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Thursday, 16 October 2014

POST Game Five: Bruins @ Habs

The Bears were hibernating.

The Montreal Canadiens caught the Boston Bruins in a second game of a back to back and it showed.

Bad bounces were equally exchanged but the Bruins took a couple naps during the game that cost them two points to their arch rival.

"We were tired, the decision making wasn't there," admitted Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask after the game. "Our heads weren't really there but it's understandable, but it's not an excuse."

The main turning point was the conclusion of the second period when the Canadiens got Jiri Sekac's first NHL goal and PA Parenteau's first as a Montreal Canadien.

The building was rocking and there was no looking back.

Boston played a strong third period when Niklas Svedberg replaced Tuukka Rask.

Simon Gagne scored late in the third pulling Boston within one with a chance to search for the equalizer with the goalie pulled.

But then... Milan Lucic took an ill-timed penalty on Alexei Emelin, negating any realistic chance to tie the game.

Parenteau slipped the puck into the empty, giving the Canadiens a 6-4 win in the first meeting between these two teams this season.

Observations: 

- Brad Marchand's spear on PK Subban was dirty. But the embellishment call was fine by me. Sometimes your reputation follows you around for a long time. 

- Dennis Seidenberg struggled. Everyone knew the departure of Johnny Boychuk would impact the Bruins defensive core. If Seidenberg can't regain his form of old, the Bruins won't have home ice in the first round of playoff. 

- David Desharnais' play in the faceoff circle lead to goals. Even though he was just over 45%, key offensive zone faceoffs lead to goals by Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty. 

- Coach Michel Therrien coached a strong game. Never got caught in a bad match up. Balanced the ice time. And the moment of him receiving the torch was great. 

- Milan Lucic is out of control. Antics in the penalty box. The run in with Emelin. Yelling at referee Tim Peel. Dude, settle down. I'd still take him on my team though. 

- The third line controlled the play almost every time they were on the ice. Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Jiri Sekac had a handful of shifts where they got momentum and controlled the play. That and a fearless block shot from Bourque on the powerplay shows me that at least he's still "all in."

- Also liked the Bruins third line. Loui Erickson - Carl Soderberg - Chris Kelly started the game, and looked like their best line. 

- Carey Price's struggles aren't concerning. And there was breakdowns and bad bounces on all the goals he let up. However, if he doesn't turn things around from a statistical point of view soon, the Vezina Trophy could be lost in the first month of the season. 

- Mitchy 



Wednesday, 15 October 2014

PRE Game Five: Boston @ Habs



It's an exciting time.

Habs fans will pile into the Bell Centre and witness a rematch with the team that provided them with the most entertaining moments last spring. The series fresh minds of both teams. The wounds, both physical and mental are still raw. BOSTON VS MONTREAL. It'll be good.

Here are some of the questions fans have heading into tomorrow's tilt:

Scooter ‏@Habs_Scooter : Will Swedish Gretzky, Dale Weise, drop Milan Lucic about his comments from last year??

LOL. Swedish Gretzky... I think that the situation was pretty well diffused by both sides. The playoff series was so emotionally charged and that was definitely a boiling point. The waters have calmed and I'd be surprised if we saw anything occur. It wouldn't be a smart decision for Weise to try to "drop" Lucic. Unless it's a sucker punch, I'd put my money on Lucic staying on his feet and landing some damaging blows. Don't expect anything to happen, Weise will stay away and if Lucic is completely distracted to settle a personal vendetta, advantage Habs. Furthermore, I don't even think they'll be on the ice at the same time on many occasions, considering the roles they play. I'd be more inclined to see a confrontation between Lucic and Alexei Emelin, with Lucic taking a retaliatory penalty.

@Cnt_ScrutinizerTherrien protect Weise and have him as a healthy scratch?

