My good friend and CJAD colleague Rick Moffat appears ready to see the 2012-13 edition ride off into the sunset: a job well done, by virtue of the fact that they made the playoffs.
What a load of horse-poop.
First of all, last time I checked: a team needs to win four games to win a playoff series. The Ottawa Senators have won three games. The Montreal Canadiens have won one. Yes, the gas tank is almost empty, but make no mistake about it: the needle on the guage hasn’t hit “E” yet.
Yes, tomorrow night the Canadiens will be missing Brian Gionta (out for the season with a torn bicep and scheduled to undergo surgery Friday), Brandon Prust (upper body), Ryan White (upper body) and Lars Eller (who skated on his own today at Brossard but remains out of action). And Carey Price is officially listed as “day to day” after literally going down (perhaps for the count) with a lower body injury in the final seconds of last night’s heartbreaking loss loss in overtime.
But this series is not over. And if there ever was a time for Peter Budaj to earn his keep, and that brand-new, mid-season contract extension, it’ll be tomorrow night, if Price can’t go.
The Canadiens are not in “bonus time” as Rick would suggest. They are in playoff time. They advanced to the post-season as a result of a terrific regular season (save for a stumble at the end). The bar has been set, high, by this team. And I don’t believe for a moment that Habs’ fans will be giving each other “high five’s” and engaging in a whole bunch of back-slapping, because of an “enjoyable” season, if these playoffs DO come to an end for the Canadiens tomorrow night.
Yes, the future is bright for several reasons: two of them being Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. But I’m not about to look toward the future, until the present is the past. And I don’t believe for a moment the Montreal Canadiens are, either.
Head coach Michel Therrien used the word “courage” a number of times today in speaking to reporters, and for good reason.
“These are a bunch of guys who have alot of courage; a lot more courage than people think,” said Therrien. “And I know because I live with those guys every single day.”
Therrien singled out the courage Brian Gionta showed by trying to play through a torn bicep; an injury that he suffered in the first game of this series.
“When we heard the news that he was not capable of playing, the Captain was crying in my arms,” said Therrien.
“Tomorrow night I know we’re going to give a great effort; we’re going to be tough to play against. We’re going to give everything that we’ve got. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
There’s no doubt in my mind either, coach.
See you back in Ottawa.
I was not in Ottawa for today’s media scrum involving Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien. However, Richard Labbe of La Presse tweeted the following:
@Richardlabbe: M.Therrien, on whether P.Budaj should start tomorrow night instead of Price: “Are you serious?”
Let me ask you this: what was so funny about the notion of changing starting goalies for game four tomorrow night? Granted, Carey Price can not be held solely responsible for the two games the Canadiens have dropped in this series against the Sens. Win as a team. Lose as a team. And that was one ugly-looking Habs’ team in last night’s 6-1 loss; which gave Ottawa a 2-1 series lead.
If you look up frustration in the dictionary, there’s a picture of your Montreal Canadiens beside it.
The question would certainly have to be considered a serious one. Peter Budaj has performed well in a backup role this season; to the point that he received a mid-season contract extension as an early “job well done.” The Canadiens owe Carey Price absolutely nothing. Their goal is to win hockey games: starting tomorrow night in Ottawa. If Peter Budaj offers up a better chance at reaching that goal (and that’s a big hypothetical IF) why WOULDN’T you consider starting him?
Having said that, I am not surprised in the least that Therrien will go back to Price tomorrow night. I think it’s also a given that the coach will go back to Price Thursday night when the series returns to Montreal. After that: who knows? This series could be over by then.
Heading into this series, Therrien said he had all the confidence in the world in Price. I, too, expected Price to deliver the mail in this series.
It hasn’t happened. Yet.
In the meantime, the Canadiens will have to put last night’s embarassing performance behind them. PK Subban will have to lay off the theatrics and get back to playing Norris-trophy style hockey. Josh Gorges has to shake off last night’s performance which saw him try to blast a shot at Kyle Turris in the final seconds (it certainly looked like that was his intention. Very un-Josh Gorges like.) Rene Bourque has to get back to playing the impressive hockey he’s been playing and lay off the cheap shots.
The list goes on and on.
Most of all, the Canadiens desperately need to win a hockey game.
Mark Tinordi was a “tough, big, mean defenceman.” Son, Jarred just wishes he had more of an opportunity to see him play, when he was younger.
“I try to take some aspects of his game,” said Tinordi after the so-called “black aces” took to the ice at Brossard this afternoon as the Canadiens look ahead to tomorrow’s game three against the Senators in Ottawa, with this first-round playoff series tied at one win apiece.
Mark Tinordi spent 12 seasons in the NHL through the 1998-99 campaign, most of them with the Minnesota North Stars and the Washington Capitals. Jarred says his dad has been able to watch the first two games of this series and has helped him out with what to expect.
