Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Game Sixty-Five: Wild v Habs

Well ... we're getting close to the point that we can say with great confidence that the Habs are going all in - for a top 3 draft pick. Forget that, how does a top 2 pick sound? And with a little lottery luck, maybe even the top choice overall?

So it's not all doom and gloom, right? Right?

Last night ... decent start, mental mistakes, sluggish finish, uninspired play, loss ... etc., etc., we've seen this pater (literally) dozens of times this season. So, moving on ...

TALE OF TWO COACHES: With the loss last night, Randy Cunneyworth's coaching record dropped to 11-18-3. So that's 25 points in 32 games. Or at that pace translated into one season, that's 64 points. Ouch?

Meanwhile, last night the Carolina Hurricanes won (again), and Kirk Muller, who was brought in roughly the same time as Cunneyworth, improved his coaching record to 15-13-9.

Now, 15 wins in 37 games might not be considered Ken Hitchcock stellar, but the 'Canes are no St. Blues, at least with the talent (or lack of) that Muller has to work with. Also consider that after a 1-5 start under Muller, Carolina has since posted a 14-8-9 record, which is 37 points in 33 games. Translated into a season, that's 92 points - probably enough to earn a playoff spot.

So let's think about that. 37 points in 33 games ... versus 25 points in 32 games.

And who's got the better talented team - at least on paper? Carolina, or Montreal?

It's an interesting tale of two coaches, no?

ANDREI MARKOV RETURN TO ACTION UPDATE: March 6, 8 or 10th. Mark in on the calendar. Because those are the dates being bantered today for Markov's return from the agonizingly long injury reserve list.

GAME DAY LINEUP: It's game day! It'll be a barn burner for sure, featuring the Habs who won a grand total of 5 times in February against the Wild who have won 6 times since ... Halloween? When two terrible teams clash, only one survives. I'm pretty sure those are lyrics to an 80s song by Survivor. Whatever.

So the practice (and one deduces starting) lines ARrrreee:


So yeah .. it'll be great. 28th place in the standings on the line. Just TRY not to watch.

First Period:

- All eyes on number 57. The true test of his value and future will be determined next season.

- Lot of empty seats out there tonight, at least by Bell Centre's standard.

- Wild running into a mess of penalty problems, now down two men for 1:51.

- Subban gets the Habs on the board.

- And Eller makes it two. Again on the PP. Again, a pretty three way passing play.

- 8 minutes in shots are 9-0. Montreal.

- Wild march to the box continues, this time it's retaliation by Heatly against Subban for a clean open ice hit.

- Kaberle just awful on this powerplay. His passing is totally inept.

- 12 minutes into the period and still no shots by the Wild. Maybe this is an indicator of why they've barely won a game since New Year's? (Minnesota does have the 29th ranked offense).

- Wild a good chance of registering a shot as Plekanec takes an interference.

- At the end of the man advantage, Wild finally register a shot. Also dinged a crossbar. Otherwise, pretty easy to see why this club has nosedived. Their offense is, indeed, a mess.

- Terrible goal. Emelin couldn't do it all. Weber plays his man, Kassian, inexcusably soft, and the Wild winger deflects home the feed in front of Price to collect his first ever NHL goal. Weber's play continues to make Habs fans roll their eyes with exhasperation.

- I love Ryan White's feisty play, but sucker punching the opponent is not cool. Wild gets 3 minute PP.

- Trademark of this year's team in Montreal. No matter how badly their opponent is playing, the Habs still find ways of giving them ample opportunities for a win.

- With five minutes left in the period, shot totals were 9-0 Habs. End of the period, shot total is 9-7. Yup.

- Wild with a two man advantage for nearly two minutes to start the 2nd.

Second Period:

- Shorthanded Eller does all the work and sets Bourque up perfectly for an empty net tip in. Bourque misses.

- Once again Habs defy laws of logic and reason and threaten to score more on the PK than they do on the PP.

- Palushaj is done for the night with an eye injury.

- Habs just barely survive that shift by the Gomez line, which has only received three shifts tonight over the first 30 minutes.

- Pacioretty working the cycle perfectly generating three point blank shots, one of which hits the post.

- Bourque simply does not have the finishing ability to ever be a 25 goal scorer.

- Clutterbuck very lucky he only got 2 minutes for sticking his leg out to knee Bourque. Could have easily been a major. Bourque injured and gone to the dressing room.

- Pacioretty with a wicked snapshot to give Habs 3-1 lead, all goals so far on the PP. Last time Habs scored 3 PP goals in one game? Gotta look that up.

- Habs on PP, and official just called Kaberle for a ridiculous interference penalty as Clutterbuck, skating past, faked contact and fell to ground, soccer style. Officials made to look ridiculously incompetent.

- First time this year that Habs have scored 3 in a game in the man advantage. Still don't know the last time it happened (I assuming last year when this team had a competent specialty unit).

- Emelin delivers by far the hardest hit of the night sending his man flying in the air head over heels. Problem is, it's on Erik Cole.

- Plekanec clearly hooked/held by Falk on that breakaway, no call made. Officiating wildly inconsistent tonight.

- Gomez three shifts, 3:16 ice time through 40 minutes. So infrequently used he might as well be sitting in the press box.

Third Period:

- Not sure what I'm missing, but can't figure out why there's so much hate out there tonight. Officiating may have contributed to frustration, but these two teams meet once or twice a season. So there's no real history. Just one of those inexplicably chippy games.

- Pacioretty spectacular puck control and patience, threading the Wild defense, creating a rebound, and an easy goal for Desharnais. When Pacioretty produces, this team wins. It's that simple.

- Given how utterly lifeless their offense has performed tonight, combined with a systematic lack of discipline, I can't fathom how this Minnesota team was in first place in the Western Conference a relatively short time ago.

- Weber, I'm thinking, could be the guy looking from the outside in for the Habs defense next season.

- Kaberle/Campoli defensive wrecking crew making their usual appearance. Lead cut to two. Crowd getting slightly nervous. Rest of Habs nation wonders once again why either of those two still get ice time late in hockey games.

- Weber out with

- Giveaway at blue line, if not for a snazzy glove save by Price, lead would be one.

- Price with an unwise play of the puck (was he trying to score?) creating turnover, and very nearly a Wild goal.

- Nix that. Habs in total chaos in their zone, Heatly cashes in and the lead is one. Here we go ...

- Pacioretty with empty net is hauled down right in front of the official. No call. Seconds later, Wild score. Just ... wow. Just ... wow.

- The NHL officiating is a disgrace. There's no excuse for this.


- Habs pressing late, Desharnais with brilliant chances not shooting, Habs on the cusp of an all-time low for blowing leads. Even though the season is lost, this game has been a stunner.

- We win. What a silly game. Again, officiating was ridiculously poor.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Game Sixty-Four: Habs v Lightening

Happy Monday! Happy trade deadline day! Well, hold that happy thought, because there's been plenty of talk last night and this morning that the Habs might be a very active team today, which makes me very, very nervous.

And for good reason. Some of the names being bantered around as trade bait include the usual (Kostitsyn, Campoli, Moen) ... the illogical (Plekanec) and the downright crazy (Gomez to Edmonton ... whaaa?).

The most concerning of the speculation is about Subban. I'm not sure what the heck is going on there (hopefully nothing), but if this franchise were to deal off a foundation piece for ... well ... anything else, it would be a mistake of ridiculous proportions.

So we sit ... and wait ... and twitch ... and hope that no incredibly stupid or self-destructive decisions are made in the next four or so hours.

FIRST BIG TRADE: And herrrrrrrre we go. Kostitsyn, as has been widely speculated about for weeks, has been traded to Nashville. No word on the returns (yet).

KOSTITSYN TRADE RETURNS: 2nd round pick ('13) and we also get the conditional pick back from the Gill trade.

That's it. A second rounder. This probably means that management had already decided that the team wouldn't pursue a contract extension with AK46, and the deal was "let's take what we can get instead of nothing." I can't argue with the logic, but given the choice between a pick and negotiating rights to Radulov, the later would have been the obvious choice.

I'm assuming the Preds wouldn't go for that offer, assuming it was ever on the table.

CAMPOLI UPDATE: Apparently for either 5th round (offer) or 4th round (request) pick. Not sure if it's this year or next year's draft. Reputed deal might be sealed if one of the two teams bends.

Campoli for anything would suit me just fine. So yeah ... worse comes to worse, take the 5th.

- It's now about three hours to deadline, no confirmation either way about Campoli. With Moen's injury woes, I'm pretty resigned that he probably won't be taken. Still nervous that Habs might do something really goofy involving either Plekanec or Subban.

MAJOR PLAYER ACQUISITION UPDATE: We got Brad Staubitz! For free! Who? Yeah .. me too, but here you go [player profile]. Staubitz' salary will count a grand total of $60,000 against the cap, according to CapGeek. Heh.

Seriously, Staubitz is a journeyman fighter - which makes him part of the dying breed. The Hockey News notes that Staubitz has more fights this year (9) than he does goal in his entire NHL career (8) comprised of 196 games. So there you go.

CAMPOLI NO-GO: That's the latest. He's stayin'.

At least nobody *really* important was dealt. So .... it could have been worse?

That's your trade deadline! As usual, the biggest deals were in the days leading up to the deadline, not on the day itself. Still doesn't halt the silly media feeding frenzy. Gotta fill those broadcast hours with content. Me? I'd rather watch a replay of the World Lumberjack Championships.

