Sunday, November 23, 2014

Game 23 - Canadiens at Rangers

#MTLHockey Preview

Habs-Rangers

Match Up

The league leading Montreal Canadiens (16-5-1) are in New York to face the Rangers (8-7-4) Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. The game is set to start at 7:00 and can be seen on RDS and City.

This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Rangers this season, the two teams that faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Montreal already picked up a 3-1 victory on home ice earlier in the season on goals by Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, and Max Pacioretty.

What to Watch

Carey Price may have earned his second shutout of the season and league best 13th win Saturday against the Bruins, but Dustin Tokarski is expected to get the start Sunday in New York, his fifth of the season.

Like the Habs, the Rangers are also coming off a shutout performance by their goalie, and like the Habs, that goalie, Cam Talbot in this case, isn't expected to start on Sunday. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start on Sunday. In 28 career regular season starts against the Habs, Lundqvist is 13-12-2 with a .897 save percentage and a 2.86 GAA.

What's at Stake

The Canadiens are hot and there's no sense slowing down now. With just one loss in their last nine games, the Habs have surged to the top of the standings and are building a healthy cushion on their competition. The Rangers have been struggling in November as well, posting a 3-3-4 record this month and a 2-3-2 record in their last seven.

Who's Out

The Habs are missing Michael Bournival (shoulder) but are otherwise healthy going into Sunday's game.

The Rangers are without their captain and former Habs prospect Ryan McDonagh (shoulder). They could also be without Lee Stempniak (back) who is listed as day to day.

What Else

Andrei Markov scored career goal number 100 Saturday night against the Bruins, becoming just the fourth Canadien and 86th NHL defenseman to hit that milestone. Markov is one of just three Russian-born defenseman to hit the mark, new teammate Sergei Gonchar is another, with 219 career goals to his credit.

The Question Mark

Given his wealth of options, how would you like to see Michel Therrien set his top six (or seven) defensemen?

Tonight's Show

Join host Steven Hindle along with Kosta Papoulias and Rob Elbaz for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:00 to preview the Canadiens and the Rangers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Game 22 - Canadiens at Bruins

#MTLHockey Preview

Habs Vs Bruins

Match Up

Hockey's greatest rivalry continues Saturday night when the Canadiens (15-5-1) face the Bruins (13-8-0) in Boston. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on TVA-Sports and Sportsnet.

This is already the third of four games between the Habs and Bruins this year, and the first in Boston. The Habs have won both their games versus the Bruins already this season by a combined score of 11-5. Max Pacioretty has three goals and two assists already this season against the Bruins, and Brendan Gallagher has two goals and two assists in the series.

What to Watch

P.A. Parenteau had another solid game on Montreal's top line against the Blues on Thursday, springing Max Pacioretty on a breakaway for the game winning goal. Pacioretty, who turned 26 Thursday night, had a pair of goals bring him up to ten on the season. He also has nine points in his last seven games.

Although the Bruins are an ailing team, they were able to fend off the equal beat up Blue Jackets Friday night, winning 4-3 on a goal in the seventh round of an otherwise scoreless shootout. Alex Khokhlachev broke the deadlock to grab the extra point for Boston.

But enough about all that, watch Milan Lucic get dropped:


What's at Stake

The Canadiens have won both their games this season against the Bruins, but this is also their first visit to Boston. The league leading Habs can put a bit more distance on the rest of the league with a win against a hurting Boston squad.

Who's Out

The Habs are without Michael Bournival (shoulder), they still have just 12 healthy forwards on their roster.

The Bruins are suffering going into Saturday's game, missing many key pieces. Zdeno Chara (knee), David Krejci (undisclosed), Adam McQuaid (broken thumb) are all out and Brad Marchand (undisclosed) is day to day and did not play Friday night.

What Else

Marc Bergevin completed his second trade of the season prior to Thursday's game, sending Rene Bourque to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Bryan Allen. Allen, a former teammate of Bergevin, joins the team in Boston and is expected to dress for his first game as a Hab. The 6'5" defenseman has played 716 NHL games split between the Canucks, Panthers, Hurricanes and Ducks. He has 29 career goals and 135 points.

