Monday, January 31, 2011

Carey Price versus Jaroslav Halak: Any Questions?

by Kamal Panesar

The trade heard around the NHL—or at least in the city of Montreal—this past summer was a "surprise" move by Pierre Gauthier, sending playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

The trade was only surprising because fans had fallen in love with the soft-spoken Slovak goaltender during the spring of 2010. As such, most were up in arms that Gauthier dare trade Halak in favour of Carey Price.

If we back up a bit, before Halak had risen to the height of playoff goaltending miracle maker, we have to travel back to the 2003 NHL entry draft to see where this story started.

With the 10th pick in the ninth round of the 2003 draft, the Montreal Canadiens selected Jaroslav Halak. Now, ninth overall picks are generally looked at as depth players within any organization. Players, generally speaking, that will never reach the NHL but who populate the ranks of the minor leagues and AHL affiliates.

But Habs' head of amateur scouting, Trevor Timmins, saw something more in Halak.

He saw a player who in his estimation, if left undrafted for another year would likely have gone as high as the second or third round the following season. So, as he did with goaltender Petteri Similia in the 2009 draft, Timmins snagged a played that he felt could be a gamer in a classic low-risk play, high reward play.

Halak proceeded to become the best goaltender in the AHL, by his third season in Hamilton, earning a call up to the NHL in February 2007. He battled then-starter, Cristobal Huet, for the staring job and actually carried the play for Montreal when Huet was on the shelf due to injury, getting them within striking distance of the playoffs.

It was in the final game of the season, with Huet back in the net, the Canadiens succumbed to the Leafs and missed the playoffs, setting off a summer of teeth gnashing by Habs' fans.

At the same time that all of this was going on, Carey Price—drafted fifth overall by Montreal in the 2005 NHL entry draft—was busy winning a World Junior Hockey gold medal and being named tournament MVP. After his stunning performance at the WJC's, Price proceeded to carry the Habs' AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs to a championship while again being named tournament MVP.

So when the 2008 season started, despite Halak's strong play in the minors, he was pushed aside in place of Price. Carey proceeded to outplay his counterpart, Huet, to the point where then-GM, Bob Gainey, traded him out of town, giving the reigns to Price and making Halak his backup.

Price had an up and down playoff, in which the Habs were ultimately bounced by the Flyers, before continuing with an up and down season the following year. That year—the 2009-2010 NHL season—Price was the first string incumbent and Halak was supposed to play backup in a classic platoon system where each goaltender would push the other.

The problem is that both young goaltenders rightfully felt that they had what it took to be the uncontested starter, and things started looking a little uncomfortable in the Habs' crease as a result.

Unfortunately for Price, despite being given ample opportunity to grab the ball and run with it, he was unable to establish himself, eventually losing the starter’s position to Halak.

As the tide turned and Halak continued to put in outstanding starts, the voices of the Price-detractors became louder and louder. This continued throughout the playoffs last spring, while Halak was routinely putting in 40-plus save nights to get the Habs past the Capitals and Pens, but ultimately falling to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

So when the offseason started and the Habs' GM was faced with two RFA goaltenders, Gauthier and his team did an assessment of where they were then and projected where they felt they would be going forward. In Gauthier’s estimation, Price would ultimately become the better of the two goaltenders, so he rolled the dice and moved Halak out of town in a potentially career defining move.

Fans were livid, media felt he rushed the deal and critics felt Gauthier kept the wrong man. But, undaunted, Price proceeded to do his GM right, this season, by playing lights out and being the main reason for the Habs success at the 50-game mark.

Price, who is just coming off his second career all-star appearance this past weekend, is currently ninth among goaltenders with a 2.36 GAA, 12th with a .920 save percentage, tied for fifth with four shutouts and, most importantly, is tied for second with 24 wins in 45 games—a 53.5 win percentage.

In addition, he has faced the third most shots against, with 1315, all of this with the Canadiens managing only 130 goals for in 50 games. The Habs 2.6 average goals for per game is the lowest among all current playoff teams and is 25th in the league—in virtue of their one more game played over Minnesota, Columbus, and St. Louis.

So Price has earned his excellent numbers on his own merit and not because the team in front of him is blowing the opposition away offensively. Quite the opposite actually, as the Habs would most certainly be on the outside of the playoff picture right now without Price's heroics so far this season.

Halak on the other hand, has a 22nd overall 2.62 GAA, is 27th with a .907 save percentage and is 15th with 17 wins in 39 starts—a 43.5 win percentage. In addition, Halak is a middling 13th overall in shots against with 1080 while his Blues are tied with the Habs in goals for, with 130 in 49 games.

Hardly the stuff of champions.