“He’s having a lot of fun, too,” said the younger Tinordi. ”Maybe more fun than I am!”
Tinordi said his dad hasn’t overloaded him with words of wisdom. ”He doesn’t want to cloud my head too much,” he added. “He’s really only given me two pieces of advice: just have fun, and play hard.”
Tinordi, who had a cup of coffee with the Habs late during the regular season, was one of the recent call-ups from the Hamilton Bulldogs — the so-called “black aces.” He didn’t know what to expect when the latest call came.
“I was skating with the guys down in Hamilton when I got the call. I didn’t know if I was going to play. I knew that it was a great opportunity for me.”
It may sound like a rather precarious position to be in, but it’s clear that head coach Michel Therrien is counting on Jarred Tinordi to help solidfy a blueline that has struggled at times, particularly since the season-ending injury to Alexi Emelin.
“I knew if I got in, I was going to play my game, play hard, and take it one game at a time.”
Or, in the words of dad, Mark: “Have fun and play hard.”
In Ottawa they’re linking Craig Anderson’s name to the Hart Trophy, but my money is on Carey Price to handle Ottawa’s pop-gun offence and lead the Canadiens past the Senators in six games.
Some basic math for you: the Sens have a grand total of three players with 10 or more goals on their roster. The Canadiens have eight.
Yes, the Sens have some impressive rookies in their lineup, including the likes of Jakob Silfberberg and his 10 goals. But Brendan Gallagher is the rookie I’m going to watch out for in this series. Yes, Alex Galchenyuk has raised some eyebrows with his play of late after going through a pretty lean stretch during his rookie season. But Gallagher has the potential to be a game-changer in the playoffs, and I expect him to be just that.
In fact, Gallagher and Galchenyuk have been among the more impressive forwards on this Habs’ team of late, along with Lars Eller, who has gone through an amazing transformation this season.
Less impressive, however, have been Michael Ryder, who looks like the old Michael Ryder, and Rene Bourque, who looks like the old Rene Bourque. I expect Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta to step up and deliver what we expect from these two veterans. I’m trying to wrap my head around what we might expect to see from Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Physically, you know that Brandon Prust will deliver, provided his body can take the beating that it will take during the playoffs. However, I will say this. As much I like Brandon Prust, I LOVE Chris Neil. That guy is a war horse. I want him on my team, but alas, I can’t have him.
On the blueline, all eyes will be on PK Subban and Erik Karlsson. However, overall, I give the slight edge to Ottawa’s defence, that includes wily veterans like the ageless Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips. Andrei Markov is absolutely going to have to find his second wind and Jarred Tinordi is going to have to use that 6-6 frame of his, like he means it.
Which brings us to the goaltenders: Carey Price and Craig Anderson. For as much grief as Price has taken as a result of his recent play, I like Price over Anderson in this series.
I just do.
And I like the Habs in six.
For every fresh-faced “Brendan Gallagher” at Habs’ camp, there’s a “Brock Trotter” looking to leave a lasting impression with management.
Trotter is a 24-year old centre who has been around the block: first with the Hamilton Bulldogs for three seasons, after coming out of the University of Denver. And then with Riga Dynamo, where he spent last season playing in the KHL.
With precious few openings available up front, Trotter will want to make the most out of his minutes tonight, when the Canadiens take on the Senators in Ottawa.
READ MORE, AND LISTEN TO MY INTERVIEW WITH BROCK TROTTER, AT:
…two steps back?
We’ll begin to get the answer to that question Saturday night, when the Boston Bruins come to town on a night when the Montreal Canadiens retire Patrick Roy’s jersey number 33.
We’ve been down this road with this Canadiens‘ team before, of late. I take you back to the 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 8; a setback described by Habs‘ head coach Guy Carbonneau as “embarrassing.”
Three nights later, the Canadiens came up with with Carbo called his team’s best performance of the season, perhaps of the last two seasons, in a 4-0 whitewash of the Ottawa Senators.
One step forward…
Unable to build on the success of that victory, the Canadiens took to the ice two nights later in Boston and were humbled 6-1 by the Bruins.
…two steps back.
After a reasonable, but losing, effort against the Flyers Nov. 15. at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens played in St. Louis the following night and beat a struggling, injury-riddled Blues’ team 3-2 in a shootout. Hardly the stuff of champions, but two points nonetheless.
One step forward…
Then, two nights later in Carolina, another listless, losing performance in a 2-1 setback to the Hurricanes.
…two steps back.
Then last night in the Nation’s Capital, we witnessed Montreal’s best effort since the 4-0 win over Ottawa. Ironically, it came against these same Senators; a struggling, injury-riddled Ottawa team that is going nowhere, fast. The thing is, you could say the same about this Canadiens team. Fortunately for the Habs, they proved to be the better club.
