Sunday, February 28, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Destiny on Ice fulfilled as Team Canada wins 3-2 over Team USA

As I sit here sipping my third glass of wine and watching Sidney Crosby skate around the ice surface of GM Place, waving an oversized Canadian flag from a pole, I am reminded of how proud I am to be Canadian.

The emotion that surrounded Canada's dramatic overtime win today was palpable over the course of the weekend. Every person I talked to, every store I went into and everything I read was all pointing towards today's gold medal match and with Crosby's overtime heroics, I can say that I am as happy and relieved as any in this great country!

Tonight's game, unlike some of the other 2010 Olympic hockey games to date, lived up to all of the hype and provided one of the most entertaining spectacles of the last 50 years of hockey.

The game was close right from the start of the game as the crowd's intensity seemed to buoy both teams. Canada's Toews made it 1-0 at 12:50 of this first when he picked up the rebound off of a Mike Richards shot from in close, and roofed it from a tight angle.

The scoring continued in the second period as Corey Perry made it 2-0 for Canada by rifling a shot from the high slot past Miller at 7:13.

Despite being down by two, the U.S. wasn't ready to quit as they took the play Canada, in this back and forth game, with Ryan Kesler scoring at 12:44 to pull them to within one.

The score stayed at 2-1 for Canada with both teams having their chances through the rest of the second and most of the third.

The status quo disappeared, however, as Canada, leading by one, went into a defensive shell about half way through the third period. As soon as I saw them playing the 1-2-2 trapping style, I could feel the potential for disaster.

Have you ever been watching a hockey game when your team was leading by one and started to sit back too early? And when they did so, did you ever get that ominous foreboding feeling that the opposition would tie the game? Well Canada, unfortunately, fell into that classic trap.

The result of Canada's passive play was that with time winding down, Ryan Miller on the bench and the U.S. pressing for the tie, Parise's second effort tied the game with 25 seconds to play.

Picking up the rebound off of a Langenbrunner deflection in front, Parise whipped the puck past a falling Luongo to silence the rumbling crowd and send the game to overtime.

Now if you didn't know, overtime is a little different in international hockey than it is in the NHL. In international hockey, overtime is one twenty minute, four-on-four, sudden death period before going to a shootout to decide things. So for tonight's game, this meant a show case of some of the best hockey talent in the world, with a lot of extra skating room. Yummy.

Despite this delicious prospect, both teams were very tentative to start the overtime period. To a man, they looked more interested in avoiding a costly mistake rather than in pressing for the win. Things changed, however, about five minutes in as Canada started to relax and take the play to the U.S.

After a few nervous moments on both sides of the ice, Canada, led by Crosby, streaked down the ice. Crosby, carrying the puck over the offensive blue line, tried to split the U.S. defense and charge the net. Crosby was stopped and Miller deflected the puck into the corner.

Jerome Iginla picked up the puck in the corner and shuttled a soft, back door pass to Crosby who quickly fired the winner through Miller's five-hole. Miller, who had extended his stick in a poke-check attempt, was caught by surprise by Crosby's quick release.

Crosby threw off his gloves and helmet in celebration as the Canadian team players swarmed him in the U.S. zone to celebrate their golden win.

With that goal, Crosby says goodbye to the rapidly mounting criticism for his lack of production in this tournament, and says hello to joining Paul Henderson and Mario Lemieux in Canadian hockey history.

Final score: Canada 3 - USA 2 (OT)

Lost in the shadow of Canada's win is the fact that their gold medal gives Canada, as a nation, 14 gold medals in this Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Those 14 medals break the record for the most gold medals won by a host nation at the Olympics.

So congratulations Canada on your ice hockey gold, on your gold medal record and for hosting one of the most memorable Winter Olympics in Olympic history.

Oh Canada, indeed!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Olympic Hockey Update - U.S. and Canada for Gold, Slovaks and Finaland for bronze, Cammalleri
USA 6 - Finland 1
USA reaches finals by blitzing Finland

Canada 3 - Slovakia 2
Canad Survives to meet U.S. in finals

Bronze Medal Preview
Slovakia, Finalnd battle for bronze

Habs Update
Habs Inside/Out:
Cammalleri updates his status

RDS (French):
Cammalleri brings good news

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada Steamrolls Team Russia 7-3 to Advance to Semi's

Yesterday's quarterfinal matchup between Canada and Russia had a lot of hype surrounding it. And why not?

Canada versus Russia, where Canada has not beaten the Russians in Olympic competition for 50 years. Crosby versus Ovechkin, where the two best players in the world collide after their monumental playoff clash last year. Canada versus Russia, where both were considered gold medal contenders before the Olympics started.

Yes, this was billed as a game for the ages. One that would go down in the annals of hockey history along side memories of '72 and '87.

While last night's game is sure to last in people's memories, it is because of the walloping that Canada put on the Russians rather than for the evenly matched play.

In defeating the Russians 7-3, Canada sent one of the gold medal favorites home without a medal of any kind, and they did so in style.

Canada came out of the gate with fire in their eyes and the crowd roaring at their backs, as Ryan Getzlaf opened the scoring at 2:21 of the first. That goal pushed the screaming crowd into a frenzy that seemed to buoy the Canadian players.

Canada continued to roll with goals by Dan Boyle at 12:09 and Rick Nash at 12:55 to push the frenzied crowd over the edge and put the Russians back on their heels.

The Russians' Dmitri Kalinin got one back at 14:39 to make it a 3-1 game, but Canada's Brendan Morrow answered back at 18:18 to restore the three goal lead.

The Canadian employed a highly physical style throughout the game by body checking any player in a red sweater at every opportunity. It was clear that the goal was to physically punish the speedy, skilled Russians in order to get them off of their game. And it worked.

The teams went to the first intermission with Canada dominating a 4-1 game. At that point, you had to think that the Russians would replace goaltender Nabokov with Bryzgalov to start the second and give the Russians new life. Unfortunately for Russia, that was not to be. Instead, they came out with the same lineup and Canada continued to abuse them physically and on the scoreboard.

The result was three more goals for Canada in the second and two by the Russians for a 7-3 score after two. Team Russia did finally pull Nabokov when the score was 6-1 for Canada, but the game was already out of reach at that point.

Final score: Canada 7 - Russia 3

Game Notes
1 - Canada is hitting their stride. They say that in the Olympic tournament, your team needs to get better with each game in order to have a chance at winning a medal. Since it's such a short tournament and there isn't much practice time for the players before hand, coming together as a team and finding chemistry is paramount.

While over the first four games Canada has only been getting contributions from the Crosby and Thornton lines, last night, the third and fourth lines picked up the slack.

With goals by Getzlaf, Nash, Morrow and two by Perry, Canada's offense showed up just in time. This balanced four-line attack could not have come at a better time given the magnitude of the game versus Russia.

Canada's four-pronged attack meant that the thin Russian defensive corps had too many players to shut down and they just couldn't handle them all.

