Now that he’s back with the Montreal Canadiens, Francis Bouillon hopes he’s here to stay.
The recently re-acquired Habs’ defenceman was putting in a personal appearance at the Port Lewis Marina near Valleyfield, less than a week after signing a one-year contract to return to Montreal after a three-year stint with the Nashville Predators.
“It feels great to be here, like I’m going to play at home again,” said Bouillon. “I was really disappointed to leave Montreal last time. I found a great city in Nashville but I’m so happy to be back.”
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Although he returns with a one-year contract under his belt, Bouillon hopes to continue playing when the season is up, and would like to be able to perhaps finish his career as a member of the Habs.
Bouillon admits his last season as a Hab, 2008-09, was a frustrating one for him.
“I was pretty much injured all that season. I had a groin injury and an abdonimal injury and tried to come back for the playoffs. I think that was a huge mistake because I hurt myself again. But now I’m looking forward.”
Bouillon, hugely popular with the fans during his earlier stint with the Canadiens, said Michel Therrien is the main reason why he elected to return to Montreal after the Predators informed him he was no longer in their plans.
“He helped me a lot in my professional career. We won a Memorial Cup together and I played for him in the American Hockey League, as well as in the NHL. He’s a great coach. That’s the main point why I signed in Montreal.
Bouillon met with GM Marc Bergevin last week and is scheduled to meet with Therrien next week, after speaking with the coach after signing with the Habs as an unrestricted free agent.
Only a handful of players remain with the Canadiens when Bouillon left town following the 08-09 season, including Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Carey Price. Bouillon received a text from Gorges, welcoming him back to Montreal. He also got a phone call from Price.
“Carey left me a message I have to call him back. I’m not the best guy to return a call. But I’ve got to talk to him next week.”
Alex Kovalev is coming back to Montreal to play.
Kovalev is scheduled to arrive from Russia tonight as he gets set to tee it up in his annual Kovalev for Kids Golf Tournament, which is being held tomorrow at Golf Saint Rafael in Ile Bizard. Among those on hand for the event, Kovalev’s former Habs’ teammate, Tomas Plekanec.
Kovalev in town brings back memories of his days as a Hab. There were good times, and there were frustrating times. Remember when he brought the house down with his inspirational performance when the All-Star Game was held at the Bell Centre as part of the Canadiens’ 100th anniversary celebration?
There was the 2007-2008 season, when he produced 84 points while playing on a line with Plekanec and Andrei Kosktitsyn. More good times. Then there was Bob Gainey’s decision to tell Kovalev to take some time off in 2009, at a time when the enigmatic forward was struggling.
Frustrating times. Too many of them, for too many Habs’ fans.
Whether you loved Alex Kovalev in a Canadiens’ uniform, or hated him, life was never dull when number 27 laced ‘em up at the Bell Centre.
Let me be the first to admit that when Kovalev became an unrestricted free agent in July following two mediocre seasons in Ottawa and Pittsburgh, the thought crossed my mind that it might be fun to see Kovalev back in a Montreal uniform for one more kick at the can. To see if Jacques Martin could somehow coax one more 30-goal season out of that stick of his. To see Alex Kovalev get his wish and ride off into the sunset and retire as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Call me sentimental, what can I tell you.
Instead, Kovalev returns to Montreal for a whirlwind 24 hours, or so, before he heads back to Russia after signing a two-year deal to play with Atlant Mytischi of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Any way you slice it, Alex Kovalev will be missed.
Three games into the regular season, and Canadiens’ head coach Jacques Martin is already playing musical chairs as a way to kick-start forward Benoit Pouliot.
Truth be told, The Coach should also pull a couple of chairs for Pouliot’s linemates, Scott Gomez and Team Captain Brian Gionta. Martin had given Pouliot the benefit of the doubt by playing him with Gionta and Gomez since the start of the season. When it comes to Pouliot, the seeds of doubt were sewn last season, when he fell off map after initially starting his career with the Habs in fine fashion when he came over from the Minnesota Wild for Guillaume Latendresse.
