Wednesday, 28 December 2011

"Je suis tres content"

The Canadiens dominated the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa last night is the likely the story you read this morning. A quick glance at the score (6-2 Montreal) would agree with the assessment, but had you watched the game the story line unfolded slightly differently. 

Early on, the game was a tale of two goalies, Carey Price at one end and Craig Anderson the other. Ottawa out shot Montreal 13-5 in the first period, yet trailed 2-1 going into the intermission. By the time Anderson was pulled 2:03 into the second he'd allowed 4 goals on 7 shots and the damage was done.

The Canadiens had a much better effort in period 2 as they peppered the Ottawa netminders with 16 shots, however Ottawa matched that effort sending 16 the way of Carey Price as well.

The Canadiens certainly did not dominate the Senators from my vantage point. What they did do is put in a solid effort (particularly in the second and third periods). Much as they did to start against Chicago. The bounces this time were with them so they staked a big lead.

The difference between this game and the one in Chicago is that the Canadiens didn't crumple. There weren't many passengers last night. Perhaps they would have played the same way if Craig Anderson hadn't been so ghastly, perhaps not. We'll see what happens when they take on another team on a skid in Tampa Bay on Thursday.

*****apologies for the abbreviated nature of this entry. I am rather ill with a case of Penumonia. I hope you enjoyed my short entry anyhow******

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Breakdown - breaks down

Where have I been?
I've been sick. Seriously. I've had my notes from HABS/HAWKS and HABS/JETS staring at me for days. I just haven't been able to sit at a computer long enough to type much up.

In short, The Habs deserved a better fate in Chicago. Like in Boston before a couple of errors proved fatal. PK Subban paid the price being a healthy scratch the next night. Deservedly so. While he wasn't the only one making errors, 2 games in a row costly errors by him led to goals. Chris Campoli is likely to be next.

Campoli has at times looked very good, but it seems the bad with him far outweighs the good. Almost like Patrice Brisebois reincarnated. Although, not quite as good a first passer as the Breezer, nor are his mistakes as frequent.

I've been fighting a pretty bad flu the last couple days - and with a scheduled vacation coming up this weekend, I've been resting. Please rest assured however, that "The Breakdown" will not breakdown in my absence  - I have lined up an overly qualified excellent fill-in to recap the games while I am incommunicado.

I'll leave the official announcement on the interim replacement for a few days yet, and look forward to having something new up tomorrow.

I also noticed that over the last few days, "The Breakdown" has surpassed 1000 article reads. I am humbled and grateful for the overwhelming support readers have given this blog. I look forward to your comments, and am glad to have all of you aboard!

I've been away from the sports radio machine of TSN 990 the last few days, but continue to hear excellent things about "The Kaufman Show" (late Monday Nights) "The Midnight Snack" (late Thurs Nights) and Conor Mckenna's fill-in work for Mitch Melnick on "Melnick in the afternoon".

Enjoy holiday time. Enjoy your families...and hopefully enjoy the Habs games.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Boston Brewin - Quick Hits

The second game into the Randy Cunneyworth era of the Montreal Canadiens. Anyone else notice how much better the 4th line is playing since they're playing more minutes?

Michael Blunden played 11:43 seconds in the loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday night. While he was a -1, he and his line-mates had great nights. They were working hard, digging in corners, hard on fore-checks, there were the Canadiens best line during the game.

PK Subban while trying to avoid being hit tried to send a fancy pass away with 17:18 to go in the second. His pass missed it's mark being picked up by Andrew Ference who broke a 1-1 tie.

With 5:37 to go in the 3rd, Travis Moen tried to be fancy on a chip out at the Blue line and gave the puck away to Boston's Marchand who scored to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

The Canadiens worked hard all night. They looked like a motivated bunch. They lost to a better team. The game had a pretty plodding pace, with both teams trapping. The Bruins took advantage of costly mistakes to win the hockey game.

Je parle Franglais

I hate commenting on this, but it's a story that won't go away. I will comment here in a short post, and this is all I will say on the matter.

Should the Coach of the Montreal Canadiens be able to speak French? Yes. Should the Canadiens limit themselves to only hiring a French Quebecois Coach? No. When searching for a Head Coach, The Montreal Canadiens should hire the best available candidate. If the best candidate happens to be a French Quebecois - great! If not - it should be understood that the new hire will make an effort to learn French.

In the case of Randy Cunneyworth this is made very difficult by the fact that he is being thrown to the wolves mid-season. The organization has made it clear that Randy Cunneyworth is an "Interim Coach". That tag alone basically says he needs to focus on winning. So please, settle down and let him do that.

Randy Cunneyworth is not my number one choice to Coach this team. However, he comes with excellent credentials. He has won a Calder Cup. He has won an American Hockey League Coach of the year award. He's been a Head Coach in the AHL for 9 seasons (8 with Buffalo, 1 with Montreal). He's been an assistant Coach in the NHL for parts of 3 seasons. That is an excellent resume. If I was running an organization - like the Canadiens - a resume like that of Randy Cunneyworth is one I would seriously look at.

When it comes to the X's and O's of hockey, Randy Cunneyworth is a disciple of Jacques Martin. He will Coach the same system - or one very close to it. Where Randy and Jacques differ however is in their communication to players during games and their utilization of players during the game.

Randy Cunneyworth does not have the same experience coaching at the NHL level as Jacques Martin, but he deserves his shot. He has earned a chance to be an NHL Coach. He is NOT another Mario Tremblay coming in totally green.

Give him a chance to coach - he can - and should start taking French lessons in the off-season.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Not the Same

It was a whirlwind day in Montreal. Jacques Martin was relieved of his coaching duties. New Habs Head Coach Randy Cunnyworth was introduced. The Coach was immediately asked when he will learn French. Hab fans panicked, a game was played, and the Canadiens blew it in the 3rd period. Plus que ca change...

Kelly Hrudey and PJ Stock had differing takes on the CBC broadcast. Hrudey referred to Jacques Martin as a "terrific teacher", "so stoic" and yet felt that sometimes a coach needs to show emotion. PJ Stock felt the firing of Jacques Martin was a "General Manager trying desperately to protect his job". New Head Coach Randy Cunneyworth said the Habs "lost a good man" in outgoing Coach Jacques Martin and that he took over the reigns of the team with "mixed emotions".

