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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Welcome to The Amalgamation : TCL and BBBR Unite!

Mark this date on your calendar, because intelligent Habs talk has just been escalated to a new level.

Welcome to a NEW era in the world of Canadiens Blogging. Today, I'm proud to announce the collaboration between Bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge and The Checking Line (

Hosted by the best hockey blog sites on the net, TCL and BBBR have come to an agreement to work together on one of the best and most comprehensive partnerships, to bring you complete insight and discussion on the most storied hockey franchise in the sporting world.

Beginning this coming weekend ... NOVEMBER 7th, 2010 - George Prax (of The Checking Line) and Iain Carnegie (of Bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge) are harnessing some of the best talent in the blogging industry to bring you commentary on some of the toughest questions surrounding the Canadiens franchise today.

Add to that, two exceptional panelists to give their opinion - and you're looking at one of the best Habs panels to hit the internet. And to top that off, we follow that up with a weekly LIVE BLOG, that allows all readers to join us and give their feedback on the topics discussed.

These are features previously enjoyed only by radio media. But the times - they are a changin'!

Stay tuned as we offer you more insight into this exciting new world of Montreal Canadiens hockey. And get ready to join us as we give you our thoughts, and fully anticipate your comments!

We're looking forward to sharing with you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Markov Returns Bringing Much Needed Stablility to Habs Defense

The wait is over. Nous honorons le retour du roi!

OK, maybe he isn't exactly royalty, but there is no doubt that the Canadiens have missed the presence of Andrei Markov since he was knocked out of the line up in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals last year. On April 30th, while attempting to play the puck in the corner, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins hit Markov into the boards, and it was clear immediately that there was something seriously wrong.

Within a short period of time, Habs Nation fans were greeted with the terrible news. A torn ACL that would keep him out of the line-up till Christmas of the 2010-2011 season. Since that announcement, fans and reporters alike have speculated on how the defense would align without him; criticized the Power Play numbers that lacked due to the missing Assistant Captain; and constantly guessed at the date of his return to the line-up.

So it all comes down tonight. Markov is back and there is a huge cheer going up (as well as a distinct sigh of relief) from the fans and supporters of one of the most storied franchises in sports history.

A lot will be riding on the shoulders of Andrei the Giant - not only tonight, but growing steadily as the season moves forward. He has always been a calm and steady hand on and off the ice. His defensive capabilities are spectacular, his leadership is insurmountable, and his ability to move the puck and make plays on the PP, are what has made the Power Play tick in previous seasons.

So as the hour draws closer, and the Bell Center crowd (as well as all the Canadiens fans watching around the world) gears up to welcome back one of their heroes, the goosebumps rise in anticipation. If this team can be seated in first place without Markov in the lineup - what will they be like now that he's back? We'll soon see!

Welcome back Andrei. We've missed you more than you can imagine. But I'm pretty sure you'll have an understanding with the ovation you receive as you step onto the ice tonight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Canadiens Jacques Martin Gives Auld the Nod.

After a solid full team performance that saw the Canadiens defeat the highly improved Islanders from New York, the team prepares to take a short hiatus from the Bell Center, and hit the road for Long Island.

They are half way through the week that could net them a good number of points - especially if they continue playing as they did last night. With contributions from all 4 lines, and some outstanding defense - specifically from PK Subban - the Habs managed to secure their third straight win and solidify themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference, alongside Tampa Bay.

Carey Price had another good night, stopping 18 of 21 shots, in what can only be considered a slower night, even though the pace was fast. Don't let the SOG totals fool you though. Unlike some of the previous games this season, where Carey has faced a deluge of shots, the Islanders picked their snipes at the net very carefully. Almost every shot they took counted, so despite the fact that there was not a massive barrage, Price had to make some big stops.

So why then go with Alex Auld for tomorrow nights action against the same team, especially when the match will be played on their home ice. There is no doubt that the Islanders will be looking to exact revenge for the loss in Montreal. Not to mention that the game will be fresh in their minds - weaknesses, go to plays, corrections of their own mistakes. Is this really the time and place to make the switch?

We all knew that it was coming this week. With back to back games on Friday and Saturday night, there was only one option for Martin, and that was to utilize both gaoltenders for these two frames. But let's consider a few points here.

Price has started all nine games so far this season, going 6-2-1-1 with a Goals Against Average of 2.32 and a .913% Save Percentage. He's tracking the puck well, playing with confidence, and has clearly found a rhythm with the players that are out in front of him. I've even noticed a particular bond that seems to be occurring between Price and Plekanec, as can be seen by their pre and post-game on ice antics.

Auld on the other hand, hasn't seen regular season action since playing for the New York Rangers last season, on April 6, 2010. Facing Buffalo that night, he saw 14 shots, giving up 2 goals with a total ice time of 34:43 in that match.

I like Alex Auld. And I think he makes a perfect backup keeper for Price this season. He knew coming in that he wasn't going to get a lot of work, and that makes Price's job easier to boot. Price hasn't had to look over his shoulder to see when he was going to lose the next start - which has allowed him to concentrate more fully on his job. But I don't know that the timing of this switch is right.

The Canadiens come back home to the Bell Center for Saturday night against a flailing Florida Panthers team. Granted, Vokoun will be in net and is a strong keeper in his own right, but the Florida offense has faltered in the seven games that they've played thus far. They have posted 18 goals and given up 15, amassed a total of 206 shots (averaging 29.4 SOG/game), and many of the players producing those shots are not finding the back of the net. Compare that to the 251 shots amounting to 29 goals for the Islanders.

I know it looks like I'm stat hunting here, and maybe even being a little bit nit-picky. But that's part of the gig. Don't tell me that the team statisticians haven't looked at these numbers too. Stat geeks are everywhere, and often that's what assists a coaching staff in making a decision.