The Question Mark

With Sergei Gonchar and now Bryan Allen joining the team, how should Habs management use Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi this season?

Tonight's Show

Join host Steven Hindle along with Kosta Papoulias and Rob Elbaz for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show at 6:00 Saturday night as we go live from the Peel Pub at 1196 Peel to preview the Habs and Bruins.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Interview With New Habs Acquisition Sergei Gonchar

In this translated interview from Russian, originally appearing on the popular Russian portal Sport Express, Sergei Gonchar shared his views on the trade that brought him to Montreal and confirmed that he’s very happy about playing for the Habs.

- In Russia, one of the most chatted-about NHL topics is your inclusion in the club of players who scored 1,000 points. You are only eight points away from being the first Russian defenseman to get into the “Club 1000”. It looks like you have more chances to get into the club with Montreal, rather than with the Stars.

- You can always hope for the best, but as in any interview regarding the “Club 1000”, I’ll tell you that I’m not running ahead of time. Once I’ll score my thousandth point, then we can gather and discuss this achievement. But for now, I don’t want to think about it.

- Did you manage to say your former teammate Valeri Nichushkin goodbye a last time?

- Yes, of course. He had a major injury, had to undergo surgery… Of course, now it will be hard for him. He’ll be the only Russian in the team. But this is life and hockey players have to deal with this all the time.

- Are you satisfied about the trade?

- Yes, everything went very well. The results of the team are very good, the environment is great and I know the coach as I worked with him in Pittsburgh; therefore, I more or less know what he wants. This really helped in adapting to the new team. Generally speaking, I’m very happy about the trade. Everything went very well. Even if, of course, it wasn’t easy to leave my teammates and, even more important, my family.

- Since you moved to one of the contending teams in the Eastern Conference, probably now you constantly hear talking about the Stanley Cup.

- Well, they always talk about it in Montreal. Here you have such an impression that they’re always talking about it. But well, yes, the team has a chance because all is going well, not only looking at the results, but also looking at the way the team plays. The team is very balanced and the results are a consequence of it.

- Will your family join you in Montreal?

- Yes, they will be here next week, during the Thanksgiving Day holidays. But then they will be back. Since the children go to school, it’s hard to make them move. Of course, they’re sad because they don’t spend a lot of time with me. But in hockey you never know if you have to move. Like they say here, “it’s part of the business”.

- How many journalists wanted to interview you after the first game for the Habs?

- Oh, they were a lot! I never seen anything similar. Radio, televisions, both English and French speaking channels. I didn’t expect such an attention on me.

- Is Montreal happy about you?

- Hard to say. I try not to give attention to the public’s reaction, I try to focus more on my game.

- The Habs have two great defensemen in Markov and Subban. Will it be hard to get space and playing time?

- The guys accepted me very well. The coach had some tasks for me since I arrived here. Maybe I’m still not fully complying with them, but the process is going on very well.

- Can you remember when three Russian defensemen played in Montreal at the same time?

- Igor Ulanov and Vladimir Malakhov played for the Habs. Did they have a third [Russian defenseman]? Honestly, I don’t remember.

- Was the trade a surprise to you?

- Yes, of course. Everything happened fast, there weren’t many discussions. It was more like my agent calls me and says “You’re gonna be traded to Montreal, are you ready?” The fact is that, according to my contract, each trade should have my consent. I quickly signed all the papers, then I went to get my passport, got on the plane and that was it.

- Did you think a lot about approving the trade?

- No, I didn’t even think about not approving it. The team is good, I know the coach; therefore, I didn’t worry and I gave my consent right after.

- Did Therrien explain what he’s expecting from you?

- Well, I won’t unveil any secret. We talked a bit, and he showed me in the team’s schemes. We didn’t have any time for long conversations. I got to Montreal in the game day itself.

- According to that game’s outcome, it looks like your role in the team is pretty important.


- I don’t know, but I hope that it will be like that. Everything works so far.