You don’t think Guy Carbonneau is relieved? Did you see The Coach’s fist-pump after Alex Tanguay buried the winning goal in the shootout? A happy camper, Coach Carbo was. Who can blame him? As I like to stay: Two points is two points is two points. Something to build on.
One step forward…
Two steps back?
We’ll know more tomorrow night when the Big, Bad, Boston Bruins are at the Bell Centre. Has Coach Carbo finally come up with some line combinations he’s willing to live with for awhile? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. Guillaume Latendresse doesn’t deserve to be playing with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay, as was the case last night. At the same time, based on his two-assist performance in this one, helping out on goals by Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov, I don’t think Sergei Kostitsyn will hang around the fourth line very long, which is where he found himself playing with Steve Begin and Georges Laraque.
In the good-cop, bad-cop world of Guy Carbonneau, it’s time for The Coach to give Kovalev, Plekanec and A.Kostitsyn another shot at playing together. I like Koivu, Tanguay and Chris Higgins as a trio. And I’d give Tom Kostopoulos third-line duty with Robert Lang and Sergei K. If you don’t want to put Latendresse on the fourth line, then put him in the press box.
Carey Price? Very good last night, despite losing sight of the puck on the power play goal by Nick Foligno that gave the Sens a 2-1 lead, five minutes into the third period. And he was terrific in the shootout, holding down the fort until Tanguay slipped one past Alex Auld with the winner. Dany Heatley had the other for Ottawa.
And lookey here: the goal by Koivu came on the power play.
One step forward…
I’m guessing that Canadiens’ head coach Guy Carbonneau is not going to give his players a day off from the rink upon their arrival in Ottawa.
That’s what Carbonneau did when the Habs arrived in Carolina Sunday night, ahead of tonight’s game against the Hurricaines. In the “good cop, bad cop” world of Guy Carbonneau, the coach decided to play good cop, and reward his players with a day away from the rink, following their 3-2 win in St. Louis.
Some of the players golfed. Others went to the movies. Still others went to the mall. And then they went out and dropped a 2-1 decision to the ‘Caines tonight, before boarding a flight to Ottawa for their next game, Saturday night, against a struggling Sens team that has lost five straight.
The decision by Carbonneau to “reward” his players for the two points they earned in St. Louis was the right one, in my books. It was an ugly win, but it was a win nonetheless. It gave The Coach a chance to pat this fragile team on the back, in an effort to help these players regain the confidence that has mysteriously deserted them.
Another loss, this one to an average Carolina team struggling in the month of November. Yes, there was a power play goal, finally, by Robert Lang, that gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead early in the second period. Say what you want about Robert Lang being a poor-mans’ Mats Sundin, Lang has six goals to his credit and is giving the Canadiens exactly what they bargained for when they obtained the former Chicago Black Hawk.
However, instead of building on that lead going into the third period, the Canadiens were left flat-footed by a Carolina team that came in waves. Sergei Samsonov decided to score his first of the season, against his former teammates, at 3:06 of the third period, turning defenceman Ryan O’Byrne inside out in the process. Then, with O’Byrne in the penalty box, Ray Whitney scored the winner some three minutes later.
The Canadiens then proceeded to fold their tents, failing to show any of the desperation you’d expect from a team that has now lost five of its last seven games; a team that has scored five regulation goals in its last four games.
This isn’t a Canadiens’ team playing on an ice surface. This is a Canadiens’ team playing on egg shells.
They don’t pay me to “know why”. The guy they pay to “know why” is the guy who rewarded his players with a day off following a win in St. Louis, and was himself rewarded with another uninspired performance by his team against Carolina.
Yup, I’m thinking there won’t be any trips to the mall for the Habs before their game against the Senators.
It’s easy to see why Christopher Higgins was the most popular guy in the Canadiens’ locker room following last night’s 4-0 victory over the Bell Centre against the Ottawa Senators.
Putting three past the opposing goaltender tends to make you a V.P.P. (Very Popular Player), and Higgins clearly deserved the limelight as a result of a break-out performance that led the Habs to a resounding victory following a humbling loss in Toronto three nights earlier. When this one was over The Coach called it the team’s best 60-minute performance of the season, perhaps all the way back to last season. And it could not have come at a better time as the Canadiens put the brakes on a slippery slope that saw them hit a brick wall in Toronto Saturday night.
The hat trick was Higgins’ first of his NHL career. In fact, he never scored three in a game while he was a member of the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. Higgins figures the last time he came away with a hat trick was while he played college hockey at Yale, from 2001-2003, and seemed to recall it was against his former Montreal teammate, Yann Danis, now a backup with the New York Islanders.