But even if I leave all the numbers aside, I still like giving Price the nod for tomorrow against New York. I say, let him keep feeding off the tremendous start that he's had. Let the momentum carry him one more game. Then give him the rest day that he so well deserves.

Besides, if you were Alex Auld, wouldn't you rather get your "sea legs" back under you on home ice, where the atmosphere won't be as hostile, and facing a team that isn't fairing as well as the Islanders?

I know I would.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guest Post: From Eric Smart @ Not Your Typical Habs Fan (Facebook)

Since the inception of this site, I have been blessed with many readers, some insightful comments, some great back and forth banter, and I believe - some new friendships.

It's certainly not easy building a regular readership, and often the self promotion feels like I'm pimping myself. But in order to get yourself out there, one thing is for certain. You have to meet others, share, and collaborate. So I was very happy when Eric Smart of the Facebook Group I AM ... Not A Typical Habs Fan decided to add me on as an administrator for his group, and we decided to work as a team to grow that site into the best Canadiens affiliated group in the Facebook community.

I strongly urge you to visit it - become a member - and join in on all the discussions. Plus , with improved membership numbers, we'll be looking to add prize drawings.

So having said all of that -  I apologize Eric, for the long winded introduction - here is the first ever guest post on Bleed Bleu, Blanc, Rouge.


All aboard the PK Train!!!!!!! Not me… not yet! (By Eric Smart)

** Spoiler Alert** - PK Subban fans will not like this article

I must admit, before moving on with my personal opinions about Mr. Subban, that I admit I do in fact own a PK Subban T-shirt. However, I am not blinded by his extremely risky style of play. Ever wonder why Jacques Martin’s hair looks like that? It’s because he’s combing it over the ones he’s ripped out while watching PK play.

Let’s face the truth here. PK has been overexposed and is always in the spotlight since the beginning of the year. CBC interviews him every chance they get; and who is he – really - to be giving his “experienced opinion” on what the team needs to do going into the next period. Who is he to be giving instructions to anyone before a face-off. The unfortunate truth is that if PK was white and had a French Canadian name, 90% of the country wouldn’t know who he was.  

Don’t agree with me? Explain to me why Alex Picard isn’t getting a fraction of the attention that PK does. Picard has a goal and is a plus 4. PK doesn’t even have a goal yet and has made tons of mistakes. 

The Montreal Media and fans are notorious wagon jumpers and I’m genuinely concerned that this kids head is going to get way too big. If it continues this way, he will think that he’s going to deserve a $6 million/year deal come negotiation time. We hyped Mike Komisarek like he was the best physical defensemen since Scott Stevens (we even voted him into an All-star game) and look what happened. He went off looking for the big bucks in a different team. Luckily for us, other teams in the league believed the hype and took him off our hands. Same thing happened with Souray. He was absolutely terrible for a defenseman; however… he was convinced that he should have 24 minutes of ice time per game and be paid millions, just because he had ONE healthy career year ripping 100 mph slap-shots on the PP
Like I said, it seems like the PK Subban bandwagon is upon us and I can only hope that he won’t fall into the trap that has made victims of so many of our players in the past. Give him a break for a minute and let’s start interviewing our new experienced captain.  

I have no doubt that PK is going to be a superstar… but it’ll be in a different city if we’re not careful. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Canadiens Week in Preview - Coyotes, Isles, and Panthers

Big week ahead as the Canadiens are allowed to perform 3 times on home ice in the next 4 matches. And there are many that think that this could be a great opportunity to pick up a bucket of points before the week is up.

I wish I could say that I share that optimism.

There is no doubt that we are continuing to see improvement in the squad over last year at this time. After seven games last season, the Habs were a mere 2-5-0.  It was definitely a different set of circumstances as we were on a West Coast swing to begin the year in '09-'10, but it's more than apparent that things are not what they were at this point last year.

To begin with, the goaltender controversy was in full swing by this time a mere 365 days ago. And despite a rocky preseason, Carey Price has shown both his ability and desire to succeed this season. That has been clearly proven by his numbers thus far. Secondly - the incessant griping over the size of the team at the beginning of last year, seems to have been mildly quashed by the overwhelming showing that the so-called "Smurf Line" put up during the playoff run that impressed both fans and critics alike.

But we head into a week that brings a lot of talent. A week that could be tougher than we all think. Especially the eternal optomists.

When you look at the Islanders and their overall performance last season, it seems like a "shoe in" that we take at least a split from this team over the next five days. Meeting them back to back in matches that see Montreal hosting on Wednesday, and then visiting on Friday - this could be a very tough back to back series. Considering that they finished last season with a 34-37-11 record (13th out of 15 in the conference - ahead of only Florida and Toronto) they have; so far, shown a considerable turnaround. It would seem that many are hanging their hats on what was - as opposed to what is.

With a healthy Tavares back in the line-up (acquiring 7 points through 5 goals and 2 assists), as well as Parenteau, and Wisniewski giving solid performances thus far - this team is no lock up to be a lay down and give up 4 points. Just take a trip to the Isles NHL website, and you can see that they're already getting prepared for a shutdown of the Habs.

And the Coyotes are no easy, simple, puzzle to fix tonight either. For a team that apparently has no following, they packed in 107 points last season, and had a surprising playoff run. Regardless of the slow start this season (2-2-2), Stempniak could breakout anytime, and Adrian Aucoin, Ed Jovanovski, and Eric Belanger could easily wreak havoc.