***************************

Translation by HabsAddict's Russian Correspondent Alessandro Seren Rosso @AlexSerenRosso.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Almost Bourque Traded to Ducks for Bryan Allen

When we thought Marc Bergevin could not make a better deal than the Moen vs Gonchar trade, we learned today that the Montreal Canadiens had traded disappointing forward Rene Bourque to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for rugged defenseman Bryan Allen.

The 34-year-old Allen comes to Montreal only played six games this season after sustaining an injury that cost him the first 14 games of the year. A physical defender, Allen has only one point this season, playing 18:12 on average per night. The 6'5'', 225-lb, native of Kingston, Ontario will provide leadership, size and grit to the Habs' blue line, qualities that were missing this season, especially against bigger teams.

The former Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers, among other teams, is also in the last year of a three-year, $10.5 million deal that pays him $3.5 million annually. The move will allow the Canadiens to clear more cap space for next season as Rene Bourque was slated to receive $2.5 million for a cap hit of $3.33 million.

After a poor start on the season,. #AlmostBourque had been demoted to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. In 13 games with the Canadiens, Bourque had no goal and only two assists with a -9 rating before being put on waivers and demoted after clearing. There was no money retained in the deal on either side.

At first glance, this trade gives the Canadiens a lot of depth on the blue line, pushing young defenseman Nathan Beaulieu on the outside looking in and probably on a bus to Hamilton after a disappointing start to the season.

You have to hand it to Bergevin has he was able to clear out $5.183 million in cap space for this upcoming summer by swapping Travis Moen for Sergei Gonchar and Rene Bourque for Bryan Allen. This will allow him plenty of room to re-sign impending RFAs Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu.

The bad news is that Bryan Allen is on the decline and that is not a good puck moving defenseman who struggles against faster teams. Allen's Corsi is at 48.4% which is not too bad considering he is not an offensive juggernaut and he has been hampered by nagging injuries the last three seasons.

Also, we know that Michel Therrien loves his veterans, so this basically spells the end for Beaulieu and Tinordi this season and we can expect Allen to rotate with Tom Gilbert and Mike Weaver on the team's third pairing. 

The other possibility is that Bergevin will trade a defenseman for some offensive help, especially on the wings where the Habs could use a big power forward to play with the team's smaller pivots. 

Finally, I think Bergevin made the last two deals to clear cap space after the current season to land a big fish via trade from a team which is sitting tight against the cap such as the Blackhawks, the Bruins, the Capitals or the Flyers, Remember when the Booins traded Johnnny Boychuk for some picks before the season due to cap space problems... Well Boychuk now has 2 goals and 10 helpers for 12 points in 17 games with a +5 rating!

Do you like this trade? If not, why?

No Foolin' Fred Poulin

Follow me on Twitter at @FredPoulin98

Game 21 - Canadiens vs Blues

#MTLHockey Preview

montreal canadiens vs st-louis blues nhl

Match Up

The Canadiens (14-5-1) play host to the Blues (12-5-1) Thursday night at the Bell Centre. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and City-Montreal.

This is the first of two games between the Habs and Blues this season, they'll complete the series in St. Louis towards the end of February. Last year the Canadiens only managed to take one point from the Blues in the two games they played. They were beaten handily in St. Louis, by a score of 5-1, and they lost 3-2 in a shootout when they hosted the Blues in Montreal. T.J. Oshie scored the only shootout goal in that game, showing off the skills that would later make him an Olympic hero.

What to Watch

The Canadiens are waiting for their top center, David Desharnais, to pick up his scoring pace. Coming off a 52-point season last year, Desharnais has just two goals and ten points so far this season, and his production has been sporadic at best. Meanwhile, his linemate Max Pacioretty has been holding his own, leading the team in scoring with 8 goals and 16 points this season.

The Blues are led offensively by a pair of 22-year-old snipers, Vladamir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. While he's been held pointless in his last two, Tarasenko is coming off a seven-game point streak and a span in which he scored 16 points in 9 games. Schwartz meanwhile had a six-game point streak come to an end Tuesday when the Blues were shut out by the Bruins. He had picked up 10 points in that time.

