Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Atlanta at Montreal

“ It’s the start of another new year, better call the newspapers up”—The Tragically Hip

After a flu-ridden weekend capped off with afternoon home losses to the Rangers (4-3) and Claude Julien’s Devils (2-0), Les Habitants gingerly recovered their 5 on 5 scoring instincts to edge out the Atlanta Thrashers at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. ED Note: watching New Jersey play makes the rehabilitation techniques utilized in A Clockwork Orange akin to A Victoria Secret Fashion Show.

With Coach Guy Carbonneau mixing up the trios more often that a McDonalds’ trainee, The Habs kept the scoring juggernaut of Kozlov, Hossa and Kovalchuk off the score sheet, which was a vital key to the win. After trailing 2-0 for most of the game, the kids such as Plekanec, Latendresse and Ryder unlocked the scoring sphinx that riddled the Habs at even strength for the past few games with the help of Captain Saku Koivu who notched his 500th career point on Ryder’s second tally of the evening. Koivu was caught between the emotional ovation the fans lavished upon him for a few minutes and worry over protecting the lead in the dying minutes of the game when Atlanta poured on the pressure with the extra attacker.

Habs Cash Grab to the Max

If necessity is the mother of invention, this dreaded malady (not the losses but the Flu) that ripped through the Habs camp at least unveiled to the layman Canadiens’ fan the talents of 23-year-old center Mikhail Grabovski who nearly scored twice in the Ranger game and parloured his amazing speed into a first period breakaway turned aside by Thrasher netminder Kari Lehtonen. Similar to Martin St.Louis in stature and size, the Habs will no doubt return him to Hamilton when veterans who are paid 5 times his salary (Samsonov) complain that his desire and drive to the net are making them look bad. Also, with Radek Bonk, Steve Begin and Garth Murray injured, Maxim Lapierre returned to big club and showed his first successes with the team were not a fluke. Lapierre showed chemistry playing with Alex Kovalev among others by simply causing traffic in front of the opposing goaltender. Ryder scored two goals and a great assist on the Latendresse goal by returning to the simple following of his instincts to not hold on to the puck. When Ryder shoots often, he scores.

The Fine Print

The Habs did not practice nor were they allowed to enter the Bell Centre so that the player’s facilities could be disinfected from the viruses that have rendered the team ill these past two week

Christopher Higgins, who has lost a little of his scoring touch upon his return from an 18 game injury layoff , was placed on the third line with Tomas Plekanec and Mike Johnson. The line was very effective in keeping the opposition scoreless.

It seems like Plekanec who has three goals in four games is the prime beneficiary of separating from Samsonov and Kovalev. Go Figure….

Latendresse’s beautiful goal validates Coach Carbonneau’s belief that the kid is ready to play now with the big boys and may see more first line duty as the second half of the season rolls on.

Although the defence has been playing well all season, it appears that Mike Komisarek may be suffering from the wear of a full season with regular ice time. If you recall, Mike did not get regular ice time until Claude Julien was fired around this time last year. This year, he and Markov have been the shutdown pairing since day one and lately Mike is doing the little things with more hesitation while his timing has been slightly off and his decisions, shaky. The All Star break in two weeks will do him some good…

Speaking of the All Star Game, my best wishes go to Sheldon Souray who was voted to Eastern Conference Team starting lineup in the January 24th game. This spells great news for Hab Fans and Sheldon’s agent who has a highly coveted UFA in his midst this summer.

The Habs next game is in Philadelphia on Thursday.

See you at the Bar showing the game,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tampa Bay at Montreal

Cristobal Huet Steals Lightning’s Thunder and 2 Points

Many times this season while watching the Habs, I wonder if I’ve stumbled upon an episode of The Amazing Race (which is Mrs. Pescatore’s favorite show). If a team on TAR commits a foul, they are given a 30-minute delay penalty while all the other teams get the head start. On certain occasions this year, the Habs don’t seem to get started until the second or third period this season and still manage to steal a 4-2 victory from the clutches of defeat. Chalk the Lightning-Habs game on Thursday as a sterling example. If not for Cristobal (Is it too early to anoint him Saint?) Huet turning away 41 of 43 shots including a dozen quality chances on Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis. This game should have been over after the first period yet the game was tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes. Tampa’s Shot totals were 18-4 in the first and 15-6 in the second. When Mark Streit is your best FORWARD in the first 30 minutes of a game at home and your Penalty killing unit scores TWO short-handed goals, you have no business winning. Huet clearly outplayed Lightning goaltender Marc Denis whose lack of timely saves has been Tampa’s undoing since losing Nikolai Khabibulin to free agency after their Cup run in 2004.

Special K Not an Essential Part of Opponent’s Balanced Diet

For the third time in December, Captain Saku Koivu answers the offensive call with a 2-goal game including a game winning short-handed tally and a game clinching empty netter. It seems that everyone Koivu plays with becomes a better player and he is directly responsible for the awakening of Latendresse, Kovalev and Higgins this year. There must be smelling salts on the back of his skates because the team has relied on the captain’s lead several times this season to wake them up in games they have slept through in the early periods.

Les Kids Sont Alright

When Coach Carbonneau can rely on a fourth line of rookies Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre and second year man Mark Streit to be the best forechecking line on the ice, chip in with a game tying garbage style goal (Lapierre’s first in the NHL), and contain the ever dangerous Bolt offense late in the third period, you know the Montreal Canadiens’ future is in very good hands. The internal competition is a trademark of the Gainey team philosophy. The arrival of Lapierre and Higgins spells trouble for Garth Murray and Sergei Samsonov

The Fine Print

The goal scorers for Tampa were Richards and St.Louis. Streit and Lapierre scored their first of the season for Montreal along Koivu’s pair. The other key C-H; Chris Higgins did not play and will join the team on Saturday at the Bell Centre against the Daycare Brigade of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sheldon Souray returned after missing a game with a hand injury. Radek Bonk left the game after receiving a puck in the nose. Coaching Mr. Crosby and Malkin will be former Habs Bench boss Michel Therrien. FYI: The Pescatore family has still not forgiven him for the Carolina Hurricane playoff bench minor. I do not think he will be behind the Penguin bench when this team moves to the next level and requires a refined playoff coach with tactical skills.

In response to the question raised in my last article regarding Sergei Samsonov, the answer is Broken Clock. Was that Guillaume Latendresse singing along to BOTH national anthems?

See You At The Game,