Read more at The Hockey Writers:
Some 24 hours after dispatching the popular Steve Begin to Dallas, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey found that depth centreman he was looking for.
And he didn’t have to go far, to get him.
After the Habs arrived in Philadephia for last night’s gme against the Flyers, they announced the acquisition of Glen Metropolit off waivers from the Flyers. Which meant that all Metropolit had to do, was walk across the floor of the Wachovia Center to join his new teammates in the visitors locker room.
Now, Glen Metropolit will never be confused for, say, Vincent Lecavalier. Not when it comes to stature OR talent. At 5-10, 185 pounds, the Toronto native isn’t exactly a “big body” up front. And 12 goals is the best she’s been able to do in a single season at the NHL level. But Gainey clearly saw something in the 34-year old when the veteran became available, making Montreal his 7th NHL stop. Last year, at this time, you may remember Metropolit in a Boston Bruins uniform, and his splendid performance against the Canadiens in the playoffs.
Then he moved on to Philadelphia. And just 55 games in his career as a Flyer, Metropolit became expendable as the Flyers worked toward freeing up some cap space for the return of Daniel Briere to the Philadelphia lineup.
And that is how Metropolit, who’s resume includes stints with the Long Island Jawz, Anaheim Bullfrogs, and the New Jersey Rockin’ Rollers of Roller Hockey fame, became a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Just hours before the Habs were set to take on his former team.
Fast forward to the start of last night’s game, and head coach Guy Carbonneau wasted little time in going to his latest acquisition. Metropolit opened the game on a (short-lived) line with Alex Kovaelv and Gregory Stewart. And the Flyers responded with Joffrey Lupul beating Jaroslav Halak just 28 seconds in, to make it 1-0 Philly.
Mike Richards then made it 2-0 some eight minutes later, and the Flyers were off and running, right?
After starting the game like gangbusters, Philly goalie Antero Nittymaki lost his game, while the Canadiens found theirs. It was Tomas Plekanec with his 17th of the season on the power play at 16:25 to make it 2-1 Philly; Plekanec extending his goal-scoring streak to five games since his recent suspension. Tom Kostopoulus tied the game just 13 seconds later with a goal from an impossible angle, before the rejuvenated Alex Kovalev (one goal and two assists on the night) put the Habs ahead with his 15th, late in the frame.
Simon Gagne tied it up midway through the second, a period which saw the Flyers outshoot the Habs 18-5; and a period which also saw the Canadiens weather a couple of 5 on 3 Philadelphia power plays. The two teams eventually went to overtime. And with Scottie Upshall in the box for running the crease, Mathieu Schneider cranked one up from the point, past Nittymaki, to propel the Canadiens to their third straight win: for the first time since early in the New Year.
As for the newest Hab, he finished with 11:47 of ice time, winning 60 per cent of his faceoffs in the process.
Now, Metropolit, who looks and sounds like Brian Smolinki (it’s eerie, I tell ya), might not be the answer to Habs fans’ prayers as Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline looms ever larger. But, true to his word, Gainey has gone out and filled what he felt was a need at centre by plucking the veteran off waiver wires. That’s not to say that Gainey has put the phone down, for good, when it comes to conversations with other GM’s around the league over the next three days.
But I’m here to tell you that I believe Bob Gainey has put his phone down, for good, when it comes to conversations with other GM’s around the league, over the next three days.
Did you expect anything less from Alex Kovalev?
With the spotlight on number 27, for all the wrong reasons, Kovalev returned to action yesterday, scored a goal and added two assists, to help power the Canadiens to a 5-3 win over a stubborn Ottawa Senators hockey club.
The chant “Kovy, Kovy, Kovy” rang through the Bell Centre rafters, the moment that Kovalev was introduced to the crowd by way of pre-game player introductions on the jumbo screen. And it didn’t take Kovalev long to pay the fans back for their ongoing support, as he set up Tomas Plekanec for the game’s first goal just 2:23 into the opening period; the first of three power play goals for the Habs.
One hundred and ninety-five seconds later, Kovalev made it 2-0 when he picked up a Chris Phillips turnover and beat Brian Elliott stick-side.