I don't even know where to fit the Florida Panthers into this whole discussion. Despite the fact that they're 3-3-0, they can always find a way to tie the Habs hands behind their backs. Lets pass on the offense that they has struggled to perform in their first 6 games. Instead look at the numbers of Tomas Vokoun who has a current 2.14 GAA and a SV% of .925. When you look at the struggle the Canadiens offense has had in putting up goals this year - facing a netminder like Vokoun could cause trouble in a game that the Habs might otherwise dominate.

I'm not trying to be a pessimist here. I'm just trying to be a realist. With an organization that traditionally can't hold their own against teams that should not pose a problem, we have a week full of those types of contests. The Habs shine when faced with adversity, but there is no guarantee that adversity will shine its inglorious face down on La Flanelle this week.

What we can hope for over the next 4 games is this. That the second line "project" will end and that there will be consistency for the offense to work with. That the powerplay will continue to progress in the right direction - regardless of whether Markov returns by weeks end or not. And that Mr Carey Price continues to play as magically, and strongly as he has.

More than that, I hope that the roster doesn't go into this week with the mindset of some of their fans. That it's going to be an easy 8 points. Because that's the exact thought process that could see us tumbling faster than a Leaf in the fall.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Canadiens Draw Even With Leafs In The Northeast

To say that there wasn't a bit of annoyance with the "blazing start" that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had to this season would be a lie. All you had to do was read  the Twitter threads on any given night when both clubs were on the ice, and you realized that the 4-0-1 start to the Toronto season was a bit disconcerting.

So as both teams took to the ice last night, on one of those special Saturday nights, there was much anticipation in both cities as to how the evening would end.

Now, being called "Bleu, Blanc, Rouge" obviously states that the concern of this writer - and those who read my words - lies in the back yard of the illustrious Canadiens de Montreal. And there is no doubt that I went into tonight's match-up with great concern about how the Habs would face off against the Senators. But don't be fooled. My link to was certainly up and running throughout the night.

But I digress. Let's head back into Scotiabank  Place and look at the more important issues at hand. Coming off a devastating loss to the Devils, where the power play struggled, and everything else that should have spelled offense did the same, there was much that needed to be improved upon. But there was much doubt as well.

Martin decided once again, to roll the dice with Pyatt as a winger on the second line for Gomez and Gionta. But at least he was showing some form of consistency. Other than his stint with Pouliot on that line, G and G haven't had the chance to see the same wing man in consecutive games. I won't lie - I still believe that it's a bad decision. Pyatt spent 13:30 Time on Ice with a total of only 3 shots (out-shooting both his line mates), but it still didn't feel like there was cohesion amongst the players. However;  there was a spark tonight that may change things once again, with the Martin Shuffle.

Benoit Pouliot, who has shown a serious lack of drive and determination to this point in the season, showed a small glimmer of what he was, when he was first acquired by the Canadiens last year. Skating a little bit harder, and moving to the net; where a forward of his size belongs, Pouliot managed to pot his first of the season at 13:42 of the second frame to lift the Habs to a 2-0 lead. With nearly fifteen and a half minutes of ice time, it would appear that "The Chicken" is attempting to prove that he deserves a place on the top two lines. Monday night will give proof to what the coaching staff's opinion on that is.

But by far - the man of the night, and quite possibly the surprise of the season thus far, had to be Andrei Kostitsyn. Showing great hands and a powerful shot, AK has been a force this season. A full on compliment to both his line-mates, Kostitsyn has managed to place himself atop the leaderboard in points for the Habs this season; tied only with Plekanec (with 6 points in seven games). Notwithstanding a glorious point shot, Andrei has also shown his ability as a skill player that has good hands, and the mental ability to be composed and get to the front of the net.

The other elephant in the room has been the Habs power play, and there is no doubt that we saw some improvement there tonight as well. I know we didn't actually acquire a special teams goal last night, but there was substantial improvement. Far more shots on goal, much better puck movement, and increased traffic proved that they are finally making their way in the right direction. The powerplay spent much more time in the offensive zone - something that we just haven't seen much of so far this year..

And then there's Subban. I know that I don't hold the favour of many Habs fans when I get critical of this wonderful young defenseman, but on this given evening, PK showed a remarkable improvement in his discipline and play. Especially on a night when a team hunted him down like a mangy dog. Not only did he take hit after hit, but Foligno showed no restraint when he clearly went after Subban in a fashion that showed no restraint or professionalism. Other than a great assist on the first Kostitsyn goal, he also continued to shut down the Ottawa offense time and time again - frustrating them into bad penalties as well.

There is not much left to be said about the overall performance of this team last night, with the exception of the man that continues to prove that he has a place here in Montreal as a potential superstar. Carey Price, once again, shone like the star he is becoming. Collecting his fifth career shutout; his third against the Senators, it was more than apparent that Price continues to improve.

There were many opportunities tonight that a soft goal could have found the back of the net. There were very few moments when he had to "shine". And to be honest - I think that's what made this particular win a monster for our netminder. It's tough to be in top form when you aren't being constantly challenged. Clearly 19 shots over 60 minutes can't be considered "tough work". But Price prevailed - staying sharp on a slow night, that is often the demise of a strong goaltender.

So all in all - a success night. Back to back wins over the Sens. A great victory that was needed after such a terrible defeat at the hands of the Devils. Confidence reinstated, and the precedent set for Monday night's match against Phoenix.

Only one thing made it sweeter - bragging rights for a share of first place with the Leafs in the Northeast. Even better - we seem to be on the rise, as they seem to be falling!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Canadiens: Post Brodeur ... Pre Sens

To say that there is a lot to address after such a dismal outcome in last nights match-up against the New Jersey Devils would be a gross understatement. To be completely honest with you all, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about last nights game. There are some definite mixed emotions.

