My theory is that it is likely a scheduling issue - for example, the Habs dropped Sunday's game 5-0 after a string of 5 games over 8 nights. That said, it's an odd development for a team that last season was so consistent. It will be interesting to see whether it continues as the season progresses.

As for individual players, Price, Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Dale Weise have performed extremely well, while Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk, Jiri Sekac, and Manny Malholtra have looked good as well. PK Subban has looked mediorcre on many nights, as has PA Parenteau, while David Desharnais has been invisible at times. Michel Therrien's propensity to continue trotting Desharnais out with Pacioretty, rather than giving another centre, such as Eller, a chance on the top line is perplexing. GM Marc Bergevin's pattern has been to get rid of players Therrien won't stop using in favour of others (see Bourque, Rene), so it wouldn't surprise me to see Desharnais shipped out unless he shapes up.

Montreal has a few days off to rest up prior to Friday's game against Buffalo. It should be a good rest for their aged defence, who, with the acquisition of Bryan Allen, boasted an average age of 33 last week. Look for Price to be back in net after Dustin Tokarski faced the Rangers on Sunday. 

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Habs deal Rene Bourque to Anaheim for Bryan Allen

The Bourque glory lasted for about ten games, and it is long gone. Bourque heads to the Ducks for veteran defenceman Bryan Allen. GM Marc Bergevin continues to (intriguingly) stockpile veteran defencemen. Could another move be in the offing?

The Habs take on the Blues, and New Brunswick native Jake Allen, tonight.

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Canadiens cruise to 6-3 win, Weise with 2

The Montreal Canadiens kept ahold of first place in the NHL, and Dale Weise kept up his scoring ways, as the Habs downed Philadelphia 6-3 in Montreal on Saturday night. Lars Eller did not score the winning goal for the first time in a week - but not to worry, Dale Weise picked up the slack, along with Alex Galchenyuk (3 assists), PA Parenteau (2 goals), and newcomer Sergei Gonchar, who netted 2 assists himself, the second being his 800th career NHL point.

Carey Price was spectacular at times, keeping the Habs ahead as the Flyers stormed back to within a goal early in the third. PK Subban had his best game in a while, scoring a goal and playing solid defence, especially as the Flyers clawed back, led by Braydon Schenn.

PA Parenteau hasn't scored a lot for Montreal, but he seems to have a knack for scoring big goals, be they last night or in shootouts. He's a nice addition given the hole that was never filled by Danny Briere.

Montreal has little time to rest, as they face the Wings in Detroit on Sunday night. This should be a great original-six matchup, as Detroit looks for revenge against the Habs, who took the first meeting of the season just a few weeks ago. Look for Dustin Tokarski in net for Montreal, and perhaps Nathan Beaulieu to play a more central role as the Canadiens try to figure out where he fits after the Gonchar acquisition. 

I dsagree with Rogers vehemently - it isn't a tradition of any sort - but enjoy "Hometown" hockey tonight. Should be a good game. 

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Habs trade Travis Moen for Sergei Gonchar

What a 48 hours. Rene Bourque, gone. Travis Moen, gone. Sergei Gonchar acquired. Power play improved.

In Bergevin we trust. 

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Habs-Hawks as Montreal looks for a fix

The Canadiens are heading the wrong way, fast. A bad game in Vancouver, a terrible game in Calgary. After two poor games to start the previous road trip. Not a good showing for the Habs. So what is a coach to do?

If I were Michel Therrien, I would instantly put Jiri Sekac into the lineup. I would also wonder why I took him out in the first place. He was starting to gel with his linemates, has a scoring touch, and plays the entire length of the ice. Who comes out for Sekac? Likely Rene Bourque, though he's been a bit better of late. Perhaps Dale Weise. Travis Moen and Dale Weise shouldn't be playing regularly. Sekac and Michael Bournival probably should be.

On the back-end, I would be very tempted to try Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu on a pairing, and I'd give Mike Weaver a rest. 

This will be a good test. Are the Habs the real deal, or was the start a smokescreen? Let's see who slots in, and how Therrien manages his lines. 

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Habs look to end Western swing on a positive note

The 3-0 loss to the Oilers was, without a doubt, a clunker. Boring game, team didn't show up, looked tired - it is going to happen. Calgary, well, that was another story. The team showed up, somewhat, but primarily the guy who showed up was Carey Price, who put on a clinic.

Tonight, the Habs head into Price's home province to take on the Vancouver Canucks and look to end the trip with a good performance. Jiri Sekac looks likely to get back into the lineup, while many fans continue to debate the defensive side of the lineup. Nathan Beaulieu may be out again, but many fans will want to see Tom Gilbert sit in favour of the kids, though Gilbert had a fairly solid game on Tuesday and chipped in with a goal.

If Price stands on his head, the Habs take this one. No doubt he'll want to put on a show for his family and friends. It's a late start, but it will be a good one. Hope you can catch it. 

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5-1 Habs recall Bournival, get ready for Red Wings

Montreal heads into Tuesday's game with the Red Wings coming off an impressive 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The Habs dominated the Avs at times, and perhaps most importantly, Carey Price looked like his normal self after a slow start. PK Subban was especially brilliant, scoring two highlight reel goals, and the Canadiens banded together towards the end of the game, fighting off a last-ditch effort by Colorado to tie the game. These Habs have picked up where last year's left off - blocked shots, finishing their checks, and playing the game to a man - and look prepared to challenge for the top of the East as the season progresses. Standouts thus far have included Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, and the aforementioned Subban. However, another player has looked very solid six games into the season, and that is Manny Malholtra. Malholtra has been a champion in the face-off circle, but perhaps more important than the statistics are the face-offs he is winning. Michel Therrien now has a real defensive centre to call on for important defensive zone plays late in the game. That has eluded him as a coach as far back as the Bill Lindsay fiasco a decade ago - and it has also allowed Therrien to let Plekanec go and roam the offensive zone. Malholtra has been a huge difference maker thus far, and will continue to be a key cog in the Habs wheel as the season continues.

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About The Upper Canadien

The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.

I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.

Questions or comments? theuppercanadien@kuklaskorner.com

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