Kukla's Korner

The Upper Canadien

Subban, Norris, Last Laugh (or something like that)

If you believe the news, PK Subban, aka The Subbanator, is the 2012-13 Norris Trophy Winner. Well done Mr. Subban. Well deserved. For anyone who does not see PK regularly, this guy plays his guts out night in, night out. Along with many fans, I am quite interested to see how Hockey Night in Canada reacts, as they have been one of the few outlets to continue harping on PK as being 'disrespectful' and 'childish,' amongst other things. At certain points this year, Elliotte Friedman, Kevin Weeks and Ron MacLean did stand up for Subban, however, PJ Stock, Glenn Healy and many others regularly put down Subban for, more than anything else, being different. 

So, congratulations to Mr. Subban, a player who inspires many an opinion, but plays his guts out every night. Many will say Marc Bergevin made a mistake not signing him long term. Perhaps, but here's a thought: maybe the short term contract spurred Subban on, and without the inspiration of a management team that said 'show us we're wrong,' Subban never would have achieved such a level of play. Regardless, a nice way to end the year for Subban, and another platform to build on for these young Canadiens. 

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Ryder’s Montreal days done…again

As per the Journal de Montreal, Michael Ryder is done in Montreal. Various sources since, on Twitter and radio, have cited his agent for the news, but it's no surprise to anyone who watched the Habs falter in the playofs - it was as if Ryder had left Montreal as soon as the regular season ended. 

Ryder's departure means the Habs will be in the market for a top line winger, and they'll have a decent chunk of change to spend, as re-signing Ryder would surely have cost $4-$5 million. 

No other major news of late from the Canadiens beat, as most fans still lick their wounds, muttering siltently of Ottawa. Perhaps the most practical question in accordance with Ryder leaving: does Brendan Gallagher get his #73 back? 

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Ottawa smiles while Montreal seeths

Perhaps one day, I'll go into detail on my frustrations with the refereeing of game four of the Canadiens-Senators series last night. Perhaps one day I'll delve into detail on the botched icings, faceoffs, and goal rulings. But not today. I just can't handle it today.

But I will say this. I'm proud of the Canadiens, who bounced back from a mess of a game 3 and battled hard for all of game four. Now, they head into game five minus their captain, gone for the season with a serious muscle/tendon tear, likely minus their starting goalie, who was injured on the tying goal last night, minus Lars Eller, minus Alexei Emelin, and Lord knows who else.

And you know what? They can still win. Because the team across from them battled these situations all year, and they persevered. As the dressing room wall says, No Excuses. Will the Habs win three in a row? It's been done before, and it will be done again. They've dominated all but one or two periods of this series. PK Subban said today that Montreal is the better team, and they know they can win. It's time for them to go out and get it done.

On another note, a fantastic read from Grandland today by the esteemed Ken Dryden, on concussions, Lars Eller, and respect in sports. Enjoy. 

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9253871/eric-gryba-suspension-lars-eller-hit

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Habs-Sens: keys to a Montreal victory

This is a big one. The key(s) to victory are very simple. Two words:

Carey Price.

This is simply the game where the Canadiens need Price to show up. He was there in game 2. They need him there again, and more. It's Carey's time to shine. 

However, there are other factors at play that will have an effect for the Canadiens. Jeff Halpern is in for Brian Gionta, probably a good move as Gionta was ineffective with his apparent bicep injury, and Halpern was very, very good in game 2. As well, Gabriel Dumont slides back in for Ryan White.

Gameplan? The Habs need to stick to scoring, and shy away from the fisticuffs. Eric Gryba is back in for Ottawa - Montreal must simply treat him as any other player. Leave retribution for next year. This is not the time. Treat this game the same way they did the past couple of regular season games against Boston. Ignore the aggression, focus on beating the Senators where it counts: on the scoreboard. 

90 minutes to puck drop, folks. Enjoy. 

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Now that was a hockey game

Minus Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta, the Canadiens came out on fire Friday, defeating the Ottawa Senators 3-1 and tying their series 1-1. Bouncing back after a deflating first game, the Habs were led by the strong play of Carey Price, Rene Bourque, and Ryan White - White playing what was likely the best game of his young NHL career. 

Brandon Prust and Raphael Diaz also played inspriing hockey, as Montreal avenged the game one hit on Lars Eller the best way any team can - with a win.

The Habs now head to Ottawa for a rare Sunday night tilt with the Senators, an arena where Carey Price has gone 6-0-2 in his last eight starts. Ottawa often seems like a home game for the Habs, as thousands of Montrealers and local fans pack the arena. Montreal hopes to have Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty back in the lineup, while the Senators seem likely to swap Cory Conacher back in for Matt Kassian, who had little to no discernable impact for the Sens on Friday night.

Game three. We've got a series. Should be very, very good. 