The Bell Centre seemed to have a renewed energy to start the game. It was much louder than at any point this season for the opening faceoff. The Canadiens had jump in their step to open the game, particularly Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec. At 3:42 of the first they gained the zone with PK Subban who would miss the net high blocker side. The good energy however wouldn't last long.

At 4:50 Alexei Emelin would be called for tripping on an excellent defensive slide play. The Canadiens would kill of the Penalty but would be held in their own half of the rink until 11:26 of the first when Andrei Kostitsyn would manage their first shot on Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Two Minutes later Max Pacioretty would fan on a one-time pass from Tomas Plekanec as part of a 3 on 2 rush.

Peter Sykora would open the scoring of the game at 7:05 after some excellent work by Adam Henrique to screen Carey Price.

With Erik Cole off for interference, Peteri Nokaleinen would get a short-handed breakaway, but his backhander sailed wide of the net. 3 seconds after exiting the box, Erik Cole would be called for Checking to the head. The play reminds me much of the Ryan Malone/Chris Campoli play in the pre-season and I will be surprised if there will be any supplementary discipline. (Although Kevin Weekes on the CBC broadcast felt there might). Carey Price would stand stall to keep the Canadiens trailing by one heading to the intermission.

One minute into the second period, New Jersey's Fayne would be called for interference, and The Canadiens would get their first power play of the day. Excellent Motion could be seen to start the man advantage for Montreal leading directly to Anton Volchenkov's cross checking penalty.

Montreal's PK Subban would score on the ensuing 5 on 3, with Tomas Kaberle picking up his 5th point in 4 games for Montreal. Erik Cole worked hard in front of Brodeur allowing the Subban rifle to get through traffic. The Power Play of course would continue as a 5 on 4. Yanick Weber would do some good work keeping pucks in at the blue line, but the Habs would fail to twice capitalize.

At 5:05 of the second, New Jersey would regain their one goal lead as Patrick Elias would score his 12th of the season. The line of Elias, Sykora and Zubrus would prove to be a thorn in the Canadiens side for much of the night. Twenty seconds after the Elias goal Sykora and Zajac would both be robbed by Carey price.

Mike Blunden would take on Erik Cole's duties from the first goal to screen Brodeur while Hal Gill would do some great work on the boards setting up Chris Campoli's first goal as a Hab at 6:33.

The Canadiens would prove to be in control for much of the second period. Lars Eller would notch his 3rd of the season at 8:57 off a good counter-attack. This Time Mathieu Darche would be screening Brodeur. Darche had his 4th solid game in a row for Montreal, en route to almost 20 minutes of ice time.

With the second winding down, Adam Larssen would make a quick transition pass to Dave Clarkson who would beat Carey Price with a great shot (while holding off Hal Gill) for his 11th of the season.

The third period would be a snoozer. The Canadiens would do nothing of note except hang back in their own end while the Devils attacked. The home crowd was reigning boos all over the Canadiens.

The Habs would have a brutal Power Play at 4:14 where they would manage no chances or shots. They would be booed much the rest of the way.

Pierre Gauthier talked about "inconsistency" being a primary reason behind Jacques Martin being dismissed - however the 3rd period flatness has been consistent for awhile. After such a strong 2nd period, the 3rd period proved the Habs continue to be "consistently inconsistent".

The Habs now head out on their annual Christmas road trip, and one can hope Randy Cunneyworth will instill his style - and it gets results - over the trip, or the GM's head may be the next to roll.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Randy Cunneyworth "The Capital Killer" named Habs Head Coach

Jacques Martin has been fired by the Montreal Canadiens.

This morning, there must be a chorus of anger around the city of Montreal as many fans loved the coach and his "entertaining style" of play. The Coach was known for often offering up excellent quips in post game scrums, never repeating the same quotes twice. He always made excellent decisions that were never criticized. All the veterans were playing well, the young players were developing, the team was winning. No wait, those are qualities of a coach who keeps his job.

June 1, 2009 Jacques Martin - then the General Manager of the Florida Panthers was hired to become the Coach of the Montreal Canadiens. In slightly more than 2 seasons led the Canadiens to 96-75-25 (.554 winning %). Under Martin, the Canadiens made the playoffs twice - getting to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010 and taking the eventual Stanley Cup champions to a game 7 overtime in 2011. So, where did it all go wrong?

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote an article titled "Troubling Sings" after a miserable performance in Anaheim. The Canadiens came back and looked good in San Jose the next day, in my opinion saving their coach his job. They also looked terrible in Philadelphia and worse at home against Columbus. Three terrible performances in a short time span.

There have been very questionable decisions this season. Erik Cole - a prized free agent acquisition -  was playing 8 minutes a game to start the season including no minutes on the power play. Fourth Line fringe NHLer Mathieu Darche was instead seeing the PP ice time.When Coach Martin was asked about it in a post-game media scrum by TSN 990's Jessica Rusnak, his response was that if one did their "research" they would see that Erik Cole had scored only 3 power play goals last season and that Mathieu Darche was doing a good job in front of the net. In the few weeks since, Perry Pearn (the Assistant Coach who ran the power play) was fired, Erik Cole was given Power Play time, and now leads the team in PP goals scored.

Louie Leblanc scored his first NHl goal the other night, the crowd exploded, and Louie was rewarded with 1 more shift of 49 seconds, even though there was 26+ minutes left in the game.

Mike Cammalleri has been visibly moping for weeks, he hasn't been scoring, and yet he has stayed on the Power Play and the top line.

The team, described by most other teams as one of the quickest in the league doesn't use their speed unless they have the puck.

To me, Jacques Martin actually did a good job here. The team this season has lost 150+ man-games to injury to key players, and yet they have held their heads above water. The fact remains the Jacques Martin "Passive resistance" style of play didn't suit this team.

Randy Cunneyworth has been named the new interim head coach, through seasons end. I find this interesting. To me, it signals that General Manager Pierre Gauthier is also on thin ice.