What's at Stake

After getting shut out by the Penguins on Tuesday, the Canadiens have a chance at redemption against another one of the league's best. While they've only lost five regulation games so far this season, four of those losses have come against top performers, the Lightning, Blackhawks, Penguins, and Flames. A win against the Blues will go a long way to prove the Habs deserve to be considered among the NHL's elite.

Who's Out

Michael Bournival (shoulder) has begun practicing again, but there is still no indication of when he may return. Mike Weaver (upper body) missed Tuesday's game and did not practice on Wednesday. It's unclear whether he'll dress Thursday night.

St. Louis is healthy heading in to Thursday's game.

What Else

After a perfect night against the Flyers on Saturday, the Canadiens' power play has gone cold once again, going 0-for-7 combined against the Red Wings and Penguins in their last two games. While St. Louis is the stingiest team in the league in terms of goals against per game, their penalty kill ranks 20th in the league at just a 79% efficiency, so the Canadiens may get an opportunity to find space with the man advantage.

The Question Mark

Considering the Habs motto is "No Excuses", give us your best excuse why the Habs were shut out badly by the Penguins on Tuesday.

Tonight's Show

Join myself, Rob Elbaz, along with Kosta Papoulias for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:30 Thursday to preview the Canadiens and Blues.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eller Needs To Go So Galchenyuk Can…

By Eitan Calmy (@habsaddict)
Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America


ELLER NEEDS TO GO SO “GALCHENYUK CAN PLAY CENTRE”
Lars Eller is a third line centre. He will never be anything more than that. If the organization and Lars himself don’t make that clear to each other, Eller will be another one of those players that everyone will always wonder about. What if this? What if that?
Some will say that I’m being hard, but I’m not. He has had his chances. He’s going to be a very good shut down guy with some offensive upside. As long as Eller does not accept that role he will always be playing musical chairs, on the wrong line and with the wrong teammates. He has consistency issues. When expected to produce, it's as if he cracks under pressure. He fits the third-line centre role perfectly. When on his game, extremely reliable defensively and can surprise you with speed and strength which will create some offense. 
David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec aren’t going anywhere as long as they have contracts. Desharnais has no trade value due in part to what I write below. Plekanec is one of the best two-way players in the game. He is a good second-line centre and in a perfect world probably the best third-line centre in the game. I would hesitate to move him.
Desharnais is untouchable. For some strange reason Montreal Canadiens management and coaching refuse to entertain the possibility of playing Max Pacioretty with anybody else. It is undeniable that they have chemistry. Desharnais is a very good playmaker. But if he’s that good, then why not try different line combinations? Why not test Plekanec with Pacioretty or Galchenyuk with Pacioretty?
To be very clear, if I thought that there was any chance the organization would even consider trading Desharnais, the title of this article would be: “Desharnais needs to go so... “
Why fix or toy with something that’s not broken? Because your number one centre is undersized, because your number one centre can’t play shorthanded. Because your number one centre can’t play in crucial defensive missions; whether it’s to preserve a lead or play against other teams top
lines. David Desharnais is and always will be a one-dimensional player. In my opinion, and please know that as a fan that bleeds Blue/White/Red, it hurts to say this, but “the Montreal Canadiens will not win a Stanley Cup as long as David Desharnais is the number one centre.”

It’s becoming more and more evident that Alex Galchenyuk is a special player. He has more natural skills than anybody on the current line-up. His passes are divine and his puck control is comparable to the elite players in the league. Michel Therrien has to let him express himself. The coach needs to, has to free Galchenyuk from Plekanec. He needs to let him spread his wings and fly. Galchenyuk is ready. Game after game he shows his creativity, his passion and skill. Other than Max Pacioretty’s scoring ability, Alex Galchenyuk is the next best thing, maybe better. With all due respect to Plekanec and Gallagher, they are simply not skilled enough to play with the future star. I’d even say that there’s probably no forward on this team that’s talented enough to play at Galchenyuk’s level or simply follow his lead. One of the only players that has been able to finish what he has started was PK Subban.  
If the Montreal Canadiens won’t move Desharnais from that top line, then they have to find a way to make a trade and add a "Power Forward" to the team that can play at the level that Galchenyuk is capable of. That being said I am not saying it’s easy because every single team in the league wants those big forwards that can’t score.
Montreal will have to make the right offer, they will probably have to overpay. I am not a GM but it’s obvious that it will at the very least cost one or two established guys from your line-up + either Jarred Tinordi or Nathan Beaulieu and probably a first-round draft pick. In order to get you have to give. Those of you that think it’s too much, well it’s never going to happen.  
I have complete confidence in Marc Bergevin and I strongly believe that we are in good hands for many years to come. The Montreal Canadiens have a 14-5-1 record. The team has had a great stretch as of late; however, just as Bergevin has done so far, you can always improve and I strongly believe that the big step forward will occur when Galchenyuk becomes that #1 centre.