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Habs down 1-0, Eller out

Not the start the Habs wanted. 50 shots and nothing to show for it. 1-0 Ottawa. Terrible hit on Lars Eller, who is in hospital with a concussion, facial fractures, and is staying there overnight. It seems unlikely he'll be back in this series, given how quickly the games are being played. Look for Jeff Halpern to slot in tomorrow night, and Brandon Prust to move up with Gallagher and Galchenyuk.

What can you say after a loss like this? The Canadiens dominated for 50 of the 60 minutes and lots. The team was clearly thrown off by the injury to Eller. Is it a suspendable hit? I think under the new rules it may be, given the head contact, but the injury made the play look much worse than it actually was - reminding many, including myself, of Rich Pilon on Kevin Stevens twenty years ago. A huge loss for the Habs, as Eller was probably the most enigmatic forward (perhaps Gallagher was better) until the hit. The key tomorrow night will be the Habs staying composed and looking for revenge via a win rather than a physical confrontation. 

Not much time to tweak their gameplan. Not much time for Carey Price to think things over. Maybe that's a good thing? 

Habs-Sens, tomorrow at 7. We'll have a very good idea of where this series is going come Saturday morning. 

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‘Twas the night before Christmas…or something like that

Anticipation, anyone? 36 hours from now, the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators will see the puck dropped on what I expect  to be a great first round series. So many good storylines. Subban vs. Karlsson. Price vs. Anderson. Therrien vs. MacLean. While I expect the Senators to be extremely tough competitors - let's face it, just about every playoff adversary is - I do think the Habs hold the edge in this series, and I expect them to win in 6 games. One aspect I'm keen to look for it how Montreal tries to control the flow of the series. Playing defensive hockey will only play into Ottawa's hands, so I am looking for Therrien and co. to try and breakout through the series and, with their speed and offence, apply pressure to Ottawa's defence. I'm also curious to see how many Canadiens fans end up at the Corel Cent, er Scotiabank Place, as I expect thousands to make the trip down highway 417.

As for other sidestories to this series, one curious one is the legal trouble of Montreal defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. He was charge yesterday with assault, stemming from an incident over the weekend involving his father, also charged with assault, and two other individuals. 

Continue Reading »

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What a turnaround

From last in the East to Northeast Division champions. What a turnaround, and a great playoff series to come. Canadiens-Senators. First time since 1927. Price-Anderson. Subban-Karlsson. Pacioretty-Alfreddson. Should be very, very entertaining. 

Of course, none of the past 4 months matter now. It's only just beginning to matter. But I wanted to take a moment and recognize what a job this organization has done in only one year. Well done, Marc Bergevin, well done Michel Therrien, and well done Montreal.

Time to get down to business. 

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Two hours to puck drop…

Depending on the outcome tonight, it could be the first time since 1979 since the Leafs and Habs...well, you know. So what's going to happen? Well, it sounds as if Peter Budaj is starting, and I suspect the Habs will rest a few veterans. If I was in charge, I'd sit Prust, Markov, and if he's still hurting, Michael Ryder. If I were the Leafs, I'd be declaring all out war, trying to establish a major physical and psychological advantage over my likely first round opponent. Should the Habs win, and the Bruins lose in regulation, the possibilities are all over the map. 

There's a lot on the line. Flanders is in net. The Canadiens are coming off a recent Leafs drubbing.

It's 16 degrees, and it's playoff time. Time to hit the Beer Store. 

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Habs hard done by with 3 to go

What to say about Montreal? 45 games into this season, they're tied for 2nd in the East - yet they've lost 4 of 5, given up a slew of goals, and the fanbase is in crisis. But, haven't we seen this before? Sure, the Canadiens have a history of performing strong after backing into the playoffs, be it in 1986, 1993, or more recently in 2010, but shouldn't we be considered that the hitters aren't hitting, the scorers aren't scoring, and Carey Price has forgotten how to stop the puck?

Cool your Jets, Habs fans (and you literally will on Thursday). The Canadiens have 3 games left - New Jersey, Winnipeg and Toronto. That's 3 games to get their act in gear. Every team has a tough stretch. Every one. Montreal, to date this year, really hasn't had one. Good teams overcome adversity, and after all, would you rather they lose now, or, say, 3 weeks from now?

I say no reason to panic. Yet. The biggest issue, clearly, is defence, as the absence of Alex Emelin has proven to be more impactful than expected. My solution? Try Jarred Tinordi with Andrei Markov. Tinordi is big, tough, hits, and can chip in on offence from time to time. He was called up from Hamilton today, but likely won't arrive until the weekend. Sure, it may be a long shot, but I think Tinordi could be just what the Habs defence needs.

Otherwise, status quo. Throw the lines back together as they were before this mini-crisis, let Galchenyuk and Gallagher play with Prust, let Pacioretty and Desharnais work through their funk, and things will come together. It's been a great year for Montreal. It can get much better. It's just going to take some hard work, and a little bit of luck.

Hopefully, that starts on Tuesday in New Jersey.

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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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