Wow. Just wow. What a prefectly stupendious night at the Bell Centre last night. Starting with the beaufitul pre-game ceremonies to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Montreal Canadiens and culminating with the rousing play of the current edition of the team, resutling in a 5-1 thumping of the Boston Bruins. For the purposes of this post I'll stick to the game, rather than the ceremonies, but suffice it to say that no organization is better at honoring their past than the Montreal Canadiens. Happy bday!
1 - Carey Price has arrived. A few posts ago I mentioned how this can no longer be called a streak, with Price, and that he has taken his game to another level. Well one more game and 38 more shots later - many of the miraculous variety - Price continues to prove me right. From his lateral movement to his historically weak glove hand, Price seems to have righted the ship and looks like a young man who is coming into his own. Scotty Bowman was interviewed, on CBC, during the 1st intermission and he specifically mentioned Price and how he saw him play during the Bulldogs Calder Cup win in 2007. He also spoke about how he thought this kid was "...the real deal..." Bowman brought up Marc-Andre Fleury, of the Pens, who took about 4 years before finding his game and pointed out how Price seems to be following the same path. All of this to say, that Price looks like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes of last season and the Habs will continue to need those kind of performances from him if they are going to have success this year. It says here that Price will finish in the top ten for GAA and Save Percentage as well as getting 30 wins. You can bank on it!
2 - Mike Cammalleri continues to be a leader for this team on and off of the ice. He was the offensive catalyst for the Habs, last night, potting his second hat trick of the season and showing why Gainey was right to sign this guy long term. He is quite simply the best sniper that the Habs have had on their team since Stephane Richer, and is currently on pace to score 42 goals this season. So much for him "needing" Iginla to be successful, eh? Off the ice, Cammy talks, walks and acts very much like a Captain and he really seems to be embracing what it is to be a Hab. I said it in the off season and I'll say it again, he seems like the leading candidate to become captain of this team. Or does he?
3 - Speaking of captain and despite my comment above about Cammy, I have noticed that the Habs seem to maybe be pushing Markov in the direction of captaincy. I know that Markov is not necessarily the best communicator with the media, but he has definitely stepped up this year. His words may still be sparse but he has been making an effort to speak to the media. Last night, when they were about to retire the jersey's of Lach and Bouchard, it was Markov that walked out there with O'Byrne, to help with the ceremony. That used to be Saku's job. Does it not seem conspicuous to anyone else that a) they didn't ask Cammy or one of the active players to do that task and b)that they have not yet named a captain. I think that there is a distinct possibilty that they might not name a captain at all, this year. I also think that there is a distinct possibility that they are waiting for Markov to come back from injury to name HIM captain. Time will tell...oh, and did you know that Markov took part in his first full practice with the team, yesterday? To think that we have almost weathered the Markov-less storm and are still hovering around .500. Wow!
4 - Hal Gill played his best game of the season and showed what his talents are. While he has been lambasted for most of the season for being too slow and for making bad decisions with the puck, Gill was a warrior last night. If you watch the replays of the two 5 on 3's that Boston had, Gill was one of, if not THE, main penalty killer last night. He used his huge 6'7" body and he long stick to block the cross crease pass that is so popular and effective on a 5 on 3. He must have blocked 10 passes and/or shots in those two PKs. I actually saw him lying down on the ice, to block the lane, at one point. It was hilarious but also extremely effective. While he did turn the puck over that caused the one Boston goal against, he put in a yeoman's effort for the rest of the game. If he continues to play like that he will be a very useful part of the Habs blue line.
5 - Tomas "the mechanic" Plekanec (yes that is a lame nickname but I stole it from Tony Marinnaro of the Team 990) continues to be as steady as a metronome. Passes, hits, shots, blocks, PK, PP....this guy is all over the ice and makes his linemates better every night. Someone said to me, and it bears mentioning, that if he keeps playing like this, Pleky could get consideration for the Selke Trophy at the end of the year. Amen, brother.
6 - Sergei Kostitsyn - who left the ice in the third with a leg injury and didn't return - is playing inspired hockey. He and Gomez look like an excellent fit on the ice. They are probably two of the best passers on the Habs and when they are on the ice together they seem to be creating magic. Last night, they were flanked by Dags who did a pretty good job himself. But, just imagine when Gionta comes back and jumps on the wing with those two. That will make our first two lines: Sergei-Gomez-Gionta and Cammy-Pleks-Andrei. Nice. Very nice. We will finally have a two-pronged attack and teams won't be able to shut us down as easily. Needless to say, this is all because Sergei manned-up. He swallowed the bitter pill that Gainey and Martin force fed him, and he is a better man - and hockey player - for it.
Overall, this was an incredibly special night for Habs fans and even non-Habs fans. I cannot imagine that anyone would not have been moved by the pre-game festivities and the game itself. Montreal was simply a dominant team last night and when they got into penalty trouble Price was there to bail them out. It was likely the best game they have played all season and you can't help but notice the effect that the ceremonies had on the team. All the glee aside, this begs the question of why the Habs played so well last night and so poorly against the Leafs and Buffalo. Which of the two is the real team? Are they the team that destroyed Boston last night and beat the Caps about ten days before or are they the ones who can't beat the league's cellar dwellars? Its hard to say but if the team can play like they did last night then they have to find a way to bring that game every night. If they can, then maybe this will become a turning point to their season.
One last note that came from an intermission interview of Ken Dryden, by CBC. He said that it is enough. That the weight of 100 years of history was too much for the current edition of the team to bear and that we need to move forward and stop looking in the past. He said that we should hope for another 24 cups over the next 100 years but that we can't hold the current edition of the team accountable to the ghosts of the past. Dryden has always been a smart, articulate man and has said many brilliant things in his life, but I hope that this specific comment reverberates around the city of Montreal, this morning. Yes, we have an incredibly rich history but let's stop heaping it on the current team. Let's let them breathe and give them space to write their own chapter. Onward and upwards.
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