Price is the number one reason why with 32 games to play, the Canadiens currently sit in seventh overall in the Eastern conference. His play down the stretch will continue to be key to any post-season aspirations.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly emotions swing in the city of Montreal, where the only pastime more popular than hockey is that of the arm chair GM. So while many, myself included, were not fans of the appointment of Pierre Gauthier as General Manager of the Canadiens, we have to remember that he does have tenure and experience in the league.

And while he undoubtedly has a spotty track record, he is eminently more qualified to hold that job than most fans, media and critics alike, myself included.

Anyone who reads my articles on a regular basis will know that I had been saying since last season that I believed that Price, at 24, would be a better goaltender than Halak at 24 (he'll be 25 in May 2011). This thought was by no means a knock on Halak, who is a capable goaltender, but more a reflection of the much higher ceiling that Price had in front of him, despite what his emotionally charged detractors had to say.

With Price turning 23 this past August it looks like he beat me to the punch by one year.

New Sunday Shinny

Don’t forget to listen to the latest Sunday Shinny from January 30th, 2011 where Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco, Kamal Panesar and Amanda Stein welcome regular contributor to, Will Martinez.

Discussion topics include:
  • a lively discussion on whether the Canadiens will finish the season battling the Bruins for the lead of their division, battle for a playoff spot...or both!
  • Rating Jacques Martin as a coach
  • what the NHL can do to improve the All-Star game
Click play to listen in (40:11 listening time):

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)

NHL all star game, Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Hart Trophy, Prospects and more...

News - Carey Price versus Jaroslav Halak: Any Questions?

The Team 990's Sunday Shinny - Episode 7 - January 30, 2011

Habs Inside/Out - Back to business

Thirteen saves for Price in All-Star Game


NETCRASHING: 'WHO IS YOUR CHOICE FOR THE HART TROPHY?' - Our top moments from All-Star weekend

All-Star Game wrap: Patrick Sharp is MVP, lonely night in net, Alex Ovechkin in history

THN at the All-Star Game: NHL's best have youthful look - Prospect Stock Watch

Spector's Hockey - NHL Rumors for Monday, January 31, 2011

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Team 990's Sunday Shinny - Episode 7 - January 30, 2011

Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco, Kamal Panesar and Amanda Stein welcome regular contributor to, Will Martinez.

Discussion topics include:
-a lively discussion on whether the Canadiens will finish the season battling the Bruins for the lead of their division, battle for a playoff spot...or both!
-Rating Jacques Martin as a coach
-what the NHL can do to improve the All-Star game

Click play to listen in (40:11 listening time):

NHL All star game, Subban, Coyotes, Quebec City, Bettman, rumours and more...

All Star Weekend News
Habs Inside/Out - What a showman!

Fehr and Yandle are the new big players on the NHL scene

In the spirit of All-Star Game 'draft'

SuperSkills: Here's the rundown


Habs Inside/Out - Bettman: No promises to Quebec


THN at the All-Star Game: Brendan Shanahan helping improve NHL's image

THN at the All-Star Game: Head shot ban not on NHL's agenda

Spector's Hockey - Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – January 30, 2011

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

All star draft, Price, Sedin twins, Kessel, NHL prospects, rumours and more...

Habs Inside/Out - Whew!


NHL ALL-STAR PLAYER FANTASY DRAFT - Draft wrap: Sedin twins are split up, Toews not angry over Brady Quinn-like wait

Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin miss flights because ...

Phil Kessel is All-Star Game's Mr. Irrelevant

THN at the All-Star Game: Team Lidstrom lines up as favorite after successful fantasy draft Blog: Less obvious places to find NHL prospects

Spector's Hockey - Latest on the Stars, Panthers and Blues

Latest Blackhawks News

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Friday, January 28, 2011

All star draft, Habs defense, Quebec City, Semin deal, Rumours and more...

News - He Said/She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps?

He Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps? by Willey

She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps? by Tyg

Habs Inside/Out - All-Star Fever: Catch it!

RDS - Le système sauve le Canadien

Cowhide and Rubber - Optimist or Realist? - Around The Boards: Au Revoir and Bon Voyage


Alexander Semin's deal: Why it's just one year Blog: Class act Craig Conroy always a joy Blog: Semin contract extension with Capitals somewhat curious

Spector's Hockey - Latest on Alexander Semin and Erik Cole

(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images North America)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

He Said/She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps?

by Kamal Panesar

It's that time again folks, time for another round of He Said/She Said!

In this episode, Willey (@ByranWilley78) and Tyg (@Tygerlylly) go head-to-head on the issue of what the Canadiens should do with their defense going forward.

With so many free agents this coming off season and Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov both suffering knee injuries, Pierre Gauthier will have his hands full. Tyg and Willey break down what each of them would do in Gauthier's place.

Who should stay, who should go, how much should they sign for, are the answers within the organization or outside?

Tyg and Willey look at all of the angles and tell you what they think.

Take a look at what they have to say:

He Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps? by Willey

She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps? by Tyg

So what do you think of their plans? What moves would you make?