Kovalev also assisted on a goal by Patrice Brisebois; a goal that gave the Canadiens a commanding 4-0 lead.
They needed it.
The Sens stormed back in the second period with a pair of goals before Mathieu Dandenaultscored a huge goal with 18.1 seconds remaining in the second to put Montreal ahead 5-2. Despite giving up the late second-period goal (by that time, Alex Auld was on in relief of Elliott), the Sens continued to press, as the Canadiens ran into some serious penalty trouble. However, Jaroslav Halakwas able to keep the Sens at bay, kicking out 44 shots; with the Canadiens outshot 22-4 in the third period.
Finally, a win by this Canadienshockey team. One they could be proud of. They’ll have an opportunity to make it two straight wins, for the first time in well over a month, when they play host to Mats Sundin and the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night.
And won’t THAT be fun.
Oh yes. Alex Kovalev. The man loves the spotlight, doesn’t he? Remember the all-star game? He didn’t disappoint that night. And he didn’t disappoint last night, coming away as the game’s first star. As impressive as his offensive contributions were, what really raised my eyebrows was the way he lunged for a puck in the first period, timed the move perfectly, to clear the zone at a time when the Canadiens were killing a penalty.
While, on most nights, it’s all about artistic merit when it comes to Kovalev, that particular move was all about effort. And for the better part of his 19:44 of ice time, it was all about effort for the rejuvenated Kovalev, who joked with his team mates that his return to action after an unscheduled two-day vacation felt like he had just been traded to this team.
A rather interesting choice of words, what with the Mar. 4 N.H.L. trade deadline just 10 days away.
Will Kovalev still be a Hab when he wakes up on Thurs., Mar. 5th? More of what we saw of Alex Kovalev last night, in the days and weeks to come, will certainly make it more difficult for G.M. Bob Gainey to consider trading his enigmatic all-star. I’ve always maintained, and I still maintain, that Kovalev isn’t going anywhere. Not now, at least. But the last time I checked, my business card did not include the title: General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens.
The REAL question that begs to be asked is: WHICH Alex Kovalev will show up to the rink Tuesday night against the Canucks. And Thursday when the Habs are in Philadelphia. And the following night, when the Sharks are in town.
The Alex Kovalev who played like an all star last night? Or the Alex Kovalev who played himself off this team just a few short days ago.
The only person who can answer that question is number 27 himself.
School’s out for the term, and members of the Montreal Canadiens are enjoying the Christmas break until they return to class Dec. 27 in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. Report cards have been issued for all students. Some have excelled, others need to show more effort. Here are their grades:
Andrei Markov. Andrei has been a very consistent student this term. He is worthy of his current all-star voting status and the fact that he is among the top point-scorers among his classmates is a bonus. A worthy contributor on the power play. A-
Alex Kovalev. Alex closed out the term by exhibiting a renewed interest in contributing to the success of the class after going through a long restless and unproductive stretch. Because of an A-plus season last year, much is expected of Alex this year, and he has struggled to live up to those expectations. But there is reason to believe that his new-found enthusiasm will successfully carry him through to the end of the current school year. C
Alex Tanguay. As one of the new kids in class, Alex adapted to his new surroundings very well, showing a particular interest in playing with fellow classmate Saku Koivu. However, Alex’s productivity has dropped of late and he’s struggling to regain the scoring touch he exhibited through the first month of the school year. Alex is going to have to work harder if he is to enjoy the kind of success he had early in the term. C+
Robert Lang. Another new student this year, Robert has fit right in with his new classmates. An outgoing and engaging student, Robert quietly does his job on the ice without much fanfare. Although the Canadiens were initially pursuing another out-of-town student named Mats, Robert has been more than a capable addition to this team. A-
Saku Koivu. Saku was the most consistent performer in his class, right up until the time a lower-body injury forced him out of action two weeks ago. A tireless worker, the Canadiens miss his leadership and grit. A-
Tomas Plekanec. Tomas is a wonderful student and a terrific young man. However, despite his best efforts, Tomas’s contributions to the success of the class have been lacking. His coach is again giving him a chance to play with the students he had so much success with last season, Alex K. and Andrei K. A more consistent, grittier effort is needed from Tomas. C-
Sergei Kostitsyn. Sergei joined the group in the second half of last term and was a welcome addition to the class. This term, however, he seemed to sulk and was unproductive until recently, having exhibited a renewed enthusiasm lately. He needs to maintain a positive attitude this upcoming term. C
Andrei Kostitsyn. Sergei’s big brother Andrei seemed to flourish when little brother joined the class last year. This term, however, Andrei hasn’t shown the same drive and determination that led many to believe that he could be at the head of the class this year. Andrei needs to work harder and get his nose dirtier. C-
Guillaume Latendresse. Like a number of his class mates, Guillaume began the term in impressive fashion. However, he seemed to lose interest for long stretches as the term went on. Again, like a number of his class mates, he’s shown a renewed interest in his studies and has been making a more consistent contribution. He needs to keep it up. C.