Randy Cunneyworth could be an excellent choice, and he could very well be the next permanent head coach of the team (providing he learns some work-able French), but the interim tag is important. It protects the organization if they fire the GM in that a the new GM could bring in his guy. It protects them if the team does well enough to keep Mr.Gauthier employed, but chooses not to keep Mr.Cunneyworth as head coach - for any reason.

I have a list in my head as to whom I think the next head coach of the Canadiens will be if Pierre Gauthier is the General Manager, and who it could be if he isn't. However, at this time I think it's prudent to, like the Canadiens, give Randy Cunneyworth his fair shake.

This will be Randy Cunneyworth's first NHL head coaching job. He spent two full seasons as an Assistant Coach for the Atlanta Thrashers. He coached the Canadiens' AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs last season to a 44-27-9 record, and he spent 8 seasons as head coach of AHL Rochester Americans (306-267-67).

Randy Cunneyworth also played 866 NHL regular season games and 45 Playoff games. He served as Captain of the Ottawa Senators for three seasons.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Moves like Jagr

Unrestricted free agent to be Matt Carle played a solid defensive game in Montreal, but on the scoresheet he could be mistaken for Jaromir Jagr (circa '96) with a +2 and 3 assists on the night.

Where is Mike Cammalleri? I saw someone that kinda looked like him in the Canadiens uniform last night, but he wasn't scoring any goals - even on a three minute 5 on 3 so it couldn't be him, could it?

I was half tempted to re-post a write-up I wrote on a Habs/Flyers game from a couple of weeks back as even though the score was different, the script was the same.

The Flyers were starting their backup goalie, without two of their best players, on the road, and yet for much of the first period, the Canadiens were stuck in their own end.  The Habs started out attacking on the first 3 or 4 shifts, but wouldn't get anywhere near Sergei Bobrovsky again until a prolonged 5 on 3. The Habs had a myriad of chances on the 5 on 3, but couldn't score.

The Power Play addition of Tomas Kaberle still seems to be a work in progress. It looks MUCH better than it did before his arrival, but a 1/9 performance is pretty disastrous. Kaberle, though, picked up his 4th assist in 3 games.

Mathieu Darche played his 3rd strong game in a row for Montreal. He was a -2 on the night, but did a good job on the PK, and was able to open space in front of Bobrovsky for scoring chances.

Sergei Bobrovsky pushed his career record against Montreal to 4-1, stopping 28/31 including a Tomas Plekanec breakaway, and when the Canadiens had a 2-man advantage.

Jaromir Jagr only picked up an assist on the night (his 2nd point against Montreal in 2 meetings this season) but he looked dangerous all night. On the Power Play especially, he was setting up plays and getting passes through traffic that most players don't attempt.

13:34 into the 2nd period. Louie Leblanc will savor that for awhile. His first NHL goal. Mike Blunden and PK Subban were credited with assists, but much of the grunt work was done by Yannik Weber. All players (aside from Subban) who played under 6 minutes last night. Weber held the puck in at the wall before kicking it to Subban. Subban let go a shot that Blunden guided to Leblanc who stuffed it into a gaping cage before the crowd exploded. I wish the coach would explain to me however, why after the scoring the goal, Leblanc would see only 1 shift of 49 seconds in the final 26:26 of the hockey game. Does that make sense to anyone? He just scored his first NHL goal, he's pumped, the crowd is pumped, let's bench him.

Alexei Emelin again did not look strong on the right side. Why put him in a position to fail? Seems like the coach likes picking on rookies, or "young players" as he likes to call them. Emelin is learning a new language, a new city, new rink dimensions, a new system, and the coach wants him to play out of position and succeed - or not play. Help the kid out coach, put Kaberle on his off-side.

Erik Cole was again the Canadiens best forward. Showing grit and Hustle every shift. He scored his team leading 12th goal of the season. His linemates (Desharnais and Pacioretty) weren't too shabby either. TSN Analyst Ray Ferraro called the Desharnais-Cole-Pacioretty line "dominant" and "Montreal's best since they've been put together".  Why don't the get power-play time as a unit? Lars Eller saw 10 seconds of PP action. Why not reward the kid? Bound to be better than the "top line". Plekanec has 1 goal in his last 10 and Mike Cammalleri is looking for his first PP goal of the season.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Pye in the Sky

As I'm still really new to this arena of blogging, I'm learning and noticing new things every day. Readers notice every mistake (yesterday I accidentally referred to Islanders Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov as Ilya Bryzgalov - oops). Readers come from lots of different places, as there really are hockey fans worldwide. I take ALOT of notes on a game (4-6 pages handwritten generally) and much of the notes doesn't end up in the game story. Watching a game live at the area is hugely different than watching it on TV.

Last night, I had the privilege of  visiting the Bell Centre for the 5th time this season. (For those of you who are superstitious, they are 3-1-1 when I visit). Watching a game from on high makes it much simpler to see how the team is working as a unit, what's the exact structure? Where are the breakdowns?

I tend to notice from the rafter seats really how especially with this Canadiens team scoring chances for and against really do come off of mistakes. Most interestingly, I can see how much of a "team game" it is as opposed to seeing individual performances. Sitting so far away makes it much more difficult to focus on "little things" in specific players performances - unless they really stand out.

Erik Cole was once again the best forward on the ice. Andrei Kostitsyn was still the best player on his line. Lars Eller is going to be something really special when he blossoms. The Canadiens are built to play 7 defensemen regularly - and based on play of late Yannik Weber isn't one of them. Why was Louie Leblanc's ice time drastically cut after Moen left the game? Whatever happened to Mike Cammalleri? Can we stop ragging on Pierre Gauthier? - Every move he has made this season has turned out well to date. (Kaberle, Cole, Emelin, Diaz, Nokelainen, Campoli). Matt Moulson can really play! Al Montoya would love to have at least 2 Habs goals back.

Those are the things I noticed last night. This evening, I will be watching the broadcast of last nights game and taking my usual detailed notes. Expect a full breakdown later tonight, or tomorrow morning. In the meantime, thank you for reading and feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Snapshot Preview: Habs vs Islanders - December 13th 2011

Montreal Canadiens (12-11-7) vs New York Islanders (9-12-6)
Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST

The last time these two teams met, Rick DiPietro came on in relief of an injured Evgeni Nabokov and the Islanders edged out Montreal 4-3.