I think the first thing that I noticed during the opening frame, was something that I was very aware was going to happen. We watched a team that hadn't competed in four days, hit the ice with very little sense of urgency.

But we also watched a team skate out there with yet another version of it's second line. We watched a team that has had no positive defense, no power play, and little offensive drive, place the potential for a win solely on the head of their goaltender.

I want to address this second line issue first. Pyatt clearly has no place on this line. With 11:50 minutes of even strength TOI (14:41 Total), he managed only one shot on goal, and what seemed to be a fully lackluster performance. At times he seemed to be a distraction to Gomez and Gionta. There was no sense of cohesion between them and the line only managed a total of 9 SOG! Eight coming from the Captain.

I believe that the time has come. Time to place a strong young talented Eller on this line, and watch the magic happen. And I don't mean for a one game tryout. Most of the issues that underlie this line, are the lack of consistency of who plays on it - and consistency can never occur if Martin continues to constantly switch things up. Chemistry does not happen in a single match. And if the head coach isn't willing to try Eller out for 5 games - then at least hand it back to Pouliot, who clearly has JM's favour. Consistency will be the only way that this line will gel.

Getting back to shots on goal by the second line, there also needs to be serious improvement here as well. Actually - that improvement needs to be streamed across all four offensive lines. You can't score goals if you don't shoot. You can't win games if you don't score. Plain and simple. We've all been witness to the fact that sometimes just putting it on net allows you to win the lottery. They need to stop looking for the "Perfect Scoring Opportunity", and blast away. As much as I was never a fan of #99 ... I believe he said it best! I even keep this quote over any desk that I work at, because it certainly rings true.

"You always miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

Amen Wayne - and Thank You for that.

But it wasn't just the offense that struggled last night. Once again our defensive unit bit bone. There was no meat to their play. An astonishing -3 for the favoured pairing of Gorges and Gill. Many times during the night, they just seemed to give up on the play - or shut down. And that left oposing offensive players with chances they should not have had. That was clear on both the Parise and Arnott goals.

That left us Carey Price to once again be responsible for saving the day. Quite frankly - I don't care who's in net. You don't leave your goaltender out to dry on such a consistent basis. That game could easily have been a 6-0 romp had it not been for Price.

But I won't give Carey the easy pass either. Many a fan in Montreal has proclaimed the second coming of "Jesus Price" over and over again. But 3 goals on 20 shots is hardly going to make you a saviour on any team. Despite the fact that the defense lets him down, Price needs to be able to make the saves on the soft shots. No doubt he pulled off some fantastic saves last night, but the soft ones have got to stay out of the net.

I fully expect to see a different team on the ice tomorrow night, when we walk into ScotiaBank Place. I expect to see a team that fully understands that although they had 4 days rest - they played like the team that was more tired. They played at half their potential, and that got them the number of points they deserved.

It's time to get back to playing the game with intensity. We've seen them do it time and again. And tomorrow can be no exception.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Canadiens Vacation Ends; PP and Second Line Will be Under Scrutiny Tonight.

After a long break this early in the season, it begs the question of whether the Montreal Canadiens will be ready for the puck drop tonight. After a mere 5 games, the Habs were put to rest for an unprecedented  4 days off.  Coming off of two solid wins against the Sabres and the Senators, it will be up to Captain Brian Gionta, and the rest of the leadership team, to spark a flame of motivation within the ranks tonight.

This is a sort of homecoming for Martin Brodeur as the New Jersey Devils look to improve their poor start to the season. Sitting in the leagues basement with only 3 points from 6 starts, there should be plenty of fuel to get the Devils grinding. Ilya Kovalchuk has a lot to prove with the Mega contract that he was awarded in the off season, and Zach Parise is probably on the verge of having another break out year. Add in the remaining team-mates that are undoubtedly annoyed at their results thus far; tonight should be a scrappy game.

Carey Price will be looking to continue his winning ways - especially against Brodeur, who seems to thrive playing in Montreal. The Jersey netminder has no qualms about letting the fans know that Le Centre Bell is his favourite "away" barn, and he's had much success here. Add that up with his 1-4 start to the season with a GAA of 3.18 and a SV% of .887, and it's clear that losing is not an option in Martin's mind.

But Price has been on fire this year. Despite an off preseason, things seem to have turned around for the Habs #1 goalkeeper. Showing a 3-1-1 record on 5 starts doesn't justify the play of Price to this point in the season. In both losses, Price has been the factor that kept the team in both games. And with three wins, he has posted a solid 2.57 GAA and .914 SV%. Certainly numbers that have gotten the fans attention, and I'm quite sure the Devils organization has been discussing them while pouring over video in preparation for tonight's match-up.

Of most worthy discussion heading in to this evening, is what Jacques Martin has been working on in their 4 days off to improve the Power Play, and his 4th change to the Gionta / Gomez line.

During practices in Brossard, JM seems to feel that there is yet another player that needs to be given the opportunity on the second line. Having already played Pouliot, Moen, and Darche on the line with the two ex-Devils hot shots, the head coach looks to Tom Pyatt tonight as a new piece to the puzzle. There seems to be a concern with the overall production of the line that collects the most cash from the front office on a regular basis. With huge contract shoes to fill, the highly paid Gomez, and newly appointed Captain have amassed a total of only 2 goals and 2 assists. Hardly acceptable numbers.

But messing with the chemistry of this line is what's hurting it most, in my opinion. Clearly Gomez and Gionta know each other perfectly as line mates. They are strong together, and just have to make a few adjustments as they roll along. Getting to the net being one of those adjustments. With 18 shots on goal this year for Gionta, there have been many a juicy rebound begging to be potted into the back of the net. So a solid, large, go to the net kind of forward would compliment them to perfection.