WHAT COULD-HAVE-BEEN UPDATE: The general original reaction to the Kostitsyn trade was that the Habs got fair return. I very much begged to differ - a dependable 20 goal scorer on a dysfunctional hockey team is still a 20 goal scorer on a dysfunctional hockey team, and deserved greater returns than the 50+ overall pick.

So while the merits of whether we got shafted were debated, news came over the wire about this deal.

That's right - the Preds give up their 1st and 4th round picks - and get back a 12 goal-scoring forward.


KOSTITSYN EPILOGUE: It's been pointed out to me that Detroit was also a suitor for  Gaustad, which presupposed that there was a bidding war between the Wings and Preds for the Sabres' forward.

But as Pierre LeBrun pointed out today, the Sabers were steadfast that they would only accept a first round draft pick, something that the Wings don't have. So if there was a "bidding war", the Wings showed up without a gun.

Here's the deal. The Preds were basically going all in today - trading many futures to fill some remaining gaps. The Habs almost certainly could have had a prospect tossed in with the 2nd rounder, but Habs management probably rushed the trade because they were highly motivated to move Kostitsyn out of town for the first "reasonable" offer.

Well a 2nd round pick isn't unreasonable, but it's definitely undervalued.

HAPPY GAME DAY UPDATE: Like the title says, happy game day!  Just one more and we're SO done with Florida. What is the Habs record during these little Florida swings anyway? I think it's something like 1 win and 94 losses. Sure seems like it.

Speaking of losing ... do you remember that little dust up between Gomez and Habs Assistant "coach" (all Habs coaches now require a parenthesis since they're not going to be around much longer) Randy Ladouceur during a morning practice in Brassard? Remember how Ladouceur was all, like ... yelling at Gomez and Gomez was all like ... yelling at Ladouceur right in front of the entire team and all the media and all the people watching in the stands? AWKWARD!

Then remember how after the fight Cunneyworth was all ... like ... "we're mad at Gomez 'cause he can't do a simple drill and he's worthless because we play this North/South game thing and he doesn't know what it is" and then he ordered the Habs bus driver to just keep moving after Gomez was tossed under? Remember that?

Well since that time, the Habs have gone 1-5.

Just sayin'.

Carey Price will start tonight. Shocking, but true.

JEAN BELIVEAU: You get better, okay? We want you around for at least one more parade.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When we got Sergei, I heard nothing but bad things about Sergei — that he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that, he couldn’t do this, he’s not going to help you, all those types of things.”

“They’re wrong, we’re right — Sergei is one of the best things. We virtually gave up nothing and got our first-line left-winger. … He’s a good player. I expect the same thing of Andrei. I know he’s a terrific talent, and he can play.”

- Barry Trotz, pushing the dagger a little deeper into the chest of Habs fans.

HALF-SEASON STELLAR COACHING RECORD UPDATE: Since Randy Cunneyworth was brought in behind the bench, the Habs have been burning up the League, posting a blistering 11-17-3 record. That's 10 games short of exactly one half of one season. Translated into a full season, at that pace, this team would finish with 74 points.

74 points will probably earn you 14th, maybe 13th place in a 15 team Conference.

How much of this well bear on whether Cunneyworth still has a job after game 82, we'll have to see.

First Period:

- Habs off to a relatively decent start, puck possession is good. But how long can this possibly last?

- Answer: Not long. Stamkos making Subban look not good. Bolts 1-0.

- Habs really are creating quality offensive chances, Garon with a hot hand (so far).

- Desharnais with tremendous speed and (FINALLY!) elects to take the shot - nice one at that, to even the game. Tampa defense preoccupied with Cole on that rush, giving Desharnais the open ice.

- Pretty even period, Habs keeping mistakes to a minimum, Garon playing well for Tampa. The question as usual, can they maintain competitiveness over 60 minutes?

Second Period:

- Simple mistakes are killing this team. Emelin gets caught way out of position, leaving Hall unprotected for the easy goal.

- Eller doing all the hard work, setting Bourque up pretty in the slot, and he wiffs on the shot. Bourque continues to look ... well ... bad.

- White with a goal-scorer's fake on Garon, but can't quite slip it past Garon's desperate paddle save. So close.

- Emelin really struggling tonight, having trouble keeping his head up, and he's getting hammered for it.

- Malone absolutely furious with Emelin, and I'm not sure why. But he's livid.

- Still not sure what the heck happened, but Habs end up with a 5 minute powerplay. Watch them blow it, of course.

- Too many low-percentage cross-zone passes on the man advantage, Tampa having little difficulty intercepting and clearing. Habs are indeed going to blow this.

- Canadiens getting plenty of powerplay practice tonight. If they don't score soon, they'll drop back to 30th place in that category.

- Setup is terrible. Basically impossible shots from easily blocked locations. They have no chance of scoring, really.

- Garon making some really remarkable saves tonight. Habs can't win for losing.

- Habs powerplay a disaster tonight - more so than usual. Kaberle is a mess (more so than usual). I still can't figure out after almost an entire schedule of one season's games how the specialty unit has not improved an inch.  Monumental organizational fail.

Third Period:

- Habs have only won once this year after trailing headed to the third. Doubt things will change tonight.

- The new guy Staubitz in a fight with Labrie. And it's a marathon.

- Gorges a tremendous play to stop Stamkos driving to Price. Keeps his team in the game. For now.

- Ryan White has had some ridiculously good chances tonight - he's working hard, really ought to be rewarded.

- Weber, very clunky penalty. Out of position, he uses his stick and it's an easy hooking call for the officials. Poor execution, poor discipline.

- Gomez, another ineffective outing, very depleted ice time tonight. Only Staubitz has less.

- Tampa really shutting it down in their zone, passes aren't connecting, and shots aren't getting through. Habs forwards are being kept to the parameter. Not looking good.

- Pretty listless finish, you'd never know this team was just a goal from tying. No desperation, no push.

- Something of a push with a minute left, but it's too little, too late. Another loss.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Game Sixty-Three: Habs v. Panthers

GENERAL MANAGER UPDATE: Rumors are swirling tonight that a big change is imminent, and that Pierre Gauthier may be relieved of his duties.

Nothing confirmed as yet, but the timing is .... odd/interesting, just 48 hours before the trading deadline.

If there's something to this (big if), perhaps there's concern among the ownership group that Gauthier might pull a "desperation trade", which could do incalcuable damage to the organization.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Confusion plenty here. Discussion is either revolving that Gauthier is about to be dismissed, or that the ownership has already indirectly removed Gauthier from his responsibility by proxy, whereas Gauthier is acting as a conduit in conversations between the Habs and any other team interested in making a deal.

Who knows? Not like Gauthier or anyone else from the organization would offer comment, given their esteemed record about updating fans the the media about the injury status of any of its players.

LATER UPDATE: Ownership, shockingly, has just tweeted a statement (specifically Geoff Molson):

Les rumeurs du cong├ędiement de Pierre Gauthier sont fausses. Rumours of Pierre Gauthier's firing are false.

Now, I'm not sure how much that clears up the swirling questions. I suppose it answers the main question, has Gauthier been fired? But it doesn't answer the prevailing rumor that the ownership group has taken the reigns, and stripped Gauthier of his decision-making powers.

EVEN LATER UPDATE: Bob McKenzie just tweeted the following:

I asked Molson if hockey decision-making process/protocol with MTL any different now than at beginning of season? His response: "No."

Follow-up: So are you saying there's been no change in power structure? Response: "No change." On Molson being de facto GM: "Not true."

That seems pretty absolute. Nothing has happened, no change was made.

GAME DAY TRADE RUMOURS: Suddenly Tomas Plekanec is trade bait this morning? Huh? Where from which did this come from? The team is planning on promoting ... Gomez to 2nd line centre?

The Montreal Gazette (as terrible as ever) reported today that our best centre has waived his NTC. Plekanec's agent Rick Curran, whom I'm guessing wanted to have some peace and quiet today, had to field a bunch of questions from the trade-story-hungry scribes to confirm that, as usual, the Gazette has no idea what it's talking about, and that Plekanec's NTC was not waived.

More stellar garbage spewing from the Gazette. Keep up the great work, boys.

HAPPY LEAFS UPDATE: Well, as disappointing as this year has been for the Habs collective, things are coming fast undone over in the centre of the hockey universe.

So this year we'll miss the playoffs. It happens.

But 7 straight years of missing the playoffs?

Let us all be thankful for what we've got.

First Period:

- Price will get a rest, Budaj a rare start.

- Habs storming out of the gate, almost all of the first four minutes of play has been in the Florida zone.

- White off the post.

- Eller really motoring his first two shifts. Habs hard work draws a powerplay.

- And within the first two seconds of the powerplay, Pacioretty gets nabbed for a high stick. Sigh.

- It figures. Habs score NOT on the powerplay. Emelin with a great hit to create a turn over, Cole drives the puck to the corner, Desharnais finishes it off with a nice push to the net. 1-0 Habs.

- Hook AND slash on Cole by two Panthers forwards in the span of three seconds, Cole is a man possessed so far, and Florida having trouble keeping pace. Penalties creates a two minutes 5 on 3 for the Habs. Here we go.

- Kaberle with a terrible shot, so Subban shows him how it's done with a beauty top corner. 2-0 Habs.

- Cole no assist on the PP goal, but if it weren't for his intense work, Habs wouldn't have that 5-on-3.

- Canadiens continuing to dominate. A lot of angry guys out there right now and the Panthers are the punching bag.

- Gorges with a soft play in front of his net, Budaj surrendering a rebound from a point shot, and Weiss out-muscles the usually dependable Habs defender to get Florida on the board.

- Bourque trips over the blue line. Nice.