2 - Canada's physicality was a key factor in the win. A major component of Team Canada's game plan was to physically punish the Russians in order to get them off of their game. This is the same strategy that had worked for Canada against Ovechkin and Team Russia in the 2005 World Junior Championship, with Mike Richards leading the charge.

The result of Canada's physical domination of Russia in 2005 was a World Junior Championship. As an ancillary benefit, Ovechkin was kept off of the scoreboard and eventually had to leave the game due to injury.

In yesterday's 7-3 win, Ovechkin was again shot off of the scoreboard, had only three shots on net and finished the game with a -3 rating.

3 - Luongo has arrived. While no one ever doubted the skill level of Roberto Luongo, he doesn't exactly have a track record of success.

Over his first six years in the NHL, Luongo played a grand total of zero playoff games. Since arriving in Vancouver for the 2006-2007 season, Luongo has played a total of 22 playoff games with 11 wins and 11 losses. Hardly all-star numbers.

As a prelude to yesterday's game many Canadian fans and hockey experts were speculating as to whether Team Canada playing Luongo against Russia was the right move. At the same time there was a sense that this game could become a career defining moment for Roberto.

While Canada completely outplayed Russia from start to finish and Luongo wasn't needed to be a difference maker, he was called upon to make some difficult saves and was equal to the challenge. Whether yesterday's win ultimately becomes the turning point for Luongo from a championship perspective, remains to be seen.

What we do know, however, is that he didn't wilt under the pressure like he did against Chicago last year. This bodes well for the rest of the tournament and maybe even for the Canucks playoff hope this spring.

4 - Drew Doughty is a force for Canada. When the tournament started, there was a lot of talk that the Team Canada brain-trust were on the fence about bringing Doughty on board. Not because of his skill, mind you, but more because he is so young and inexperienced in big games.

Yzerman et al. eventually decided to make Doughty part of the team and it has paid dividends for them every game.

Despite his young age (20), Doughty has been the best and most consistent defenseman for Canada all tournament long.

Along with Shea Weber, Doughty is logging the most minutes, is being used in all of the critical situations, and is making great passes and even better defensive plays.

In addition, he hits hard and generally makes players around him better. He is an all-world player and will be manning the Canadian blue line for years to come.


Next Game
Yesterday's quarterfinal matches produced some surprising results as with Slovakia upsetting the defending Olympic champs, Sweden, 4-3. In other matches, Finland beat the Czech Republic 2-0 and USA won 2-0 over the Swiss.

The semi-finals, which start on Friday the 26th, will see Canada take on the surprising Slovaks and Finland doing battle with the U.S.

With all due respect to Slovakia and Finland, I predict that we will end up seeing a Canada/U.S. rematch on Sunday in a gold medal grudge match with Canada coming out as the victors.

The momentum that Canada gained in their 7-3 trouncing of the Russians last night, should continue to grow and carry them to gold.

Then again, gold medals aren't won on shoulds or coulds.

Let see what happens!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Hockey Updates - Canada, Czechs, Slovaks and Swiss win

Post-Game: Team Canada 8 - Team Germany 2
Iginla sends Canada past Germany

Post-Game: Team Switzerland 3 - Team Belarus 2 (SO)
Swiss eliminate Belarus in SO, Face US

Post-Game: Team Czech Republic 3 - Team Latvia 2 (OT)
Krejci's winner sends Czech past Latvia

Post-Game: Team Slovakia 4 - Team Norway 3
Satan's goal sends Slovakia past Norway
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada Spanks Germany, 8-2, in Warmup for Team Russia

Like a cat sharpening its claws before the hunt, Canada warmed up on the Germans, yesterday, in preparation for today's monstrously huge quarter-final game versus Russia.

In handily defeating the German team 8-2, Canada qualified for the medal round and in doing so has generated a little more cohesion on the ice.

While Monday morning saw Team Canada-nation in the throes of depression after the surprising defeat at the hands of the US, yesterday, during the third period, Team Canada had its faithful chanting "We want Russia!"

Despite a tentative first period against the Germans, Canada went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead on a goal by Joe Thornton, who's line continues to roll for Canada.

Canada looked, in the first, like a team who was feeling the weight of expectations and who was being crushed by the pressure.

Things changed in the second, however, as a Shea Weber blast from the point went past Germany's Greiss and through the netting.

Yes, you read that right. The puck went through the netting.

Play continued but was eventually whistled to review the goal, which ended up standing and making it a 2-0 game for Canada. Weber's goal was more than a little significant, because it was the first goal by a Canadian defenseman since the start of the tournament. After Weber's goal, you could see Team Canada relax and the floodgates opened up as a result.

1:09 later, Jerome Iginla who was skating on a line with Crosby and Stall, scored to make it 3-0 on the powerplay. That line continued to do great things for Canada, as Iginla scored another five minutes later on a beautiful cross-ice pass from Staal, to make it 4-0 for Canada.

There was a questionable moment for Team Canada's coaching staff as Rick Nash was hauled down on a breakaway resulting in a penalty shot, at 8:37 of the second frame.

In international competition, teams can pick any player to take the penalty shot and Mike Babcock chose to send out Sidney Crosby rather than Nash. Crosby's attempt was stopped by the German goaltender which wasn't the end of the world considering Canada's 4-0 lead.

The bigger problem was the missed opportunity to get Nash going—he has yet to score a goal in ten Olympic games lifetime.

While you can't really go wrong by choosing Crosby as a shooter, I can't help but wonder why Babcock didn't just stick with Nash. At 4-0 for Canada, the penalty shot was the perfect opportunity to give the guy who is struggling to score a chance to get that monkey off his back. Why not give him that chance? If Nash scores on that play, maybe he comes alive.

If Nash comes alive, Canada benefits as he is one of the players that they need to have firing on all cylinders if they want any chance of winning the gold medal.

After the penalty shot, it seemed like both teams fell into a bit of a lull. The result was that Germany scored a surprise goal with less than four minutes to play in the second.

With Marco Strum standing just outside the blue paint, he and Luongo got tied up allowing Germany's Goc enough time to go behind the net and sneak the puck past the far post with a wrap-around. 4-1 Canada.

Another point of interest on the night is that Babcock shortened his bench more than at any point during the first three games.

Patrice Bergeron, for example, only had 13 seconds of ice-time in the first period while Pronger rode the pine for most of the second. It is clear that Babcock is starting to ride his best horses as winning is all that matters now.

Canada continued to roll in the third as Crosby scored 1:10 into the third by tipping in a Staal cross-ice pass to make it 5-1.

A refreshing change for Canada in this game, was the contribution from all lines. Canada's fourth line grinders got on the board in the third as Brendan Morrow ground it out behind the net getting the puck out front to Richards in the slot who whipped it past Greiss to make it 6-1.