Enter Lars Eller please. He showed that ability in the preseason games and would be happy to continue showing it on the second line in the regular season as well. I've been saying since the first puck dropped in the preseason, that Pouliot is not a top six forward. He doesn't even show the potential for it right now. And Pyatt is not ready for that role either. I wasn't even convinced that he had a role in the big leagues this year. But Eller likes the net. Likes to shoot at it. And he likes to park himself there and get dirty. So enough of the chemistry lab tryouts with every player BUT Eller. Give him a shot and I think we'll all be happy with the results.

The Power Play struggle has been intense for the Habs this season, so there will be one notable change this evening to the D. Hamrlik will skate alongside Subban, hopefully bringing a more solid partnership than PK had with Spacek. As far as the forward line goes, no changes as Plekanec and company will be out there anchoring the special teams play.

So it should be an eventful night. It should also be a scrappy night. Lapierre will be happy. Looking on the bright side, if the Pyatt experiment goes terribly wrong, maybe it leaves Jacques Martin no other option but to make the attempt with Eller for Saturday night in Ottawa.

Then again, maybe he'll call up Max Pacioretty or Andrew Conboy first!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Canadiens Once Again Fail to Put Up 82-0-0 Season

I decided to take a few days off and see my family in Canada's Hockey Mecca (sarcasm) - Toronto. And I also made a decision, since we are so early on in the season, to not watch hockey. After all - I don't get the opportunity to see them too often, and I had one of my closest friends wife celebrating her birthday this weekend - so I wasn't going to glue myself to a TV in a sports bar on Friday night. Instead, I made sure that my pal in Montreal texted me with score updates throughout dinner (Thanks Jordan). I had to show some level of appreciation for the Keg* steak, and wonderful bottles of Red that we were consuming.

So when I got home late on Monday night, I had to decide whether it was worth getting on the notebook and checking in on all the latest Tweets, Blog posts, and H I/O news.  Exhausted from driving 1704km over the course of the weekend, I put my weariness aside, and did just that.

I think that the best comment I received from a fellow Tweep, was in response to me asking what the latest news was concerning the team. Expecting a flood of answers ranging from complaints on JM's coaching abilities, to the lack of PP offense (etc. etc. etc.); instead this response said "We're 3-1-1. What's to talk about. We're looking good".

Maybe it was because I was surrounded by Toronto Maple Leaf fans this weekend, and their incessant banter about how they were off to a better start than the Habs. Maybe it was the ludicrous talk of how being in first place in the Conference was a foreshadowing of the seasons results for Brian Burke's squad. I guess I was just expecting Montreal fans to not be happy enough, even though we're only five games in.

It's refreshing to see many of the fans throughout the city feeling a bit more secure and comfortable with the teams results so far. There seems to be a certain candor that I haven't noticed in quite some time. It feels a little more like the playoffs of last year, where despite having made some mistakes, and some costly errors, we know this team can prevail. There has come an understanding, that there is not going to be an 82-0-0 season for any team.

I certainly hope that we can continue to have this positive attitude continue throughout the season. There is no doubt that it will have a positive effect on the boys in Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge. It also has a less poisoning effect on the fan base as well. Which in turn .... well, you understand what I'm saying here.

It's good to be back in the land of hockey. It's good to once again be surrounded by fanatics that love not only the Canadiens franchise - but the sport. Having said that though, I better go check some stats and see who's on the second line for game six. There has to be SOMETHING that I can complain about.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Open the Floodgates - Habs Home Opener 2010/2011

It's here! The home opener. We get to welcome home our boys as they play the Tampa Bay Lightning at le Centre Bell in Montreal.

No big changes are expected for tonight. No adjustments to the 4 forward lines. But the anticipated return of Roman Hamrlik to the defensive unit happens, and that's something to celebrate. With a defensive core that has lacked a bit of "get up and go", perhaps the addition of Hamrlik to the team can shake things up a bit. Not that we can expect a "full on" 25 minute outing from our veteran, but his presence should help in solidifying our defensive capabilities.That means the omission of Picard from tonight's line-up and the addition of O'Byrne, as he gets paired up with Hall Gill.

Once again - we leave the decision making to J Martin, and will only know for sure if he was correct, after 60 minutes of hockey.

Fresh off of a two day rest, and more importantly, a win against the Penguins - this team should be ready for what the Lightening have to throw at them.

There is no doubt that the Lightning have improved themselves over the off-season, and will most likely be contenders in the playoff race this year. With the additions of Stamkos and Gagne over the summer, Tampa brings more size, speed, and toughness to the team that was - only a year ago - wondering if they could maintain a fan base, not to mention their Captain: Vincent LeCalvalier. After a decisive victory at home on Saturday against the Thrashers (in which Stamkos accumulated 2 goals and an assist), look for a team that will be hungry to go after a 2-0 to start to the season.

The Habs; however, are coming off a huge win against the Pens Saturday night as well. Doing what they do best, and walking into the New Igloo for the first time, the Canadiens potted 2 goals in 24 seconds of the third period, to gain a come from behind victory. Not the prettiest offensive game to watch, but certainly a flicker of hope as Carey Price turned away 36 of 38 shots in a well deserved victory.

Tonight's questions surround the ability of the offense lines to move their way in front of Dan Ellis, creating traffic and havoc for the newly acquired Lightning goaltender. This will be the first start for Ellis - who was acquired from the Canadiens in the off-season. Ellis came over to Montreal on a trade that saw himself and Dustin Boyd moved to the Montreal franchise from Nashville, in return for Sergei Kostitsyn. However, without a deal in place before the July 1st deadline - he became an unrestricted free agent, and was subsequently picked up by Tampa.