Roman Hamrlik. Roman is in his second year with this class and has been a welcome addition. He’s not as flashy as the student he initially replaced along the blue line, Sheldon, but he contributes in his own quiet and efficient fashion. Very steady along the blue line. B
Christopher Higgins. This has been a difficult term for Christopher, who began the season with a lower-body injury and is now sidelined with an upper body injury. However, when he was healthy, Christopher struggled to find himself and was unable to contribute to his class’s production. A bright young man with the potential to be a class leader, Christopher will need to play a bigger role in class when he returns. D
Steve Begin. Steve was clearly not the teacher’s pet when the term started. However, he has been given the chance to become more involved in class and has been very productive. He has not only exhibited his trademark grit, but Steve has also contributed offensively. B
Matt D’Agostini. Young Matt is a newcomer to class, having recently graduated from Hamilton. Matt has shown a maturity beyond his years and has provided class with a much-needed spark and offensive lift. Matt is sure to finish the term in Montreal. A
Maxime Lapierre. Maxime has brought a more focused determination to class in recent games and has played well with fellow students Tom K. and Steve B. He’s always been a hard worker, but now those efforts are proving to be more productive. B-
Patrice Brisebois. Much has been expected of Patrice this season as a result of injuries, and Patrice’s contribution, particularly on the power play, have not gone unnoticed. However, Patrice still struggles in his own end and is prone to mistakes. C.
Tom Kostopoulos. Tom has been a terrific addition to class and has raised his level of play this term. Tom shows great character in the locker room and on the ice and has exhibited the occasional scoring touch, which has been a nice surprise. B+
Josh Gorges. Josh has emerged as number 2 among his defensive class mates and shows a maturity beyond his years. He’s not the biggest kid in the class, but shows a big heart out there. Wants to contribute more offensively, but should stick to his “stay-at-home” style. A-.
Francis Bouillon. Francis has been an effective contributor to this class for a number of years, and we saw more of the same from him this term. Not the biggest kid in the class, Francis plays big, uses his body well, and makes a terrific first pass out of his zone. An engaging, personable young man. B-
Ryan O’Byrne. Ryan has struggled since graduating from Hamilton, although the teacher has shown faith in the young man. Ryan has taken a step back in his progress since joining the group last season. D.
Mathieu Dandenault. Mathieu has been a patient student this season; waiting for his turn to join his fellow students on the ice. He was given that opportunity recently, to rejoin his defensive mates, but suffered an upper-body injury shortly thereafter. He will be missed by the class. C+
Mike Komisarek. Mike brings size, grit, leadership, and terrific puck-blocking abilities to the class, but showed some inconsistencies before suffering an upper-body injury earlier in the term. He’s back now, and has made a solid contribution since his return. We need to see more of that from Mike in the coming term. B-
Georges Laraque. Georges is well-liked by all. He brings a huge presence to class and has recently shown that he can contribute offensively, as well. Isn’t quite the schoolyard bully that many thought, and hoped, he would be. C.