The Islanders would score all 4 of their goals in the 2nd period from 4 different scorers and Dipitro made 24 saves.

Al Montoya looks to begetting his first career start vs Montreal, while Carey Price looks to improve upon his 2-1-2 3.15 GAA, .886 sv% vs them.

Newest Hab Thomas Kaberle picked up 2 assists in the victory over Carolina, and had the Power Play looking like a power play. He has done fairly well vs The Islanders in his career raking up 5 goals and 25 assists against them in 44 games.

The Islanders lost 6-3 to Pittsburgh in their last game - a game which they led 3-2 until Travis Harmonic was ejected for a hit on Brooks Orpik - that both teams didn't think was a penalty. The Isles will be trying for their 4th straight victory over the Habs tonight.

The Canadiens will play the next 3 at home before heading off on their annual Christmas sojourn of 6 games over 12 days.

Chris Campoli has been given the green light from Doctor's to play, but yesterday he was practicing as a 7th defenseman so it will be interesting to see if he finally gets into the lineup tonight.

Scott Gomez practiced for Montreal yesterday, but was physically unable to complete practice, so he doesn't seem close to playing. Brian Gionta is out for at least a week with an undisclosed injury.

Jay Pandolfo broke his foot on Nov.28, while Andrew McDonald broke his leg on Dec.2 - neither will play tonight. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov came off the IR for The Islanders, but will not dress tonight.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Habs eat, sleep, and poop too!

Seeing any Habs players in public can be very exciting for a lot of fans.
I haven't spoken to any of them, so I am speaking as someone who has seen them in public, and is thinking - "man, that must get annoying".

Recently, I was at a restaurant for a birthday party and a group of 5 Habs players walked in. They had some women with them. (Wives/Girlfriends/friends, no idea. not going to speculate). There happened to be multiple birthdays going on at the restaurant that evening (including one of the females in the Habs' group). When cakes were brought out to each table one by one people would sing "Happy Birthday" and by the 2nd or 3rd table most everyone - including the Habs' table - were singing along. It was very cute.

That was all fine and dandy, until people started getting up and going over to the Habs' table and asking them to take photos. The players were nice enough to oblige, but restaurant management stepped in and put an end to it.

I didn't get up from my seat. I was actually annoyed on their behalf. I understand they are celebrities in this town, and I understand people are excited, but have some common etiquette. They are out with friends, I am sure they don't want to be bothered while they are eating. They know that your eyes are following them as they cross the room to go to the washroom. (Yes, they are human beings, they too have to take a whiz every now and again).

After the bill is paid, if they are getting up to leave it's completely appropriate to shake their hand, tell them they had a good game, or ask for a picture - but at a dinner table, in the washroom, during a movie - leave them alone, the same way you'd like to be left alone. Wait for the right time, and I am sure they will be more than happy to oblige a short request. Have bad timing, and the story you tell forever is likely to be about how "Player A" was a jerk.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


PJ stock opened up the CBC broadcast calling the Canadiens acquisition of Tomas Kaberle a "deperation move" and a "band-aid solution." Analyst Glenn Healy and Host Ron Mclean countered that with 2 years remaining on Kaberle's contract it wasn't a band-aid solution.

Jaroslav Spacek played 17:09, had 2 assists and was a +1 in his Hurricanes debut so after less than 24 hours the jury on the trade wasn't out in Montreal, rabid angry fans were.

Afternoon games are a funny thing for hockey players. Their routine gets all mucked up, and they are on the ice playing a game at their normal practice time. The games are usually sluggish mistake filled affairs - and the crowd skews younger and less animated. This afternoon was no different.

The first 15 minutes of the game were pretty sleepy. There were lots of giveaways on both sides, not too many scoring chances, and a lot of neutral zone ping pong. The crowd looked sparser than the announced 14,210 - and seemed pretty quiet. Whatever noise did come from them seemed decidedly pro-Montreal.

After 13:33, the shots were 11-4 favouring New Jersey, but there were no scoring chances of significance. A few seconds later, the Canadiens new Power Play would get their first chance to go to work.

The Power Play would be an abbreviated one as PK Subban would go of for tripping 1:20 into it. However there was a marked improvement over recent games on the PP. Kaberle played the right point, with Subban moving over to left. Subban was the shooter, Kaberle the QB. The Canadiens gained the zone with relative ease, made some crisp passes, it actually looked like a power play. The gaining of the zone is where Kaberle should be of immense help.

After 40 seconds of 4 on 4 play, the Canadiens would successfully kill of the penalty to Subban before again heading to the Power play with 1:30 to go in the opening frame. This power play looked even kore dangerous than the first. The penalty would come to a close with the score knotted at zeroes, and the shots 13-9 favouring NJD.

With only six seconds to go on their second PP attempt, the Habs would catch another break :24 seconds into the second when New Jersey's Adam Henrique would be called for delay of game (for flipping a puck over the glass). This time, the Habs PP would not fail. 1:13 into the period new acquisition Tomas Kaberle would slow the play down at the offensive blue line backing off the New Jersey defenders. He'd wind a pass to Erik Cole who'd hand it to Pacioretty who scored his 11th of the season with a rocket past Martin Brodeur.

A minute later Ilya Kovalchuk would be called for boarding resulting in the Canadiens 4th PP of the game. They would manage only 1 shot on the Power Play, but again the zone entry and the puck movement were much improved.

Raphael Diaz would be called for hooking at 7:15, the Devils didn't muster much and the Canadiens PK did their usual excellent job of killing the penalty. The rest of the period was pretty uneventful with the Canadiens playing perfect Jacques Martin road hockey and putting the Devils to sleep. At period's end, the shots were 22-15 favouring New Jersey.

Early in the 3rd, Petr Sykora seemed to be the only lively devil with a scoring chance on Price - that the Habs net minder made look like an easy stop. On the ensuing play, the Habs Cole would get a chance on which Mattias Tedenby would slash him, giving the habs a fifth chance with the man advantage.