Scott Neidermayer was next for Canada, scoring on a breakaway at 11:22 of the third to make it 7-1. But, like Shea Weber being the first defenseman to score for Canada, the big news was that Rick Nash broke his bad luck streak in the third period.

Nash, playing on a line with Getzlaf and Perry, streaked down the right wing and roofed one past Greiss to score his first Olympic goal, if you can believe that.

I can't overstate how important that goal was for Canada, as Nash has been one of if not the, best player for Canada since the beginning of the tournament. His goal, scored on the eve of a monumental game versus Russia, should give the Canadian team a little extra offensive punch going forward.

Germany finished off the game by scoring on a 2-on-1 to make it an 8-2 with just over a minute to play. But, as the hometown crowd chanted "We want Russia! We want Russia!", we are reminded of how special the match that we will behold tonight is going to be.

Despite the game versus the German's being a gimmie, Canada did what they had to do and got some key players going in the process.

While Sunday's game versus the US was the biggest game of the tournament so far, tonight's game is likely to be the biggest of the entire tournament even going forward.

Heading into this tournament, it was widely believed that we would be witnessing a Russia versus Canada final.

Now, however, one of those two teams will lose tonight and finish outside of the medals.

This was a thought that seemed almost inconceivable two weeks ago, but now, with Canada's weak finish in the preliminary rounds, we are about to see the clash of the titans, a few games earlier than most had hoped.

Crosby versus Ovechkin. Canada versus Russia. The winner moves on and the loser goes home with no conciliation prize.

There really isn't much more to say than that. Tune in tonight to watch what is sure to be one of the best games in Olympic, and maybe even hockey, history.

Olympic Hockey Updates - Canada v. Germany, Changes for Canada? Luongo in nets, Ovechkin speaks

Pre-game: Canada v. Germany
Luongo gets the nod over Brodeur

More changes on the way for Canada?|NHL|home

Germany needs to be fearless|NHL|home

Ovechkin not stunned by US win over Canada

Habs Inside/Out:
Path to the podium runs through Brandenburg Gate

Habs News
Roenick: Halak to Chicago?

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Ryan Miller Shines as Team USA beats Team Canada 5-3

Thirty years minus a day from the anniversary of the US's 'Miracle on Ice', the 2010 edition of Team USA did their country proud and honored that memory with a 5-3 win over the hometown Canadians.

With three spectacular games on 'Super Sunday', the crown jewel of the day was the Canada-USA match scheduled in the 7:30PM EST primetime slot. With Russia already having defeated the Czech Republic 4-2, and with Sweden-Finland waiting in the wings, the hometown fans excitement for Canada-US was palpable.

Unfortunately for Canadian fans, things did not work out as they had hoped.

While for large stretches of the game, Team USA wasn't even in the same rink as Team Canada, they were ultimately able to capitalize on their limited scoring chances and vanquish the hometown heroes in the process.

The story of the game and the man of the night was Ryan Miller of the United States. Miller was simply spectacular from the opening faceoff to the closing buzzer, making save after miraculous save as Team Canada's considerable skill was on display.

Without Miller, this game would have been a blowout for Canada and it would have been over early.

How dominant was Canada? They outshot the US 19-6 in the first, 14-4 in the third and 45-23 overall. Canada still came out on the short end of things, however, because the US's goaltending was simply better than the Canadians'.

If you haven't done the math yet, those shot totals mean that Brodeur let in four goals on 22 shots—the last shot was an empty net goal—for a .818 save percentage. Hardly hall of fame numbers and very uncharacteristic of Brodeur.

Also uncharacteristic for Brodeur were his numerous missteps while handling the puck—at least two of which lead directly to goals. Brodeur was not the tower of strength that we have all gotten used to. No, on this night, Brodeur looked every bit of out his league as he flopped around on the ice, had difficulty tracking the puck, made horrible plays and giveaways by mishandling the puck and looked, overall, very average.

And that, ladies and gentleman, was the story of the night. Miller was simply better than Brodeur, and the US took advantage of their chances while Canada had trouble burying theirs.

A few other interesting storylines took shape last night as both Chris Pronger and Dan Boyle looked slow and old, out there. Canada's coach, Mike Babcock, clearly noticed this as he limited their ice time to 3:46 and 4:00, respectively, in the third period.

By the same token, the younger defensemen looked great for Team Canada and were rewarded as Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith played 9:41 and 8:44 in the third period.

Despite being outplayed for most of the game last night, we have to give Team USA their dues in that they did win the game. Winning is not about outplaying the other team but about scoring more goals, and they certainly did last night.

With young players like Patrick Kane and Zack Parise zipping all over the ice, the US team also showed that they are no slouches.

Aside from Miller, the biggest player on the night for Team USA has got to be defenseman Brian Rafalski. Rafalski scored the first two goals for the US, both on Brodeur turnovers, and finished the night with two goals, one assist, three shots on goal and a +2 rating.

At 36 years of age and the runaway "Grey Beard" of the team, Rafalski's considerable experience was on display as he, along with Miller, were the backbone of the Team USA upset.

Game Notes
The US coaching staff did a tremendous job of recognizing and taking away Martin Brodeur's stickhandling ability. They clearly saw that he has a penchant for playing the puck on his forehand to the left side of the ice and loaded that side up with attackers to block his passing lanes. The result was that Brodeur was made to look bad on several occasions as he turned the puck over, ultimately resulting in goals.

Interesting note: Sidney Crosby was a -3 on the night and scored his first goal of the tournament.

Standings and Next Game
With the win, the United States finishes as the number one seed with nine points, and gets a bye to the quarterfinal round.

The loss leaves Team Canada with five points, good enough for the sixth seed overall. Canada now has to play a qualifying game against Germany, tomorrow, and the winner of that match will play Russia—who also got a bye—on Wednesday in a quarterfinal matchup.

While a lot of people are already writing Germany off, and likely for good reason, I think that Team Canada needs to be careful about looking too far ahead. While Germany is not in the same league as Canada, if Canada does not focus on the task at hand an upset is always possible.

While Canadians around the world are likely depressed this morning, one thing to keep in mind is that the extra game for Canada might not be the end of the world. In fact, it might be another opportunity for them to work out a few more kinks.

The biggest question for Canada, however, is after Brodeur's decidedly weak performance last night, who gets the start in the next game? Is Luongo a foregone conclusion?

Tune in tomorrow night to find out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Anticipation Peaks With Three Huge Games On 'Super Sunday'

Can you feel it? Can you taste it? That palpable anticipation and excitement that is building in Vancouver and is echoing across the hockey world?

It’s growing. And with each minute that passes the anticipation will continue to build on one of the biggest, most important days in international hockey history.

With five hours before the puck drops on what is being called "Super Sunday" at the Vancouver Olympics, the top six hockey powers in the world prepare to clash in three separate games.

Today's games are sure to provide some of the best and most exciting hockey in recent memory as there is no shortage of dramatic and interesting storylines.