So tonight will be yet another good test for La Flanelle. With some solid growth and adjustments over the past two matches, I have a feeling that tonight's going to be a good night.

Keys to Victory:

Get shots on net. Forget about incessant cycling. I know on a team that is smaller in size - speed and puck movement are important. But that doesn't mean neglecting to put the puck where it belongs - on goal. Just ask Scotty Gomez.

Create more traffic. Guys like Lapierre, Pouliot, Eller, and Boyd need to be parked in front of Ellis. Considering Ellis only had 31 starts last season - if he can be rattled early, it will pay off dividends.

The Power Play v Penalty Kill. Stop taking stupid penalties. Seven opps for Pittsburgh last Saturday could have come back to haunt us. And with a PP that has generated next to nothing for the team this year, it's time to align Gomez as a forward (to gain and keep the zone) with the likes of Subban (to take the crucial point shots). By the way - did I mention TRAFFIC?

Defense. Play like it was the playoffs. Never in my life have I been so proud as I was during the post-season last year. Gorges backchecking, and Gill blocking shots. Subban moving the puck. It's time to intensify the defensive game. Carey will make the saves - the defense just has to limit turnovers and Shots On Goal.

So there it is. A night we've all been waiting for, and a great opportunity to gain our second win of the season. There is really only one other thing to be said ....

Go Habs Go!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canadiens Fans to Pick Three Stars

Hold Up! Did I really hear that correctly?

Apparently, according to the Habs Inside Out Puckcast (dated Oct 12th 2010), and a Canadian Press article published today in the Swedish Media companies METRO Newspapers, this comes direct from Bell and the Montreal Canadiens.

Announced during the morning skate in Brossard today, the statement was made  that fans will be able to download a free app from the Bell website. Previously, the selection was made by broadcasters televising the game; however now - this leaves the judgment solely to the fans online, or in the arena to make that decision. And their decision will be announced at games end, as per usual.

Does anyone else have an issue with this? Are we really opening up "voting lines" and leaving this in the hands of anyone who has the ability to log on to I can only imagine the ridiculous responses if Carey Price has a bad night. Are there really enough subjective fans out there to make the right choices? When did the 3 Stars of an NHL game become synonymous with "So You Think You Can Dance"?

I like the fact that Montreal is trying to bring fan involvement to a new level. The announcement of a weekly 30 minute player profile being available online, through Bell Mobile, or television sounds like a great way to connect fans to the team. But having a free vote on a games 3 Stars is ludicrous at best.

I can only surmise what the name of the Bell App will be .... Canadien Idol (?).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sid the Kid - Shut Down Again - Things to be Thankful for on Canadian Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone ... at least to all you Canadians out there! And I guess a Happy Columbus Day to the kind American followers that read this blog! I hope that you have plenty to be thankful for on this fine October day.

No complaints here in Good Ol' Montreal! I mean, we had a "Bright, Bright, Bright - Sunshiny Day", and we watched Ben Cahoon make CFL history, as he became the leagues all-time leading pass receiver (catching his 1007th to pass previous CFL legend Terry Vaughn).

But I guess in retrospect - all those Habs fans out there are looking back on Saturday nights victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins as an early, yet continuous Thanksgiving Day present. That gift that keeps on giving. Let's face facts, ever since that night that Crosby smashed his stick against the post of Jaro Halak in the playoffs last year - there hasn't exactly been a love-on for the Pens Captain. As a matter of fact - you could take every watched segment of his "Golden Goal" and thrown it in the trash as far as Habs fans were concerned. "The Kid" was showing his true colours. A spoiled little boy that relishes in accomplishment - but has no room to stomach defeat.

And that brings me to the point at hand. The other things that came about in game 2 of our regular season that we have to be thankful for.

Clearly, we saw a very confident and skilled netminder between the pipes. I don't know if its the fact that Carey Price is just sick of coming up with losses on occasions when a win should have been at hand (and no - I'm not blaming him for it all), or if there was a new confidence that our young goalie decided to get back to. But without doubt, Price was looking more like the Price of old. He was stepping forward in his crease, challenging shooters, taking away the angles. More importantly, after he allowed that first goal off Malkin on a beautiful feed from Crosby, there was none of that traditional shoulder slump in his body language. He got beat, accepted it, and moved on. Even more impressive was that he continued to stand tall after the Letestu goal. After all - he really should have had that one - and I'm sure he'd love the chance to get that back.

But after giving up two - Carey did something that we've seen him do many times before. Times where - in the past -  his team has been known to let him down. He continued to make great saves, as well as routine saves, in order to keep his team in the game!

So what else do have to be thankful for today?

Well there was a definite step up on the defense and the penalty kill. Taking 7 penalties in all for the night - the Habs certainly (at times) looked a bit undisciplined, and yet the likes of Gorges and Gill were great on the PK. With the exception of Spacek coughing it up again a couple of times, there seemed a bit more consistency in shutting down the Penguins offense. Having said that - even Spacek began to flex his muscles from the blue line with a pair of blistering point shots. Subban continues to shine as well. On the forecheck, working hard in the defensive zone, grinding it out. And despite what Don Cherry has to say - this kid need not offer any special treatment to "veterans" like Crosby. He's faced off hard against him in the playoffs, and shut him down. Why should that be any different in the regular season. You don't get a Golden Hall Key just because you've been around the school for a few years.

So let me just make one quick point on that issue. Cherry spoke on Coach's Corner Saturday night, like he was a soothsayer proven right. He spoke to the fact that he knew PK Subban was going to get injured; because he hasn't shown the right level of respect to superstars in the league. Nonsense! This rookie is doing his job. Making sure that no matter how long you've played in the league, no matter how much the press holds your hand and bows at your every word - that you better bring your "A" Game every time out - or be put in your place. Thank God that Mr Cherry is not our coach. He is definitely not in our corner.