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps?

by Tyg

So it's time for another round of Armchair GM and this time we're talking Habs defenders.

The question is, with a mix of aging vets and young, raw players on the back end, what should the Montreal Canadiens do with their defensive lineup going forward?

At first, I was going to cut loose everyone under 6 feet and 200 lbs, and everyone over 30 years of age, but I like to touch base with reality when it comes to these type of posts.

Besides, I fully expect my counterpart Willey to go gonzo and blow the team up, so I thought I would try a more plausible scenario.

So here's my pseudo-realistic take on what will likely happen on the Habs blueline next season.

P.K. Subban

Subban fits under both of my initial requirements: He's a solid six footer who weighs 206 lbs and is a rookie at only 21 years old.

This kid is still raw but he has the speed, skill and point shot that should give him a a solid home on the Habs' blueline for years to come. A little bit of seasoning alongside Hal Gill will do wonders for his development.

Prediction: Are you kidding? There hasn't been so much hoopla and press over a Habs rookie since Carey Price, and his entry level contract doesn't expire until after next season anyway—at which point Subban will still be a restricted free agent.

James Wisniewski

The Wiz is actually only 5 ft 11 inches, but he does hit my 200 lbs mark and at 26 is still in his prime.

He reportedly loves Montreal and his 12 points in the past 13 games mean that despite losing Josh Gorges, the Habs' blueline has picked up a solid young defender who possesses a cannon on the power play, which has skyrocketed as a result.

Wisniewski provides good quick puck movement, solid defense and some much needed grit. He's known to drop the gloves when necessary, something no other Habs defender will readily do.

Prediction: Since young, puck-moving defensemen are more scarce than Stanley Cups and are worth almost as much, I expect Pierre Gauthier to sign an apparently willing Wisniewski, albeit with a substantial pay increase.

Josh Gorges

The Habs stay-at-home stalwart is considered small, but his stats on the team website list him as 6'1" and 200 lbs.

Like Wisniewski, he is 26 and is going to require a pay raise to remain on the roster. Unlike Wisniewski, however, he does not possess an offensive weapon and he's a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted one.

Prediction: Shortly after his season-ending ACL injury was announced, Gorges told the media that Gauthier had already reached out to allay any fears regarding his future with the team.

It seems safe to predict that Gorges isn't leaving Montreal.

Andrei Markov

In the past two years Andrei Markov has proved himself a poor investment for the Canadiens. Yes, he's a top four puck-moving defenseman but despite being 6" and 200 lbs, he doesn't provide much in the way of grit on the back end.

He has great vision and truly impressive skill, but he's coming off his third major injury and he's on the wrong side of 30. He's also got a hefty cap hit and there is a risk in signing him because of his glass knees.

But veteran puck moving blueliners are always in high demand, and Markov is a Habs product first and foremost. This past summer saw him granted official Canadian citizenship and he has recently stated his desire to retain his Canadiens one as well.

Prediction: Expect a reduced rate and a shorter term than his last contract, and working this deal will likely backburner any others in the meantime.

Alexandre Picard

On paper Picard looks like what the Habs need. He's 6'3", a hefty 215 lbs and is only 25 years old. The truth of the matter, however, is that he's bounced from team to team for a reason.

He's not capable of playing long minutes without making some truly egregious defensive errors, and he's ill suited to playing with a rookie partner. Both of these factors have have worked against him this year considering the makeup of the Habs defense corps.

Like most of his counterparts he lacks grit and has little ability to move the puck well. Frankly, there are times he looks like little more than a career AHLer, which probably explains why he's the new regular in the press box.

Prediction: Picard's going to be shown the door at the end of this season.

Hal Gill

The importance of Gill's mentoring of Subban and Gorges cannot be understated. He also sports the "A" because of his ability to elevate his game during the playoffs, where his experience and leadership truly shine.

The problem is that for most of the regular season Gill looks every bit of his 35 years.

He's brutally slow and far too often gets caught flat footed. He rarely delivers the crushing checks he's capable of, usually because he's trying to catch his man to begin with.

He tends to take too many slashing penalties and despite his impressive 6'7" and 241 lbs, he really is not much of a fighter. Ideally, I'd rather see him as a coach within the minor ranks of the organization and working his way back up to NHL level defensive coach.

Prediction: Rumors have the Habs already reaching out to extend Gill's contract. I'd drop him, but I'm pretty sure that Gauthier won't.

Jaroslav Spacek

Like Subban, Spacek still has another year to ride out on his contract after this one. Unlike Subban though, Spacek's got almost no foot speed, zero offensive upside and is largely a one-man turnover machine in the neutral zone.

He's listed at 6' and 210 lbs, but he's also 36 and has had more bad games than good ones this season. He can't clear the paint in front of his net and often times can't even box out opposing forwards.

