The Upper Canadien
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:
In the greatest trade for Habs Scrabble fans since the signing of Marius Czerkawski, Montreal dealt once touted prospect Brock Trotter and a 7th round draft pick to Phoenix on Sunday for Petteri Nokelainen and Garret Stafford. Nokelainen, a former first round pick of the Islanders, is a scrappy forward who can win face offs, while Stafford, as I recall, is the fellow former Hab Alexander Perezhigin hit in the head with a baseball bat swing of his stick - though I haven’t checked that, and will when time allows.
Regardless, Pierre Gauthier has chosen to act after an abysmal start by the Habs, and act he has: the Canadiens will ice a completely different fourth line tonight against Florida.
Pierre: that’s not going to do it.
How bad were the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night? I didn’t even notice them before the third period.
How bad have they been this season?
The only team they have beaten through six games is the Thrashers.
That’s pretty bad.
The 1-2-1 Montreal Canadiens get set to face the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, sans their defensive stalwart Andrei Markov for at least a few more weeks. Coach Jacques Martin noted earlier today that Markov will not play in October, and he is apparently rehabbing “on schedule” in Florida (I question the “on schedule” bit, as I recall a certain GM noting that if Markov missed any time he “wouldn’t mis a lot…” but I digress). The Canadiens were most recently shootout losers to the Avalanche on Saturday, going down 6-5 in front of a raucous Montreal crowd.
Pierre McGuire noted earlier this afternoon on TSN 990 that the Avalanche said Montreal was by far the fastest team they’ve faced this year. There’s no doubt the Habs are built with speed. However, the physical compliments, i.e. Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty, have yet to make themselves fully felt. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pacioretty has been one of the best Habs thus far, but he hasn’t had many crushing hits. Cole has been invisible for most of 4 games. And other supposed crushers, such as Alexei Emelin, have yet to make themselves felt the way many were hoping.
So the Canadiens are 1-2. In two of those three games they’ve been held to one goal or less. Surprisingly, the fans in Montreal are getting antsy.
What’s not working? Two words: special teams.
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.
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