This is the Boston Bruins, on opening night at the Bell Centre. There's no "protecting players." You have to go with the lineup that gives you the best chance to win. That lineup would include Weise and not Travis Moen. Plus, it sends the wrong message. Scratching Weise for that reason would be playing scared. He's a big boy and he can handle himself. And he's going to have to face Lucic at some point. Wouldn't a better spot be the friendly confines of the Bell Centre instead of the TD Garden in Boston?

HabsFan ‏@ChrisShannon16: Are the Bruins going to goon it up is my question. Would love to hear your opinion And how should the Habs set their lineup for tomorrow?

Thanks for the questions. The Bruins really appear to be heading away from that identity of "gooning" it up. Of course they have a ton of guys that play tough, physical and can hold their own in a fight. But I don't think they'll go about looking for fights. Having started the season slow by their standards, with expectations high... they're better off just playing hockey. If the score is titled in either direction, then all bets are off.

As far as the lineup is concerned. I don't think much changes. The Canadiens won 3/4 on the road to start the season. The only question mark I have is the final defensive spot. With Emelin potentially coming back from injury, that leaves Jared Tinordi or Nathan Beaulieu at risk of coming out. My preference would be to see Beaulieu stay in the lineup, however with the size and physicality of Boston, perhaps Therrien plays things differently.

FROM MYSELF: What is the pre game ceremony going to look like?

We all remember what the pre game ceremony was like at last year's opener... Daniel Briere lightning the torch. It turned out to be a bust. As did the Briere experiment in general. This year, I'm hoping they get it right. This team is Carey Price. The team knows it, the media knows it and the fans know it. Many have speculated that despite having four alternate captains, Carey Price is the true leader on this team. There wouldn't be a better way of showing that than having Price light the torch. It won't be a bust like a year ago.

- Mitchy



Thursday, 9 October 2014

Game Two: Habs @ Washington

You don't know what it's like.

After taking on their rivals in Toronto on opening night in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens had to travel to Washington for the Capitals'
home opener tonight.

It should have been a tone setter for the Capitals. New coach, new system. Barry Trotz is the man to put the reigns on Alex Ovechkin.

When the first period was in the books, it looked like Washington was a transformed team (kind of like Toronto did last night.)

Montreal on the other hand was tired, emotionally drained and frustrated.

But old habits die hard and Capitals reassumed their selfish identity, while the Canadiens remained selfless.

Terrible penalties taking by both Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom

Same Capitals.

Eventually the game was tied in the third period and the Canadiens went on to pull out the 2-1 shootout victory because...

The best players on the ice were Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuck and Dustin Tokarski.

Give the kid credit in net. Made huge saves when they needed him. When the rest of the team was sleeping he looked rested (because he was). Tokarski made 29 saves, plus several key stops in the shootout, including Ovechkin.

Maybe it's the assumed added responsibility of being named an alternate captain. Perhaps it's the new offensively gifted linemates (although the right side has fluctuated in the first two games.) Or maybe he's always this damn good. Plekanec has gotten this season off on the right foot. And even though I don't like putting numbers on the lines, if Plekanec continues at this rate, he is a "true number one."

Galchenyuck has been flying. This is the most comfortable he's ever looked in the NHL. This is the biggest role and most ice time he's received. Galchenyuck has arrived and I sense for the fans, that the excitement and anticipation is building for what this kid will eventually become.

Have to say, also impressive in his own way was Lars Eller. Not that it showed up on the scorecard but he was feisty. Playing in that third line spot, he needs to mix it up and he did. John Carlson was running around and taking liberties after this whistle. A glove to the face and visor is great to see from Eller as long as he ensures that the opposing player is going off with a penalty as well.

Unfortunately Travis Moen is now in a winless situation. To stay in the lineup everyone expects him to "do something." But with that mindset for this player, it's an ineffective approach.

Got to give the Habs praise. Playing on back to back nights in two different buildings isn't easy. In fact, the Flyers and Bruins both lost tonight dealing with back to back (Calgary is currently in action with Edmonton)

With the 0-2 start, the Flyers will be a handful for the Habs Saturday night in Philadelphia.

- Mitchy







Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Game One: Habs vs Leafs

Some things change, but some things never change.