Although the performance by Higgins, which included eight shots on Alex Auld in the Sens’ net, warranted him V.P.P. status, it was the play of Ryan O’Byrne that got my attention.
After playing his way in and out of the lineup through the first dozen games of the season, head coach Guy Carbonneau went with O’Byrne along the blueline last night. And the native of Victoria, BC, responded with his best performance of the season, and one of his best performances as a member of this team.
Far too often this season, O’Bryne has been all “arms and legs” on the ice. Last night, O’Bryne played a controlled game and finally used that 6-5, 234-pound body of his in an effective manner, dishing out six hits on the night, to tie Mike Komisarek in that department. (Maxim Lapierre led the way with eight bodychecks.)
With one assist and a plus two performance in almost 16 minutes of ice time, O’Bryne has earned himself a third straight start tomorrow night in Boston against the Bruins, although that has yet to officially be confirmed by The Coach. The only thing Guy Carbonneau would confirm following today’s morning skate was his goaltender of choice for tomorrow night: Carey Price, who kicked out all 28 shots he faced against the Sens.
O’Byrne, himself, admits he’s going through a sophomore jinx, and his erratic play in the early going has left him in the press box in three of 13 games this season.
“It’s tough,” O’Byrne admitted after today’s skate. “You never know if you’re in the lineup or not. You show up to the rink and you don’t know if you’re playing. It’s a viscous cycle but you try and get out of it. And last night I thought it was a great start.”
He’s right. It was.
It’s a golden opportunity for O’Byrne to step into a regular role with a team that is lacking in depth along the blueline. A player like Patrice Brisebois is going to have an edge over O’Byrne when it comes to The Coach pencilling in is lineup on any given night, mainly because Brisebois gives Carbonneau somewhat of a weapon on the power play with his shot from the point. However, up until now, O’Bryne has been making it too easy for The Coach to go with Brisebois. That may have all changed with O’Byrne’s performance last night.
When Tom Kostopoulos says “First and foremost, I sincerely regret the injuries suffered by Mike Van Ryn,” I believe him.
However, apologies aside, the National Hockey League yesterday suspended Kostopoulos for three games after the Canadiens‘ forward took Van Ryn into the boards during Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In a statement issued by the Habs after the suspension was announced, Kostopoulos said, “It was an unfortunate turn of events. I was just trying to get in on the forecheck and get the puck. I didn’t anticipate him turning and couldn’t stop. I was trying to finish my check and obviously it did not end up well. I never intend on injuring another player. I feel bad. I hope he is going to be all right and resume playing as quickly as possible.”
I believe him.
Kostopoulos is not the kind of player who goes around blindsiding opposing players into the boards. However, he IS the kind of player who will go after Kurt Sauer of the Phoenix Coyotes, after Sauer sent Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn into the boards, face first, during a game at the Bell Centre Oct. 18. The ultimate teammate, Kostopoulos took matters into his own hands that night after it became clear, rather quickly, that Sauer didn‘t want to have anything to do with big Georges Laraque’s overtures after the hit on Kostitsyn.
Yes, you could say that the Canadiens will be without one of their hard-nosed players for the next three games as a result of the suspension. You could also say that the Canadiens will be without one of their best.
Because, 12 games into this season, T.K. has been one of Montreal’s top forwards. Granted, he has but one goal and one assist to show for his offensive efforts. However, Kostopoulos is not a player who is paid to put the puck in the net. At the same time, on some nights this season, he has been Montreal’s most dangerous forward, as witnessed by his four shots on goal, second to only Alex Kovalev, in Friday’s 4-3 loss in Columbus. And that’s saying something on a team that boasts the likes of Kovalev, the Kostitsyn‘s, Koivu, Tanguay, Lang and Higgins.
You’ll also recall that T.K. was clearly one of Montreal’s best forwards in the playoffs last season. That’s saying something on a team that boasts the likes of Kovalev, Koivu…well…you know the rest.
It’s very clear that GM Bob Gainey saw something special in the 29-year old Toronto native when he signed him to a free-agent contract on the summer of 2007. After being made Pittsburgh’s ninth pick, 204th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Kostopoulos found himself in a LA Kings uniform for two seasons before the Canadiens picked him up.
At 6-1, 201 pounds, T.K. is clearly no heavyweight. But he wields a heavyweight presence on the ice for this Canadiens‘ team. He did not look out of place, by any means, playing on a third line with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn to start the season. However, he became a victim of the numbers game when Chris Higgins returned from the injury shelf, forcing Kostopoulos to an already-crowded fourth line.
And now, with NHL vice-president Colin Campbell bringing down the hammer, Kostopoulos finds himself in the press box for the next three games, beginning with tonight’s contest at the Bell Centre against the Ottawa Senators.