- Period ends with Gomez taking a very weak shot (as usual) that's easily blocked and Panthers gain a breakaway, the clock just running out. However, Subban takes a pretty silly (unnecessary) high stick giving Florida a PP to start the second.

- An okay period. Team got off to a very fast start but gradually faded from the 5 minute mark forward. Kind of a broken record statement on the season.

Second Period:

- Budaj. Looking like the backup to a backup on that goal by Bergenheim, and poof the lead is gone.

- Oh my gosh. An even worse goal, Budaj having a meltdown, this time giving up a juicy rebound off a routine shot, Weiss with another giftwrapped goal, and Florida takes the lead.

- Habs having trouble keeping up with Florida who are at the halfway mark totally outskating and outworking the sad-sack Canadiens.

- Budaj with a couple of sparkling saves during a mad Panthers rush, still will take a lot more to erase the memory of those two weak goals.

- Diaz and Weber two-man PP wrecking crew. These two have rarely played the same shift this season, and it certainly showed there.

- Dismal period for the Habs. Even though Budaj muffed it up, Florida were dominating play at both ends, so their lead is well deserved.

Third Period:

- Weber really struggling out there today. Having trouble moving his feet, and is constantly getting caught out of position. Don't know how many more chances Cunneyworth can take putting him out there. One more Panthers goal and it's over for sure.

- Cole has really been laying the body out there. Not sure how much of that is just pure frustration.

- Another dismally invisible outing for Kostitsyn. If he isn't traded by 3pm tomorrow, at this point I doubt Habs will pursue him anyway.

- There's the killer. Campbell deflecting a point shot, mainly because Weber couldn't clear the traffic. Gosh. Weber was out there. And guess what happened?

- Just won't happen. Diaz exiting the penalty box gets a break and backhands the puck off the post. It's been that kind of year.

- Same old. Habs start strong, grab early lead, make fundamental mistakes, fade, and can't recover. I've lost count.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Game Sixty-Two: Habs v Caps

Happy game day!! Did you know if the draft were held today, we'd probably pick 3rd overall! Isn't that great? It's been an incredible season in Montreal. Even when we lose, we win. Everyone happy!

Well, I guess not everyone's happy. The Caps' Roman Hamrlik has a sad :o( ... poor Roman got benched by the League's craziest temporary coach Dale Hunter for taking a questionable penalty last week (relatively meaningless as the Caps were already well headed towards ANOTHER loss), and in response, the Hammer kinda threw his supervisor under the team bus.

OH ROMAN. A few months ago you probably thought you'd just signed yourself up for a sure-fire Stanley Cup ring, didn't you?

I just LOVE that page. Let's link it again, shall we?

ANDREI MARKOV GETTING CLOSE: So right now I'm watching the Habs do their morning skate in Washington, and guess who I see out there practicing with the boys? One Andrei Markov.

Markov was doing some pretty intense stops and starts, so that's a pretty good sign that he's ... getting ... close to a return?

TRADE SPECULATIONS: So the latest banter around the "insiders" is that the Habs have made significant inquiries about the Jackets' centre Derick Brassard. He'd fit the bill - local boy from Hull done good. Get that francophone quota up to an "acceptable" level. If you're going to be a losing team in Montreal, at least be a losing team with plenty of french speaking players! Then it doesn't matter, see?

But yeah ... if you're thinking Brassard is the heir apparent to Martin St. Louis ... welll ... er ... that's not likely.

But it's worth asking, I guess. Not sure what the Jackets are demanding or how difficult they are at the negotiating table (although they DID get fleeced yesterday by the Kings in the Carter trade ... so ... maybe?)

- Habs just wrapping up their morning skate - Markov was the 5th last guy to leave the ice, did some intense stretching at the bench just before exiting to the dressing room.

First Period:

- So Ovi returns tonight, which two years ago would have struck fear into the hearts of most Habs fans. How tines have changed.

- So Kostitsyn gets a "promotion" to the Plekanec line. Whether it's Cunneyworth's attempt to get him scoring, or the organization's attempt to showcase his abilities is anyone's guess.

- Um, yeah, Rene - you can't bodycheck the other guy's goaltender.

- Diaz lucky to not get an interference call on that Caps PP rush.

- Even with Gill's departure the Habs PK still looks very good.

- Caps' forwards making many attempts to carry the puck to the slot, Habs defense so far having little trouble swatting them away.

- Price with outstanding lateral motion keeping Washington off the scoreboard.

- Kaberle. Just. So. Ridiculously. Soft. In front of his net. Easy goal for Perreault. 1-0 Washington.

- Even if Kaberle were making no more than $1M a year, the Habs still probably wouldn't find a taker. He's our next "Gomez" as far as problems are concerned.

- Kostitsyn-related news: Just announced that Hemsky has resigned with Edmonton, which takes another potential forward off the trade market.

- Hemsky gets $5 million per, which is kind of crazy high. Can't blame him for grabbing that offer.

- Subban made the commitment to block that rush. If he misses, it's a 3-0 break for the Caps.

- Quite maddening to watch this team's offense flail around like a carp in a boat against a mediocre team like the Caps. How to explain it?

- Emelin's checks are fearsome. His shots ... not so much.

- Subban with an interception at his line, turns puck up ice and would have been part of a 3 on 2 break if he didn't peel away and retreat.

- Laugh or cry? It's now 235+ minutes and counting since Habs have scored on Washington.

Second Period:

- An NHL forward of average skill and ability would have easily put that puck in the back of that open net. Scott Gomez on the other hand ...

- Emelin called for a trip. The reply clearly shows he merely made body contact on Ovechkin. Bad call.

- Price with some superb goaltending on this Caps PP.

- Most of the play on Habs half of the ice. Second Caps goal seems inevitable.

- Shots are 4-4 in the period? The shot keeper must be dozing off.

- Eller with a bad giveaway, Emelin and Diaz completely asleep at the line, and the Caps Chimera scores.

- And now Ovechkin. Habs, all of them, standing around. Price with a total reaction of disgust. For good reason. He kept his team in this game and nobody responded.

- Unacceptable turn of events here. First the errors that lead to Chimera's goal - that kind of thing happens, but the response, which was a total team meltdown - simply not acceptable. Cunneyworth must start benching.

- White having maybe one of worst NHL games ever, -3 tonight. Also, Eller -2, Emelin -2, Gomez -2.

- Cole called for a pick. Looked incidental, but at this point, doesn't really matter.

- Habs chances of drafting as high as second overall taking a major step forward tonight.

- Kostitsyn with Desharnais and Pacioretty. Doubt that'll do much to light a fire.

- Over/under on Habs scoring ... I mean, actually scoring once on the Caps? I'm taking under.

Third Period:

- What is there to say, really? Game was over at 3-0. Actually 2-0. Habs did manage to score one goal (yay?) while shorthanded no less (I swear this team is more dangerous a man down than it is a man up) but otherwise Caps shot down an incompetent team. Fish in a barrel.

As stated before, team takes major step towards clinching #2 pick in the draft. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Game Sixty-One: Stars v Habs

Happy Tuesday! How was the long weekend? I know how I spent mine. Mainly sleeping, taking it easy, just going through the motions, not really straining myself. You know, kind of exactly what the Habs were doing Sunday night against the Devils.

So another opportunity is blown. Oy. Last night the Caps were utterly dismantled - by Carolina. Watch out for the 'Canes. Kirk Muller has that team playing on all cylinders, and if that Habs can't get their act together to claim that last playoff spot, then Muller and Carolina will be more than happy to send the Leafs on their annual very early summer vacation.

So tonight ... Dallas will start their number one Kari Lehtonen, and will play their backup Richard Bachman Thursday night against Chicago. Why? I've no idea. The Hawks shut out the Stanley-Cup darkhorse Blues on Sunday, so you'd figure you'd want to start your 1st stringer against the Hawks. Oh well.

News out from practice this a.m. is that Erik Cole left the ice early. Ut-oh. That's not good. Cole, as you may recall, had to leave the ice in the 2nd period against New Jersey, seemingly favoring a leg. He did return later in the period, but was (for the most part) easily kept in check by the Devils defense.

Which doesn't say a whole lot, since pretty much everybody was kept in check on Sunday night.

So .. the Habs have another "must-win" game, just to keep pace with the Leafs, Caps, 'Canes, Islanders, Jets ... you get the picture.

And this Friday ... in Washington. Won't that be interesting?

POST-PRACTICE VIDEO INTERVIEWS GOODNESS: Here it is, featuring future Habs captain Josh Gorges.

RETHINKING HAL GILL TRADE UPDATE: A surprisingly complex deal just went down. Tampa sent Steve Downie to Colorado for Kyle Quincey. Then Quincey is sent to Detroit in return for a 1st rounder (which figures to be around 28-30th overall) and a spare part.

So ... Tampa gets a lower level 1st round pick Quincey (who ironically was originally drafted by the Wings). That's a pretty good premium for a young, albeit middling defenseman. Now, I'm not suggesting that we could have leveraged a 1st rounder out of Nashville, but the early pre-deadline deals are involving a lot of picks. At this point, the Bolts have 2 first round, and 4 second round draft picks. Not bad, although this year's draft isn't considered especially deep. Still, Tampa is kind of doing a semi-fire sale. Moving assets for picks, although not completely dismantling.

So ... if Quincey = 1st rounder, Gill = 2nd rounder (+ prospect), then Campoli = ???

3rd rounder?

UGH UPDATE: Plekanec is a scratch tonight. He's got the flu.

SCOUTING UPDATE: Word out tonight that Habs officials are in Columbus to take in the Sharks/Jackets game. We'll leave it at that.

