The look on Mike Johnson’s face said it all.
Hockey’s back in Montreal.
In what city other than Montreal do hundreds and hundreds of people show up at 10 am on Saturday to watch hockey players practice? Not many and certainly not in Phoenix.
Tomas Plekanec and Mike Johnson skated out a few minutes earlier than the rest of the team to hear an ovation from the fans above. Mike Johnson had a grin on his face like he couldn’t believe it.
The place was packed with people of all ages to watch the Canadiens scrimmage and then display their shootout skills one after the other.
- Saku Koivu – Koivu did not look out of place at all. In fact he might have been the best guy out there. The play was fast and fairly rough and he didn’t flinch whatsoever. This is great news as earlier in the week it was a more grim outlook. I’d say Koivu will definitely be starting the season.
- Guillaume Latendresse – Sorry but Gui looked out of place and too slow with the big boys. Garth Murray also nailed him and sent him to the locker room wincing. He seemed to gain some confidence after a lucky rebound goal but looked really immature pumping his fist like it was a game 7 overtime winner. His maturity and confidence are definitely not there and there’s no way he’ll be a Canadien any time soon.
- Mikhail Grabovski – There were a lot of eyes on Grabovski and while he looked to have great hands and speed he is surprisingly small. Smaller than Mike Ribeiro. Skinny and short by NHL standards. It’ll take some time for him to learn the North American game and hopefully put on some size.
Kyle Chipchura was not that noticeable but both Kostitsyn brothers were.
Some of the grinders stood out. Garth Murray and Aaron Downey were giving it 100% the whole time. They seem to know that to keep their jobs they’ll have to play that way at all times and they were. Murray in particular.
O’Byrne and Jancevski were noticeable as big physical defensemen but were definitely not up to speed with the NHL game. There was nothing to suggest that Cote won’t be the last Defenseman pencilled in the lineup come game time.
Regulars were regular. Michael Ryder is sporting a visor and looked a little strange but ripped a snapshot top shelf during the shootout. Kovalev, Higgins, Souray, Komisarek and Rivet all looked sharp. Sergei Samsonov however ,might take some time to gel with linemates Riberio and Kovalev which is expected.
The atmosphere was great and the Canadiens look to be strong heading into the pre-season games.