The Upper Canadien
The Upper Canadien is back at 100% and off the IR. The Habs, however, are not. As everyone now knows, Andrei Markov’s knee is close to ready, so GM Pierre Gauthier said yesterday - and that, logically, is why he’s having surgery in the next few days. Right. Oh, and he’ll be out for 3 weeks “or so.” The dreaded or so. My bet? Markov isn’t back until January, and that’s optimistic thinking.
Scott Gomez is still on the shelf, resting multiple muscle injuries and a goalless season. One in which he himself said he needed to step up and deliver. Gomez makes over 7 million dollars, Markov almost 6. That’s close to 20% of their salary cap room right there. Not to mention Jaro Spacek and Ryan White on the sidelines, and various players like Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri who look like they’re playing hurt. Bottom line, almost a quarter of their salary cap allocation has been virtually invisible since training camp. What does that tell us?
Well, it explains a few things.
The Montreal Canadiens hit Anaheim this evening as the struggling Ducks look for a rare win. As everyone knows, rumours of change are swirling in Anaheim, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a move if the Ducks drop this one to the Habs. That said, it’s also a big game for the Habs: Louis Leblanc makes his Canadiens debut.
Leblanc, the Canadiens first round pick in 2009, slots in for his first NHL game, and has been practicing with Lars “ill timed penalty taker” Eller and Travis “trigger” Moen on a possible third line. However, as everyone knows, with Jacques Martin coaching, he could be on the first line by the second period, or he could be nailed to the bench. You just never know. Leblanc has been a solid addition to the Hamilton Bulldogs this year, second in team scoring in his first year as a professional after spending 2010-11 with the Montreal Juniors. The Habs haven’t exactly developed a plethora of first round draft picks in recent years (David Fischer anyone?), so anytime one makes his debut, let alone a hometown boy, it’s a pretty big deal.
I’m still recovering, and thus have someone else typing this for me, but a quick thought on Pacioretty/Letang: it shouldn’t be a suspension. Very similar to the Ryan Malone hit of earlier this year, more body on body than anything else, and I don’t believe there was any intent visible. Max Pacioretty did not intend to hurt Kris Letang.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pacioretty gets a game. Why? Gut feeling. He’s got a phone hearing, and Letang was bloodied. With the crackdown and all, I could see this being punishable. But I reiterate: I don’t believe it should be a suspension.
The Canadiens left it all on the ice Monday night, but could not put the puck behind Tim Thomas as the Bruins defeated Montreal 1-0. Erik Cole continued to look strong for Montreal, as did Alex Emelin, who is beginning to distance himself from Raphael Diaz through strong, mature play and solid, bone crushing hits.
Montreal has a day off Tuesday as they prepare to try and get back into the win column Wednesday night.
A slight side note:
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.
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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