First Period:

- So Eller fills in for Plekanec, Leblanc for Eller.

- Could this be Ribeiro's last game as a Dallas Star? The trade rumour network suggests it might.

- So far as long as the Habs still have "a chance" for a playoff spot, will Price always get the start?

- Both teams trading a few relatively harmless jabs, no real flow yet.

- Ribeiro/Ryder. Are they going to do as so many ex-Habs have done before: Come back to haunt us?

- Stars outshooting Habs 9-0, nine minutes into the first. Yikes.

- It took 10 minutes, 20 seconds, but Habs register their first (harmless) shot.

- Correction. Habs second shot at 10:20 mark. First was at 8:00 mark. Still stands at two shots, so this team is picking right where it left off from Sunday night, when it managed 4 shots in the first period against the Devils.

- Dallas defense isn't that good (tonight). Habs haven't been able to string together three consecutive good passes in the period.

- Good shift Eller/Kostitsyn/Darche.

- Habs defense out of place, and forwards wayyyyy too soft in front of Price, and in a split moment, Garbutt converts a feed to the back of the net. To be expected, given how poorly Habs have played in the frame.

- Campoli was probably the guy most out of position. If he continues to play this poorly, he might become untradeble.

- Well at least the Habs got more than 4 shots in the period. /graspingstraws.

- That was a pretty awful period by the Habs. Hopefully that was their worst of the night, and it's all up from here. /graspingmorestraws

Second Period:

- Habs PP more choherent that before, but still not clicking as well as it has the past two games.

- Cole with a perfect setup to Bourque, missed the open net.

- Price doing all he can (and needs to be done) to hold his team in this thing. Habs really have no business winning this game.

- This is two games in a row of the Habs simply bringing zero energy to the game. Totally unacceptable and inexplicable.

- Habs with four powerplays first two period, but the Starts are just too fast. Second period better than the first, but no *great* scoring chances have been generated.

Third Period:

- The question about old Habs coming back to haunt is answered. And it's name is Mike Ribeiro. Most of the guys wearing the C and H were coasting around in their own zone. Dallas leads 2-0.

- And seconds later, Price with a bad giveaway, Wandall scores and that's lights out.

- Campoli with a high stick. Well that's one way of keeping him off the ice, I suppose.

- Absolutely dismal performance tonight. The team clearly showing no incentive to stay competitive for a playoff spot. In fact, it looks like a good half of the roster has already thrown in the towel. The other half might as well at this point.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Game Sixty: Devils v Habs

Happy Sunday! It's Hockey Day in America (whatever that means - I guess it means just having a bunch of games south of the border, and NBC showing a couple of them ... otherwise, did anyone notice?).

So last night!! Caps lose! (again). Leafs lose! (again, again). I watched the Canucks/Leafs tilt. Not sure if Vancouver was that good, but yikes, does Toronto look bad. I mean, really bad. I cannot fathom how a team playing that poorly will maintain a tenuous grip on a playoff spot.

And the Caps? The Hockey News pre-season pick as Cup champions? Offense is just ... gone. Ovi continues to be a shell of his former self. I just don't see how they'll also stay above the playoff bubble for much longer.

So the iron is hot for striking! As of this posting, the Habs could move to just 4 points of 8th place with a win over Brodeur and the Devils tonight. FOUR points, which is actually quite amazing when you consider that three weeks ago, this team stood 13 points back of 8th place (and just a single point away from being in 15th place).

Tonight, Price will start, Leblanc will sit (flu). Will Cunneyworth play the 7 defensemen routine (which means Campoli would start ... ugh). And Brodeur ... will this be his last ever visit to Montreal? And Martin, if you're reading this, can you cut us some slack tonight? I mean, nearly 20 straight years of owning us ... could you just give us this one? Please??

GOAL DIFFERENTIAL: This one is a tad perplexing. At the moment, the Habs goal differential is -2 ... which is certainly not great, but it's interestingly not as bad as teams that sit above them in the standings:

In the East, here are some notables that have (roughly) the same or worse differential (and their current standing in the Conference):

Habs -2 (13th)
Toronto -4 (8th)
Washington -4 (9th)
Florida -16 (3rd!?)
Winnipeg -21 (10th)
Islanders -29 (12th)
Tampa Bay -32 (11th)

Surely the Panthers are an anomaly - you can't have a differential that far under the line and be leading - but then again, Florida plays in easily the worst Division in the League, so that helps.

But the teams the Habs are competing against, the Jets, Islanders, Bolts, have a significantly worse differential, while the Leafs and Caps aren't any better.

The point being, with a little more than a quarter season left to go, differential becomes a far more conspicuous start for predicating success. By basic attrition, don't be surprised if in the next 2-3 weeks, the Conference will begin to separate a bit, and the clubs left seriously competing for that 7th-8th place spot are the Leafs, Caps and Habs.

And if you're going to bring remaining schedules into the equation, then matters shape up even brighter for the Canadiens, who have a much easier road to the finish than either Toronto or Washington.

First Period:

- Habs good early pressure generates a powerplay, which goes nowhere. Devils are too good at that stuff, the game will be won by whomever makes the fewer mistakes.

- Price good as lucky so far, aided by two posts. But still a tad shaky on a couple of close-in chances.

- Pacioretty with game face and skates on, really driving the net nicely.

- Ouch. Plekanec's shot right in Volchenko's face. Very slow to get off the ice.

- Habs might not register 5 shots in the period.

- Excellent hard-working shift by Gomez. The more he produces the greater our chances of getting a playoff spot.

- Winning faceoffs so important in defensive zone. Another first opposition goal scored from shot at line deflected in by Parise. Oh man, Parise. What a Habs-killer. How much would it take to sign this guy in July?

- Subban with a rocket (finally) from the line. Brodeur didn't stop it clean, but just enough.

- Habs with their hands full tonight. Devils really cover their zone efficiently, so goals will a premium. Just 4 shots in the period. That simply won't do it.

Second Period:

- Big first and second shift for Jersey. Habs reeling. Do the Canadiens understand the opportunity at hand?

- Totally lopsided action here. Canadiens in dump and retreat mode.

- Cunneyworth gave everyone the morning off, and he's being rewarded by an absolutely lackluster effort, especially by the forwards. Energy guys need to be given priority here to spark some kind of a fire under these sleepy butts.

- Nice shift by Gomez line. We have signs of life.

- Dammit Brodeur. Can't you have just ONE bad game in this city?

- Habs slowly inching back into this, momentum-wise. Need a goal soon, though.

- We're officially on pace for a 12 shot game. Habs going to PP. Hopefully we can reach the 5 mark this period.

- Terrible ice conditions weren't helping Habs on that man advantage. Surely in Montreal they have the capacity to get the ice right?

- Ugh. Every time I see Larry Robinson behind the Devils' bench, with all that knowledge and record of coaching success, I am reminded of what could have been.

- Cole getting shadowed pretty hard by Jersey, so he's attempting to contribute with a few good hits.

- Hate to second-guess the bench management, but what is Cunneyworth doing ending the period with Campoli on the ice? Clarkson tips home a point shot, largely because Campoli played him too soft in the crease. At some point you just have to shake your head.

The late goal, this with just 15 seconds left in the frame, are game killers. Down two entering the third against a team like Jersey, virtually no chance.

Third Period:

- White draws a penalty, Habs get their third PP. Can't fault the Canadiens discipline, so far no penalties.

- Pacioretty! His 25th off a mad scramble. Habs continue to demonstrate excellent puck movement with the man advantage. The longer they can keep their PP working, the better chance this team has of salvaging a playoff spot.

- Pacioretty has scored 14 goals since January 1st, which puts him in the top four in the League. Already established himself as a critical cog in this team's future.

- Habs have 17 minutes to even this up. If they can pull this game out of the fire I'll be pretty impressed.

- Gorges with a somewhat risky pinch to keep the puck in the Devils' zone. Habs play remains relatively aggressive.

- Forwards very tight in Brodeur's face. More, please.

- Desharnais. I've said it before, I'll more than likely say it again - shoot the puck. Right now the book is out on you. You always pass, and opposing defenders play retreat and check when you have possession.

- Cole is hurt. Gone to the room for medical attention. This is not good.

- Plekanec critical errors. Two chances to clear the zone go nowhere, and Weber makes the final mistake by screening Price from a point shot by Taormina.

- That shot apparently shattered the net camera. They're cleaning up the mess in front of the net.

- Pretty quiet in the rink. I think we're now in resigned to defeat mode.

- Cole out there right now. Playing hurt? We'll see if he does more shifts.

- Energy the team had starting the 3rd is largely gone now. Just too much to ask this team to beat Brodeur three times.

- Devils called a 30 second timeout. Actually got 2 minutes before the puck was dropped.

- Devils just blanketing the line. Can't get anything going. Why can't we do this? Why haven't we been doing this all those occasions when we held a third period lead (and blew it).

- Critical opportunity to get closer to a playoff birth was missed tonight. Habs simply didn't have their mojo. Even with the morning off they played tired. They looked tired. Friday's game against the Caps in Washington looms large.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Game Fifty-Nine: Habs v Sabres

So anyone actually feeling pretty good about what happened last night? Yeah, yeah ... the Bruins won, but our Habs were (let's be frank) down and out, played a gutsy and dominate third period unlike any other game we'd see this season. And while the Leafs won (bah), that hard-earned single point still keeps us within shouting distance with 23 games left to go.

Meanwhile, the hacks and fans from Boston-land are all in a tizzy because of the fan response last night to Chara getting a puck in the face, courtesy a clearing attempt by Plekanec late in the third period.