Since he has a limited no trade clause and a sizable cap hit, I doubt moving him is an option even assuming he'd waive. Georges Laraque is off the books at the end of this season, so I'd buy out the rest of Spacek's contract.

Prediction: Spacek's not going anywhere. Jacques Martin loves his vets and no GM in their right mind would take an aging, overpaid defender who chews up too much cap space.

Roman Hamrlik

Hamrlik has proven to be the go-to guy for the Habs in the wake of Markov's repeated lengthy absences, but he's 36 and is brutally expensive. He's 6'2" inches and 207 lbs, but he lacks grit, gets caught flat footed and has rare glimpses of a point shot.

That he's been able to hold down the fort and provide the bulk of the stability for the back end is appreciated and impressive, but the Habs desperately need his cap space to buy younger, faster and better.

Prediction: He's currently making 5.75 million and Gauthier has to be prioritizing new contracts and more money for Wisniewski and Gorges. Even if Hamrlik is willing to take a serious pay cut, I expect this to be his last season with Montreal and that's just fine by me.

Yannick Weber

At 5'11" inches and a too slight 193 lbs, Yannick Weber's point shot is probably his only true asset. He's learning but the fact remains that he's small and can't defend against power forwards or clear the blue paint effectively.

He'd slot in well on a team with bigger defenders who lack only some offense, and I'd try to get a pick or a prospect for him and look for something bigger to shore up the blueline.

Prediction: I expect that before the next season starts, Weber will be offloaded in some sort of package deal. If the Habs make a push for the post-season and Gauthier can get his hands on either a winger or another defender, the time frame for Weber's exit will likely be moved up.

Based on the above arguments, I have to assume that the Habs will be keeping Subban, Wisniewski, Gorges, Markov, Spacek and Gill.

My greatest concern for next year resides largely with Spacek, whom I see as an immovable object. Shove him in the press box and he can ride out his last season in Montreal scarfing down free hot dogs.

I still need one more defender, and I'd prefer a bit of grit to protect the smaller forwards and also hit them with a pass once in a while.

Barring the invention of cloning for Wisniewski, Subban or Gorges, I have no choice but to make a trade or sign a UFA. This is easier said than done, but I'd try to make a play for at least one of the following.

Tomas Kaberle

At 6'1" and 214 lbs, the 32 year old Kaberle will provide a veteran, puck-moving presence on the blueline.

Since he has a no trade clause and Leafs' GM Brian Burke has repeatedly stated he won't ask Kaberle to waive it, any chance to grab this guy will have to come in the off-season once he becomes a UFA. That said, the competition for his services is sure to be pretty tight.

Assuming I could even find the cap space to do it, I'd make a solid offer and hope his buddy Tomas Plekanec can sell him on the merits of moving from a perpetual basement dweller into the barn burner that is Montreal.

Robyn Regehr

I'm loathe to the idea of giving up picks and prospects, but if the team's in a position to make a strong Cup run near the end of the regular season I'd probably make a play for Regehr.

Regehr is a solid 6'3", 225 lbs and should have no trouble clearing Price's crease. He's got a sizable cap hit, but he's also locked up for another two seasons, assuming the Flames can get him to waive his no trade clause.

Jim Vandermeer

Listed as having the exact same measurements as Kaberle but a full two years younger, Vandermeer is reliable and cheaper and perfectly capable of clearing the paint.

Since some of the current Habs fail to do even that, this is good enough reason for me to target the Oilers defender.

So there you have it - my take on the current state of the Habs blueline and how it will likely look next season. In a nutshell, I see only Hamrlik, Picard and probably Weber being cut loose.

If I were Jacques Martin, I'd not only have better ears and ties, my defense pairings would look like this:

Markov - Gorges
Gill - Subban
Kaberle - Wisniewski

Press box regular: Spacek

Check out the He Said counter-point.

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America)

Tyg used to frequent the Old Forum during her early childhood when he father held corporate season tickets, and she fell in love with Larry Robinson. So her lifelong obsession with the Habs is entirely his fault.

He Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps?

By Willey

Montreal Canadiens Defense, "Russian" to Success

At the end of the 2010-11 season the management team of the Montreal Canadiens will once again have to deal with a large number of free agents players.

Of particular interest is on the blue line with Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, James Wisniewski, Hal Gill and Roman Hamrlik all without contracts for the start of the 2011-12 season.

With five of our top seven defensemen facing uncertainty the question then becomes, what should we do?

Who Comes Back?

I am sure it comes as no surprise to you all that I am personally drawn to the more physical players of the NHL.

If given the choice between a purely offensive player and a player with a little bit less offensive ability but with a physical side to his game, then I am almost always choosing the latter.

I also believe that when building a group of six defensemen you need an elite top-four with a bottom-two consisting of a grizzled veteran and rookie.

Ideally, both of the bottom-two players should be making $1.5 million or less.