So things have looked pretty decent so far! Lots to take to the table tonight and offer our thanks for. But let's not forget the glaring shortcomings that need addressed immediately, if we want to see future success for this team, and a good run deep into the playoffs.

Offensively, the Habs looked weak on Saturday night. Despite the early goal from our returning hero - Mike Cammalleri - there is some great weakness to be taken care of. Yes, the Plekanec feed was excellent, but after that moment in time - until deep into the third - there was a serious lack of offensive effort. For a team that has tried to move to some bigger sizing in the offseason, including the likes of Eller and keeping Poulliot, there was in huge lack of getting players to the front of the net.

Fleury was a one man smorgasbord of rebounds. Juicy, delectable, and inviting. But no one came to the table. Instead they sat back trying to find a spot in the slot  for Cammy (which was shut down consistently). Believe me. After last years playoff high of 13 goals from that exact position - don't expect it to be too vacant over the regular season for #13.

And what about the likes of Moen, Kostitsyn, and Lapierre? Where was the net presence with that trio? If things are going to look up, especially against big time teams like the Caps, Pens, and Philly; there needs to be much more assertive play to the crease.

One last note. I know this is going to get under many a skin, but it has to be said as far as I'm concerned. Enough about Scotty Gomez. Anyone who actually watched the game on Saturday night noticed one thing. This man can not only move the puck, he was one of the VERY few Canadiens who was shown any respect by the Penguins on the power play. When he gained the zone (another Gomez specialty that is lacking by the rest of the offensive lines), they backed off and recognized him for the danger he can be. I know he got his frst shot late in the game, and that he finally scored. But leave the man alone. He's a playmaker, and continues to do his job well. Despite what most fans may say. You don't like Price being criticized, so don't pick someone else to bear the cross instead.

Well - enough said. We did what we set out to do. We set the pace for the season against Pittsburgh. We made a statement that told the hockey world "It wasn't just dumb luck in last years playoffs!". We continued to build as a team, and make it known that we will be contenders again this year.

And as far as I'm concerned - that's plenty to be thankful for.

Good On Ya Boys!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Close the Igloo - Sidney has left the building"

Sweeter words have never been spoken, as the ones uttered by Bob Cole last May 12th.

As the journey came full circle for Mellon Arena (formally the Civic Arena), which was in desperate need of closing its doors; the Montreal Canadiens made sure that they closed the doors much in the same way they opened them on September 19th, 1961. With a win!

Victory bookends, so to speak.

And tonight begins a new era of the hockey rivalry between the Penguins and the Canadiens, that is no doubt a touch more bitter moving into the future.

The new Consol Energy Center, has already given the Pens their first loss, as they opened the season at home to the 2009-2010 Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers. So you can be sure that as Cammalleri steps onto the ice tonight for his first game of the season, "Sid" et al will be looking to avenge how quickly the Canadiens sniper and his crew sent them home last year.

But in order to do that, there will be a few changes happening to the line-up tonight.

To begin with, Michael Cammalleri is back and ready to get his season under way. After serving his one game suspension in the press box during their loss against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night, he will be anxious to get some ice time - and to produce. No doubt that leaves the rest of the top lines to be shuffled, mostly meaning Lars Eller who showed great skill, grit, and determination in the season opener. Matthew Darche has also been named as a healthy scratch for this evening as he becomes the odd man out with Cammy's return.

We still await the return of Roman Hamrlik, which will not be tonight (as confirmed by Martin after the morning skate today). The estimated timeline for him is Game 3 on Wednesday versus Tampa. Not the best news - but better Wednesday than later on. It became very apparent on Thursday night during the opener, that defense continues to be the largest struggle for the Habs.

With Markov out (still indefinitely), and Hamrlik sidelined, the pressure has been put squarely on the likes of PK Subban, Georges, Gill, and Spacek. And despite his incredible play in last years playoff run, Subban is showing more of the rookie side to his game lately, than he has in the past. That's to be expected! He's new, he's young, and that's what young guys do. But he has that urge to learn and soak up from the veterans. So the return of Hamrlik and Markov becomes even more important as we move forward. Tonight there will be a "special interest" for Subban as he faces off against his Belleville Bulls ex-teammate, Eric Tangradi.

Where the difference has to be seen immediately, is in Spacek. There seems to be a slowness and lumbering quality to his play that needs a pick-me-up. His lack of energy, and mental mistakes leading to turnovers, have been instrumental in opposition scoring opportunities, and goals. So we turn to Goerges and Gill to step it up, until the core defensive team returns complete to the ice.

But not all the questions lie in the Canadiens camp. Pittsburgh has seen some off-season changes as well. Specifically in the loss of Sergei Gonchar to the Ottawa Senators, and the sidelining of injured center Jordan Staal. Both of those players were instrumental in going 14 games deep into the playoffs last year - and clearly, Gonchar's howitzer point shot was missed in their first game of the year.

That being said, tonight should be a fiery game with fast paced action, and lots of intensity. Pittsburgh has something to prove, and Montreal has a stance to hold. This looks like a fresh new rivalry that will certainly last all season.

So let's walk into this "New Igloo" tonight and pick up where we left off. Let's give it a good ol' Montreal christening.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Not A Creature Was Stirring ... Not Even A Mouse

Isn't that a line from the famous poem about the most exciting day in a child's life? Christmas morning?

Well it is Christmas Morning: In October.