Carey Price. Carey has performed well this term, keeping his class mates in many a hockey game while others around him struggled. He was missed when he recently came down with the flue and a lower-body injury. He is back in class and will be counted upon heavily in the second term. His glove hand is known to desert him at times. Prone to the occasional bad goal. B+
Jaroslav Halak. Jaroslav recently had a chance to step in for Carey Price for an extended period and came up with a hot-and-cold performance. Won’t get a lot of playing time with his class mates in the second term, but needs to be more consistent when he gets the opportunity. C-
Overall class grade: A stronger class effort of late has this group approaching a B- grade. However, for this term they’ve been issued a C+.
With game 31 of the regular season in the books, a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricaines in one of the strangest hockey games you’ll ever see, I’m left pondering the question:
Where are these guys?
Where is the Tomas Plekanec who emerged as a truly splended centreman last season on a line with Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev? The Tomas Plekanec who took the bull by the horns last season and proved he could step up and play with a world-class (?) talent like Alex Kovalev while pivoting Montreal’s most effective line in 2008-2009. You’ll recall that, the previous year, which proved to be a breakout season for Plekanec, the native of Kladno, Czech Republic didn’t get going until after the coach REMOVED him from a line with Kovalev.
And where is Andrei Kostitsyn? Where is the gritty, feisty and supremely talented hockey player who tore it up in the second half of last season to finish with 26 goals. Yes, he got his bell rung by Kurt Sauer of the Phoenix Coyotes early in the season, but that was 26 games ago. Since then, we’ve seen only flashes of his former self. Case in point: one goal in three straight games against Buffalo, Atlanta and the Rangers. Since then: 0-for-6.
Where is little brother Sergei? Where is the guy who, after being called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs 30 games into last season, exhibited a scrappy, productive and tenacious approach to this game that literally lit a fire under Andrei. Where is the Sergei Kostitsyn who, through the pre-season and into the first handful of games of the regular season, was arguably the best forward on this club?
Where is Guillaume Latendresse? Oh. There he is. On last night’s scoresheet, with a goal off a penalty shot. His third goal of the season to break an o-for-9 drought. Three goals. Was it too much to expect Guillaume Latendresse, after back-to-back 16-goal seasons, to put himself on a pace to finish with, perhaps, 20 goals this season? At this rate, he’ll be hard pressed to score 10. Here’s another guy who started the season looking so solid, while playing on a line with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay. Until he mysteriously vanished. To the press box, until the recent rash of injuries.
Where is he?
Where is Alex Tanguay? So dominant through the opening dozen games of the season, Tanguay has virtually disappeared over the last dozen, with but one goal to his credit during that stretch.
And Chris Higgins? Don’t get me wrong. I really feel for the guy after he suffered a shoulder injury 3:33 into the game against Calgary one week ago; just more of that dark cloud that has hung over him since the start of the season. However, the reality is, up until that point, Chris Higgins’ season consisted of little more than a three-goal performance against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 11.
Where are these guys?
When head coach Guy Carbonneau puts the line of Steve Begin, Tom Kostopoulos and Maxim Lapierre on the ice to start last night’s game in Carolina, he’s not doing it to “make a statement.” He’s doing it because, on too many nights, Begin, Kostopoulos and Lapierre have been Montreal’s BEST line. When Carbonneau puts Begin, Kostopoulos and Lapierre on the ice as a power play unit, as he has done in recent games, he’s not doing it to “make a statement.” He’s doing it because Begin, Kostopoulos and Lapierre DESERVE IT.
Which brings me to Alex Kovalev. You would think that with all the soul searching and gnashing of teeth that accompanied Kovalev’s 19-game goal-scoring drought, the biggest Canadiens’ statistic that would have emerged from last night’s 3-2 loss to the ‘Caines would have been the goal by Kovalev, which came at the 3:57 mark of the second period. The goal coming while the Canadiens were playing shorthanded, with Kovalev floating a bit of a knuckleball past Cam Ward after Robert Lang had won the draw deep in Carolina territory.
Nope. The key Canadiens’ statistic that emerged from last night’s loss to Carolina featured a string of 11 straight penalties called against Montreal (although a penalty would have been called on the ‘Caines on the play that led to the Latendresse penalty shot.) It was simply amazing to see this parade of Canadiens to the penalty box during the first 40 minutes of hockey. Some of the calls were warranted, others were not. Regardless, the Canadiens failed to adjust to the fact that the officials were clearly going to call everything on this particular night. And as a result, the Canadiens essentially played 20 of the first 40 minutes of this game, shorthanded. The Hurricanes responded with three power play goals.