This power play, unfortunately would look pretty disorganized the full length. The penalty would expire but Mathieu Darche (on a rare shift with Erik Cole and David Desharnais) would do some excellent work in the front of the net. Kaberle sent a shot a Brodeur, Darche (screening the Goalie) would sent it over Brodeur's pads where a waiting Erik Cole would give the puck a love tap for his 10th of the season.

Once they were staked to a 2-0 lead, the Candiens went back into their road trap and tried to kill the clock. It was working well, with the Devils content to be sleeping their way to a loss, until a broken pane of glass caused them to awake. The long delay to put in new glass was the change in momentum Devils Coach Pete Deboer was looking for.

With 6:26 to go in the final frame, Carey Price would make his only mistake of the hockey game by mishandling a puck and turning it over to the Devils. New Jersey would get a good cycle going off tremendous work from Petr Sykora and Nick Palmierei would score his 4th of the season.cutting the lead in half.

Max Pacioretty would get a chance in front of Brodeur with 3:40 to go in the game, but Brodeur would show he is still equal to the task of stopping big shooters by stoning Pacioretty in front, keeping it a 21 hockey game.

With 1:55 to go in the game, Raphael Diaz would be called for roughing giving the Devils a glorious opportunity to send the game to Overtime. Brodeur would be pulled shortly after giving the Devils a 6-4 advantage during which Josh Gorges would be called for covering the puck in the crease awarding Zach Parise a penalty shot. Price was again equal to the task.

The Devils would scramble around the net for the remaining 47 seconds, but the Canadiens would hang on for the 2-1 victory.

In my article on the Tomas Kaberle trade, one of the things I talked about for the trade to be a success would be the usage of Kaberle. I talked about Kaberle being brought in not as a penalty killer, not as number 1 defensive option, but as a power play specialist. One game does not a season make, but that is exactly how Kaberle was used in the game. He had the fewest even strength minutes (11:10)  of any Canadiens defender, didn't play a single shift on the Penalty Kill, and led all Habs in Power Play ice time with 6:23. The first impressions are good, but we'll see how it works after a few more games. I wrote that if Kaberle can put up 25-35 points over the rest of the season the trade will look good, with 2 yesterday, Kaberle's well on his way.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Kaberle thoughts and effects on the Cap for '12-'13

If you somehow have been living under a rock, the Canadiens today acquired Tomas Kaberle from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Of course, fans in Montreal are up in arms. "He was terrible in Boston" they'll tell you, "...and worse so far in Carolina". The stats would help the Fans' case in these matters (53gp, 1g, 17a -6). Not exactly awe inspiring numbers.

Is it a move of desperation? some will tell you emphatically "YES". I would happen to agree, but for different reasons.There is inherent risk in taking on a player at 33 years of age who's last 53 games haven't exactly been awe-inspiring - but I believe it's a calculated risk.

Kaberle is 33 years old, he'll be 35 when his contract runs out. (Younger than Spacek is now). He had 38 points in 58 games with Toronto last season (22 on the power play). His cap hit for this season is $416,667 more than that of Spacek. 47 pts per season has been the average for Kaberle (which was his exact total with TOR/BOS last season). In my estimation, he cannot hurt - especially on the Power Play.

Kaberle is soft is something that often comes up. I haven't seen him enough to judge, but he's being brought in to Montreal specifically to help with the Power-Play. He's not being brought in to be a number 1 defensive option. I doubt we'll see him kill penalties. If he helps the power-play at all this has to be considered a good move. There are 53 games left in the season.I believe if Kaberle puts up 25-35pts in that span, then he's a good pickup.On his career average pace, he should get around 30pts in the remaining games.

So we've discussed this year, the bigger issue is the future. What does adding 2 more years at a $4,250,000 cap hit mean for the Montreal Canadiens? It's hard to be certain since the CBA is about to expire, but for the purpose of this exercise we'll have to assume the new CBA will look similar to the current one, and we'll keep the Salary Cap at the exact same $65,878,843 that it's currently at. We'll also be looking at a 30 man roster for this excercise, so the numbers won't be exact since players will move up and down from Hamilton.

For the 2012-2013 season, the Canadiens have 12 players under contract at a total cap hit of: $43,502,143. That leaves them with $22,376,700 to sign the 10 current RFA's and 6 UFA's on their roster.

When it comes to the RFA's the team is only required to offer a Qualifying offer to lock their rights up. A player can hold out for more money, but it's unlikely. We'll start from the net out. Carey Price is making over 1 million dollars, so he only needs to be offered the same salary - so 2,750,000 it is. Alexei Emelin, PK Subban, and Rafael Diaz are all in the same boat, they need to be offered 105% of their current salary - meaning $1,033,410 for Emelin, $918,750 for Subban and $945,000 for Diaz. Frederic St-Denis would need an increase to 110% so he'd be at $665,500.

Moving on to the RFA forwards, Petteri Nokelainen, Ryan White, Aaron Palushaj, Andreas Engqvist and Lars Eller need Qualifying offers. Eller, like Price need only be offered his current salary - $1,270,833.
Engqvist and Palushaj are in the 105% bracket so $945,000 and $927,500 respectively. White and Nokelainen need 110% so $687,500 and $605,000 respectively.

Ok. so now we've re-signed all 10 of our current RFA's.  We've got 22 players under contract for 2012-2013 at a cap hit of $54,250,636. Leaving $11,628,207 for Unrestricted free agent signings. 

The Canadiens have 6 impending unrestricted free agents. Some will be back, some won't. Some will get huge raises, some will get pay decreases. The 6 free agents to be are:  Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche, Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn.

With Markov, Kaberle, Emelin, Diaz, Subban, Weber and St-Denis under contract, I can't see the Canadiens signing all three UFA defense men. In my estimation, Campoli will be the odd-man out. Hal Gill due to age will take a pay cut and Josh Gorges will get a raise. Let's be generous and say Gorges doubles his salary, and Gill takes 75% of his. We'd be looking at cap hits of $5,000,000 and $1,687,500.

For the three forwards, Moen, Darche and Kostitsyn: I can't see Darche back in any way. I think putting Kostitsyn and Moen in the same generous categories as Gill and Gorges is fair for the sake of the exercise. Using that formula Kostitsyn would be back at a cap hit of: $6,500,000 and Moen at $1,125,000.

