Losing in the first round of the playoffs made for one long summer for right winger Brendan Gallagher.
After putting together a 41-goal season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, Gallagher found himself on the sidelines as a result of an early playoff exit. The only good thing to come out of that early exit is the fact that he had more time to work on his off-season preparation and get ready for year one as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
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“I feel like I’ve given my body a good chance that it’s going to hold out throughtout the season,” said Gallagher after a day of practice and intra-squad action at the Complexe Sportif Thibault in Sherbrooke, where the ‘Dogs have opened training camp.
His summer included adding ten pounds to his lean 5-9 frame.
“Now it’s up to me to go out on the ice and perform every game.”
Gallagher looks ahead to the AHL season after being among the final cuts at Canadiens’ training camp last season.
“I didn’t really have any expectations last season when I came into camp. I’m going to take the same mentality into this camp. It’s up to me to play my game every time I’m on the ice.”
Gallagher’s season in Vancouver last year was a learning experience. He was relied on to play special teams and was called upon heavilly to fill various roles. His development also included a trip to the World Juniors as a member of Team Canada.
“It sucks that we came up with the bronze medal, but, at the same time, we’re proud of that medal.”
Gallagher and the rest of the Bulldogs will remain in Sherbrooke through Wednesday before they head to Ontario and their ultimate desination: Hamilton’s Copps Colliseum, for the start of the AHL season.
Defenceman Morgan Ellis brings a championship season with him to the American Hockey League.
Ellis, a member of the Memorial-Cup winning Shawinnigan Cataractes last season, showed up at Brossard with the rest of the Montreal Canadiens’ prospects for day one of Hamilton Bullodgs’ training camp: which consisted of a series of physical and medical tests, both in the exercise room and on the turf at the Bell Sports Complex.
This is year one for Ellis as a member of the Bulldogs, after a half season with Shawinigan and three-and-one-half seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Ellis ended up winning a championship in Shawinigan, and spent some of the off-season enjoying the fruits of his team’s labours.
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“It was excited to be at the banner raising in Shawinigan,” said Ellis. “I get chills down my spine. It was a long time coming for Shawinigan and I’m glad I could be part of it.”
Ellis also had a chance to bring the Memorial Cup to his hometown of East Bideford, a tiny community in PEI.
Well, not THE Memorial Cup.
“The Cup got damaged a little bit. i didn’t get the real Cup. I got a little souvenir miniture one, I guess. It was better than nothing and I got to bring it home. It was pretty special.”
A total of 42 players are taking part in ‘Dogs training camp. The scene shifts to Sherbrooke tomorrow through Wednesday, when the ‘Dogs will take part in a series of practices and intra-squad games.
Blake Geoffrion said the moment he stepped on the the ice at the Bell Centre this morning as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs, he looked up at the rafters at the retired jersey numbers worn by his grand father, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, and his great-grandfather, Howie Morenz.
Geoffrion, who’s father, Danny, played briefly with the Canadiens, said he’s proud to wear the Geoffrion name on the back of his jersey and be part of this family.
“It’s great to be here. Walking on the ice, looking up at the banners. It’s pretty special.”
The last time Blake Geoffrion was at the Bell Centre: March 11, 2006, the night the Canadiens retired Boomer’s number 5 jersey.
“That day was very emotional for me and my entire family,” said Geoffrion. “I thought back on that, as soon as I stepped onto the ice.”
Geoffrion was somewhat overwhelmed with the number of reporters who gathered at his locker stall following the morning skate ahead of tonight’s AHL game at the Bell Centre against St. John’s.
“WOW. This is a lot of people,” he said as he proceeded to peel out of his gear.
And how about the pressure that goes along with being a member of the Geoffrion family playing in the Canadiens organization?
“It’s pretty funny. I got the airport and someone recognized me and said, ‘No pressure, but you better score tomorrow night.’ I said I’ll try my best.”
IN BLAKE GEOFFRION’S WORDS:
Upper body, lower body.
Upper body, lower body.
Unfortunately, it’s been an all-too-familiar refrain for the Montreal Canadiens of late. And the latest member of the Habs to be singing that painful tune is Alex Tanguay who is out with an upper body injury after going down early in Tuesday’s win over Tampa: specifically, a dislocated left shoulder that will keep him out of action for at least six weeks.
Tanguay joins line mates Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins on the shelf, and the news on Tanguay comes after the Canadiens sent forward Ben Maxwell (not surprisingly) and defenceman Ryan O’Byrne (he needs to play somewhere) down to Hamilton. Which, if you do the math, leaves the Canadiens will a number of holes in their roster. Especially with further word today that goalie Carey Price is again being bothered by a lower-body discomfort that kept him out of action recently, and will keep him out of tomorrow’s game in New Jersey against the Devils.
Today the Canadiens called up Max Pacioretty, Kyle Chipchura, goalie Marc Denis, AND defenceman Yannick Weber, which will please legions of Habs’ fans, to no end, on a number of fronts.