Game, set and match.
Up next: the Philadelphia Flyers in town tomorrow night. We’ll wait and see who shows up.
In the minutes following last night’s 5-4 nail-biter over the Atlanta Thrashers, Saku Koivu was left shaking his head.
He wasn’t the only one.
A furious third-period comeback by the Thrashers, coupled with a 59-second collapse by the Canadiens, left the sell-out crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre reeling. However, the Habs managed to pull this one out of the fire in the final minutes, to post their first back-to-back wins in more than a month.
That’s right. Prior to last night, the Canadiens hadn’t taken two in a row since they beat Minnesota 2-1 on Oct. 30, and the New York Islanders, 5-4, two nights later, on Nov. 1.
Nov. 1. The last time Alex Kovalev put the puck in the net. More on him in a moment.
First, let’s take you back to last night’s opening 20 minutes against an Atlanta team that was four games below .500 going into the contest. Habs fans are all too painfully aware that there have been no “gimme’s” for this Canadiens’ team that has struggled against lesser clubs like the Islanders and the Blues. So, it was with a sense of satisfaction and relief that they watched Montreal come out of the gate wheeling and dealing.
Matt D’Agostini opened the scoring at 16:21 of the opening frame with his first NHL goal in only his second game since being called up from Hamilton. D’Agostini, a deceptively quick skater, was there to poke a rebound past Johan Hedberg after Andrei Kostitsyn (more on him later) swung around the net and tried to jam one in. The play was set up by Captain Koivu, who, game in and game out, continues to be Montreal’s most consistent forward.
Tomas Plekanec made it 2-0 at 14:22 when he picked up a loose puck at the Atlanta blue line and wired one from the face-off circle past Hedberg to make it 2-0 Montreal.
Andrei Markov made it 3-0 at 19:04 of the second when he jumped on a fat, juicy rebound with Andrei Kostitsyn making life miserable for Hedberg in front of the crease. A power play goal, no less.
So far, so good. Right?
Not so fast.
Stay with me folks, as we take you through 59 seconds of hockey, early in the third period:
6:28 Former Hab Ron Hainsey drills one from the point past Carey Price. 3-1 Montreal.
7:20 Hainsey again, as the puck trickles by Price in front of a crowded Montreal net. 3-2 Montreal.
7:27. On the ensuing faceoff, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marty Reasoner and Chris Thorburn stretch out the Habs “D”, as well as Price, with Thorburn burying it to tie the game. 3-3. Three Atlanta goals in a 59-second span.
Back to The Captain in the Canadiens’ locker room at the conclusion of this one.
“I really don’t know what happened, and it happened quickly.”
“Quickly” isn’t the word for it.
However, the Canadiens weren’t done. Then again, neither were the Thrashers. Andrei Kostitsyn put Montreal back in front 4-3 with a terrific burst of speed along the boards before he cut in front of Hedberg to connect for his fifth of the season. Robert Lang made it 5-3 with an empty-netter at 18:45, his 7th of the campaign. However, Jason Williams made this one way too close for comfort when he banged one in with 20 seconds remaining in regulation time. After throwing a major-league scare into the Habs, that’s as close as the pesky Thrashers would get.
Two points on back-to-back wins. Guy Carbonneau will take ‘em, that’s for sure, especially with the kind of November his club had.
Once again, The Coach went back to the drawing boad for his line combinations, which included the unique pairing of Koivu and Kostitsyn, alongside D’Agostini. The three combined for six points, with Kostitsyn leading the way with three, while his little brother, Sergei, watched this one from the press box as a healthy scratch. Guillaume Latendresse and Ryan O’Byrne were the other designated sitters.
The other forward lines featured:
Carbo’s moves worked all the way around, with both Kostitsyn and Plekanec clearly emerging from the funk they’d been in for much of the start of the season.
