Michael McCarron (pictured) and Michael Bournival picked up two points apiece and were among the youngsters to raise eyebrows as the Canadiens took to the ice at the Bell Centre in their pre-season opener.
Bournival had a pair of goals and McCarron picked up two assists as the Habs fell 5-4 to the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout.
Bournival showed lots of ofensive spark out there and McCarron displayed some soft hands in setting up both Bournival and Martin St-Pierre. McCarron went hard along the boards to dish the puck out to Bournival for his first goal of the night. The Canadiens’ top draft pick of this summer could also be found parked in the opposing crease; which is exactly where you want McCarron’s 6-5 frame to be.
Two other players of note who impressed me up front were Martin Reway and Erik Nystrom: both showed plenty of finesse as skill players with speed. Nystrom also showed he has a little show biz in him with his stick-twirling goal-scoring celebration.
On defence, Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi, both with some NHL experience under their collective belts after last season, aquitted themselves well. Peter Budaj and Zach Fucale split the goaltending duties: Budaj playing the first half of the game, Fucale — with his rather stark, generic, “no-frills” mask, finishing up and taking the team through the OT and shootout.
Brendan Gallagher, playing on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller, was in “mid-season form” (as we like to say) and took no prisoners, even though it was only a pre-season game. This kid simply doesn’t have an “off switch.”
This was a fairly entertaining, spirited hockey game: as pre-season games go, and as Habs-Sabres games go. Up next for the Canadiens: the Boston Bruins, who are in town Monday night.
Some 24 hours ago, PK Subban was named winner of the Norris Trophy as the top defenceman in the NHL.
That’s wonderful news for Subban — and his wallet.
Here’s my take on the situation the Canadiens now find themselves in, when it comes to keeping Subban in Montreal.
Listen to Abe Hefter in The Locker Room, weekends 6-7 p.m on CJAD 800 in Montreal and on WWW.CJAD.COM
The Montreal Canadiens are one loss away from becomming a .500 hockey team.
Since March 19, at least.
Yes, overall, the Habs are sporting a record of 26-10-5, good for second place in the East behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and good for first place in the Northeast, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins.
But, since their 3-2 OT loss to the Sabres on March 19, the Canadiens have put together a record of 7-6. Should they lose to the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night at the Bell Centre, they will drop to 7-7 as of March 19.
And that folks, is .500 hockey.
Time to sound the alarm bells? No. Not yet. As Jacques Demers, the coach of the ’93 Cup-winning Canadiens’ team reminded us Sunday during his speech at the Cummings Centre Sports Celebrity Breakfast, the 1993 Canadiens played mediocre hockey over the last 10 games of the regular season, and still came away with the Stanley Cup.
Are the Canadiens playing mediocre hockey these days? Well, they were pretty mediocre in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Leafs in Toronto. But, if we are using March 19 as the start of this benchmark, they were simply inspirational in their 6-5 shootout win over the Bruins in Boston March 27. So the jury is still out. Or at least my jury is still out.
If nothing else, the Canadiens’ recent 13-game stretch of barely .500 hockey has left me with a somewhat queasy feeling. True, few (OK: NOBODY) expected the Habs to be in this position with but a handful of regular-season games left: battling for first place within their conference and ther division with a playoff spot safely locked up.
However, don’t count me among those who will be left feeling satisfied with this season should the Habs fall well short of expectations once the playoffs roll around. It’s the Canadiens, themselves, who have raised the bar, and expectations, with their play this season.
Well, up until March 19, at least.
Seems like everyone in the hockey world is anxious to see Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr get together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by Thursday so that both sides can save Bettman’s vesion of an 82-game schedule.
What’s the rush?
Bettman has said that a new deal needs to be done by this Thursday if the league is to go ahead with a full season of NHL hockey, beginning November 2nd. The league has already cancelled games through Nov. 1st, so clearly there is very little wiggle room here.
I can appreciate why Bettman has pulled out his stop watch in an effort to get the players to agree to the league’s latest offer. But like I said:
What’s the rush? Would a 72-game season be so bad??
Yes, an 82-game schedule would be nice. Delightful, even. And, like I said, I can appreciate why Bettman would want to get a deal done sooner, rather than later. But it seems to me that Bettmen (and Donald Fehr, for that matter) has bigger fish to fry (pun intented): like getting back to the bargaining table. And talking. Really talking. And if that conversation, should it take place, continue through Thursday, well, who cares.
Just negotiate, already. I mean, seriously. Get on the same page, and get a deal done.