The warm-up match will see Russia taking on the Czech Republic -- surprisingly sitting in first place in the Group B pool -- in a game that will pit the reeling Russians against the surging Czechs.

The Russians, fresh off of their stunning defeat at the hands of the surprising Slovakians and with four points overall, will look to redeem themselves by defeating the streaking Czechs.

A regulation win by Russia will allow them to win their pool, with seven points, one more than the Czechs.

But how is Russia's confidence after the humbling loss to Slovakia? Will they be fragile or will they come out like lions?

The second game of the day is the highlight game of Canada versus the US, in a grudge match from the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2002, Canada defeated the US on their home soil, to win the Olympic gold medal.

This year, however, both the US and Canada have looked a little shaky in their first few games. While the US leads the Group A pool with six points and zero losses, their defense has looked a little suspect at times.

Canada, on the other hand, looked solid in their 8-0 win over Norway, but were exposed by a tenacious Swiss fore-check resulting in a nail-biting shootout victory in their second match.

With five points in two games, Canada needs this win to capture the first seed in their pool.

The big question for Canada right now is who will play with Sidney Crosby? While that would seem like an easy problem to solve given Crosby's high skill level, it has thus far proven to be a bit of a challenge as Canada's coaching staff has been rotating wingers on his line in an attempt to find chemistry.

Will things start to click today versus the US or will Canada fall and suffer a moral as well as physical defeat?

In the final game of "Super Sunday", arch rivals Finland and Sweden will face each other to determine the winner of the Group C pool. With each team having six points in the standings and undefeated records so far, this is sure to be a spectacular game between the two bitter Scandinavian rivals.

Remember, that Sweden defeated Finland to win the gold medal in Turin, four years ago. That bitter loss remains etched in the minds of Finnish hockey fans everywhere and, like the US with Canada, they want nothing more than to beat Sweden.

With Finland's Teemu Selanne becoming the highest scoring player in Olympic history, in their 5-0 win over Germany, he is sure to leave it all on the ice tonight.

Peter Forsberg too, who is making a return to the world stage playing for Sweden, is sure to elevate his game making for an outstanding show of skill.

Regardless of our allegiances to one team versus another, the incredible spectacle that we are about to witness will be some of the best competition of this still young Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Today is bound to be a special day for hockey, whether you are watching the game by yourself, with your family or with friends. I, for one, will be savoring every hit, every goal and every hero that emerges as the yet unwritten chapters in Olympic hockey history unfold before my eyes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympic Hockey Updates - Sweden eeks out win, Czech's outlast, Finland blanks German

Sweden 4 - Belarus 2
Sweden moves to 2-0 after Belarus' rally falls short

Czech 5 - Latvia 2
Jagr's second goal helps Czech past Latvia

Finland 5 - Germany 0
Finland scores 4 PP goals in romp

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Hockey Updates - Canada Wins, US triumphs, Slovakia shock Russia, Swiss, Norway
Crosby's goal gives Canada 3-2 win|NHL|home

Slovakia Edges Russia|NHL|home

USA puts away Norway 6-1 for second win
Slovakia rallies past Russia in shootout for first group win

Rafalski nets late pair as US routs Norway

Crosby scores on 2nd SO try to lift Canada over feisty Swiss

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada Exorcises Demons Versus Team Switzerland

In defeating Team Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout, yesterday, Canada pulled one out of the fire.

While early on, the game looked like it was going to be a repeat of Team Canada's 8-0 thumping of Team Norway only two days earlier, things changed quickly for the hometown heroes.

Making the score 2-0 only 35 seconds into the second on goals by Heatley and Marleau the Canadians looked in control. Things changed for Canada, however, when Switzerland scored at 8:59 of the second.

Ivo Ruthemann's bullet of a shot from 40 feet out somehow managed to elude Brodeur even though he saw the puck the whole way. You're not going to score too many goals like that on Brodeur but the Swiss will take it!

That goal gave the Swiss the boost that they needed to turn the tide on the Canadians. It was also at that point that the immense pressure that Canada is under started to show.

While Canada outshot the Swiss 17-8 in the first period, the margin was only 10-9 for Canada in the second as the Swiss took the game to a suddenly reeling Canadian team.

The Swiss continued to fore-check aggressively and were rewarded with the tying goal with 10 seconds left in the second period. Patrick von Gunten threw the puck out front and it banked off of Canada's Patrick Marleau's skate and past Brodeur to send the team to their dressing rooms tied at two.

Canada wasn't discouraged however, throwing everything they had at the Swiss in the third. Switzerland's goaltender, Jonas Hiller, was equal to the task however as he made save after spectacular save to hold off the Canadian onslaught.

Hiller had fans remembering about how the Canadian team was stoned by Switzerland's Martin Gerber, only four years prior, in Turin, as Canada lost 2-0. That loss was the beginning of the end for a Canadian that would ultimately finish seventh in the 2006 Olympics and out of the medals.

Hiller's heroics continued to be on display as he made 18 saves in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Overtime failed to solve anything and it was up to the two goaltenders to decide the fate of the game in the shootout.

After neither team was able to score on their three shootout chances -- including Hiller's saves on Crosby, Toews and Getzlaf -- the Canadians sent Crobsy out again, to take the fourth shot.

As an aside, you should know that in international ice hockey, unlike the NHL, teams can repeat shooters after the third man has taken his shot. As such, Babcock gave Crosby another crack at it.

They say that you win with your best and you lose with your best and Babcock must have known that Crosby, who was held off the score sheet and had a frustrating game, wanted to be a difference maker. He wanted that goal and he wanted the win.

The look in his eyes, as he skated to the puck at center ice, was of a focused young man who had had enough.

This time, instead of trying a deke, Crosby did a quick fake and fired a wrister past Hiller on the short stick side. That left it up to Brodeur to stop Switzerland's Domenichelli, which he did as the Swiss player tried to go up high glove side.

The save won the game for Canada and allowed fans in attendance and watching on TV to breath a sigh of relief.

By almost duplicating their effort of four years earlier, against Canada, Team Switzerland continued to show that while they are not yet part of the top six international teams -- Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic -- they are certainly not far behind.

Almost more importantly than the win, for Canada, was the fact they have seemed to have exorcised their shootout demons from Turin. In addition, maybe this game provided the Canadian team with that little bit of adversity that they needed to really bump their game into gear.

There is no question that the Canadian team still has a lot of things to improve on, but we must give credit where credit is due in acknowledging that the Swiss hockey program is one that seems on the cusp of greatness.

Up next for Canada is the greatly anticipated Sunday game versus the United States. The US currently has one more point in the standings (six) than Canada (five) in virtue of their 6-1 regulation win over Norway.

Sunday's game will decide the winner of the Group A pool and determine the placement going forward into the elimination rounds. So hold onto your hats, ladies and gentleman, because Sunday's game could be one for the ages.