So now we've re-signed all our RFA's and kept 4 of 6 UFA's for a total cap hit of: $68,563,136 which puts us $2,684,293 over the cap. The cap generally has been going up and realistically Kostitsyn is not getting 6.5mill and Gorges isn't getting 5mill. The point being it can be done, everyone can be signed. Relax.

The long exercise serves to show that it can all be done, fans can't worry about the cap hit, what fans need to do is sit back, relax, and see if Kaberle helps the anemic power play. Give him a few games, see how it goes. The more I think about it, the more I'm optimistic that it just might work out.... 

Cap Geek:

Consistently Inconsistent

The Habs lost to Vancouver at home for the first time in nearly 5 years. Frederic St.Denis scored his 1st NHL goal and looked solid defensively - likely further alienating Yannik Weber. Brian Gionta left the game 7:30 into the 3rd period and never returned. The Canadiens put in a good effort against a strong opponent, and yet many troubling signs are still present.

Jaques Martin's keys to the game were like listening to a broken record. "To contain the Sedin's, we'll need to play in units of 5 and maintain good back pressure". "We have some injuries right now (146 man games lost thus far) and they key is to stay in the middle of the pack, 2-3 games below a playoff spot until we can get healthy." So, basically the plan here is again play defense and not lose.

I think tonight in an effort to show confidence in some younger players and to free up certain players offensively, the most difficult defensive assignment of the night went to an unexpected trio. Lars Eller, Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn were asked to keep the Sedins in check - while Thomas Plekanec's line was freed from checking duties.

The Eller line to me was the Habs best on this night. Erik Cole had yet another excellent game, but to me Andrei Kostitsyn was the best Habs forward. His line was asked to keep the Sedin twins in check and somehow AK46 was getting or creating scoring chances on nearly every shift - with whomever his linemates were. I think the coach noticed too. When Gionta left the game, Leblanc took ak46's spot with Eller/Moen while Andrei played in Gionta's spot on the top line AND with Nokaleinen/Darche on the 4th line.

The Power play is embarrassing. With the Habs up 3-0 1 good power play out of the first 2 may have sealed the deal, but not such luck.While on their first two PP's, I felt the habs moved the puck around in the zone MUCH better than they have recently - they only managed 3 total shots. The third PP was one of the worst yet - and that's saying something. On all 3 they have no entry plan. As TSN regional analyst (and former Hab) Mike Johnson correctly pointed out - the Habs PP looks like they're "playing" not implementing. Generally when the PP is practiced players are looking to fulfill set plays on the ice, Habs PP looks like a bunch of guys noodling around without communicating.  At 11:21 of the second period, Mason Raymond made matters worse by scoring a short-handed goal against Montreal. Habs are 2nd worst in the league in that category having given up 5 goals (and scoring only 10) while on the PP this season.

The Penalty Kill continues to be ELITE. Hal Gill is a big reason why, but the unit as a whole get in lanes, block shots and generally limit scoring chances. Vancouver did score 1 PP goal (after Lars Eller took a terrible offensive Zone penalty with 5:13 to play in the 3rd and Habs up by 1) but the HABS killed off a 90-second 5-on-3 advantage by the best PP team in the league. "Salo has a bomb" TSN Analyst Mike Johnson said on VAN's 1st PP. "I was one of many who was afraid of it when I played" he would be prophetic as Sami Salo would score VAN's only PP goal.

The faceoffs are pathetic. 2 VAN goals came off set plays resultant from faceoffs lost by the habs. Nokaleinen has helped, and Eller's getting better, but this team needs more than that. Think Metropolit could help here? Halpern? Even Joe Juneau for fuck's sakes! The faceoff issue is on the General Manager more than the coach - DEAL WITH IT. Gomez coming back certainly won't help in this area.

The Habs first 2 goals were both brought on from hard work. On the first goal, Thomas Plekanec is jostling with Kevin Bieksa for positioning in front of the net, while screening goalie Roberto Luongo allowing St-Denis' shot to make it into the cage.

The second goal was much the same, with Erik Cole screening Luongo for Rafael Diaz.(Kostitsyn did a similar job in LA, so the Hab players are going to dirty areas).

Team was again blocking shots and going to dirty areas (as they did in LA and SJ) so it's hard to say they've quit on the Coach - although the fact that they only get up for good opponents looks to me like they're playing for each other more than the coach - especially the vets. It's very troubling to me that the best skaters on most nights are the Young guys (81-71-74-61) guys playing for a contract (46-26) new guys to the team (72-15) and Price. The rest have been WAY.TOO.INCONSISTENT.

Roberto Luongo was brutal on the Erik Cole goal, but he shut the door after that. He stoned Cammalleri and Gionta multiple times, was perfect in the shootout, and did what elite goalies do, game his team a chance to come back in the game.

Carey Price was stellar at times, but continues to have shootout difficulties this season. He only gave up 1 goal in the SO, but it dropped his season record to 1-5.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Over the last 24 hours or so the Twitter hash tag #emelinboom has started to appear. What does it mean? Regular listeners of Randy Tieman's show (appropriately titled "The Tieman Show) on TSN 990 in Montreal will be well aware it's an attempt to start a new cheer at Habs games for Alexei Emelin. I'm very conflicted on it.

I'm a big big supporter of Alexei Emelin and the elements he brings to the Canadiens, which are sorely missed in the lineup. I've been a proponent much throughout the season that this young man needs to play more often.He's a good skater, smart in his own end, doesn't take penalty minutes, and most importantly adds a physical dimension - a CLEAN physical dimension that is sorely lacking from the Canadiens game.

Those who follow my Twitter feed (@hermy11) or this Blog will know I'm not "Monday morning quarterbacking" this. I've been high on Emelin for a long while.

Nov. 9
@Hermy11:  61 et 68 sont similaire, et moi je remplace 61 avec emelin
@GagnonFrancois Emelin n'a pas les aptitudes de Diaz avec la rondelle. Loin de là... 
@maxemrock  Et Diaz n'a pas les épaules de Emelin... loin de là ! Deux gars différents, quels sont les besoins du CH ?
@Hermy11: @GagnonFrancois c'est vrai, mais, emelin ajoute une robustesse a la defense qui manque. With all due respect a josh gorges
@Hermy11: @maxemrock  j'ai pas comparer diaz avec emelin. J'ai dit que 61 et 68 sont la meme genre de jouer.

