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Brain Drain

Regular season game #13

I usually reserve this type of review for when the Habs and Devils play each other, but I’ve decided that it applies tonight.

The Habs played the Panthers in Sunrise, the game was attended by some people and was enjoyed by nobody, anywhere.

Oh, the Habs won by a snooze-inducing final of 1-0 in overtime, thanks to an ugly Rene Bourque goal that came courtesy of Galchenyuk’s second-effort digging. A shutout for Price who had to be awake for about five minutes in the third period.

And that, folks, is about all I can muster for this game. Habs sweep their Florida roadie, and move to 8-4-1 on the year. Nothing to sneeze at….just please turn down the bore and turn up the fun next time, ok?

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

Sunday Drive

Regular Season Game #4

I keep some canned text handy for whenever the Devils and Canadiens play. Game reviews featuring these two teams normally read “The Canadiens and Devils played each other tonight. It was slow, boring, tedious and enjoyed by nobody”.

That’s it.

We know the script. The Devils slip in a quick goal or two, then apply the sleeper hold. This night, the Habs looked to turn the script on its ear by jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead, and forcing the Devils to play catch up, which incidentally, they do quite well. For a while it looked like the Canadiens had broken free when Brandon Prust put the team up by two goals early in the third period. But the Devils, dogged lot that they are came back to tie the game and squeeze a point of the affair.

While the Canadiens skate away with another precious two points, there are still some glaring areas of concern. Faceoffs remain a problem, with the team only winning 21 of 59 draws all night. When Desharnais is your leader in faceoff efficiency, Houston, you’ve got a problem. They also continue to flirt with having twice as many turnovers as takeaways, and that’s not a good thing, either. Despite the win, there were a bunch of players who are expected to lead who did not deliver. Plekanec, Gionta, and Desharnais were all virtually invisible all night. It goes to show the Habs paper-thin depth and delicate balance in the top-six when Max Pacioretty is out of the lineup. Virtually everyone was lost. It’s to Alex Galchenyuk’s credit that he carried the offensive mail for the forwards tonight, along with Brendan Gallagher, who scored his first NHL goal on a sweet feed from the Habs third overall pick. Hard work through four games also earns Rene Bourque an honourable mention. With any luck, will soon be rewarded for his work. The biggest accolades, however, belong to Andrei Markov, who has not missed a step since having his knee rebuilt for what feels like the umpteenth time. His importance to the Habs early success cannot be overstated. Anyone who thought he should have never been signed, or that he should be bought out is fit for a dunce cap today.

A win is a win, and it would be awkward to linger for too long on the aspects that ail the team. Hopefully the coaches and players will work out the kinks while they continue to put points in the bank.

Through four games, Montreal look like a tenacious, energetic bunch who are definitely harder to play against. We’ve seen Therrien on the bench communicating with players, we’ve seen him emotional and we’ve seen him supportive of his players. All of this is the opposite of what we had to suffer through under the Jacques Martin regime.

Things start to get tougher from here for the good guys with games against the Jets, Senators, Sabres, Senators, Sabres and Bruins coming up.

Follow me on twitter: @kyleroussel

So Long, Sniper

After Cammalleri’s comments the other day, it was quite apparent to me that he wanted out of town, and that if he wasn’t already unpopular in the Habs dressing room, he would be. He may have said the opposite, that he has a love affair with the city and that he’s building a house. To paraphrase Seinfeld: “yadda yadda yadda, now he’s in Calgary”.

The adage is that the team that gets the better player wins the trade. I find that an overly simplistic way of looking at things. Under this prism, it would be a knee-jerk judgement to say that the Flames won the trade, after all, Cammalleri is a star while Rene Bourque is, well not Ray Bourque. If we take their entire careers in to account, there’s no doubt that Cammalleri has been the better player. But over the course of the last 2+ seasons, Bourque has actually outscored Cammalleri. Viewed in that light, the trade is already much more even. Given that Bourque is much bigger and tougher than Cammalleri, he brings another important component that the Habs have been sorely lacking.

When news of the trade broke last night, I didn’t know what to think. I thought Cammalleri deserved to be traded, and I believe he wanted to be traded. I don’t trust Pierre Gauthier, as most Habs fans don’t. When somebody is as univerally disliked as Gauthier is, it’s easy to pan his each and every move. He’s blamed for moves that Gainey ultimately signed off on, as if he forced Gainey to trade for the Gomez’ of the world. Twitter makes for a great sounding board, but it’s prone to make people look like they have some kind of manic disorder. Such was the case with my timeline once the trade was announced. I vacillated between hating and liking the move; If Cammalleri had to go, at least make it a salary dump…make it a move about the future of the team. That wasn’t the case, and the Habs held true to their traditional modus operandi. They’re not holding a firesale, and they will not tank the season in search of a lottery pick. That was a fantasy. After marinating in the trade overnight, I woke up this morning liking it more than when I went to bed. There are reasons to NOT like it, if that’s your choosing, and I wouldn’t hold that against you if are a Cammalleri fan, but I’m opting to look at the positive aspects and run with them:

  • Bourque has actually been a better scorer in recent years than Cammalleri.
  • Bourque is much cheaper (although his contract runs much longer). Nevertheless, he represents good value.
  • Bourque is much bigger, and that is something the Habs need very much need, especially in the dog days of the season when small guys show signs of fatigue.
  • The Habs got a 2nd round pick in return, as well as a depth prospect who may turn out to be a little more than a throw-in.
  • Team unity may improve with the removal of a guy who apparently was not very well liked in the room, and you can’t put a price on that.

If there’s a reason to not like the trade, it’s that Cammalleri was an elite playoff performer while in Montreal. Halak is hero #1, but Cammalleri is right there with him. Trouble is, his elite playoff production is useless if he can’t help the Canadiens get to the playoffs. Any way you slice it, 9 goals is unacceptable from Cammalleri. There’s no excuse for it. He’s been a giant bust this year, sulking around the ice and not doing what he was paid to do: score goals. Guys who come in on the heels of scoring 39 goals and who are given 30 million dollars are not paid to do anything other than score.

If there’s another reason to not like the trade, it’s the manner in how Gauthier goes about his business. He operates in a cone of silence and seems to not have a concrete idea of how to construct and maintain a team. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of Habs fans want him replaced, and perhaps some of the anger of this trade stems from the fact that we now see that he is likely not going anywhere any time soon. It appears that Molson has continued trust in Gauthier, and that makes us mad, and that casts a pall over any move that Gauthier will make. The Canadiens have long stood as an organization that carried itself with class, from top to bottom. Gauthier is sullying that reputation with his panic moves. Firing Assistant Coaches 90 minutes before a game, and other ‘save my job’ type moves are tarnishing the Canadiens, and the results are trickling down to the ice. They used to get it right nearly everywhere. Now they rarely do. There are no more ceremonies to honour the past, to show off how the Canadiens show class and reverence. The focus is on the present, and the focus is blurry.

In the end, there’s no choice but to get on board with the trade. To pray that Gauthier’s 180° turn from a mantra that asked small, skilled players to win it on the powerplay to a team that is getting bigger & grittier will eventually bring badly needed wins in a division that is quickly improving. We can also hope that it show semblance of a team that can tough it out with sandpaper in the playoffs. They won’t get there this year, but they weren’t getting there with Cammalleri, either. If team unity improves as result of a disliked player being moved, then that’s another huge, intangible plus.

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