Olympic Hockey Updates - Jagr, Selanne, Team Canada, Team USA and more

Updates from
Sweden Shuts Down Germany

Jagr Leads Czech's

Selanne Moves into tie for most Olympic points (in Finns win)|NHL|home

Despite win Team USA must pass chemistry test

Who is Canada's #1 goalie?|NHL|home

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Men's Olympic Hockey: Team Canada, Team Russia, Team USA

After all of the anticipation and the months, if not years, of waiting, we got to watch some Men's Olympic Hockey yesterday, and what a treat it was!

The three games on the menu showcased three Olympic hockey contenders: Team USA, Team Russia and Team Canada.

No disrespect intended to any of the other teams out there, but there are only a few medal hopefuls in this 2010 Olympic Hockey tournament and they are Canada, Russia, USA, Czech Republic and Sweden. All things considered, the Czech's and the US team are likely at the bottom of that list.

Things started off with the US taking on Switzerland in game 1 of the Group A pool. While you would expect that game to be a blow out, Switzerland actually stood their ground relatively well limiting the US to three goals in their 3-1 loss.

One thing that was evident about the US is that they intend to bring a physical brand of hockey to the rink. In addition, they intend on making things difficult for opposing goaltenders by crowding the crease and running goaltenders.

This is a Brian Burke team—who is the GM of Team USA—who intend on grinding down and physically punishing their opposition. Watching this team on the ice yesterday, they look like a team that was put together specifically to stop the Canadians.

Speaking of the Canadians, fans watched with bated breath, as Norway matched Canada's game in the first period. Sure, their goaltender, Grotnes, played great, but you could see that Canada was still feeling each other out. They were trying to get a sense of each other and find that chemistry that was so elusive in Turin.

I'm sure the anxiety continued for Team Canada's fans as Canada came out of the first intermission with a 0-0 tie and seemed to be firing blanks on the powerplay. Shades of Turin: pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. Someone needs to shot in order to score.

Canada didn't keep their fans waiting too much longer though as they got on the board with a powerplay marker at 2:30 of the second. The goal was scored on a rifling shot from Iginla—who had a hat-trick on the night—off of a soft Crosby feed. From there, Canada started to drop the hammer on Norway, scoring two more 5-on-5 goals to end the period 3-0.

Things really turned around for Canada when Coach Babcock took Bergeron off of Crosby's line and replaced him with Iginla. Those two created the spark that ignited the whole team, setting the stage for a five goal outburst in the third and an 8-0 Team Canada win.

If there was one thing the Canadians will want to fix, going forward, it is that they took too many penalties with many of the "bad" and/or offensive zone variety. It's one thing to give Norway five powerplays but it is a completely different—and infinitely more dangerous—thing to give Russia, for example, that many chances.

Unlike Canada, Team Russia was rolling right from the drop of the puck as their offensive prowess was on display versus Latvia. With players like Ovechkin, Semin, Datsyuk, Kovalchuk and Malkin up front and Gonchar and Markov at the back end, this is a team with considerable offensive power, as the Latvian's learned in their 8-2 drubbing.

Russia will definitely be a team to look out for during this tournament, as they look hungry and ready to challenge for the gold. Them, along with Sweden, present the two biggest challenges to Team Canada in their quest for gold.

As the tournament progresses and the various teams continue to gel and find chemistry, the play will peak into a crescendo of awe inspiring skill and pace, the likes of which we haven't seen in decades, if ever.

If the first day of the Men's Olympic Hockey tournament is a sign of things to come, this tournament will produce some of the best hockey that has ever been witnessed. So enjoy and try to soak up the history as it's being written right before of your eyes!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Hockey Updates - Markov skating, will AK46 play for Belarus? Team previews.

Habs Inside/Out: - Olympic team previews

TSN - Caps lead way at Olympics

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Habs on hiatus and a little rest for the wicked...

Well the Olympics have finally started and from the looks of the first weekend, we are going to be witnessing some incredible moments in sport.

With the Habs now on a two-week break, this blogger will also be taking a pause. However, I will be providing random musings and reports about the Olympics, and about Olympic hockey in particular.

So check back on a regular basis to hear what this addict thinks about what's going on.

I'll also be providing info about the five Habs players who will be playing in the games: Halak, Plekanec, the two Kostitsyn brothers and Andrei Markov.

I've got to say that I'll be wearing my heart on my sleeve and am rooting 100% for Team Canada.

Enjoy the games, all. This is bound to be some incredible hockey and other sports, coming up over the next little while. So sit back, soak it all in and revel in the history as it is written before your eyes.


Daily Habs Links - Break good for Habs, Team Canada

Habs Inside/Out - 24 Cups on Team Canada

Inside/Out at the Olympic break

RDS - The break will be good for the Habs

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daily Habs Links - Flyers win...again, Olympic break, Briere.

Post-game: Habs 2 - Flyers 6
Habs Inside/Out:

RDS - Same formula, same result

TSN - Briere Hat Trick

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daily Habs Links - Phlly wins, Spacek Hurt, Post game and pre game

Post Game: Habs 2 - Flyers 3
Habs Inside/Out - Flyers hold on to down Canadiens

RDS - Heads somewhere else, Habs lose 2 points


Pre-game: Habs v. Flyers
Habs Inside/Out:


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Montreal-Philadelphia: Flyers Hang on to Beat Habs 3-2

In losing 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday, the Habs put a damper on an otherwise exciting evening.

The list of interesting plot twists was plentiful as the Habs prepared to dispute two huge points in the standings: Carey Price playing his first back-to-back games since January, Josh Gorges in the lineup after taking a puck off the back of his head the previous game, P.K. Subban playing his first NHL game—as Markov was scratched due to injury—newly acquired Dominic Moore playing his first game in a Habs uniform, and the whole thing taking place with the Olympic opening ceremonies only hours away.

The Habs came out flat, however, from the drop of the puck, and hung Carey Price out to dry. Sadly, this has become an all too familiar pattern.

While Price was looked shaky and unsure of himself during the first two periods, the Habs defensive zone coverage was atrocious for most of the game, making him look even worse.

The Flyers opened the scoring at 18:14 of the first with a shot that Price stopped, resulting in a goal-mouth scramble. Philly's Hartnell was tussling in the crease and pushed Price into the net with his stick. This left an opening for Jeff Carter to shovel the puck into the open net for his 25th of the season.

The Habs went to the first intermission down by one and it didn't take Philly long to extend their lead.

At 1:17 of the second, Jeff Carter fired a rocket from the point which went through Price's five-hole to make it 2-0 for the Flyers. Price was unscreened on the play and should clearly have stopped that shot. With such fragile confidence, however, Price tends to fall apart after getting scored on.

The Flyers weren't done, potting a third goal only two minutes later as a harmless looking Matt Carle shot from the point was deflected by Ryan O'Byrne past Price.

Philly simply dominated the rest of the second frame, outshooting the Habs 12-7 and 23-13 after two.

The third period started differently as Price seemed to settle into a groove, coming up with several excellent stops to keep it a three goal game.