On Tuesday, against Columbus, Emelin threw a trademark open ice hit on Antoine Vermette. The crowd cheered and, as TSN 990's Sean Campbell pointed out, seemed to want to chant for Emelin.

On Wednesday, Campbell put it out over the air to TSN 990 listeners that they should help come up with a nickname for Emelin that the Bell Centre crowd could chant after a big hit. Callers called in with suggestions like "The Yammer" "Yemmy" and even "Drago" (a Rocky IV reference). All the names were hits to varying degrees, but none more so than when a caller - Mark (from Ottawa) - called in and suggested fans at the Bell Centre just yell "BOOM" in unison after each leveling Emelin hit. reporter Arpon Basu next appeared on "The Tieman Show" and talked about "how cool" it would sound if 21,000+ at the Bell Centre chanted "BOOM" after every hit. I agree, it would be cool. Tieman and Campbell immediately following the show jumped on their Twitter accounts and started to spread the word.

"imagine when (emelin) makes a big hit if everyone in the bell centre. 21 thousand plus went BOOM.. pass the word. count one second then BOOM" was the initial tweet from Randy Tieman. Campbell and others would re-tweet it adding in the hash tag "#emelinboom" to get it trending. it worked. Habfans all around seemed to like it and kept passing along the message.

Heading into tonight's tilt VS the Vancouver Canucks, Tieman (@Sportsstache) reminded fans via his Twitter account to get the chant going. "#emelinboom Don't forget if going to game. 1 second. boom." Honestly, the idea sounds like a whole lot of fun, and it will sound really really cool at the Bell Centre if it takes off, but I'm worried for the kid.

Emelin is on an island with the Montreal Canadiens. He is the only Hab who consistently uses his body. As Tony Marinaro pointed out on his show ("The Montreal Forum") eventually someone will challenge Emelin if the hits keep coming. The challenge will likely only be expedited if the crowd starts pumping his tires. Emelin is a big boy who has mastered the art of hitting, but he has vowed never to fight again. There is noone on the Habs current roster to protect him if someone challenges him, and I worry what will happen if young Alexei Emelin needs to defend himself.

Do we need another Mike Komisarek? While in Montreal Komisarek was a wrecking ball - until he got challenged by Boston's Milan Lucic. Lucic beat down Komisarek and he has never again been the same player.The last time Emelin got in a hockey fight he ended up with a broken orbital bone. The Canadiens can't afford to lose another defense man to injury, let alone their only physical one.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Boredom at the Bell

I have a new respect for sports reporters. I don't know how they do it, sometimes. 3 of the last 5 Habs games have been 3 of the worst hockey games I have ever seen. During two of them I have fallen asleep, and had to rewind the PVR. During the Anaheim game I blamed it on the 10pm start time - last night I didn't have that excuse. Watching the game last night

4:38 into the game RDS play by play man Pierre Houde commented that he hated to sound like a broken record, but that the Habs "look like a team coming off a long road trip". There's an adjective to sum that up in one word - listless.

Was Pacioretty still suspended? he looked like it. I noticed him once the whole night.

Unlike Pierre Houde, I don't quite mind sounding like a broken record yet. Carey price, Lars Eller, Erik Cole, David Desharnais, Andrei Kostitsyn, Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin. I noticed them for positive reasons. I've consistently been noticing them for positive reasons. The more I think about it they're all new to the team or playing for a contract so they all have reasons to be motivated every night. Where's the rest of the team?

I noticed Mike Cammallerri last night for positive reasons too, but Pacioretty being completely invisible makes me wonder if the line mates had something to do with it.

Andrei Kostitsyn it should be noted played his 3rd strong game in 4 outings since returning. He picked up his 4th point in that span by burying his 8th of the season.

I felt like in LA and San Jose the the Canadiens players played well enough to save the coach his job - but this can't go on for a whole season. Win a couple, lose a couple, win a couple, lose a couple. Before the team knows it - it will be too late.

Andrei Markov is "at least" another month away - and who knows if that will be accurate. I understand he's working hard, but I think what a lot of people don't get is he's undergone major major surgery. James Wisniewski also had three surgeries to repair the same knee. He missed the last 15 games of the 06-07 season, then missed 38 games in 07-08 having a 2nd surgery mid-season, and then missed the first 3 games of 08-09. He's fine now, but effectively it took almost 2 years off his career to fix that knee. The Markov case feels longer to fans because just before the knee injury he had missed 3 months with a lacerated tendon in his ankle. I have full confidence that Andrei Markov will be back at some point, and will still be an effective player, but noone can say when with accuracy, and the Habs can't keep waiting.

Chris Campoli looks to be close to returning, but no offense to him, he's not going to change the makeup of the team drastically. None of the returning players will except Markov. Gomez? Spacek? Ryan White?
The team needs a shakeup. Be it a major trade or a coaching change, the time has come. I hate to say it, but if this team is going to "compete for a Stanley Cup" as the GM and Owner have stated - then a change must come.

About a month ago, former Hab Georges Laraque went on TSN 990 Radio's "Montreal Forum" with Tony Marinaro. Tony asked George "if you were GM of the Canadiens, what would be your first move?" Georges didn't take long to answer - he said he'd trade Hal Gill. Gill is still an extremely effective penalty killer, but he looks really really slow in 5-on-5 situations. Maybe he needs a break from time to time?

Alot of teams talk about the Canadiens speed, but last night the Blue Jackets looked to be the faster team. Hab-Killer RJ Umberger's goal with 8:41 to go in the second period happened because of speed. Plekanec loses a face-off at the opposing blue line, the Columbus defenseman sends the puck wide to a waiting Umberger who bursts in on Price with a speed that the Canadiens couldn't match, reminiscent of his time with Philly.