Stop with the Monty Hall “Let’s Make a Deal” school of negotiating: as Fehr pulled out not one, not two, but THREE proposals for the league to chew on last week. (Pick me, Gary! Pick me!!) None of the proposals were particularly tasty, and Bettman spit them right back at the union.
Oh. And by the way. It’s not often that we hear the words “Bettman” and “Brilliant” used in the same sentence: but, after pleading with Fehr to show the owners something, anything, Bettman takes the bull by the horns and presents an offer that, if nothing else, scores plenty of brownie points with the fans. Two points for Bettman in the public relations battle. A nice piece of work by the Commish, for what it was worth.
So, he we are. Thirty-five days into the lockout, with no new talks scheduled. Bill Daly and Steve Fehr did chat yesterday over the phone. How nice. How about Gary and Don get on the phone? That would be swell. If they can actually get a deal done this week, even sweller.
But let’s set aside the concept of an 82-game season for now, shall we, and simply work on saving the season. Period.
Trevor Timmins admits there was uncertainty surrounding his future with the Montreal Canadiens after Marc Bergevin was hired to take over as general manager of club during the off season. However Timmins feels Bergevin put that to rest as soon as he came in.
“It’s great to have stability and to move forward with this great franchise, ” said Timmins from the Czech Republic where he has been taking in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
COMPLETE INTERVIEW AVAILABLE HERE:
Yesterday the Canadiens announced they had extended Timmins’ contract as he prepares to go into season number 11 with the organization.
“I left Ottawa to come here to help the team win a Stanley Cup. That goal hasn’t been accomplished yet. I’m looking forward to helping meet that goal.”
Timmins has received rave reviews for the work the Canadiens did going into the June Draft, and the players they came away with: including first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk.
“I just hope all these people are right.,” said Timmins with a chuckle “I’m extremely happy today. If we’re this happy in five years from now, we’ll look back and say that was one heck of a draft.”
In less than one month, the current collective bargaining agreement in the NHL will expire: and so will any hopes of saving the 2012-13 National Hockey League season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, one-half of the reason why the NHL shut down a full season in 2004-05, has already said that unless there is a new deal in place by September 16th, the players will be locked out.
If that doomsday scenario comes to pass, I believe it will mark the beginning of the end of the 2012-13 season.
I have zero confidence that Betman and union boss Donald Fehr, will see eye to eye in time for puck drop. I see absolutely no reason to believe, as some do, that the season will certainly start by the first of January.
How can anyone be sure of that? If the season does not start in time, it will not start at all.
While the owners and players fiddle, the fans are left to burn. But they should be used to this, by now. They matter not one iota in the eyes of Bettman and the owners; and Fehr and the players.
On his @Commish_Gary Twitter account, this is what Bettman tweeted on April 15, 2009:
“Thank you NHL fans, you are the best in sport.”
Is this how to treat the best fans in sport? By yet again holding them hostage? By yet again letting them twist in the wind while millionaries from both sides argue about astronomical salaries and mega-$$$ while fans are asked to shell out $120 bucks for a National Hockey League ticket on a working wage?
It is absolutely digusting and sickens me to no end. But do the owners and players give a rat’s ass about the fans?
There will be another work stoppage. Count on it. When it’s over, will we once again be greeted with the following slogan that was plastered over ice suraces throughout the league in time for the 2005-06 season?
“Thank you fans.”
“Thank you fans.”
I could easily replace the “Thank” in “Thank You” with another word, but I’m too much of a gentleman for that.
I’m sorry, but are we watching opening-round action of the NHL playoffs, or the latest installment of WWE Wrestling?!?!
Any minute now, I expect a player to pull out a “foreign object” hidden in his paraphernalia. At some point, I’m sure we’ll see a player wack an opposing player over the head with a steel folding chair.
The NHL playoffs so far are a joke, and the league is doing precious little about it.
Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators smashes Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the turnbuckle (sorry. I meant “the glass”) and comes away with a fine of $2,500.
What a joke.
In comng down with his ruling, NHL sheriff Brendan Shanahan noted that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury, which begs the question: AND THAT MAKES IT OK!?!? Weber smashed Zetterberg’s head into the glass and basically gets away scott free because Zetterberg wasn’t hurt on the play???
What a joke.
In Ottawa, the Sens are wondering about the playing status of Daniel Aflredson, who took a flying elbow to the head (not to be confused with The Rock’s “People’s Elbow) from the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin and emerged with a concussion. After the incident, Shanahan called Hagelin “a good kid.” Oh, well then. I guess that makes it okay. Because he’s a good kid. Hagelin received a three-game suspension for being a “good kid.”
What a joke.