P.K. Subban played an excellent game and his hard work led to the Habs first goal. Using what will soon be known as his patented end-to-end rushes, Subban brought the puck into the Flyers zone and passed it behind the net. The Habs' Glen Metropolit jumped on the puck and just threw it out front, bouncing it off of Daniel Briere and into the net. 3-1 Flyers.

This goal gave the Habs a lift as Dominic Moore scored his first goal in a Habs uniform, less than a minute later off of a scramble in close.

With less than a minute to play in the game, Philly's Darroll Powe slammed Jaroslav Spacek into the board resulting in an injury to Spacek and a five minute major penalty to Powe.

Despite the powerplay and carrying the momentum to the final buzzer, the Habs were not able to score that elusive tying goal and lost, 3-2. The game ended with a melee of players in the Flyers zone none more prominent than Gomez who attacked Kimmo Timonen.

Tempers flared and blood boiled and I am sure it will only carry over into today's grudge match at the Bell Center.

Final: Habs 2 - Flyers 3

Game Notes
1 - Like Rodney Dangerfield, Price gets no respect. Yesterday was the same old story that we have gotten used to: Price in nets, no support in front of him, terrible defensive zone coverage, no shots on net, tons of turnovers and Habs can't score more than two goals.

While there is no question that the second goal was one that Price would like to have back and that he looked very shaky for the first two periods, my question is where was the team in front of him?

Price's fragile confidence is evident and I think that the team knows it. As such, they don't generally play the same in front of him as in front of Halak. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a vicious cycle and Price has to figure out a way to get out of it.

2 - Ryan O'Byrne is finding his game. Last night, OB looked solid out there and you can see his confidence growing each game. OB delivering solid hits, made great, unhurried first passes and exhibiting good defensive zone coverage.

The best illustration of his confidence was when he and Simon Gagne were racing for a loose puck in the neutral zone. Gagne got to the puck first but O'Byrne dove and knocked it away from him, preventing a clear breakaway. It's nice to see him settling down and finding his groove.

3 - P.K. Subban was the best player on the ice for the Habs. Not only does he look NHL ready, but he has the swagger of a veteran. Paired with Hal Gill, Subban made great plays, he looked calm with the puck and he's not afraid to try dynamic things offensively.

His offensive prowess was on display as he made a spin-o-rama at the blue line to lose his checker, leaving him open for a great shot from the point.

Subban looks like a mini-Markov.

The other thing that was apparent was that Subban was rearing to go every time he stepped on the ice. He just wanted to make things happen and often did, whether it was with solid defensive plays or his end-to-end rushes.

Give this guy a little time to season at the NHL level and he will become a star.

The last note on Subban is that it's nice to see how confident he is. When interviewed during the intermission by RDS, Subban was asked why he didn't look nervous. His answer was "...why should I be nervous? I've been playing hockey since I was three.."

Love it!

4 - Habs cannot play against physical teams. While the Habs seem to play well against teams skill-based teams such as Washington and Vancouver and Pittsburgh, they tend to have a tough time against physical teams like Philly.

Philly plays a physical brand of hockey that puts a lot of duress on the smaller Canadiens' players. As a result, the Habs lose more battles than they win and tend to have difficulty getting things going in the offensive zone.

If there is one thing that Gauthier should try to address at the deadline it is the Habs lack of size.

Standings and Next Game
The loss leaves Montreal with 64 points in 62 games good enough for seventh overall in the East.

Philly leapfrogged the Habs and are now one point ahead at 65, with three games in hand.

Behind the Habs are Boston and Tampa with 63 points and three games in hand each.

The Habs now take on the Flyers again in Montreal in their last game before the Olympic break.

Daily Habs links - Philly, pre-game, Moore, Halak

Pre-game: Habs @ Philly
Habs Inside/Out:


Other Habs News:
RDS - Moore comes to Montreal (French)

Habs Inside/Out - The continuning education of Jaroslav Halak

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Official Habs Press Release - Habs Acquire Moore, Send Maxwell to Hamilton


MONTREAL (February 11, 2010) – Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Pierre Gauthier announced tonight the acquisition of forward Dominic Moore from the Florida Panthers, in return for the Canadiens’ second round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

The 29-year old Moore suited up for 48 games this season with the Florida Panthers recording 17 points (8 goals and 9 assists), serving 35 penalty minutes and shooting 81 times on the opposing net. The 6’ and 196 lbs centerman scored two of his goals with the man advantage and added another goal playing shorthanded.

A native of Sarnia, Ontario, Moore earned 117 points (43 goals, 74 assists) in 353 regular season games in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and
Florida Panthers.

Moore was a third round selection, 95th overall, by the New York Rangers in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

A Harvard graduate, Moore played with Crimson from 1999 to 2003 and was voted to the ECAC All-Rookie Team in 2000, a member of the ECAC Second All-Star Team in 2001. In 2003, he was selected to the ECAC First All-Star Team and the NCAA East First All-American Team.

The Canadiens also announced tonight that forward Ben Maxwell has been assigned to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. Maxwell, 21, was held pointless in eight games with the Canadiens this season. He had been recalled from Hamilton on January 24.

Daily Habs Links - Habs win, Caps streak over, post-game, Gorges

Post-Game: Habs 6 - Caps 5 (OT)
Habs Inside/Out - Canadiens, Capitals put on a show

RDS - A night of firsts (French)

TSN - Plekanec plays OT hero - Canadiens win in OT

Other Habs News:
Habs Inside/Out - Indestructible Gorges practices with team

Spector's Hockey - Frolov to Montreal?

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Montreal-Washington: Habs Win Wild One Over Caps in OT

Well, hello! Dr. Jekyll, I presume?

And so the zig-when-you-expect-them-to-zag Canadiens defeated the mighty, streaking Washington Capitals last night, 6-5 in overtime. True to the form that we have gotten used to, the Habs kept their fans guessing by doing the opposite of what the majority expect. Perhaps that is our own fault and we should just learn to expect the unexpected with this team.

In beating the Caps 6-5 last night, the Canadiens continue to show that they are a team that can be deadly and dangerous when they play aggressively, and this despite having 40 percent of their goal scoring out of the lineup.

From the drop of the puck, you could see that the Habs wanted this game. The Gomez, Gionta, Pyatt line—who caused problems for the Caps all night—opened the scoring only 36 seconds into the game when Gionta, coming out of the corner, made a short pass to Gomez who roofed his ninth of the season over the Caps' Neuvirth.

Six minutes later the Capitals' Brooks Laich deked the puck in from the faceoff circle to the right of Price, and slipped the puck past him to tie it at one.

That was all the scoring that would take place in the first period but the rest of the game was a shooting gallery as the Habs put the pedal to the metal in the second.

The Habs came out like lions and Tom Pyatt scored his first NHL goal only 18 seconds into the second frame. However, Nicklas Backstrom got that one back 30 seconds later to tie the game at two.