Given these two fairly simple philosophies I would therefore decide to cut one of the five above mentioned players and ultimately retain the rights of Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, James Wizniewski and obviously Andrei Markov.

These four players represent the two main components to the power play and the two main components to the penalty kill; which given the current coaching staff’s dependence on special teams, are vital to the Habs' success.

Who Leaves?

In my ideal world I would love for the organization to somehow shed Jaroslav Spacek and his $3.833 price tag. Getting rid of such a salary would open the doors of possibility for the Habs.

Wanting something to happen and ultimately believing it could happen are two entirely different things however.

With Spacek almost guaranteed a roster spot at the start of next season, unfortunately, someone has to pay the price and that someone is Roman Hamrlik.

Hamrlik is a very good defensemen who can play at both ends of the rink. At 6’2 and 210 lbs, the former first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been one of our most consistent and reliable defensemen since signing joining the Habs.

Like any true warrior the big Czech has always been there to fill in the minutes, and remain effective when one of the other players has gone down with injury. The problem with Hamrlik, however, is that he comes with a $5.5 million price tag in an era where every dollar counts.

Essentially Hamrlik is being paid top defensemen money for a player who is likely nothing more than a number three, at best, on any team. Certainly Hamrlik would be willing to accept a pay cut, however given the current needs of the team I would find it unfair to pay him anything more than about $3 million per season.

An amount that we likely can eclipse on the open market.

What does the Salary Structure Look Like?

Andrei Markov: Andrei is currently our highest paid defensemen at $5.75 million per year. Given the recent run of injuries coming off two back-to-back season ending knee surgeries, it is perhaps too big a risk to retain Markov unless he is willing to accept a pay cut in the neighborhood of $1 million per season.

The risk of losing him is far too great however. Negotiations will be tough.

Estimated Salary: $5 million per season

James Wizniewski: I think it is safe to say that the Wiz will not continue to rack up points at the current torrid pace he is on. What Wizniewski does do, however, is provide a steady offensive threat while being more than capable in his own zone. In addition, he brings an element of toughness to the back end, despite his 5’11 frame. He is playing extraordinarily well this season and will likely look for a substantial pay increase?

But how much?

Estimated Salary: $3.75-$4.25 million per season

Josh Gorges: Finding a comparible for Josh Gorges is not as easy as it seems. Gorges is reliable in his own zone and can chip in with the odd points here and there, but he is neither a stay at home nor a purely offensive guy.

Gorges is simply a good old fashioned, reliable defenseman.

A quick scan around the league and I see Gorges much along the same lines as a Steve Montador or an Andrew Ference, but more reliable defensively. When healthy, Gorges is used more than any other player on the team, with the exception of Markov.

He's an RFA at the end of the season, but locking him up long term is important.

Estimated Salary: $3.0 million per season

Hal Gill: Unlike most, the moment he was signed by the club I was ectastic.

He is big, he takes up space, clears the front of the net, excels on the PK and provides much needed leadership. Given his continued excellent play on the PK and in the playoffs, allowing him to walk away would be a tremendous mistake.

Gill as your No.5 D-man will help to build a successful team.

Estimated Salary: $1.75 million per season

Who else do you sign?

As I had mentioned earlier, I'm an advocate of a defensive line-up that has size and an element of toughness to their game.

With the likes of Markov, P.K. Subban, Wizniewski, Gorges, Gill and Spacek this would certainly seem to contradict my earlier sentiments. Of the above mentioned six defensemen, only Gill measures in at more than 6’0 and none of the above are prototypical physical defensemen; so what gives?

Truth be told, a team is only as good as the depth of the players on the roster. With injuries almost a guarantee in today’s NHL, the seventh defensemen is certain to be getting ice time.

With such certainty in life, Pierre Gauthier basically has two options: obtain the services of a veteran or give a roster spot to a rookie. So do we sign a player or give a chance to someone in the organization?

In my opinion there is only one answer to this question: give the job to a rookie.

Look within the organization and no further than Alexei Yemelin; the Russian defensemen who has been rumoured to be arriving in North America for two to three years now. Yemelin is not a big bruising player at 6’05 and 190 lbs, but he plays a very physical game while being more than dependable in his own zone.

According to recent reports on RDS, the only thing holding him back from coming to North America is a small clause in his contract which would allow him to return to his Russian club in the event that the highly touted Russian does not make the big club.

So there you have it folks; a seven man defensive unit which I believe can be considered among the Eastern conference elite.

A unit which combines the physicality of Yemelin, Gill and Gorges with the offensive prowess of Markov, Wizniewski and Subban. A mix of grizzled veterans with NHL experience and the youthful exuberance of players making their mark in the NHL.

Essentially, a seven-man unit which can lead this team to a deep playoff run!

Check out the She Said counter-piece.

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé Olé Olé.

Subban the all star, White to Hamilton, Gretzky at 50, rumours and more...