The point being missed, of course, is that only a small minority of fans cheered when Chara hit the ice like a sack of potatoes - the descriptive "Habs fans cheer" headlines are recklessly misleading. The vast majority of those in attendance didn't utter a peep, an entirely commendable reaction when you consider it's been less than a year since Chara's infamous hit on Max Pacioretty. How many Boston writers were then posting articles with the headline "Chara Attempts to Decapitate Habs Forward"? Nope, you see, the hit was simply "unfortunate". No way you should blame Chara! It was just one of those "hockey plays", you know? The kind where the guy's head is nearly torn off his shoulders. Sorry Max ol' chap, best of luck to you, and beside, you were probably totally faking it!!

But you gotta spew nonsense to the faithful to get that traffic! So crank up the sensationalist machine. Habs fans = goons. Bruins players = victims. Done!

MORE ABOUT THOSE DASTARDLY SHOOTOUTS: Yes, YeS, YES to this. They are BAD. They're boring. I HATE them. They appeal only to fans (*cough* Americans *cough*) who find little to enjoy about the game other than that puck going into the net.

No more. Adopt the three point system for wins. Let the games be fought hard in 60 minutes, not with the sideshow shootouts features silly goals that aren't remotely legal.

THE HAMMER COMES DOWN ON MARCHAND: The NHL weighed in on that nasty low hit delivered by Marchand last night on Emelin. He's totally suspended! Ha ha .. just kidding! He's a Boston Bruin! So you know ... free pass, yadda yadda, same old story.

Totally-unbiased-absolutely-neutral-no-way-he-shows-favoritism Brendan Shanahan just tweeted his verdict:

Like all penalties on the ice, not all "clips" rise to the level of supplemental discipline. This check by Marchand was delivered to the upper thigh/hip and not the knee area. We don't like it, but not SD.

There you go! Nothing wrong at all. OH ... but Marchand didn't get off scott free, as you can see. The big wigs in the NHL front office "don't like it." Ouch. Well that will really teach Marchand a lesson or two, won't it?

Just one more thing: Hey, Mr. Shanahan? We aren't idiots. He didn't hit his knee? Well sure, in the freeze frame clip that YOU posted it doesn't show that hip-on-knee contact, but how about this picture?

A suggestion to the NHL. Punish players ... I mean, actually freaking PUNISH players, especially the serial headcases like Marchand, for their ongoing attempts to injure others on the ice.

Until you start doing that, Shanahan and the suits he reports to, simply cannot and will not be taken seriously by the hockey community.

GAMEDAY LINEUP UPDATE: Weber is in, Campoli is out, which should come as surprise to exactly nobody in light of this little gem from Wednesday night.

Price will start. Will Budaj get in a game before season's end?

Post morning practice interviews, featuring Cole 'n' Cunneyworth.

HAL GILL TRADED: To Nashville with a 5th round conditional, in return for a 2nd round pick (2012), and two lower level prospects.

But yeah ... we got a 2nd rounder. Looking at the two young players right now. Will post again shortly.

UPDATE: The players are Geoffrion AND Slaney.

Wow. What a deal!! The 2nd rounder AND one of the Preds' top offensive prospects in Geoffrion.

Just ... wow. Pierre. Excellent trade!

CONDITIONAL PICK UPDATE: The Preds will get '13 5th round pick IF Geoffrion plays 40 games with the big club next year. If he doesn't, no pick.

If Geoffrion sticks for 40 games next year, it means he's worth sticking around for 40 games next year, thereby making the 5th a relative bargain.

VERY good day for Habs Land.

Let's not make this sound like it was a one-sided trade. The Preds did get Gill, who will really help them out. This move was totally Barry Trotz, arguably the smartest coach in the game. Why did they trade for Gill? "Experience. Anybody who's got some size, who won the Cup. ... Penalty killing, especially on a defensive side."

Have to agree. Gill makes the Preds much more competitive for a championship. But ... still ... we got a lot back in return.

First Period:

- With Gill traded, Campoli makes it into he lineup. Every trade has its big downside I suppose.

- This might be a tough game given that the Sabres are a pretty desperate team, and they got spanked last night by the Flyers. You just know Ruff read them the riot act, so there are probably more than a few Sabres that will come out if that gate angry and flying. First ten minutes expect a Buffalo blitz.

- White skating well, picking up where he left off Wednesday night.

- And like Wednesday, opposition strikes first with a shot from the line that seemingly is deflected. Maybe this one was just plain misplayed by Price? 1-0 Sabres.

- Nope. Official scoring no deflection. I guess Price overplayed the shot.

- Regehr credited with the goal, just his first of the year. If there was a prime candidate for most disappointing acquisition made in the off-season, Regehr would probably win hands down.

- Subban's slapper is a shadow of it's former self.

- Wow. Outstanding puck control and movement by the Habs PP, finished by pretty pass from Desharnais to Kaberle who snuck in from the point a la Markov. Game tied.

- Habs PP now 5 for it's last 12.

- Ryan White had a tough shift. Positionally lost in the Sabres zone when the Habs had a good cycle going, then outmuscled for the puck in the defensive zone allowing Myers to snap a beauty over Price's shoulder. Gomez with the initial giveaway to create the scoring chance/goal for Buffalo.

- Stand corrected on Habs first goal, scored one second after PP expired. So PP is actually 4 for last 12.

- Gomez!! And this one before the PP expires! Habs man advantage definitely clicking now.

Second Period:

- Habs go to the PK for the first time in the post-Gill era.

- Habs penned in their own zone most of that penalty (bad), but don't surrender a goal (good).

- After an iffy defensive display in the first, both clubs settling down, a lot of players cluttering the neutral zone. Things more or less grinding to a halt.

- Leblanc providing a really good demonstration on how not to take a breakaway. What the heck was that?

- And Subban with a demonstration on how to exactly play the defender facing a 3-on-1.

- Campoli making me look bad bemoaning his place in the lineup, snapping one past a flopping Miller. Gomez a nice job creating a screen. Habs take the lead.

- Cole getting shadowed pretty hard tonight, so he's been kept pretty quiet.

- Pacioretty leading all skaters with huge 14 minutes of time, 4 minutes left in the 2nd.

- Darche also getting plenty of time, getting rewarded handsomely for playing some of the best hockey of his career of late.

- They may not have scored the most points, but I'm thinking the Gomez/White/Kostitsyn line is the best of the week for this team.

- Price save of the game right there. Maybe one of his best all year.

- Well here we go. One more time. Habs in lead going to the 3rd. For some reason, I'm feeling a bit more comfortable about it tonight. Let's see what happens.

Third Period:

- Have to assume that Ruff reminded his team that a loss tonight would pretty much extinguish the Sabres' hopes of getting back into the playoffs race. So expect plenty of bodies to be crashing Price until (if) the Sabres can score to tie the game.

- Defense (more or less) doing a good clearing the zone so far.

- Keep chippin' it out. Just keep chippin' it out.

- Sabres unable to get anything going so far. Fans getting restless.

- Huge Gill-less PK here.

- Plekanec with a blocked shot that sends him smarting to the bench.

- Habs blocking shots and passes like crazy. Anything to win tonight.

- Emelin another standout performance tonight. Can't believe how far he's adapted to the NHL and progressed this year.

- Gomez wide open net on the 3-on-2, pass hopped over his stick as he attempted the shot.

- Halfway home. Can they hold on?

- Derek Roy with a World Cup-style collapse in front of the official, looking for a call.

- Campoli/Kaberle combo at this stage of the game? What the heck is Cunneyworth thinking??


- Madness must end. Campoli wildly out of position, Sabres missed an open net. Game really should be over.

- Habs shell game in 3rd cost them the two points. That and questionable bench management by the coach.

- Darche is playing great, but you don't want him out there in OT.

- Pacioretty with a terrible penalty with a minute left. And why is Campoli out there again?

- Habs hopes of winning rest on surviving this Sabres PP and winning the shootout. In other words, it's fading fast.

- Sabres really should have finished the game off. The chances certainly were there, just couldn't convert.

- Shootout. The dreaded shootout. Price has to be dreading this.


- Season stats: Price 13g/17s, Miller 4g/8s. Yeah, I like Buffalo's odds.

- Pacrioretty (okay), Desharnais (um ... okay) and Kostitsyn.

- Price with very nice first save.

- Pacrioretty!!!

- Price on Pominville! Habs Desharnais can end it right here.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Game Fifty-Eight: Bruins v Habs

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!! Sorry, you're totally single and desperately lonely? Well then I guess it sucks to be you. Enjoy the day!

So last night. Habs were undone by a pretty ferocious one-two punch. Firstly it was Eric Staal, who played out of his mind for Carolina (Habs really need a Staal-like guy to move the team to "the next level"), and propelled his team to a nifty comeback. Secondly, it was Tomas Kaberle, whose inept play, careless giveaways, and statuesque speed around Staal, really helped push Carolina over the top. THANKS KABERLE. Just three more years of you to wince over. Oh, JOY.

Anyway, while Kaberle was doing his impersonation of the awful, Emelin continued to build his reputation as a premier body-splattering defenseman. If you don't believe me, go ask Anthony Stewart. Alexei Emelin. What a tremendous pickup he's become.

STUFF AROUND THE LEAGUE. Rick Nash is available! The Blue Jackets are kindly taking offers from interested teams. Bidding starts at ...ohhh ... half of your organization's prospects?

Who'd be interested? Probably the Sharks. Or maybe the Caps? Or the usual suspect, the Flyers? As per the norm, Leafs fans are probably salivating in anticipation, under the hilarious presumption that they actually have a shot. They don't, of course. But from a distance, we can still laugh at 'em. Adorable!