With the game pretty even balanced, the Caps, oddly, made a goaltending change about five minutes into the second period. Neuvirth went to the bench in favour of Theodore and there was no real explanation as to why. During the intermission, when asked about the switch, the Caps had no comment. Strange. Very strange.

Having Theodore in nets—who the home crowd immediately started braying—didn't make things any better for the Caps as the Habs took the lead at 12:48.

Playing an uncharacteristic two-man forecheck, the Habs aggressive style led to a Brendan Morrison hooking penalty. On the subsequent powerplay, Glen Metropolit capitalized for his 12th of the season off of a sweet cross-crease feed from David Desharnais—his first NHL point.

But the Habs were just getting started as Maxim Lapierre scored his fifth of the season only 12 seconds later, off of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Sergei Kostitsyn, to make it a 4-2 game.

Six minutes later, the Habs increased their lead to three goals as Kostitsyn beat the Caps player to the puck, off a Hal Gill dump in. SK74 then moved towards the net only to make a pass out to Plekanec in the high slot, who roofed it past Theodore for his 16th goal of the season and a 5-2 Habs lead.

With the Habs holding a three goal lead going into the second intermission, it seemed like the Caps had been taken by surprise. You had to wonder if they had been done-in the night before by Montreal's holy trinity: SuperSex, Wanda's and Chez Pare.

But the Caps were undaunted, having outscored their opposition by some 30+ goals in third periods, over their 14-game win streak. 16 seconds into the third they showed everyone just how deadly they can be.

With Tomas Plekanec sitting in the penalty box for slashing Mike Green riffled a shot from the point, past Price, to make it a 5-3 game. That goal gave the supremely confident Caps some momentum and they carried it through to the final buzzer.

Brooks Laich was the Caps hero of the evening, scoring unassisted at 9:02 on a 2-on-1 with Semin to make it a one goal game, and then completing his hat-trick with 18 seconds to go in the game to tie it at five and send the game into overtime.

While the Caps dictated the play for most of the overtime period, it was the home boys who came out ahead.

With less than a minute to go in overtime, Sergei Kostitsyn carried the puck into the offensive zone and swept from the outside towards the net. SK74 made a little pump-fake then passed the puck to Plekanec in front of the net, who shot the puck into the open side for the winning goal. The goal was Plek's 17th of the season and it sealed the deal for the Habs. Final score Habs 6 - Caps 5 (OT).

Game Notes
1 - Price was good and bad tonight. Last night's game was Carey Price's first start since January 27, 2010. That is almost two full weeks since he has seen any game action as Halak as been lights out over that span.

Despite the layoff, Price started the game off very strong. He looked sharp and aggressive, coming out to challenge shooters and standing up to shots. Price was also playing the puck a lot in the first period which is always a sign that he is feeling good.

The problems started for Price in the third period. While he had made some exceptional saves up to that point, you could see his confidence take a hit as the Caps scored early to make it a two goal game.

Despite getting some offensive support from his teammates, for a change, Price demonstrated last night that his confidence is still very fragile. You could almost feel that the Caps were going to tie the game up, as Price's shaky confidence reared it's ugly head in the third.

Rather than the aggressive, focused player we saw in the first, Price became a tentative, nervous player in the third. Deep in his net, quick to go down on his knees and not playing the puck as much. When Price is in that state he usually lets in soft goals, as he did last night, especially on the tying goal with 18 seconds left in the game.

Price was crouched down on the play, and the puck squeezed through the miniscule 5-hole he had showing. That goal goes in the "key save"/"he shoulda had that one" category, and Price knew it as he banged his stick in anger.

What separates an elite goaltender from a run-of-the-mill goaltender is the ability to consistently make that "key save" at key times. Price sometimes makes that save and sometimes lets it in. But let's not forget that he is only 22 years old. Give him a few more years and he'll get there.

Let's also not forget that the Habs did ultimately win the game and got two badly needed points and that is the most important thing to keep in mind.

2 - Ovechkin is a machine. With 42 goals and 88 points in 52 games, Ovechkin is simply dominating the league and man, is it fun to watch. Love him or hate him, you have to respect the awesome skills that Ovy brings to the table.

For me, the purest illustration of his complete skill set was on a goal last night that was called off. After Price made a great glove save and fell backward, the puck lay at Hal Gill's feet. Seizing the opportunity, Ovechkin simple leveled Gill with a huge body check that sent him flying into Price.

The result was that Gill, Price and the puck went into the net, along with Ovechkin. While the goal was ultimately waived off for interference, it shows how Ovy is also dominate in the physical aspect of the game. A true power-forward with lighting quick skating, a bullet of a shot and a keen eye for finding the open man.

He is simply the most dominant power-forward since Eric Lindros.

3 - Josh Gorges is a warrior. Early in the game, Josh slid to block a Mike Green bullet from the point and unfortunately blocked the shot with the back of his head.

As he lay motionless on the ice for a minute or so, flashes of Trent McCleary taking a puck in the throat came to mind.

Fortunately, Gorges was alright as he was eventually helped off of the ice by athletic trainer Graham Rynbend and Habs physician Doctor Mulder.

Gorges took the shot off his skull just behind his ear. The stream of blood running down the back of his helmet was evident as he was helped to the dressing room.

Josh is simply a warrior and has been the Habs unsung hero or "fourth star" for the last two years in a row. Never complaining, taking as much or as little ice-time as he gets, blocking shots, making smart defensive plays and being an overall leader on this team, Gorges doesn't get enough recognition.

It's unfortunate that it takes a scary incident like this for him to get noticed.

4 - Sergei Kostitsyn is rounding into form. With three more assists last night, SK74 now has six points (1G, 5A) over his last five games. It is no coincidence that Plekanec has four goals over that same stretch as Sergei is an excellent playmaker.

The more he plays with Plekanec the more his exceptional on-ice vision becomes evident.

Sergei has been through a lot this year with all his trade demands and demotions, but he is starting to look like a player who has learned his lesson. He seems to have checked his attitude at the door and the results are starting to bear fruit for the Habs. His resurgence is not a moment too soon as the Habs are being decimated by injuries.

Good on you, Sergei! Keep it up.

Standings and Next Game
The win moves the Habs back to three games over .500 with 29 wins. It also gives them 64 points in 61 games, good enough for sixth overall in the East.

As is usually the case, their hold on sixth is tenuous as Philly and Tampa—each with three games in hand—are both one point behind the Habs with 63 points. Just behind them is Boston with 61 points and three games in hand.

The Habs have one day off before playing two of their most important games of the season: back-to-back Friday and Saturday games against the Flyers. Two wins, and the Habs will start putting some distance between them and the bubble teams. Two losses and the Flyers will leapfrog over them while letting the teams behind the Habs catch up.

Should be interesting to see what the Habs have in store for us before the Olympic break!