I woke this morning super early; bleary eyed, but with a little kids anticipation of the day to come. I'm a wee bit tired after the live Hockey Pool Draft last night, which I can't say produced the best results for yours truly, but that's ok.

I climbed out of bed and threw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, making  my way quickly to the living room. Firing up my notebook, I waited for it to boot up. Even it has a different glow about it on such a wondrous day. Twitter, HI/O, and the fantasy draft page on my screen - I proceeded to open every new blog post like a most desired present. Reading through each one with goose bumps building across the surface of my skin. All of it culminating in what will be the best and most desired present of the day ... Opening Puck Drop of the Canadiens vs. the Maple Leafs, tonight at the Air Canada Center.

I can hardly believe that October 7th 2010 has arrived.

Now I'm not going to go over the starting lineup for tonight, because many other great writers have touched on that subject in the "presents" that I mentioned earlier. And if you want to have the joy of opening those gifts yourself - then I implore you to go and read them! Instead, I wanted to try and put into words, the excitement and pure giddiness that I'm feeling as the new season has arrived.

Tonight, the speculation about top 12 forwards, who'll be in net, what the "D" is going to look like, and who's going to remain on the big team all come to an end. And no doubt, when the game comes to it's conclusion tonight - we'll all be back to writing and Tweeting our thoughts and criticisms. And why not? That's what fanatics do!

But for right now, I want to live in this moment. I want to cherish this feeling. One of eager anticipation, youthful impatience, wide-eyed excitement. Because for me, this is what being a Habs fan, and hockey fan is all about.

I'll close with this. I may not have talked about how I think Eller is going to do replacing Cammalleri tonight, and I haven't mentioned how different we're going to look with our full on "A" Team out there - with a non-AHL defense and offense. But what I WILL say is this:

Canadiens 4 Maple Leafs 3 (OT).


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Apple Pickin' and Head Hunting

I can tell you that when I got up on the morning of Saturday October 2nd, 2010. There was only one thing on my mind. The final preseason match-up between our beloved Canadiens, and the Islanders of New York.

So I immediately fired up my notebook, and checked to see what the announced line-up was going to be. Yeah - I was a bit surprised. I was kind of expecting something closer to what Martin might place on the ice for the opening night this coming Thursday. But then again, I should have learned by now that I should always expect the unexpected from the man behind the bench.

I was as equally surprised and disappointed by the B Team that the Islanders decided to showcase in front of an excited fan base that filled the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City. A city that continues to show the hockey world that they are ready for a franchise to return to their beautiful city.

So in all that disappointment, I hopped into the car, and decided to head off the Island to the south shore, past the Complex Sportif Bell in Brossard, and into apple orchard country. There's no way to distract yourself better on a beautiful fall day, then going on an apple picking excursion for some fresh Cortland and McIntosh love. And I have to tell you - the trip can only be labeled as sweet success. Two bags of apples, one dozen beignets de pomme, one tourte de viande, and a pumpkin pie later ... I headed home with a big old smile on my face.

But as the evening unfolded on a lopsided thrashing of the Islanders; the Habs up by 3 goals (4-1) nearing the end of the second period, it became clear that I wasn't the only person who had decided to go hunting today. With under five minutes left in the second, Nino Niederreiter, who came over from the Swiss league, decided to go after Mike Cammellari.

Now there's going to be a lot of speculation in both camps as to what happened, but after taking much time to review the posted films today, I think it's pretty obvious.

Anyone who knows the style of Cammy, his demeanor both on and off the ice, also knows that it takes a heck of a lot to get under his skin. I mean - for Pete's sake - the guy Tweets to his fans, and sends pictures over Plixi to give them all an inside look at what team life is about. He even makes sure that he "Double Tweets" - English and French. Epitome of a nice guy is what comes to mind when one thinks of him.

And despite the sole incident that happened in Calgary, when he left Havlat in a daze off the faceoff with a bit of a suckerpunch, we all know that you don't get Cammellari to lose his temper without a reason.

Back to the video review ...

There has been a lot of concern in the NHL regarding head shots, and blindside hits in the league. And there have been plenty of examples of players that need to be held accountable for the dirty hits that they place on other players. Don't even get me started on the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Carle.  But that, my friends, is where this saga really begins. There is no doubt that the reason for a spirited reaction from Cammellari came from an unclean and dirty blindsided hit from Niederreiter.

Who would expect that from the Swiss. Aren't they lovers - not fighters?

But Niederreiter has a history. Go back to the 2010 IIHF Under 20 Championships and the spat between him and future Maple Leaf Nazim Kadri. Unsure of exactly what happened, apparently Kadri felt some unsportsmanlike action from Niederreiter, and refused to shake hands with him after the game. He was quoted as saying "Obviously, in big games like that, guys tend to lose their composure a bit, ...".

And we witnessed a lack of composure again last night.

So where does that leave us? There is a ton of speculation regarding a possible multiple game suspension of Cammalleri for the beginning of the season. And I have to mention to everyone that has posted on this situtaion, it was not the slash (as pitiful as that slash was) that Mike was called for - it was on the high stick that brushed the chin of Niederreiter. But that speculation leaves me only two offers.

First of all, I don't condone raising your stick towards anyone's head. So I would expect that Cammy feels a bit off course for making that mistake - even in the heat of the moment. But secondly, the NHL needs to nip blindside hitting from junior players in the bud. After all the discussion that has gone on to change the league rules, this is a prime example of where it needs to be assessed immediately.

And that assessment should have an impact on any supplemental discipline that is incurred after such a night of preseason hockey. If you want to hold Michael Cammalleri accountable for his reaction, then you must hold Niederrieter accountable for his head hunting techniques.

Because if we don't - we're inviting players to challenge the new rules. And those are exactly the players that we don't want in this league.