1.       Who do you think should be moved in order for Galchenyuk to play centre?

2.       Does Michel Therrien have what it takes to bring Subban, Galchenyuk and others to the next level or just like in Pittsburgh, the Canadiens will have to bring somebody else to finish the job?

3.        Do you think Bergevin will pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade?

4.       Will the #Habs maintain their position for the rest of the season or is this just an illusion?

I’m a fan just like all you other wackos out there. These are my opinions and if you do or don’t like them tweet me or comment on the post. I often comment on referees as I was an official for over 15 years. Hockey is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Game 20 - Canadiens vs Penguins

#MTLHockey Hockey

Canadiens Vs Penguins

Match Up

The league leading Montreal Canadiens (14-4-1) are home to host the Metropolitan leading Pittsburgh Penguins (12-3-1) Tuesday night. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and Sportsnet East.

This is the first of three meetings between the Habs and Pens this season, and the first of two in Montreal. Last season the Canadiens took two of three from the Penguins, including a wild 6-5 shootout win to end the season series. Daniel Briere had a pair of goals and an assist in that game while David Desharnais had two assists and the only goal in the shootout.

What's to Watch

While he's seen his average ice time shrink since Sergei Gonchar became a Canadien, Nathan Beaulieu has now dressed in eight consecutive games and continues to have a positive impact. He has two assists in the last three games, including one on the Habs' first power play goal in November towards the end of Thursday's victory over the Bruins. All this despite playing a total of 21:42 in three games, over three minutes less than PK Subban played in Sunday's game versus the Red Wings alone.

With the second most potent offense in the league, the Penguins currently have four players at a point per game or better. Through 16 games Sidney Crosby (25 points), Evgeni Malkin (19), Patric Hornqvist (19), and Chris Kunitz (16) each have at least a point per game. Meanwhile in nets, Marc-Andre Fleury is top ten in the league in wins (10, 3rd), save percentage (.925, 8th), goals against average (2.13, 9th), and is tied for the league lead in shut outs with three.

What's at Stake

It's lonely at the top, but the Canadiens probably don't mind. They're on top of the league for now, but just a single point ahead of the Lightning and well within reach of the Penguins, who hold three games in hand. The Habs will look to extend their lead and keep their foes at bay for another day on Tuesday, they'll also be trying to improve their season best six game win streak.

Who's Out

The Canadiens are without Michael Bournival (shoulder), but are otherwise healthy heading in to Tuesday's game.

Olli Maatta (neck) who had surgery at the beginning of November to remove a tumor from his thyroid gland, could possibly return to action Tuesday in Montreal. Pascal Dupuis will not play on Tuesday, he's sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

What Else

With their win against the Red Wings on Sunday, the Canadiens improved to 10-1-0 against Eastern conference teams and 6-1-0 against teams in their division. As far as teams from the East go, the Canadiens have only lost to the Tampa Bay Lighting. Unsurprisingly, the Pens and Bolts also have strong records within the conference, but neither are quite at Montreal's level. Tampa has a 8-1-1 record against the East while Pittsburgh boasts a 7-2-1 mark.

The Question Mark

Approaching the quarter mark of the season, how would you grade the Habs' offense, defense, goaltending, and coaching thus far?

Tonight's Show

Join host Steven Hindle along with Kosta Papoulias and Rob Elbaz for the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show as we go live at 6:30 to preview the Canadiens and the Penguins.