Daily Habs Links - Caps freight train! Plekanec wants to stay

Gameday: Habs vs. Caps
Habs Inside/Out - Habs vs. Caps

Habs Inside/Out - How do Habs stop a freight train?

RDS - The beginning of the Gauthier era (French)


Other Habs News
RDS - Plekanec wants to stay in Montreal (French)

RDS - Nothing but good words for Gainey (French)

Spector's Hockey - Halak, Price and Plekanec

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Montreal Canadiens' Bob Gainey Made Mistakes: Will Pierre Gauthier Be Better?

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of talk in the city of Montreal about Bob Gainey's failings as a GM. Not about him as a person, mind you, as Gainey is a classy, respectful individual through and through. No, talk has been more of an indictment of his professional skills. So yesterday, when news broke that he was stepping aside, the Canadiens fan base was energized with the thought of heading in a new direction.

It had become clear, over the last few years, that Gainey was a man who's management style was more in line with the pre-lockout NHL than the current version of the game.

In the pre-lockout days, if your owner's pockets were deep enough and his mind was willing enough, you could pretty much buy a contending team. Now, money doesn't guarantee success—as the New York Rangers have seen year after year—but it does give a lot more flexibility to the management team.

In the old days, a GM could throw as much money as possible at top players in an effort to acquire a great collection of talent. If the player didn't work out with the team, the GM could just buy them out at the end of the season without blinking an eye.

As such, GM's were able to walk away from erroneous player acquisitions and just go fishing for new ones in the free agent or trade markets. If the owner had the means, money wasn't an obstacle to success.

In Montreal, however, Gainey's old strategies have not worked out as well. In the post-lockout, salary capped-NHL, you can't just throw money at a problem and hope it works out. Free agent mistakes can severely handicap a team, as they can be stuck with an albatross of a contract for years.

The Scott Gomez contract, for example, is the perfect illustration of this problem. Gomez, who is a talented player, is not worth anywhere near his $7.357 million cap hit. In reality, he is likely worth about half of that. The problem now is that unless they can convince some other sucker GM to take him off of their hands, the Habs are stuck with his contract for the next four years.

In the old NHL, GMs could just buyout his contract without having to worry about any salary cap ramifications. Now, however, buying out his contract will result in a substantial cap hit for the next eight years—double his remaining term—and as such, Gomez is largely untradeable.

A second glaring mistake that Gainey has made year after year, was to let valuable assets walk away from the team without getting anything in return.

Komisarek, Souray, Streit, Koivu, Tanguay, Kovalev just to name a few players, could have netted the Canadiens a bunch of draft picks and/or prospects and/or roster players. Instead, one-by-one, Gainey chose to let them walk away with no compensation. This is a strategy that can cripple a team and has done major damage to the depth of the Montreal Canadiens organization.

Another mistake that Gainey made was to thrust Price into the spotlight too soon and then keep him there despite his struggles. While I, personally, feel that Price does have the potential to become an elite goaltender in this league, I think that Gainey should have shown more patience with him.

Rather than keeping Price with the team when he was struggling early on, they should have sent him back to Hamilton to get his game up to speed. Conversely, if Gainey was hell-bent on keeping Price in Montreal, he should have better insulated his star prodigy. The best way to do that would have been to go out and get a veteran backup to help guide and mold Price.

Gainey's best chance to insulate Price was when he traded Huet. It was at that time that he should have brought in a veteran backup to help Price. Unfortunately, Gainey did not do this and Price, and the team, have suffered for it ever since.

Another huge failing of the Bob Gainey era is that his professional scouting department has been weak. This is the department that was headed up by now Habs GM, Pierre Gauthier. Gauthier, so you know, is the man under who's watch both Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya left the team, when he was in Anaheim. He was also the guy who told Gainey that Gill and Mara would make excellent additions to the Habs roster. Gauthier convinced Gainey that Spacek was still at the top of his game, when he signed him this summer as well as telling him that Streit was a one-hit wonder.

All of this to say that it is a generally accepted notion that Gauthier's track record for pro scouting is poor, to say the least. Despite this undeniable truth, Gainey chose to make Gauthier the head of that very important hockey department and this move too, has caused the Habs a lot of problems.

With Gainey's announcement that he was stepping aside, the Habs had a great opportunity to make a departure from the management group that has led them for the last seven years. Given that the Habs have never made it past the second round of the playoffs during Gainey's tenure, you would think that they would want to try something different.

Perhaps with the timing of Gainey's resignation—just before the two week Olympic break—the Canadiens brass would slap an "interim" tag at the front of Pierre Gauthier's GM title, and do an exhaustive search to determine who would be best suited to the position.

Who knows, maybe after the search they would have determined that Gauthier was still the best candidate for the job. But to outright name him THE guy, without considering any other candidates makes me scratch my head and wonder why.

Judging from the largely negative reaction of people on Twitter and fan boards across the city, it seems like the Habs fan base is also upset about this move.

My problem is not so much with Gauthier but more with the Habs' rush to name him as GM. What was the rush? Why didn't the Habs name him as interim GM, if only until the end of the season, in order to see what options were out there?

But alas, the deed has been done. Gainey is gone and his right-hand man, Gauthier, is here to take over. I think, out of fairness to the man, we have to reserve judgment until we see what Gauthier can do. He has a lot of pressure on his shoulders and some very important decisions to make.

On the more immediate horizon, Gauthier has to tackle the Olympic trade deadline, the March 3rd NHL trade deadline, Plekanec's contract and Halak and Price's contract renewals and/or trades.

With all of these balls up in that air at the same time, we have to hope that Gauthier knows how to juggle. To his credit, there were some encouraging signs from his press conference, as Gauthier explained that the Habs have already started talking with Plekanec's agent. He also explained that he was happy with the goaltending situation and that Halak was not being traded.

Nice words, but let's not forget that he said the same thing about Kariya, in Anaheim, the week before he traded him. So hold on to your hats, ladies and gentleman, because this ride might get a little bumpy.

Daily Habs Links - More on Gainey, Habs prepare for Caps, Gauthier, MAB and Pouliot out till March

Gainey Steps Down as GM, Gauthier Takes Over
Habs Inside/Out:

EXCELLENT piece by Dave Stubbs of the Gazette, on Gainey:

Piece by Pat Hickey, of the Gazette, on Gainey:

RDS - It was a good day for me (French)

A summary of Bob Gainey's years as Habs' GM (French)

TSN: - Gauthier takes over as Canadiens' GM

Scott Burnside - Plenty of work ahead for Habs

Other Habs News:
Habs Inside/Out - Day off? Sure, tell me another one!

Bergeron out 6-8 weeks

Bergeron and Pouliot out will March

RDS - A long absence (French)

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Special Report Links - Gainey out, Gauthier in, Plekanec about to sign?

Bob Gainey Steps Down as GM, Pierre Gauthier Takes Over


Habs Inside/Out:

Talks Have Begun with Plekanec (link taken down by Habs Inside/Out)

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