But really, the Eastern Conference is a mush of mediocrity right now, the addition of Nash to the Bruins, Flyers, Rangers, Devils or (gulp?) Panthers would make them favorites to grab a spot in the Cup Finals, where they would then be destroyed by either the Wings, Canucks or (my pick!) the Blues.

So BIG game tomorrow night against the despicable Bruins!! Remember the bloodbath the last time these two clashed when there was three minors called in the first 40 minutes? Wow. You could just feel the hate!

MORNING PRACTICE SQUABBLE UPDATE: Eeeek. So Scott Gomez and Randy Ladouceur got into a reportedly heated fight a few minutes ago in Brossard. Here's a pic of 'em going at it face-to-face. This isn't the first time Ladouceur has grabbed the attention of onlookers, if you recall the recent talking down he gave to Subban, also during a morning practice.

I dunno. Maybe Ladouceur isn't a morning guy?

I'm sure the scribes will be all over this after lunch. Will post more later, I'm assuming.

POST-FIGHTIN' UPDATE: So it's all a just big misunderstanding, see? Not a big deal, see? Just a coach trying to get a player to do a drill right, see? Nothing to see here. Just move along.

Anyway, video reaction here from Gomez. Believe it or not, the Gazette actually produced a little bit worth reading here

The Habs are (obviously) dismissing this as "no big deal". But this is Montreal, this is Gomez, and you just don't see a player and a coach have a public meltdown like what happened today. We are not examining normality.

LATE-NIGHT HAPPY SCORE UPDATE. Jets and Leafs lose!! Wow, how big were those two lost points against Carolina looking now? At the very least, opportunity is at hand, but we gotta get past the Bruins to seize it tomorrow night.

GAMEDAY UPDATE: So very little is coming out of the Habs camp today about tonight's lineup, but insider indications are that Gomez and Kostitsyn WILL be in the lineup, although their positions on the Habs roster are now considered tenuous at best. In other words, after a two years of suffering, Habs fans may finally see the whole Gomez situation arriving to finality - either he starts producing, or the organization may look at more draconian options (waivers, or a straight-up demotion, the later would almost certainly end Gomez' NHL career).

Kostitsyn? I'm not sure what's happening there. For the most part, Andrei has been pretty good for much of the season - not a brilliant producer, and at times hampered by inconsistency, but he's certainly not an outright disaster. He just never seems to be on the good side of management's temperament. Carbonneau had his issues, Martin *really* didn't like him, and now Cunneyworth seems to have placed him in the indefinite doghouse.

It's all a mystery to us outsiders. Kostitsyn is an apt, productive NHL winger. He ought to be pursued for a contract extension. Perhaps he rubs off on authority the wrong way, perhaps he has an indifferent attitude in the dressing room? (although we know he's popular amongst his teammates). So it's all very perplexing.

Point being, the Habs have significantly bigger player issues right now that Kostitsyn. Gomez is (and has always been) a big issue. Some of the performances by some of our defensemen have been an issue. Injuries are an issue. Coaching seems to always be an issue. Uncertainly with front office personnel is an issue. And yet, for some reason, Kostitsyn seems to garner a lot of negative attention.

So there you have it. Gomez and Kostitsyn will likely start tonight. If they do, it'll be interesting to see how they respond.

STARTING LINEUP UPDATE: Ryan White *will* play tonight. That we now know.

RICK NASH SWEEPSTAKES UPDATE: The Bruins have reportedly voiced interest in making the acquisition. Sounds good to me!! Let's hope Columbus takes them to the cleaners.

Meanwhile in the "Centre of the Hockey Universe" .... oh dear, Toronto. You crack me up. So much self-importance, but so lost in the wilderness of reality. You really think you have a shot, don't you? You're SO ADORABLE!

LINEUP UPDATE: Cunneyworth reportedly says Gomez/Kostitsyn/White (3rd? 4th?) line will go tonight.

Tim Thomas will start! Maybe he'll even Facebook some crazy stuff later, and give us two more days worth of hilarious nutcase material to write about. Maybe!

Hah. Speaking of Thomas, since his little White House meltdown, the Bruins have won just 3 of 8. MORE OBAMA PLEASE!

- Pulushaj (who's struggled) and Moen (who's hurt) are scratches.

First Period:

- Habs doing good job containing Bruins (so far). Like the physicality tone set as well. Offense still sputtering a bit.

- Emelin UNloads on Thornton. That really oughtta charge up the bench. Com'on guys.

- Gomez takes a hefty cross check, but draws the penalty. Early goal would be nice.

- Good puck movement. Couple of good chances. No goal, but PP continues to look pretty good.

- Still applying nice pressure, drawing penalties. Bruins lacking discipline so far.

- PP snuffed short by a cross check. STILL, like how so many are driving Thomas. Something will give if they keep this up.

- Hall Gill not making a very good case to get more ice time. 1-0 Bruins.

- Eller gets four for the high stick. The worm turns fast against a team like Boston.

- Habs really played well first 13 minutes. But then the Bruins began to take over, and cashed in on their opportunities.

Second Period:

Wow. Darche! To the net! Subban with a terrific effort, that's how you score against this Boston team. Game tied.

- White hasn't missed a beat. No rust on this guy, it looks like he's been playing all season.

- 4th line really humming tonight. We have to have more of these fights at practice.

- Pouliot. Never saw that kind of individual effort while he was wearing the CH. Campoli made to look like a rookie. The weak links on defense hampering our efforts again.

- Kostitsyn with a marginal interference call. Will Cunneyworth now show him the bench?

- Darche with two brave shot blocks on the PK, one on Chara.

- Ferocious pace right now, very much a playoff atmosphere game. These teams aren't holding back.

- Thomas doesn't hold back screaming out of his net to cut down the angle. One successful pass across, and he has no chance.

- Really? Goaltender interference for the crime of taking the puck to the net on a semi-break? Wow. Horrible, horrible call on Cole.

- Never seen Cunneyworth so angry over any referees call as that one. Nothing even close. He was fit to be tied.

- Bruins didn't technically score on the powerplay, but Habs couldn't get their players off, and the Bruins scored an easy goal against an exhausted defense. Credit that goal to the officials.

- Marchand does it again with the dirty hit. This time on Emelin. Gill talking it over with the ref. Nothing is done. Horrible officiating tonight.

- Habs with 2nd worst record in the NHL when trailing after 2 periods. They're down 2 to the Bruins. Impossible? Probably.

Third Period:

- Well, if the boys have a big third period comeback pass in their pocket, now is as good a time as any to use it.

- Watching hit by Marchand on Eller on replay. The League may review it closely later, in view of Marchand's dubious history.

- Kaberle with a 35 mph wrist shot on Thomas that even I could easily stop.

- Bruins just blanket the crease and everything that surrounds it. This is part of how you hold 3rd period leads.

- Desharnais with a shot that Thomas should have stopped, squeaked past and Pacioretty with a goal than even I could have made. Habs are back in it!

- Subban making a run at Marchand away from the play with Habs on PP.

- OMG. Chara. Just. Robbed. Cole. That close to tying the game.

- Habs with some serious mo' going here. Just need to keep pushing for the tying goal. You can do this guys.

- Doing the right things. Crashing that net. Thomas is giving up the rebounds, but the puck isn't quite bouncing our way. Habs really owning this period.


- As I said, keep going guys. You can do this. One more. Just one more.

- Ohmygosh, Darche nearly with his 2nd. That line just rolling like crazy.

- Another juicy Thomas rebound right to Bourque, wide open net. Puck bounced over his stick.

- What an incredible game. The pace is dizzying.

- Even salvaging one point would be huge.

- Bruins pushing back here. Feeling nervous.

- Methinks Thomas is really fighting the puck. So many shots rebounding off him tonight, with more fortuitous bounces Habs could be winning this by 2 or 3.


- What a PK. Price fantastic!

- Price making some great clutch saves here in OT. Giving us a huge chance for a great win.

- Karma is a bitch. Marchand off the crossbar.

- Darche's play the past three weeks making a strong case for a contract extension.

- Can't say Price didn't want this one badly. No way we have a chance without his play in this game, especially this OT.


- This isn't Price's thing, but his play tonight you have to favor him in this silly thing.

- Bourque too cute. 0/1

- Shot beats Price, not the post. Whew.

- Pacioretty. Just. Got. Robbed.  0/2

- Price ... not good. And it's all on Eller.

- Eller. Use that spinorama thingy. No ... not .. that. Oh well.

I hate the shootout. Always have. Always will.

But still, probably the best game this season. It never let up. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Game Fifty-Seven: 'Canes v Habs

WELCOME BACK Jaro Spacek. You didn't think you could get away from the Montreal media vermin that easily, did you?

Jaro has it right though. Whether Cunneyworth stays or goes, this franchise needs to just get past the french requirement, and focus on hiring the most qualified, best available person for the position.

If Lindy Ruff comes on the market (and he very well might) after season's end, this club would be CrAzY to not at *least* knock on his door. But ya know what? Ownership probably won't bother trying because they don't want to deal with the nationalistic headaches. Besides, they didn't even return Larry Robinson's call two years ago before (the now departed) Jacques Martin was hired, and Larry does speak french. Maybe his last name was too anglo sounding. Who knows.

SO TOMORROW NIGHT. Big opportunity to cut even further into that playoff deficit. The Caps lost today (good!), and with the Leafs now headed somewhere south of nowhere, the impossible might become possible.