News - He Said/She Said: What Should The Habs Do With Their Defense Corps?

Est-ce que les Canadiens tirent beaucoup?

Habs Inside/Out - Vacation? Not so fast there, fella!

No news is ... - Will Poor Asset Management Hurt the Habs Again?

RDS - P.K. Subban fera le voyage en Caroline

Ryan White retourne avec les Bulldogs



CANADIENS' BIG MAKEOVER PLANS STARTING TO PAY OFF - The Great One at 50: Top Gretzky moments - International Scouting Services Blog: How stats can cloud prospect projection

Spector's Hockey - Latest on the Flames, Canadiens, Blues and Oilers

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Live Trade Chat - Jan. 26 , 2011 at 2:15 PM

Live Trade Chat Today at 2:15pm

Hey all! My colleagues Steven Hindle, Eric Engels and myself will be doing a live trade chat today at 2:15 pm.

We'll be talking about the Habs but, more importantly, what moves they might be making.

Join and take part in the chat below:

P.K. Subban, the All Star

In other news, Subban received word this morning that he will be going to the all star game. He will participate in the rookie potion of the weekend.

I guess Price won't be the lone Habs representative after all!

Est-ce que les Canadiens tirent beaucoup?

Les partisans du Canadien se plaignent souvent que certains joueurs de l'équipe ne prennent pas assez de tirs au but. Scott Gomez et Andreï Kostitsyn font partie de ceux qui subissent régulièrement les foudres des amateurs. Dans le but d'éclaircir le sujet, l'équipe de a travaillé sans relâche et a compilé les statistiques des meilleurs tireurs de la LNH.

Voici tout d'abord les 75 joueurs qui ont accumulé le plus grand nombre de tirs au but au cours des trois dernières saisons. Dans ce tableau, les tireurs sont classés selon la colonne Total Tirs.

  • Brian Gionta arrive au premier rang des joueurs du Tricolore ce qui n'est pas très surprenant (21e)
  • Qui aurait cru que Scott Gomez avec 693 tirs au cours des trois dernières années se classerait 33e dans toute la ligue! Même si il ne tire pas avec autant de régularité cette saison, force est d'admettre que c'est dans sa nature de prendre des tirs au but. À écouter certains analystes et partisans, on croirait qu'il n'envoie qu'une vingtaine de rondelles au filet par saison...

Dans ce deuxième tableau, les joueurs sont classés selon le nombre de tirs qu'il accumulent par match en moyenne Tir/Match. Ce tableau permet d'éliminer les blessures de l'équation. De cette manière, un joueur souvent blessé comme  Marian Gaborik passe du 53e rang dans le premier tableau au 8e rang dans celui-ci.

  • Brian Gionta (20e) et Michael Cammalleri (23e) font bonne figure et se classent tous deux parmi les 25 joueurs qui tirent le plus fréquemment au filet. 
  • Le seul autre Canadien à percer la liste des 75 premiers est Scott Gomez (46e).
  • Alexander Ovechkin évolue dans un monde à part avec une moyenne de 5,76 tirs par match dans les trois dernières saisons!
  • Certains défenseurs comme Dion Phaneuf (29e) et Sheldon Souray (31e) arrivent à se hisser très haut dans cette liste remplie d'attaquants.
  • Souray est d'ailleurs celui qui est le mieux placé parmi les anciens Canadien. Seuls Chris Higgins (65e) et Alex Kovalev (75e) y apparaissent.

Voici maintenant les meneurs chez le Canadien cette saison au chapitre des tirs au but (en date du 24 janvier 2011).

  • Brian Gionta est de loin celui qui envoie la rondelle au but adverse avec le plus de régularité. Actuellement 6e dans la ligue, il pourrait terminer la saison avec plus de 300 tirs!
  • Malgré qu'il se classe 46e au cours des trois dernière saison, Scott Gomez est actuellement 195e dans la ligue au chapitre des tirs au but. C'est plus d'un tir de moins par match (1.81 vs 2.94)! Comment expliquer cette diminution? Deux pistes de réponse: il fait plus confiance à ses ailiers que par le passé, ou la confiance n'est pas au rendez-vous cette saison. 
  • Tomas Plekanec tire plus souvent cette saison qu'il ne l'a jamais fait au cours de sa carrière. Il pourrait atteindre les 250 tirs au filet cette année.

Au bout du compte, en effectuant le grand ménage au niveau des vétérans à l'été 2009, le Canadien a mis la main sur des joueurs qui bombardent le filet adverse. Les anciens attaquants du Tricolore qui ont évolué sur les deux premiers trios comme Alex Tanguay, Micheal Ryder, Saku Koivu et même Alex Kovalev ont tous moins de tirs au but lors des trois dernières saisons que les nouveaux venus; Brian Gionta, Michael Cammalleri et Scott Gomez. On peut croire que les dirigeants ont ciblé cette lacune au moment de rebâtir le groupe de vétérans sur le marché des joueurs autonomes.