Opening day between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs featured some new faces on both sides but the result and outcome was predictable.

The Leafs in their own zone, still terrible.

They were soft on David Desharnais leading to the PK Subban 3-2 go-ahead goal. It was comical in terms of how many assignments they missed on that play and how discombobulated they looked at times in their defensive zone.

The score shouldn't even have been as close as it was. Nazem Kadri's first period goal was offside and the Leafs third period equalizer was a fluke (although the hockey gods balanced things out with a garbage game winner off Stuart Percy's skate)

But we discovered what we already knew. The Habs are in the top tier of the Eastern Conference in a battle for home ice advantage, while the Leafs are stuck in the middle, fighting for a Wild Card with the Islanders, Devils, Capitals, Flyers and Blue Jackets.

The new faces on the Canadiens were a mixed bag in their debuts.

PA Parenteau was strong. Great chemistry with Desharnais and Max Pacioretty and was noticeable almost every time he was on the ice.

Tom Gilbert struggled, especially when in his own zone. Maybe it was opening day jitters but he looked tentative and genuinely fearful to be hit. Typically not something coach Michel Therrien likes to see, which is why it's baffling to see his ice time at over 22 minutes.

Jiri Sekac wasn't good or bad. He was just there. Which probably isn't a bad thing considering it was just his first NHL game.

The Habs best line, clearly Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuck. Plekanec looks pretty good with some youthful creative offensive player.

And PK Subban's celebration... lol

Aren't you glad hockey is back?!

- Mitchy


Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy


Alex Galchenyuck’s diversity is his detriment. 

Fans always seem too overeager, overzealous and anxious when it comes to stars in the making. Some think that the only route to a Stanley Cup is with size down the middle.  Habs fans look at the diminutive David Desharnais and the unflashy Tomas Plekanec and jump to the conclusion that the only way to win is with Galchenyuck as C1 and Lars Eller as C2, pronto.

The only problem is…. It’s too much too soon and makes little sense from a depth chart perspective.

Desharnais is by FAR the best passer that the Canadiens have; it’s not even a close contest. And Plekanec is by FAR the best two-way centre that the Canadiens have.

To move one or both to have an inexperienced player playing at centre with just because he’s big, is short-sighted (no pun intended)

The other option, moving one of the three centres ahead of Galchenyuck also doesn’t jive. His ability to come off the wall and shoot, among other obviously reasons, makes him the best option at wing. Galchenyuck’s is developing a comfort in that spot, playing with more freedom and with less responsibility. He was used primary as a winger during his time at the World Junior Championships and often during his time in Sarnia.

Galchenyuck’s time to play centre will come. And maybe only when he’s there will the Canadiens be a Stanley Cup contender. But right now, neither is a reality. 

I get the excitement level people have for this player and the perceived need that the Canadiens have at centre. 

Opportunities arise and things change quickly. Be patient, his time will come. It just isn’t now.

Didn’t everyone love the Galcheckuck-Eller-Gallagher line anyways?!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

Talk radio gold.

The Montreal Canadiens made the most obvious and best decision regarding the captaincy for the upcoming season. Four assistants: Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and PK Subban. 

All four would make good but not great captains. And each one has a large question mark looming over their head. 

On the surface, it sure looks like the captaincy isn't something Markov would embrace. Perhaps a great leader in the room, the dealings with the media on a daily basis would be something that Markov would loathe. 

Plekanec is one of coach Michel Therrien's favorite. Quiet, respected in the room and has worn the "C" for his country. But with the logjam the team currently has at the centre position... how long will he remain in Montreal? 

Pacioretty has said all the right things regarding the captaincy. But we've also seen him fall into deep slumps and get distracted by scrutiny. One day, Pacioretty could be a great captain however there's still a ton of room for maturity. 