We’ve come to know what to expect from Chipchura on an NHL level. Chipchura was with this team for much of the first half of last season before being down to the Bulldogs. He’s not a speed burner, but he brings a solid two-way effort to the rink at centre, although his lack of skills at the face-off circle did him in last season. This season he showed very little in training camp and during the pre-season, which is why he has spent the year in Hamilton. He likely would have been tabbed for a recall when Maxwell was called up, but Chipchura was nursing a groin injury at the time.
Denis is up only as a short-term backup to Jaroslav Halak. Price is not expected to be on the sidelines for long.
Which brings us back to two of Montreal’s most intriguing prospects: Pacioretty and Weber.
Both performed splendidly in pre-season, with Pacioretty clearly knocking on the door to an NHL career after moving from the U.S. university ranks to a career as a pro. And Weber, doing his best to make Habs fans forget about Mark Streit, has progressed nicely in Hamilton after a junior career with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Pacioretty started slowly in Hamilton, but has been playing his best hockey as a member of the Bulldogs of late, as witnessed by his performance in Hamilton’s 4-0 win over the Toronto Marlies Tuesday night. Pacioretty scored his 5th of the season in that one, in what was his strongest showing as a member of the Bulldogs. Chipchura, who has also been playing splendid hockey of late, notched his 10th of the season in that one.
We know what Weber brings to the rink. He’s a smooth-skating defenceman with a terrific shot. But his defensive skills remain suspect. But with O’Bryne now in Hamilton, a move that had to be made in order to give the struggling blue-liner regular playing time, Weber will get his chance to impress the Montreal brass. His last chance to impress Montreal brass, in Montreal, came at the Bell Centre Nov. 30, which he scored a pair of goals in a game against the Binghamton Senators. He will no doubt see action, at least on the power play, during this call-up.
Of immediate concern, however, is the fact that the Canadiens have not been able to escape the injury bug this season, which was not the case last season, when they were a consistantly healthy bunch. Because with the giddiness that comes with the team’s recent winning ways, and lofty expectations when it comes to players like Chipchura, Pachioretty and Weber, comes the harsh reality that with a steady stream of Habs making their way to sick bay throughout this season, the Montreal Canadiens are quickly turning into the Hamilton Bulldogs.
That is the only way to put last night’s 6-3 setback by the Canadiens at the hands of Mikhail Grabovski and the Toronto Maple Leafs. When this one was over, Habs‘ head coach Guy Carbonneau called it the most embarrassing game he’s ever been associated with.
And for good reason.
The Canadiens walked into the Air Canada Centre after having used smoke and mirrors to forge a record of 8-1-2 through the first 11 games of this season. And they proceeded to fall flat on their faces against a Leafs’ team that won all the battles. Every single one of them. They outplayed, outworked, outhustled, out “everythinged” the Canadiens, all night long. In the end, the 6-3 final score actually flattered the Habs, who were outshot 41-20 (12-3 in the first period, alone) on the way to losing 61 percent of the faceoffs.
Can you spell U-G-L-Y?
This is a clearly Canadiens team that has spent too much time admiring itself in the mirror; too much time believing in their pre-season press clippings after being called the “team to beat” in the East. This is a Canadiens team that might have more talent than the 2007-2008 edition of the club, on paper, at least. But the last time I checked, this game is played on the ice. And last night, the Canadiens left their game, in the locker room.
It would be easy to point a finger at someone like Patrice Brisebois, who was playing patty-cake with his man along the boards, on the play that led to the goal by Grabovski, his 7th of the season, to put Toronto ahead 2-0 early in the second period. But with Brisebois, while the talent might not be there, at least the effort is, on most nights.
How about all-star defenceman Andrei Markov, who did a terrific imitation of a pile-on as Nick Hagman blew by the Canadiens‘ D-man and proceeded to blow the puck past a beleaguered Carey Price to open the scoring eight minutes in.
While we’re at it, does Mike Komisarek look like a guy who is trying to play his way into a big, fat contract?
And where are the forwards when it comes to being responsible on the ice, when you DON’T have the puck???
Unfortunately, ten fingers aren’t enough when it comes to singling out the culprits on this Canadiens‘ team. For all the talent this club possesses, none of it will mean a lick, if it’s not accompanied by good, old-fashioned hard work. And on this four-game road trip, despite capturing five of a possible eight points, there wasn’t nearly enough of it.
So, now what?
Now what, indeed.
Well, how about we start by taking a look at the score sheet from last night’s game, down on the farm in Hamilton, where the Bulldogs beat the Toronto Marlies 5-2.
Let’s see now….Kyle Chipchura, the “C” on his sweater, having been named Captain of the Bulldogs 48 hours earlier…with a pair of goals; Max Pacioretty, who dazzled at training camp and has picked up the pace of late as a Bulldog…two assists; and Matt D’agostini, another solid performer in the pre-season and a proven point-getter at the AHL level…with his 7th goal of the season.
Why don’t we ask any or all three of these players if they’d like an opportunity to show the Canadiens’ brass that they have the work ethic necessary to make it at the NHL level? How about we give the likes of Guillaume Latendresse, Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan O’Byrne the opportunity to get a different perspective on this game of hockey?
Now what, indeed.