Montreal-Philadelphia: Indiscipline and Powerless Power Play Sink Canadiens

by Kamal Panesar

The Montreal Canadiens were in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers last night in their final game before a week long all star break. And with Carey Price being the sole Canadien participating in the festivities, you would have expected Montreal to leave it all on the ice.

Apparently the Canadiens did not get the memo.

The pregame tension was palpable—these two squads clearly have no love loss between them—with Daniel Carcillo and Mike Richards yapping at P.K. Subban only 15 seconds into the game. The raucous Philly crowd got in on the action too, booing Subban every time he touched the puck.

But despite the hostile atmosphere, the Canadiens played well to start the game, using their speed to create scoring chances in the Flyers' zone. Chipping the puck behind their D and moving their feet, Montreal controlled play for long stretches of the first period.
That is until Montreal once again fell into the trap of indiscipline, taking three penalties in the span of 1:31 to hand the Flyers back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays.

With Andrei Kostitsyn, P.K. Subban and Jaroslav Spacek sitting in the crowded penalty box, the Flyers put two past Price, taking a 2-0 lead into the second period.

After that, it was all Philly as the disorganized Canadiens struggled to get the puck out of their zone and looked like they were more focused on the one week break than the task at hand.

The Flyers would pot two more in the second period—their fourth also on the power play—crushing any hope of a comeback spurred by David Desharnais' third of the season.

Ultimately, the Canadiens were masters of their own destiny, failing to take advantage of some shaky goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and unable to convert on any of their eight power plays.

With Price on the bench for the extra attacker and the Flyers carrying a two goal lead in the third, Daniel Briere sealed the victory with an empty netter.

Final score: Flyers 5 — Habs 2

Habs' scorers: David Desharnais (3), Mathieu Darche (9).
Flyers' scorers: Jeff Carter (23), Kimmo Timonen (3), Daniel Carcillo (3), Claude Giroux (19), Daniel Briere (26).

Three stars: 1. Claude Giroux, 2. Chris Pronger, 3. Mike Richards.

Game Notes

1. This game was all about the special teams.

The story of the game was special teams and Montreal could have had a better result if they had any success on the PK or the PP.

Philly went 3-for-5 on the power play and Montreal went 0-for-8.

Need I say more?

On the Flyers PP, they constantly had a giant Philly player parked right in front of Price. On the Habs' PP they constantly had 5'6" David Desharnais near the front of the net, but not necessarily in front of it.

Need I say more?

So while many fans are lamenting the Habs lack of physicality as a main reason for the loss—and it was a factor—the Canadiens could have tied and won this game on the power play alone.

As the Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey pointed out before the game, the Canadiens had no sense of urgency going into the match. They just did not have their heads in the game and it looked like too many of them were already thinking beyond last night to the one week all star break.

So in a way, this was a game they lost before they even stepped on the ice.

2. Desharnais continues to look good in the Habs lineup.

The Canadiens were facing a formidable opponent in more ways than one last night. Not only is Philly the top team in the league but they are also big, strong, physical and skilled.

Despite giving up half a foot to most players in the Flyers' lineup, Desharnais was once again one of the more effective players for the Habs last night.

His gritty play and nose for the net meant that he was usually causing problems for the slower Flyers' defenders. Along with Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche, Desharnais continued to compete when too many of his teammates had already checked out of the game.

Like Max Pacioretty, Desharnais is one of the few Canadiens who is usually in front of or around the net on the power play. As such he is often able to make plays, pick up rebounds and set up scoring chances.

He gives his all but at 5'6" he can only be so effective against 6-foot-plus defenders.

If all of the players on the team tried as hard as Desharnais does, Montreal would be a much more consistent squad.

3. James Wizniewski had a rough night.

The official stat sheet shows Wizniewski with only one giveaway in the entire game and for anyone who actually watched the game you know that this is total folly.

The reality is that The Wiz had three horrible defensive zone turnovers in the first period alone, and is perhaps starting to show why he has played on four teams since 2009.

Despite being a tremendous offensive threat—he has 12 points in 13 games with Montreal so far this season—Wizniewski has a tendency to make poor decisions on the defensive side of the puck.
As such, he plays his best when he keeps his game simple; clearing the puck along the boards or making a quick play to a forward are the best bets for Wiz but, last night, he decided to get fancy.

Three times in the first period Wizniewski tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice and all three times it resulted in a scoring chance against.

We have to remember that Wiz was a minus-19 when he was traded to the Canadiens. Granted he was playing for a horrible Islanders squad but still, that is just a brutal stat.

If the Habs decide to keep him they absolutely have to pair him with a rock of a defensive player in order for him to be his most effective.