But we gotta keep winning. 17-8-2 from this point forward to even have a chance.

GOAL OF THE YEAR UPDATE: I think we have our winner. It's from Minnesota high school hockey, of all things.


GAME DAY UPDATES: John Lu updates that Moen's injury is more serious than first thought, and he won't be back tonight (ergo yesterday's call ups), and that Markov is nearly up to 60 minutes a day on the ice (it was 20 minutes two weeks ago), but there's no projection about when he'll be back (I'm thinking March-ish? - I suppose it depends on where this team is sitting in the standings, if we're actually battling for a playoff spot, then Markov would be played as early as possible - but if we're definitely out, then I could envision him being shelved until the fall).

POWER RANKINGS ARE SILLY: Basically invented to fill copy space, but for what it's worth, LeBrun has us at 24th, which isn't ... horrible? Meh. Who cares.

WE THINK WE HAVE IT BAD FOR COACHING? Wow. This one is ... I dunno. What the heck is going on with the Caps? First they fire off Bruce Boudreau (which is fine, Boudreau came off as more-or-a-less a loudmouthed buffoon without a strategic bone in his body in the HBO 24/7 series), but their replacement Dale Hunter ... well ... read this. But yeah ... to manage the bench based on +/- (the most simplistic hockey stat devised) is just plain absurd. You'd have to believe that the players are rolling their eyes behind the scenes. I see this club headed no other direction other than straight off a cliff.

MORNING PRACTICE INTERVIEW VIDEO GOODNESS. Ryan White talks about his return tonight. And Cole! Enjoy.

AVAILABLE COACHES UPDATE: So while there have been murmurs for weeks that the Sabers' head coach Lindy Ruff might not be coming back next year, there is plenty of conversation right now that Chicago's Joel Quenneville's neck is about to hit the chopping block. The media release from Hawks G.M. Stan Bowman this afternoon barely qualifies as a luke-warm defense of Quenneville, so the Habs could have two very qualified, very successful, and above all, very good coaches available for hire.

And no, Quenneville doesn't speak french.

HAWT GM SIGHTING UPDATE: Pierre Gauthier spotted!! He's not in Montreal tonight to watch his team try to narrow the playoff deficit to 5 points. No, he's in Washington to take in the Sharks/Caps game.

This will only add fuel to the speculative fire that Gauthier is churning the trade gears - but what are the possibilities here? He's certainly not going to make a deal with the Caps - they're one of the teams the Habs are trying to catch for a final playoff spot. So that leaves us with the chronically underperforming Sharks, who are desperately looking to make a move for somebody to get their slumping offense into gear.

What do the Habs have to offer that might perk San Jose's interest? Kostitsyn? Would they be so crazy as to take a flight on Gomez (the Sharks have lots of cap space). Too be honest, I can't think of anybody beyond Andrei, and even he doesn't seem like the right fit to spark the Sharks into some kind of turnaround.

The most likely scenario is that Gauthier will watch the game, kick a few tires, and nothing will come of it.

First Period:

- Surprise! Ryan White is a scratch. So maybe Boston on Wednesday??

- Bourque steaming down the wing two quality shots on Ward followed by a thunderous hit on Staal. Great first shift.

- Canadiens with terrific energy to start. The team looks pretty motivated getting back into the playoff race.

- Bad break there, good break for the 'Canes. Shot from Allan a harmless shot seemingly deflected over Price by a body in front. Not much you can do about those.

- Gorges doing what Gorges does, checking his man, saving a goal.

- Carolina the faster team but by far Habs more physical so far. Canadiens hoping this will pay dividend as the game progresses and the 'Canes tire from the hits.

- Careless high stick by Bourque. Could be 4 minutes. Hopefully just 2.

- Just 2 minutes. No blood was drawn.

- Habs PK just so tough with Price in the nets. Carolina doing everything right moving the puck into position, but Carey just locks it down.

- OH Gomez so nearly got his 2nd off a perfect feed from Cole. Ward with a great save.

- Change on the scoresheet. 'Canes first goal awarded to Tlusty with the previously suspected tip-in.

- Ward stealing one from Cole. Ward making some incredibly tough saves here.

- 'Canes faster, more opportunistic in the period. Plus Ward was exceptional handling some really good chances. Looks like it's gonna be a tough 2 points.

Second Period:

- Habs get a PP, from the faceoff Subban makes a clunky attempt to keep the puck in, creating a 'Canes break, and finishes by taking a hold. PP over before it had a chance to begin. Cunneyworth not looking happy.

- Subban with his head in the clouds.

- Canadiens utterly disorganized with the play 4 on 4. Passing totally all over the place, countless giveaways, and finally a penalty is drawn. Now 4 on 3 'Canes.

- Spacek finishes a beauty tic-tac-toe scoring play. Funny how those old players who never scored while they played for you, score for the other guys. Good on him, though.

- Spacek with a bad pinch creates a 2 on 1 for the Habs, Plekanec defers to Bourque and snaps one past Ward. Habs finally on the board.

- Habs not getting the calls tonight.

- Stewert just missed wide open net for 'Canes off a 3-on-1 break. Whew.

- Habs finally get a call.

- Cole!!! Brilliant shot!! Game tied!!

- To put into perspective how big that goal was, Habs have trailed going into the 3rd period 20 times this season. They have won only once.

- Habs ALL over Carolina right now. 'Canes go to the box again.

- Where HAS this Habs PP been all year???!!! 3-2!!!!!

- Better late than never I guess, but the PP is officially on fire.

- Admittedly the 'Canes were being awfully aggressive pursuing the puck while on the PK, perhaps too aggressive. Nonetheless, the Habs passing and puck control was superb.

- Outstanding comeback. This team could have easily thrown the towel in (as it has before) after the Spacek goal, but the team kept pushing, and maybe that physical 1st period started to pay off, as the 'Canes could not keep pace. Habs just 20 minutes away from moving to within distinct distance from 8th place.

Third Period:

- So about that powerplay. Kaberle looked like he was about 45 years old as Staal easily zoomed around him to pot a shorthander. Grr.

- Has anyone seen Andrei Kostitsyn lately?

- Kostitsyn just got his first shift of the period.

- And the lead is blown. Gorges without a stick creating a mini 5 on 3 for Carolina, and they take full advantage.

- A few of the usual suspects costing the Habs dearly. First Kaberle with the pylon play, then Campoli with the bad penalty leadinng to the 'Canes 4th goal.

- Bell Centre really quiet. The crowd has heard this song way too many times this season, and sense of resignation starting to settle in, even with plenty of time left.

- 'Canes looking for the kill.

- Habs defense simply awful right now. Price hung out to dry, but keeping team in it.

- Carolina backchecking really hard. Habs having tough time constructing anything resembling a rush.

- Canadiens offense going nowhere. Will have to start taking chances very soon.

- Pacioretty draws a trip on the rush. Can the Habs PP bail them out? Stay tuned.

- Plekanec/Gomez/Bourque start.

- Jesus. Desharnais. Shoot the damn puck.

- Canadiens coming incredibly close. Pushing hard to the net. Eller couldn't quite bury the puck side of the net.

- Staal fittingly with the empty netter. He was fantastic tonight. Huge opportunity goes by the board for the Habs.

- Under Cunneyworth, Habs have held the lead 13 times heading to the 3rd. They have blown that lead 4 times. That is a poor conversion percentage.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Game Fifty-Six: Habs v Leafs

Price starts tonight.

That's all I got. Well, it's a pretty big game, all other considerations withstanding. A win tonight and we can start the preliminary process of flirting with the idea of possibly thinking about an outside remote chance of maybe competing for one of the few remaining barely qualifying 8th place playoff spot.

Now get outside. It's a beautiful day.

First Period:

- Have to admit I've been eagerly anticipating this game all day long, it's the first game in a long time for Habs fans where there's a sense of importance. A win tonight gets us just 7 points of Toronto for that final spot.

- Emelin giving Macarthur a taste of the boards. Very nice.

- Lots of stoppages the first five minutes. Close checking, decently physical.

- Nasty bad turnover by Palushaj and Price is forced to make three consecutive saves on Kessel.

- Cole with his head down got absolutely rocked by Brown.

- Leafs forwards for the most part outmuscling the Habs defense in battles for the pucks. Not good.

- Good start for Toronto, Canadiens having trouble getting out of second gear at both ends of the ice.

- Pacioretty with a golden opportunity side of the net, shot it right at Reimer's pads, and looks skyward after the play is blown dead. Very close.

- Great shift by the Plekanec line, Habs applying lots of pressure in the Leafs zone. Momentum currently with Montreal.

- Campoli/Diaz combo just had an awful shift, neither seemed aware where the other was, many poor giveaways.

- Reimer looking very good so far.

- Not sure if that pass skipped on the ice, but Cole almost always cashes those in. I think he just plain mistimed the (good) pass from Desharnais.

- Brown hard on Subban behind the net. Sure looked like a crosscheck.

- Plekanec 8 for 9 in the faceoff circle.

- Both Price and Reimer on their game. Have the feeling it'll be one of those 2-1 or 3-2 games.

- Poor interference call on Plekanec. He hit his man with the puck beside them. Habs have their most effective PK man in the box.

- Pretty routine kill for Habs.

- Even period. Very close checking. Good chances both sides, this one is going to be very close.

Second Period:

- Tremendous singular effort and awareness by Cole to carry the play into the Leafs zone and release a shot that Reimer probably would want back. Habs score the crucial first goal.

- And moments later, bad giveaway by Leafs and a pretty tic-tac-toe play, Bourque beats Reimer short side, and take a 2-0 lead.

