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Game 82: Penguins/Habs

  • Last game of the season with a spot already clinched.

    Technically a meaningless game and a chance to experiment a little.

    Hopefully Carey Price finishes the year with a strong performance and heads into the post season confident.

    Higgins – Metropolit – Kovalev
    Latendresse – Lapierre – Kostopoulos
    A. Kostitsyn – Plekanec – D’Agostini
    Stewart – Koivu – Laraque

    Gorges – Dandenault
    Weber – Schneider
    Hamrlik – Komisarek

  1. #1 Mats Naslund says:
    April 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

    And so the regular season ends, and the post season begins. Its funny, when I think back about the roller coaster that was the Habs season I have to think back about the incredible excitement that I had before the season started for the new additions that the Canadiens made to the roster. As training camp started I wondered how the lines would shake out now that Montreal had acquired Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang. Looking back, I have to honestly say everything that I expected was wrong with regard to this season!

    The “top” line – After the season that the Plekanec, Kostitsyn, Kovalev line had last year I thought for sure we were about to witness the emergence of a couple new NHL stars. More specifically, I thought for sure that Andrei was going to emerge as the true offensive superstar that we’ve all been pining after for years. In 06-07 he had 50 points in 52 games with the bulldogs. In 07-08 (which really was his rookie season in the NHL) he had a fantastic 53 points and really took off once he was put on the top line. This year, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by his 41 points. I’m not willing to write him off as others have done – but next year, when the excuse of the sophomore jinx can finally be laid to rest, this tenth overall pick has to produce for the Canadiens. A great way to start would be to have an impact against the Bruins in this upcoming playoff series.

    The off-season signings – The addition of Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang were really cause for excitement heading into this season. Much of the talk was that Koivu’s line desperately needed a talented winger to replace Michael Ryder, and that Tanguay was the perfect fit for the Captain and Higgins. As it turns out Tanguay spent almost 30 games on the shelf, and Higgins had a “Michael Ryder-esque” seaon of his own scoring a pathetic 23 points. Now that Tanguay has returned we are finally able to really judge the kind of impact he could have had for the Canadiens had he not been injured, as he has totaled 41 points in 50 games. To add insult to injury (literally), Robert Lang’s numbers were eerily similar – scoring 39 point in 50 games with the Canadiens this season. One has to wonder what the Canadiens could have accomplished had these two savvy veterans been able to play out healthy 08-09.

    The youngsters – While I did point out the underwhelming performances of Andrei Kostitsyn and Chris Higins, it should be noted that the youth movement which was touted as the team’s greatest strength last season took a step in the wrong direction to the dismay of the Habs nation. We all expected great things from Sergei, O’Byrne, Komisarek, and Price and were disappointed with steps back rather than forward. If it weren’t for the inspiring play of Max Lapierre and Gui Latendresse we might talk about the collapse of the youth of the Canadiens this season. The truth is, for much of this year the Habs relied on Mat D’Agostini and Max Pacioretti while those with actual NHL experience fell off of the map. Call it a collective sophomore jinx – whatever you have to do – the young Canadiens will need to step up next year since most of the veterans on this team are UFA’s come the end of this season.

    L’Artiste – I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect the Alex Kovalev disappearing act that we all witnessed this year. That being said, Kovalev has redeemed himself in my eyes since he has managed to catch fire at the end of the season when we need it most. He is back to scoring goals and making beautiful passes. Better late than never? When he and Markov are on the same page, we still have the most dangerous powerplay in the league.

    In the end, the players I expected to have break out seasons didn’t, and those I didn’t have on my radar (hello Mathieu Schneider) had an impact that couldn’t be imagined. It was a crazy regular season, and I for one am glad to see it go. We are back in the same position we were last year – a first round playoff matchup with the big bad Bruins. While this team doesn’t have the same swagger that led them to 8 consecutive victories against the B’s, I still think we can beat them. It is a brand new season: time for all of those players who have had disappointing results to step up. It is not too late to turn around this season. We will need all hands to make it happen.

  2. #2 Joseph says:
    April 13, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    It’s easy enough to look at the facts and make an intelligent guess as to what went wrong with this team this season. Yes, the losses of Lang (permanently so) and Tanguay (temporarily so) were huge setbacks. Yes, Kovalev took most of the season off (though not surprisingly to anyone who has followed his career as he certainly tends to alternate good seasons with poor ones). Yes, the Kostitsyns were the center of an off ice circus which very well may have affected their play more than suspected (although when you have the opportunity not only to play in the NHL but for its most storied franchise, you best discover manhood quickly). Yes, Laraque appeared to be struck with moral issues and thus deviate from his previous role of enforcer (not to mention, effective forechecker) which he performed so well in previous seasons. Yes, there were a number of underperformers (namely Koivu, Higgins and Plekanec) whose missing offensive contributions likely cost them a fair amount of games. Yes, the goaltending was inconsistent – too many back breaking goals allowed in too many games. And yes, Gillett is in financial trouble and shopping the team (but should this really matter all that much?).

    To anyone who hadn’t watched a single game this season, it would be easy enough for them to look at that list and draw a conclusion about why the Habs were in danger of missing the playoffs near season’s end. (It might even come as a surprise that they made the playoffs at all.) But all of that aside, and to most of us who have followed this season under a microscope, there seemed to be something more going on with this team. Something inexplicable wiht so many players falling off the radar. Something that we may never know the true nature of, but something of a cancer. Carbonneau had said that the truth would come out in time and I’ll be all ears because the mystery, quite honestly, is annoying me – he has to know something which isn’t evident to the outside observer.

    And while I do agree that a new season begins on Thursday night, and that the Habs (should) have the personnel to change their suspected fate, and also that they have inarguably shown a marked improvment since Gainey took over behind the bench, I will be among the most surprised (and elated) of fans if they are able to suddenly shake all of their 3-month old bad habits and play the way that we had all expected them to play this entire season. Because if they go in making the same mistakes that they had made even in their final game of the regular season, this will undoubtedly be a very short series.

    Here’s to hoping to be surprised.

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