Alexei Emelin threw 9 hits, including one bone cruncher on Antoine Vermette. With his 75 hits, (and only 4  PIM's) I think he's more than earned a regular spot with this team, even when fully healthy. He also added his first NHL point on the game-tying-goal by Brian Gionta.

The boo birds could be heard multiple times on the TV screen last night. They are asking for change. Change in personnel, change in style, change in something. Where was the urgency trailing late? Plekanec took a shot off the side of Curtis Sanford's net and Gionta plugged in a rebound on a play that looked more routine than urgent. Columbus has the worst record in the NHL, their starting goalie was deemed to be a #3 by Habs brass the last 2 seasons (he spent them both in Hamilton), and this all happened with the home team booing.

it's time for a change. Pierre Gauthier has been quick to plugs holes in his "leaky roof" before, now it's time to plug a leaky basement before the ship sinks.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


I've been away from the game the last few days.
Thought the Habs played well on Saturday in LA (but had a better outing in San Jose).
Loved seeing Andrei Kostitsyn use his body in front of the net to set up the first Habs goal.
The Eller-Kostitsyn-Leblanc give and go was a thing of beauty

will be taking notes on tonight's game. Expect a writeup tomorrow.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Outside the Box

This morning alot of people are waking up and yelling "Travis Moen! Travis Moen? Why Travis Moen? what were you thinking Jacques???". I actually like the move.

Last night the Canadiens walked into San Jose, after an abysmal performance the night before in Anaheim, and played an excellent hockey game. They showed emotion. They gave an effort. They clearly have not quit on their Coach. Had they quit on the coach, they could have tanked the game last night, and I don't think he's still coaching today. So if the team is still playing for the coach - what's the problem?

Is it the injuries? Every team has injuries. Is it the team's lack of size? It doesn't help - but they make up for lack of size with a ton of guts. I think Pierre Gauthier may have been more prophetic than we all believed a month or so ago when he said that "we need to think outside the box".

Coach Martin has a system. His system is a solid defensive structure with 1 fore checker. The system has worked real well for Jacques, but if I can see the system and you can see the system then coaches and GM's surely can too, and they can figure out ways to beat it. I think that may be the greater issue at the moment.

On occasion, the Canadiens under Jacques Martin have played up-tempo attacking games. The opponents usually look shocked, confused, rudderless when it happens and after the game we hear quotes like: "we were unprepared for that". It looks to me like the coach may have to switch to his up tempo plan - or something like it more often to keep opponents off balance.

When you prepare for one type of opponent but end up with something entirely different it becomes difficult to defend. It's the same with goalies and shootouts. We've all seen Mike Cammalleri, Thomas Plekanec, and Brian Gionta as the Canadiens shootout shooters multiple times - but I can't recall ever seeing Travis Moen.

Is Travis Moen a goal scorer like Cammallerri or Gionta? no. But those guys have certain shootout "moves". I've seen them. You've seen them. Other goalies have seen them, and prepared for them. Travis Moen has 8 goals this season, and if I've never seen him in a shootout, then the goalies haven't prepared for him. That's called thinking outside the box. Had Moen scored the move would be called "genius". He didn't score, but at least the coach is starting to think outside the box.

...and for the benefit of those who haven't seen it, Alexei Emelin obliterating Joe Pavelski

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Troubling signs

"We had a really good first period. and then a bad change leads to a goal with 20 seconds left" - Brian Gionta

I'm sorry. Are you kidding me? Brian, let's be Frank. You had a good first few minutes (as a team) and then disappeared. Six consecutive minutes of a terribly lackluster power play does not make it a "really good" period. Either Captain Gionta is deluded, or he is towing the company line.

If - as I suspect he is - towing the company line, then it's a troubling sign that this team may have quit on Coach Jaques. Earlier in the season when the Canadiens were losing games there was a compete level that was still there. The special team weren't working, the team wasn't winning, but they were competing. I didn't see that last night. I didn't see it in Philadelphia. I didn't see it on Long Island. So- what's going on?

Generally, this group of Canadiens players shows pride and compete and they don't turn in two sour performances in a row - so I expect to see them come out and compete with the San Jose Sharks tonight. I expect nothing less if I'm Pierre Gauthier, Jaques Martin and/or Geoff Molson. The team can lose, it happens, but it depends how they lose. If they come out with another flat performance - I don't see how Martin still has a job by Saturday. If the players come out flat, it's a sure sign to me that they have quit on this coach. If they come out to compete - win or lose - then the coach isn't the issue, something else is wrong.

I'll re-iterate, I expect the Canadiens to compete tonight. If they don't and the Coach is still there on Sat (which is another flat performance) then I'd expect a new Coach and GM hired before they come back to Montreal.

Good luck coach. Let's see what you've got.

Sleepy California

Dear Coach Jacques,

It is my understanding that last night you and your team were playing a game on the west coast. Now, I know that for you and your boys it was only seven pm, but for your faithful fans watching at home the game was starting at ten.

I like you Coach Jacques, really, I do. I think you've taught your players excellent defensive structure. The penalty kill gave up 2 goals last night - but it's running at 96% over it's last 50 attempts, amazing. Your players seem to give a great effort on most nights, and you generally give well thought out answers to questions.

In that vain, I have questions for you on the Canadiens performance last night in Anaheim. Hopefully you can give me some well thought out answers.

 1. Mathieu Darche has 1 point in 25 games this season - with 29:19 spent on the power play! What is he doing there?

2. Your power play is anemic and hasn't scored in almost a month, why does Andrei Kostitsyn (who has 10 pts in in 15 games) continue to sit on the bench? If it's because you seem him as being defensively irresponsible, I understand Coach, but on a power play I wouldn't worry about it (you have an extra man on the ice!)

3. The Ducks had lost seven in a row going into this game, and notoriously are terrible in the first 8 minutes of games (-24 on the season) why didn't your team attack them immediately? The ducks looked like they didn't care either way AND even after a win fired their coach, you needed to go for the throat.

4. With 3 consecutive power plays in the first period not working, why not try something new?

The good news for you, Coach, is you have a chance to get right back at it tonight. Hopefully you have your team ready to attack early, and defend when necessary. If not coach, I'm starting to have doubts that your California trip will be ending Sunday.

Wow. that was tiring.