Chicago’s Andrew Shaw run’s into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, a shoulder to the chin that sent Smith into next week, showing a complete lack of respect. It’s a prime example of the kind of crap we’re seeing on the ice so far in opening-round action. It’s anarchy on the ice. And do you know what? The NHL is loving it.
Just go to the NHL’s web site at nhl.com. The front page includes a link that will take you to the video of the scrap between Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux. There’s another video link with a headline: ”Tempers rise in PHI.” Watch the video. You can actually hear a bell in the background as various players go at it.
Do you smell what the NHL is cooking?
Well, it stinks.
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Don’t count me among those ready to throw Jacques Martin under the bus as a result of the Canadiens record of 1-5-2 that includes a current six-game losing streak. I am not convinced that firing the coach is going to make one ounce of difference. The answer lies with the 21 players in that locker room.
Now that we got THAT out of the way, let’s move on, shall we?
Through this gruesome stretch, Martin has, by and large, kept his cool and maintained a stiff upper lip. In fact, he’s flashed a keen sense of humour, on occasion, at a time when Canadiens’ fans haven’t had much to smile about. Yes, he did recently take a reporter to task when asked why he would give someone like Mathieu Darche power play time ahead of someone like Erik Cole. It was a reasonable question, and it was a reasonable, if somewhat testy answer, that was drenched in sarcasm when there was no need for it.
Yes, we know Darche has earned his ice time on the power play. Make the point, Coach, and move on. Martin delivered what I would term a backhanded apology the following day when he commended the same reporter for asking a “good question.”
Whatever. Forget the questions. What Jacques Martin is desperately looking for, are some answers. However, as he searches for answers in an effort to turn this club around, I take issue with something Martin pointed out the other day after a morning skate at Brossard: that two years ago, this team started off with a similar losing record. The inference being: Look how things turned out for THAT team.
Well, yes we know how things turned out for THAT team, thanks, in a large part, to the play of Jaroslav Halak. But Martin is way off base when he compares the early season struggles of the 2009-10 team what the current edition of this club is dealing with.
Two years ago, the Canadiens reported to training camp wearing name tags. It followed an off-season of upheaval that resulted in players like Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev being jettisoned in favour of the likes of Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri. It was certainly no surprise to me that the ’09-’10 version of this club needed time to gel. But this is year three for this core group of players brought in by then-GM Bob Gainey. The comparison is unfair. The expectations are higher this season, and rightly so. Yes, the team is dealing with injuries. All teams deal with injuries. So deal with them. That’s why general managers were invented.
The results, however, have been disastrous. So far.
However, let’s move on from this history lesson, shall we, and look ahead to the Flyers tomorrow night, the Bruins in Boston Thursday night, and the Bruins at the Bell Centre Saturday night. Jacques Martin is still the coach of this hockey club, last time I checked. it is up to each and every player in that locker room to show up and play for the coach and deliver an effort worthy of those big fat paychecks that each and every one of them receive.
Th 21,000 who shell out good money to watch these guys play hockey at the Bell Centre deserve no less, regardless of WHO is behind the bench.
With the glow of a magnificent All-Star weekend long faded, the Montreal Canadiens kicked off the unofficial second-half start to the season with a 5-3 loss to the Lightning in Tampa, with the Habs showing the same tendencies they exhibited during back-to-back losses heading into the All-Star break:
Shoddy goaltending, sloppy play in front of their net, a sputtering power play, and the inability to bury the puck.
So, after putting together an inspiring December run at a time when this team was hurting, the Canadiens are stumbling as regulars begin to return to action.
Saku Koivu, who returned to action prior to the all-star break, was joined by Chris Higgins, who was back last night after a 19-game layoff with a shoulder injury. Even Ryan O’Byrne was back in the lineup, recalled to the big team after a solid 13-game stint with the Hamilton Bulldogs. And the big defenceman finally showed some confidence out there, something he rarely did before his demotion.
Higgins and Koivu were joined by Matt D’Agostini for most of the night. And for most of the night, the three could generate little in the way of offence. Then again, you could say that for two of the other three forward lines as well.
True, the Canadiens exploded out of the blocks with a 20-shot barrage on Mike Smith in the opening period, outshooting the Bolts 20-7 in the process. But they found themselves clinging to a one-goal lead on goals by Maxim Lapierre, his 9th, and Alex Kovalev, his 13th. The goal by Kovalev was a gift after Smith put the puck on the stick of the 2009 NHL All-Star MVP, thanks to a sloppy clearing attempt, and Kovalev connected. The writing was on the wall in this one when, late in that period, the Canadiens blew a 5-on-3 that went on more almost a minute and a half.
