The Upper Canadien
Fresh off a 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Canadiens took on the Islanders on Thursday evening and, as they often do in back to back games…blew it. They made it close, cutting a 3-0 lead to 3-2, and 4-2 to 4-3 with a few minutes to go, but they couldn’t get the goal they needed to send things into overtime.
Peter Budaj looked ordinary at best on Thursday, whereas Carey Price looked quite solid on Wednesday. Granted, Carolina didn’t present much of an attack, but Price was there when he was needed.
All in all, pretty impressive performances by a team with a defence sporting more rookies than you can shake a stick at. Things got a tad worse this week, with the announcement that Hal Gill has been hospitalized with a virus.
Andrei Kostitsyn has also been added to the IR with what’s believed to be a groin issue. So who are the real Habs?
The Canadiens entered the third period on Monday with a 2-0 lead and, for lack of a better term, blew it. Montreal’s offence was missing in action for the third period, and their defence, hobbled by injuries to Jaroslav Spacek and Andreas Enqvist, wasn’t all that much better. Buffalo went on to win in a shootout, which left Carey Price without a save in shootouts thus far in 2011-12.
The big ideas from this game? After two hard fought overtime victories, Montreal folded up shop after the second. That’s never good. Erik Cole looked great yet again, as did Max Pacioretty, who had another goal and an assist. The injuries to Spacek and Enqvist hurt, as the Canadiens continue to host a plethora of players on the sidelines.
For those interested, here’s a link to my appearance yesterday on The War Room with Mick Kern and Peter Berce. We talk Flyers/Lightning, suspensions, Habs, and much more.
The Canadiens pulled a rabbit out of a hat last night, giving up the first goal, and a late lead, only to win in overtime on a goal by Josh Gorges.
Would this be a good time to mention that Gorges is only on a one year contract, and many have the impression that he was ticked the Habs didn’t offer him a longer term deal this past off-season?
The Canadiens dropped another one last night - I’m writing that a lot more than last year, eh? - as the Edmonton Oilers came to town and defeated Montreal 3-1. Montreal held Edmonton to 14 shots on the night, posting only 4 themselves in one of the most lacklustre first periods I’ve ever witnessed. But the real story here wasn’t Edmonton or Montreal - it was the renaissance of Nikolai Khabibulin.
A reasonable weekend for the Habs, who topped Ottawa on Friday, only to lose to the Rangers (and the refs) on Saturday. I’m not one to gripe about refereeing very often, but this one was no contest, with penalty after penalty (10, as I recall) to the Habs, while the Rangers skated away with a couple of penalties that were also questionable (and of the “make up” variety). Not a banner weekend for the men in stripes.
However, there were a few things to come out of both games that will have an effect on the roster in the weeks to come. Firstly, Raphael Diaz looked more out of place than he has in any other game, and I suspect he will sit for Alex Emelin on Tuesday night, which is a welcome change given that Emelin could bolt for Russia at any time (he has a clause in his contract that kicks in if he isn’t playing). Yannick Weber, however, looked very good, and may well be playing himself into a regular role once Andrei Markov returns.
Lars Elle also continued to have an impact. The past fortnight has been, in some respects, The Rise of Eller.
A quiet week for Les Canadiens, who don’t hit the ice competitvely again until Friday. Andrei Markov skated alone today as he continues to rehab his knee. Scott Gomez is also slowly working his way back towards the lineup. Both of these prompt an obvious question: if Markov and Gomez sub in, who subs out?
Let’s deal with Markov first. Josh Gorges, PK Subban and Jaro Spacek aren’t going anywhere. Hal Gill, presumably, isn’t either, especially given his talent for killing penalties. That leaves Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber, two Swiss defenders who have seriously impressed me thus far. Weber brings his rocket of a shot and a great first pass, while Diaz brings strong defensive presence and reasonably good speed. So who goes?
The Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Thursday night, with Boston’s only goal coming off a misguided faceoff win by Tomas Plekanec (for those who have not seen it, he won the face-off clean…so clean it went right behind Carey Price). This coming after Wednesday’s 5-1 defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Quick hits from the game? Well, PK Subban and Brad Marchand had an epic battle all night, which resulted in one of the most absurd fights I’ve seen of late. Regardless, Marchand and Subban each spent 9 minutes in the penalty box between each scrap - a huge success, I might add, for Brad Marchand. His goal was to get Subban in there for 5 minutes, and he almost doubled it. I’m sure Jacques Martin will be having words with his precocious defenceman.
Genuinely, that’s a first. Can anyone remember a coach or assistant being dismissed this close to a game? Also, an odd choice. Yes, the power play has struggled, and Perry Pearn is responsible for that aspect of the team, but he’s had a lot of success in the previous two seasons.
So the fans got their head, but it’s no John the Baptist. One has to figure that Jacques Martin is safe after an assistant alone is dismissed, no? At least for now?
Has Montreal become a circus? The next week could be very, very interesting.
If anyone doubted the knowledge and passion of Montreal hockey fans, here’s a statistic that will perhaps sway you. Montreal is averaging 17,018 in attendance per home game this year. That is way, way down from the 21,000+ they have drawn nightly for almost a decade. This isn’t a surprise - Montreal fans stayed away in droves during the late 90’s as well when acquisitions such as Scott Lachance and Danius Zubrus were supposed to buoy the masses - but it’s a stark, stark drop after only two weeks of play. To put it in perspective, Montreal is 17th in the NHL in attendance thus far.
This is a sign that things could get very ugly this season. Regardless of the product on the ice, if the turnstiles are moving, owners will generally sit pat.
Not when seats are empty. Especially not 4,000. And most especially not when you know that a good product will draw a full house each and every game.
For the full league statistics, as published by ESPN, link is here:
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? firstname.lastname@example.org