The Upper Canadien
After securing only 1 of 4 possible points against the Sabres last week, the Canadiens start a big week with back to back games against the Penguins and the Bruins. The Habs are still clinging to the Northeast lead, but are now 5 points behind the trade happy Pittsburgh Penguins.
Meanwhile, many Canadiens fans are waiting to see Marc Bergevin match Pittsburgh's Ray Shero and make an acquisition or two before the deadline. I don't expect much - the Canadiens have an opportunity to build on their youth, as they hold many draft picks this year on top of a strong system of prospects - and I suspect the Habs will largely stay put. That said, I'm sure Bergevin wants to make a splash, and I could see the Habs adding another big body to the second or third line - especially with Rene Bourque suffering a setback in his return from a concussion.
Yes, the Habs won, but tonight, a note on a Montreal favourite: L'Artiste. Alex Kovalev, the last remaining member of the 1994 New York Rangers playing in the NHL, and a huge fan favourite in La Belle Province, has retired at 39. Many thought Kovalev might surprise after his first game of the year, in which he put on a show and was first star, but it was all downhill from there. He'd been a healthy scratch of late, and the writing was on the wall.
I've heard many a Hab fan say he never should have left Montreal, and that may be true - he seemed to lose a step as soon as he went to Ottawa. His playoff performances are legendary, as he always seemed to go to second gear, and his physical play - who can forget the elbow to Darcy Tucket's head? - will never be forgotten.
So tonight, from all Habs fans everywhere: thanks for the memories. You truly were L'Artiste.
The Habs continue to truck along, having gained yet another point in yesterday's OT 3-2 loss to Buffalo. A few quick thoughts:
- The Bouillon signing is a great move. Marc Bergevin is clearly a chemistry guy, and believes in the leadership present in the room. Bouillon is a big part. Well done, M. Bergevin.
- Jarred Tinordi belongs. I was at Saturday's game against New Jersey, and for a kid his age, he has poise. He's good with the puck - an errant delay of game penalty last night aside - and has a decent shot. As his body fills out, he is going to be a physical beast. The Habs did well bringing him up slowly, and I suspect he'll contribute down the stretch this year.
- Brendan Gallagher is going to win the Calder. This kid isn't slowing down - if anything he is getting better.
- The Habs are winning despite less than stellar Carey Price goaltending. He isn't on right now - he has been at times, but not lately. If he gets hot come April, watch out.
- Michel Therrien is going to be a Jack Adams finalist.
- PK Subban and Andrei Markov both have a shot at being a Norris finalist.
- Tomas Plekanec deserves Selke consideration. Plekanec is obviously offensively gifted, but he gets far too little attention for his defensive work. He's a PK cornerstone for Montreal.
When was the last time the Habs had legitimate invidivual trophy candidates? Things are looking up in Montreal down the stretch, but they need to continue to take the competition seriously. Thursday will demonstrate whether they message has gotten through, as the Habs face the Islanders.
As per RDS during the intermission this evening, the Canadiens are currently working on an extension for defenceman Francis Bouillon.
This may come as a surprise to many, as Boullon is seen as a depth player on the Habs, but he's a fan favourite, a hard worker, and never complains about his role. I suspect Bergevin is approaching this with the understanding Bouillon may be a spare defenceman next year, and that's not a bad move. As we've seen time and again in recent years, you can never have too many defenceman approaching the playoffs - and since the Canadiens once again appear to be a playoff team, it's a good thing they're addressing this proactively.
I'm on the road today, so can't write much, but I will say this: David Desharnais for four years at $3.5 million per is a good deal. The lack of a no trade clause makes it a great one. This rewards a key piece of the Habs offence, while giving them the flexibility to deal the contract, if need be, down the road.
Good move, M. Bergevin. The interesting question now is who stays and who goes. DD, Plekanec, Eller, Galchenyuk...it isn't a problem now, but not too far down the road, there won't be any room at the inn.
I've been traveling the past week, and will be again this week, but as we're at the halfway point I felt I had to opine on this year's Montreal Canadiens team. I can summarize the first two months in one word.
From coach, to first line, to the third line, to the defence, right on down the line, this team has surprised. They are leaner, meaner, faster, stronger, and hungrier than last year. By leaps and bounds. My standouts to date? Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, Max Pacioretty, and PK Subban lead the pack. Gallagher is a Calder candidate, and Subban has to be in the Norris conversation, what with 18 points in 20 games to go with superb defence. Brian Gionta and Andrei Marov have bounced back admirably from major injuries, Lars Eller is becoming consistent, Alex Galchenyuk oozes talent, Josh Gorges blocks shots like they are going out of business, and Alex Emelin is turning into a certifiable top three defenceman.
Who could have predicted this?
Budweiser Canada was kind enough to send me one of their now infamous red lights two weeks ago, and after two weeks of solid use, I can report that it is a very, very cool piece of hockey fandom. It is also a brilliant marketing scheme, and it definitely impresses a group of guys over to watch the game. Other members of the household? That's debatable. But if you want to impress a group of friends easily, one of these does the trick handily. More info is available here, but I'll give you a quick rundown if you're new to the product.
The light comes in a tube-shaped package, packed in styrofoam, with easy to understand instructions and you can have it set up in a matter of minutes. The light connects easily to wifi, and comes with a handy app that runs smoothly on my iPhone (and, I gather, most mobile devices). It allows you to select all your favourite teams, and each time they score - voila, the light goes off.
A few questions I had going in, that you may have reading this review:
I had the privelege of once again being a guest on the XM NHL's War Room Review today, as Mick Kern, Peter Berce, Eric Gage and I discussed all things NHL-related over the past week of hockey. Ryan O'Reilly, Alex Ovechkin, coach of the year candidates, realignment and, of course, a little Habs.
Over my last few posts, you've seen me opine on the idea that Marc Bergevin has yet to "put his stamp" on the team, and to expect a trade sometime soon.
Well, apparently, tonight was sometime soon. And it's a good one.
Newfoundland, rejoice: Michael Ryder is back where he belongs. Is this a good trade for Montreal? It had been said that Erik Cole's contract was great in year one, ok in year two, not great in year three, and Habs fans would beg for mercy in year four. Well, year four seemed to come quickly - and to be fair, that may be lockout related. Cole had clearly become disinterested, and it showed in both his interviews and his game. Apart from a couple of games, Cole was somnambulting his way through the season, whereas Ryder has 14 points in 19 games, and as a pending free agent is gunning for the net.
Let's also consider that, having shipped out the Cole contract, Montreal saves significant cap space for another two years. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a good deal. Well played, M. Bergevin. What's next up your sleeve?
So thank you, Erik Cole. Your contribution was greatly appreciated. You helped David Desharnais out of his shell, and you helped Max Pacioretty turn into a premiere power forward. Good luck in Dallas.
Now, Mr. Ryder, get that number 73 back and get to it. Toronto tomorrow. Montreal's gonna need ya.
It's February 23rd, and the Canadiens are looking down on most in the Eastern Conference. Now, there's an asterisk there, as this is obviously not an 82 game schedule, but most - myself included - did not expect a Habs team in first place this close to March. In fact, most didn't expect Montreal in first place, well, at all. 2013 was to be a rebuilding year, after an embarrasing campaign the year before. What happened?
Here's the jist: a funny thing happened on the way to the Bell Centre. The next generation took over. Names like Galchenyuk, Gallagher, Emelin, Diaz, and Eller are having much more of an impact than expected.
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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