Once again, the only line that was a threat out there was the so-called fourth line of Lapierre-Guillaume Latendresse-Tom Kostopoulos. That’s because, once again, the Canadiens’ best players failed to be their best players. The line of Lang and the two Kostitsyn bro’s? Invisible.
In the end, it was a second-period meltdown that did the Canadiens in, as the Bolts took advantage of a flopping Carey Price with a three-goal explosion on only six shots to make it 4-2 Tampa. Latendresse got one back with his 9th of the season, a goal that was originally credited to Lapierre. But it was much too little, much too late.
Let’s hope the play of Ryan O’Byrne last night was a sign of things to come for this young defenceman, for Montreal’s sake. Because the Habs, after finally tightening things up defensively in recent weeks, have been giving up way too many goals in recent games: 18 in their last four starts. Other disturbing statistics surround the plus-minus play of some of the team’s D-men. Over his last seven games, Roman Hamrlik is -8. Over HIS last seven games, Josh Gorges, is -9. Patrice Brisebois was in that neighbourhood, as well, until he was yanked from the lineup to make room for O’Byrne last night. But all indications are that Brisebois will be back in the lineup tomorrow night when the Canadiens close out this five-game road trip in Sunrise against the Florida Panthers.
I’d like to know: why? Why would coach Guy Carbonneau want to put Patrice Brisebois back in the lineup after Ryan O’Bryne has finally put together a solid 60-minutes of hockey for the first time in almost two months (as a member of the Habs, at least).
We might begin to find out the answer to that, and other questions, as GM Bob Gainey takes a good, hard look at the talent he has on this hockey team, with the March 4th trade deadline just five weeks away.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way for Jaroslav Halak.
After taking the team through a very respectable 6-2 run while Carey Price was out nursing an ankle injury, Halak made his 9th consecutive start last night in Atlanta against the Thrashers.
By the time the game was 30:58 seconds old, Halak was on his way to the showers after surrendering three goals in a 4-2 loss to the lowly Thrashers.
Clearly Halak didn’t bring his “A” game to the Phillips Arena. But then again, neither did his team mates; certainly not through the opening period of play. It was perhaps Montreal’s most listless, uninspired period of hockey all season: a period which saw the Thrashers go ahead 2-0 on goals by Erik Christensen at 5:02 and Chris Thorburn less than two minutes later. Halak did not look like a Vezina-Trophy winner on the first goal; a harmless-looking shot that eluded the Habs’ netminder. He couldn’t really be faulted for the Thorburn goal, as his defencemen on the play, Roman Hamrlik and Josh Gorges deserted him.
This was a long night for Gorges, who finished the game at minus three, and who has struggled of late. Hamrlik had his problems last night as well, and blew a tire on the play that led to the goal by Rich Peverley that made it 3-0 just 3:48 into the second period.
Exit Jaroslav Halak: enter Carey Price, earlier than expected. Price, out since the end of December, had been pencilled in by Coach Guy Carbonneau to return to action tonight in New Jersey against the Devils. But Carbo had clearly seen enough of Halak, prompting an early return to action by Price.
The Canadiens responded with goals by Max Pacioretty at 4:54 of the second, and Steve Begin some 90 seconds later, to pull the Habs to within one, at 3-2.
But the Thrashers, led by goaltender Kari Lehtonen, weathered a third-period storm and put it out of reach at 8:55 of the final period: a goal by Zach Bogosian that came on the very first shot on Price over the final 20 minutes of play.
It’s was pretty evident that the Canadiens were looking ahead, perhaps to the Devils, perhaps to the All-Star break, at a time when they should have been taking the Thrashers a heck of a lot more seriously. But then again, the Habs, on too many occasions, have played down to the level of their competition on nights like this.
The result: two points, out the window.
The verdict on Halak and his play as the team’s number one goalie during Price’s stay in sick bay?
First off, give credit to The Coach for getting the most out of Halak at a time when the Canadiens could have been in serious trouble during this injury-riddled stretch. In fact, give The Coach credit for getting the most out of ALL his players, (many of them fresh out of Hamilton) with the team forced to deal with this rash of injuries.
As for Halak, well, you can’t argue with his 6-2 record. But he gave up a lot of goals during that stretch. Fortunately for number 41, his team mates, on most nights, scored more than he surrendered: hence his impressive winning percentage during his stint. Which is more than you can say about Halak when, through the opening weeks of the season, he was a .500 goalie who LOOKED like a .500 goalie.
However, any way you slice it, he’s no number one goaltender.