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» 2011 » February

  • Game 59: Habs/Sabres

    Don’t you feel like the dog days of the season have quietly vanished in the night? I for one am starting to get amped about the NHL’s run towards the post season. For some reason, after a week of crazyness with goalie fights, a game that featured just shy of 400 PIMS, a trade involving the Leafs calling it a season, and a Habs victory on Hockey Day in Canada – I’m left feeling that the playoffs are just around the corner.

    The Canadiens woke up in 5th place this morning thanks to a Coyotes victory over the Capitals. A win tonight would put the pressure on the Caps to play catchup.

    Recent injuries have plagued the 4th place Penguins which makes you wonder whether or not they will be able to hold their place. The Habs can really help their cause by winning some games on the road down the stretch. Normally I would say 4th place is out of reach – but given the extent to which the Pens are suffering right now – home ice advantage in at least the first round is up for grabs. The Canadiens have been able to weather their injuries fairly well – and some in the media are certain that Pierre Gauthier is intent on adding to the Canadiens roster to make a push.

    With Hal Gill’s injury lasting longer than some initially thought, many are questioning whether the Habs can last while relying heavily on Picard, Weber, and Spacek to play significant minutes. I certainly count myself among those. To give some credit – the trio have been resilient and played about as well as they could considering the circumstances. Still, you cannot feel good about Montreal’s chances with only two ‘mainly’ reliable pairings in Gill-Subban and Hamr-Wiz. A big body to boost the third pairing (whatever our offensive shortcomings) has to be at the fore of Pierre Gauthier’s desires. I don’t know what the chances of sending Spacek and a pick to a bottom tier team that will struggle to make the cap floor next year are – in order to gain a big defender. That would be a tough sell for most teams. The pick sent along would have to be a dandy to make it worthwhile.

    At this point I can see Gauthier addressing defense over adding an offensive piece Рmainly due to the improved play of David Desharnais and Max Pacioretti. The two have stepped up in a major way which has alleviated some of the pressure to acquire a scoring forward. Unless Pierre can find a team willing to deal two pieces РI see defense as taking the highest priority. The questions are: who are the Habs looking at? At what cost?

    Talk recently has been that the Canadiens have scouted Nashville. They have a dearth of big defenders and need forward help. This has fueled speculation that the Habs might send AK46 in return for a defender. That may be a possibility. There has been speculation that the Habs may try to acquire Eric Brewer from the Blues. The Habs do have trade history with both clubs . But how much will the Habs pay to land an impact player – after the deals that we’ve seen for Fisher and Versteeg, which included multiple picks?

    Lots to chew on while we wait for an inter-division game against the Sabres.

    Go Habs Go!!

    LATE EDIT: The Habs have called up Brendon Nash from the savagely plundered Hamilton Bulldogs. He will go if Spacek (who missed the morning skate) cannot. Is it wrong that I’m hoping Spacek sits? Nash is a big body and has had a great year in Hamilton. Scouting reports say that he’s still got work to do before he’s NHL ready – but most have him ahead of Matt Carle on the depth chart.

  • Game 58: Habs/Leafs

    If there was ever an example of how Montreal fans over-react after losses, last night sure presents as one. First, the Big Bad Bruins, still high off of their second win in 10 games against the Habs get tuned by the Red Wings, a team that relies on skill and veteran leadership far more than the fists of players like Betuzzi or Rafalski. Aparently the invincible goon squad isn’t the new NHL model after all.
    Second, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins played a game that made the Boston-Montreal match look like a love-in. Almost twice as many penalty minutes were handed out in a game that was out of control from the very beginning. The synapsis of fights is on YouTube and will take you a half an hour to view all of the altercations. Incidentally the final score was 9-3 Islanders – although that seems like a trivial matter this morning.

    So where does that leave your Montreal Canadiens? Calls throughout the fanbase have urged Pierre Gauthier to find a tough player to ensure that the crazy result in Boston is not repeated. On one hand I agree. The Habs are a little team through the lineup. Our roster is lacking balance. By the same token, nothing that went on last night between the Isles and Pens was avoided due to either team’s enforcers. In fact, the enforcers when given carte blanche to run wild (as was also the case in Boston) turned the game into a mockery. Just shy of 400 penalty minutes were handed out in a game that only lasts 60. That’s over 6 minutes of penalties for every 1 played.

    Detroit whipped Boston. They didn’t need to defend against a barrage of fists to do so. That’s because they scored goals. I still think that if Desharnais had scored early on Thomas, little of what went on in that game would have occured.

    Tonight we face the Leafs who will no doubt try to amplify the physical game versus the Habs. If the Canadiens want to discourage goonery it would behove them to score first. If you use speed and skill to break down the opposition’s defense – you don’t need to worry about their fists. Until Gauthier makes a move that improves Montreal’s toughness, this team will need to help themselves and their tired old defenders by scoring more goals.

    Go Habs Go!!!