- Leafs fans might bemoan how their team is playing with the man advantage, but credit must go to the Habs' specialty units for their excellent zone play. This team isn't number one in the League by accident.

- Plekanec/Bourque/Darche combo is probably the strongest on the ice so far. This line is really on a roll.

- Cole a bit too cute with that pass to Desharnais.

- Bourque backhander right off the crossbar. Fraction away from 3-0.

- How 'bout that? Pacioretty with his 23rd of the season (again one Reimer should have had), on the PP no less, and the Leafs 17 PK streak comes to an end. 3-0 is a stranglehold lead. Bring this home, boys.

- Habs offense still bringing it on. Refreshing to see.

- Habs 3 goals on 5 shots this period. But yeah, shot totals aside, they have dominated.

- ELLER. OH. MY. GAWD. That was beautiful. Special mention to Phaneuf who did an excellent pylon impersonation.

- Price compounding Leafs misery. Making tough saves look very easy.

- Air Canada Centre officially a dead zone right now. That was a terrific period for Habs Land.

Third Period:

- Reimer, unsurprisingly, gets pulled. Gustavsson in.

- Beautiful pass by Plekanec to spring Darche, who's been playing out of his mind, for the breakaway. Habs making this a laugher.

- Don't know where this team has been all year, but whatever has happened to turn this team around, it's working for me.

- Leafs had 6 guys on the ice for nearly 10 seconds with the man advantage. Officials sleeping.

- Ain't nothing stoppable getting past Price tonight. He's been terrific the past week - probably his strong three game stretch the whole season.

- Habs smacked around the Leafs pretty good tonight, cashing in on opportunities, and Price was excellent. No way Toronto had a chance.

And now the speculation will commence in Montreal about whether this team can salvage the season. The hill remains steep, but the four consecutive wins were a pretty big step towards getting the club back into thinking about making the post-season. The game on Monday against Carolina will be significant.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Game Fifty-Five: Habs v Isles

SO. WE ARE ON A WINNING STREAK!! Two games, baby! And the lowly Islanders tomorrow night to make it three! Well, let's be fair here, the Isles of today aren't exactly the Isles that we've come to known the past 10 years or so. These guys are sorta, kinda building towards being competitive. They have a *very* good first line, and ... well .. after that it gets a bit murky. But point IS you can't take these guys granted for two points any more.

TIM THOMAS IS HAVING A CRAZY MORNING UPDATE: Okay, I don't want to get into non-hockey issues stuff into the even murkier world of nutty American politics, but Tim Thomas has stuck his neck out again on Facebook today, this time in defense of "Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom."

Anyway, there's nothing particularly scandalous about standing in support of religious expression, or Catholics, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or even for Scientologists. But Thomas also posted a very famous passage on his FB from Marin Niemoller, who was German anti-Nazi theologian.

So what's going on here? Well, there just so happens to be plenty of uproar going on right now among some very conservative folks in opposition to the Obama Administration's enforcement of health care legislation that mandated religious employers to provide birth control to patients and employees.

The jest here being that Thomas is more or less following the same nutty insinuation tactics that Obama is a Nazi-in-disguise by quoting Niemoller. It was Niemoller who fought the Nazi's, and now Thomas is doing the same, see?? We already know that the Tea Party radicals from whom Thomas has expressed commodity with have long made the insinuation that Obama is just another Hitler. So this is just part of that pattern.

So anyway, Thomas is once again expressing some pretty radical views in a very public fashion.

What exactly, he's hoping to gain, we're not sure. Maybe he wants to run for office after he retires? Dunno. But if he continues to wade into these touchy topics, then he'll continue to raise the specter of controversy, and ultimately cause significant distraction upon his current employer and teammates.

Just sayin'.

UPDATE: Deadspin picked up Thomas' posting this afternoon, not really adding much to what I'd written this morning. But his comments are being noticed.

HABS VIDEO GOODNESS: Here's the usual Q&A stuff from morning practice. Enjoy.

Meanwhile, Blunden is probably gone for the season, since there won't be much hockey to be played in Montreal beyond April.

TRADES THAT NEVER HAPPENED: Apparently way back in 2007, the Wings and Devils were very close to finalizing a deal that would have sent Pavel Datsyuk from Detriot to New Jersey in exchange for one [drum roll please] Scott Gomez.

Wow. Sucks to be Jersey. In the end, Gomez ended up signing a monstrous contract with the Rangers, and the rest is history. Too bad that '07 deal didn't happen. Otherwise the pill might not be so bitter over losing this guy.

SPINORAMA SHOOTOUTS: If you read my game blogging from last night, I was in a bit of a tizzy over the spin-o-rama goal scored by Malkin in the shootout, questioning its legality (I mean, com'on, technically the puck and Malkin, if only for a brief moment, stops completely which, if it were a penalty shot, would be ruled illegal). Why the League has two sets of rules for what is essentially the same thing is puzzling. The Habs' site picked up on that a bit more today.

LAME TWEET OF THE DAY: It's not even close. The winner is Brian Burke, Neophyte General Manger of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You hear that people? Toronto it still the CENTRE OF THE HOCKEY UNIVERSE. It's the centre, because of the glorious winning history of the Leafs, the greatest team in the history of teams.

Anyway, Leafs fans can now stop complaining about never being invited to these silly outdoor games. Whatever. It's all passe now. Toronto can have 'em for the rest of eternity. The rest of the hockey world has already moved on.

Oh yeah ... one more thing Brian. You'd better hope the new CBA gets hammered out, or you could be waiting a long time for your little outdoor scrimmage.


REALLY? HAS IT COME TO THIS?!? I guess we shouldn't be suprised, after all, Montreal is the place where Mark Twain once observed "this is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." But since you guys started the ball rolling, has anyone there maybe consulted the Pope about miracles? 'Cause that's what it's gonna take to get this team into a playoff spot.

First Period:

- Well that's a pretty good start. Pacioretty, via a nice little feed up the boards by Cole, catches the Islanders defense napping and beats Nabokov with a nice, albeit stoppable wrister. Pacioretty's 20th of the year.

- Price with eyes on the back of his making two brilliant saves on Okposo. Definitely one of his best this year, keeps the Isles off the board.

- Habs D having some trouble keeping pace with the speedy New York forwards. Price very solid so far.

- OTHO, our defense isn't nearly as slow as the Islanders'. Canadiens are generating quality shots by simply jetting along the wing and firing at will. Nabokov can't stop then all (he's already been beaten).

- Gill probably should have been called for interference playing the body that removed from the puck. Refs are lettin' 'em play.

- And just as I upload that post, Desharnais goes to the box for a hook.

- Pretty even as periods go. Shots were 10/10. Faceoffs 9/9. Blocks 6/6. As they say however, scoreboard is all that matters.

Second Period:

- Islanders with great puck movement on the PP, Price with 3 or 4 gem saves.

- Price simply superb tonight. If I were an Islanders fan the frustration would be mounting.

- Habs very sloppy and sluggish in their own zone. If it wasn't for Carey, Canadiens would certainly be trailing on the scoreboard.

- Kostitsyn with a nice feed to Gomez right in front of Nabokov. Gomez had his stuck way off the ice as the pass drifted harmlessly past. And some are perplexed why Gomez never scores? I'm not.

- Halfway through the second, Habs have one shot on Nabokov.

- That Kaberle/Campoli pairing always leaves me more than a bit nervous.

- Habs very outplayed this period, but Islanders checkers being way too soft on Pacioretty who snaps another past Nabokov (from a better angle) to give Habs a 2-0 lead.

- Bailey can't handle a rebound off of Price. Otherwise he has a wiiiiide open net and all night to snap it in. Bullet dodged.

- Moen and Darche, brlieve it or not, now leading all Habs in icetime tonight. Cunneyworth playing it very close tonight.

- Emelin and Moen combine for a terrible giveaway deep in the zone, but Price is playing out of this world tonight. Islanders can only look up and wonder what it's gonna take to score.

- Gill's days in Montreal are almost certainly numbered. I must admit I'm going to miss watching that lug lumbering around in Habs

- New York with 12 shots so far in the second period, most of then of the tough-save variety.

- Islanders the better team in the 2nd, they battled and worked hard, creating far more scoring chances. Certainly deserved a better fate than being down 2 goals. But so far, this has been Carey Price's night.

Third Period:

- Habs really playing Islanders tight, Price so far pretty much untested through 7 minutes.

- Nabokov doing his part to keep his team still in this game. One more and it's over. Gorges and Kostitsyn just robbed.

- SCOTT GOMEZ. SCOTT GOMEZ. SCOTT GOMEZ. Finally, finally it ends.

- Seriously, Gomez has played a very good game tonight. It's a richly deserved goal, and here's hoping now that the monkey is off his back that a few more goals soon follow after tonight.

- It's very telling how Gomez was swarmed by his teammates after scoring. He's a very popular guy on the team, and I'm guessing his teammates are just as relieved that this long nightmare is over as he is.

- These guys were right on the ball. The site immediately updated:

- Eller with a careless high stick giving Islanders a PP and threatening Price's you-know-what.

- Yup. Poof there it goes. Borderline high stick by Moulson but it'll count.

- Ut oh ...

- Gomez give, Gomez taketh away. And now we have to sweat the last 1:40.

- Hate second-guessing after the fact, but you really want Campoli on the ice at that stage of the game? You sure about that?

- If Islanders tie this, Eller might not want to join the team on the plane ride home.

- Habs hold on. Barely. Just barely. Eller breaths a sigh of relief. So do the rest of us. Streak is now three. If they can win another Saturday night, it's gonna start to get interesting.