Subban candidacy is the most interesting. He's the most popular Habs' player in recent memory. His contract dictates that he's the most important player on the roster. The maturity and poise he showed during the playoffs last year was remarkable (and probably lead to his nomination as an assistant.) And I can't think of a player that would embrace everything that is being the captain of this team, more than Subban. But he's not ready. How would the room react to Subban as the captain at this point in time, with the big money deal. And imagine one of those Therrien/Subban battles from a year ago, if Subban was wearing the "C." The Canadiens like to "play it safe," at all times, and naming Subban the captain would be the exact opposite. 

It was a nice gesture for the Habs to give the assistant tag to those four players... They'll all be assisting the captain of the team, Carey Price this season. 

Today, is a great day. The players have arrived, pre season is around the corner and it feels like hockey is back. Monday morning's with Mitchy is officially back as well. Enjoy! 

Slick Awards: 

Leadership Award: Carey Price
Stupid Rule Award: No spin-o-rama
Gong Show Award: the NFL
Jealous Ex Boyfriend Award: Tim Leiweke 
Too tired award: The Alouettes defense 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday Mornings with Mitchy

Sure, you're a little disappointed that the post season run for the Montreal Canadiens is done. But if you look at the big picture, the team progressed considerably from last season and the future is bright.

Heading into the offseason, question marks loom surrounding an extensive group of veteran players. And the locker cleanups offered us no clear answer to what the future holds.

Brian Gionta is headed for free agency. For someone who has spent the last five years in Montreal, and is the team captain, I wouldn't be surprised for him to resign at a discount. Sure, options exist for him to head to Buffalo or back to New Jersey. But for a competitor like Gionta, does playing in one of those two cities at this point in time make sense...? Probably not. If you can get him for 3 million or less, bring him back.

Andrei Markov's future will be tough to predict. He has spent his entire career in Montreal and loves the city. What's more important to him? The comfort and stability of a long term deal or the comfort of staying in the market where he knows he can continue to have a great amount of success. Whatever the case, if the Canadiens lose this guy, he's irreplaceable. Nobody on the current roster or on the farm or in free agency can replace this player.

Thomas Vanek... SEEYAH! The final meeting with the media provided us with a brief glance into the world of Vanek. What a vicious cycle it must of been in the post season. "I'm not playing well because I'm not playing with the top line, and I'm not playing with the top line because I'm not playing well." And around, and around we go. As skilled as Vanek is, you don't win with guys like him. Marc Bergevin has preached "character," and Michel Therrien has preached "Team Concept," Vanek provides neither.

Peter Budaj is a great teammate... That's good and all, but this is the NHL. Who gives you a better chance to win. At this point after the playoff run, clearly Dustin Tokarski gives you a better chance to win in the games where Carey Price needs a night off. Bye bye, Budaj.

Dale Weise and Mike Weaver were tremendous acquisitions for the Habs. Talk about character guys who can fill a roll and have an impact on a contending team. It will be easy to bring back Weise, but will Weaver's post season play as a member of the Habs drive up his value? Either way, I'd take both on my team any day.

Francis Bouillon is still capable of playing in the NHL. But for the Habs, with Greg Patteryn, Jared Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu salivating for NHL ice time, you simply can't bring Bouillon back.

Douglas Murray can no longer play in the NHL.

On a side note, of Gionta isn't brought back, I fully expect the next captain of the Canadiens to be Daniel Briere. And that has nothing to do with politics. His pull, the amount of respect he garners and with his overall track record I think he'd win a vote amongst his teammates for the honor.
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Everyone I speak to says "Kings in four."

I say, are you crazy?!

By no means do I expect the underdog Rangers to beat the favored Kings in the cup final. But to think it will be easy, is ridiculous. New York deserves full credit for what they've accomplished. A team with leaders like Martin St Louis and Brad Richards, a Norris Trophy Calibre defender in Ryan Mcdonagh and one of the best goalies in the league with Henrik Lundqvist will NOT be swept. But when it comes to elimination games, hard to bet against the LA Kings.
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SLICK AWARDS

Show me the money!!: Thomas Vanek
Mr Game Seven: Justin Williams
Elevation: Patrick Kane
The ball's in my court: Andre Markov