Which brings us back to Alex Kovalev. It looked like he had one. In the third period. Into an open net. However, the goal was credited to Lang. Still, Kovalev picked up two assists for his efforts and finished a plus 2 on the night in 19:50 of spirited ice time; exhibiting some of the fire and passion that Coach Carbo says has been absent from his game this season.
The goals, however, aren’t coming, for number 27. He’s gone 14 straight without putting the puck in the net. Kovalev recalls when he went 18 straight without scoring as a member of the Rangers. In the 19th game that season, he scored a hat trick against the Penguins. Kovalev is confident that, when the goals come, they’ll come in bunches.
We’ll hold him to that.
It was a statement game for head coach Guy Carbonneau and his Montreal Canadiens.
Carbonneau made his statement even before the Habs took to the ice Wednesday night at the Joe Louis Arena against the Detroit Red Wings, by putting Ryan O’Byrne on the ice for the team’s opening shift.
You remember Ryan O’Byrne, right?
Forty-eight hours earlier, O’Byrne put the puck in his own net late in the game against the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre, which allowed the Islanders to get back in, and eventually win, the contest.
After some good-natured ribbing on the part of Carbo and the rest of the team on the flight to Detroit Tuesday afternoon, The Coach gave his young defenceman a vote of confidence by putting him out there for the opening faceoff. O’Byrne responded with 17:13 of some pretty solid ice time. Yes, he was turned inside out, not once, but twice, by Johan Franzen of the Wings midway through the third period. On the same play, no less. And it resulted in Frazen’s 10th goal of the season. But by that time, the Canadiens had already made THEIR statement, by coming up with their best performance of the season.
From the drop of the puck, the Habs matched the defending Stanley Cup champions stride for stride, outplaying the Red Wings through the opening 20 minutes, despite the fact that they failed to beat Ty Conklin in the Detroit net.
The hard work and perseverance paid off early in the second period when Maxim Lapierre, who clearly didn’t like the view from the press box as a recent healthy scratch, went hard along the boards before dishing the puck out in front of the net. Finally, some good luck for this Habs‘ team as it went off a Red Wing skate and past Conklin for a 1-0 lead.
Some seven minutes later, the Canadiens connected on the power play when Tomas Plekanec, who skated miles in Monday’s loss to the Islanders, converted a lovely tic-tac-toe play to make it 2-0 Montreal at 12:17 of the middle period, the assists to Andrei Markov and Alex Kovalev.
A power play goal, to boot.
Then 80 seconds later, the Canadiens took advantage of a Detroit turnover in Red Wings’ end, with Saku Koivu delivering a lovely backhand pass to Chris Higgins, who backhanded one off a Red Wings’ skate past Conklin to make it 3-0 Montreal. Like Plekanec, Higgins skated miles against the Islanders on Monday night. And, like Plekanec, Higgins was finally rewarded for his efforts with a goal.
The goal by Plekanec was his first in nine games. The goal by Higgins was his first in eight.
Welcome back, gentlemen.
A couple of scary moments last night for the Habs. Just 2:16 into this one, Alex Tanguay is creamed along the boards by Brad Stuart and leaves the game. Then early in the third, defenceman Josh Gorges takes a slapshot off the knee and goes down like a ton of bricks.
The injury to Tanguay forced The Coach into line-juggling mode for the rest of the game. However, when it was over, Carbonneau emerged from the dressing room to say that Tanguay appeared to come away with nothing more than a sore neck and should be okay for Friday night’s contest in Washington.
As for Gorges, he limped off the ice but returned. Good news indeed for both Gorges and the Canadiens, as the young defenceman continues to contribute quality major minutes along the blue line: 22:33 of them last night, in a plus-1 performance.
As for the Red Wings, owners of the most effective power play in the NHL, they only had three opportunities to play with the man advantage as a result of a disciplined effort by the Habs. Mind you, the Wings got revved up in the third period, as witnessed by their 16-4 shot advantage over the final 20 minutes. But you never really got a sense that the Canadiens were going to let Detroit get back into this one.
And they didn’t, thanks to the work of goalie Carey Price.
End of statement.