4. Ryan White didn't drop the gloves but he played a gritty game.

The Habs were totally outclassed and overwhelmed for a good two-thirds of the game last night. During that time, the only pseudo spark that they had was provided by the third and fourth lines. The fourth line in particular with Ryan White, Travis Moen and Jeff Halpern, looked like a solid combo for the Canadiens with a nice mix of speed, grit and skill.

Now it's kind of hard to find any bright spots in Montreal's pathetic performance last night, but I liked what I saw from White during the first period before the Flyers took control of the game.

He was going to the net, finishing his checks and getting involved in post-whistle scrums. He even hit a Flyers player after the whistle in a move that drew a crowd and that is exactly the type of role he has to play for Montreal.
White truly seems to be the only one willing to play that gritty, agitating role on a regular basis and Montreal is a better team for it.

It's only been three games, but he already has nine hits and is showing a level of grittiness that few players on the roster bring. Hopefully he keeps it up because the Habs can use his sandpaper.

5. The path to the Cup goes through Philadelphia.

The Habs played well during the first period and had a ton of power play chances over the course of the game but let's be serious here, they are in a different league from the Flyers.

Four lines deep with size, grit, skill and speed on every trio, the Flyers are scary good! Don't forget that they manhandled the Habs last night without the services of the up and coming James Van Riemsdyk—their Max Pacioretty type player from a readiness perspective.

The only question mark for the Flyers is, as always, their goaltending.

Sergei Bobrovsky has played well for them this season and played a decent match last night but you can see that he is a goalie that can be beaten. His rebound control is weak and he gives up a ton of chances as a result.
The problem for Montreal is that they never had anyone in front of the net to capitalize on all the loose pucks.

As for the Flyers, well, if the playoffs last season demonstrated anything it is that it is possible to win the cup without having a lights out goaltender. As such, regardless of the strength or weakness of their goalie, this team is my odds on favorite to go all the way.

Standings and Next Game

In losing to the Flyers, Montreal missed a golden opportunity to move into a tie for points with the Rangers and Bruins.

Instead, Montreal's record drops to 27-18-5 with 59 points in the standings, good enough for sole possession of seventh overall in the East. Montreal will now enjoy a full week off, for the All Star break, playing again next Tuesday February 2, 2011 against the Capitals at the Verizon Center.

Despite the horrible game Montreal played last night, fans have to remember that they are still sixth overall in the East, nine points better than at the same point last season.
In addition, they are doing it without the services of Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Michael Cammalleri and that's no small feat.

So things aren't all bad.

Enjoy the break folks!

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, post game, power rankings, Forsberg, Muller to leave and more...

Post game: Flyers 5 - Habs 2 - Montreal-Philadelphia: Indiscipline and Powerless Powerplay Sink Canadiens

Habs Inside/Out - Game 50: Flyers make Habs pay for penalties

A pre-break L

RDS - Le Canadien coulé par son indiscipline

TSN - FLYERS HEAD INTO BREAK WITH BEST RECORD AFTER BEATING HABS - NHL-leading Flyers roll through Habs before hitting break

RDS - K. Muller quitterait le CH au printemps

TSN - TSN.CA NHL POWER RANKINGS Blog: Eagerly hoping for Peter Forsberg's return

VIDEO: Jonas Hiller making strong case for Vezina Trophy consideration

(Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Canadiens Game Day: Habs and Flyers Clash in Pre-All Star Rumble

by Kamal Panesar defines the word nemesis as follows:

nem·e·sis [nem-uh-sis]
–noun, plural

1. something that a person cannot conquer, achieve, etc.: The performance test proved to be my nemesis.
2. an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
3. Classical Mythology, the goddess of divine retribution.
4. an agent or act of retribution or punishment.

If ever the Montreal Canadiens had a nemesis, the Philadelphia Flyers would be that team.

The Flyers and Canadiens have played each other in two playoff series since 2008, with Montreal losing both series four games to one.  In addition, the two teams have faced each other three times already this season with the Flyers winning two out of three.

Moreover, Philly has been able to physically dominate the small, fast Canadiens forwards and, as such, it has been a long time since Montreal has had any real answer for what the Flyers bring.

So tonight's fourth and final meeting is sure to be a high intensity match between these two teams whose rivalry seems to grow with each encounter.  Not only because of the bad blood between the two teams but, with a week off for the All-Star break starting tomorrow, both teams are sure to leave it all on the ice.

The Flyers are the No. 1 team in the league with 69 points in the standings—tied with the Canucks for points but ahead of them by virtue of their 32 wins to Vancouver’s 30—and look like the odds-on favorite to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Montreal, on the other hand, has had its ups and downs this season.  In addition, the Canadiens are decimated by injuries, having lost both Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges to season-ending knee problems.  In addition, top sniper Michael Cammalleri continues to be sidelined with a separated shoulder.

Yet, despite its losses, "Team Clinic" is 6-1-3 over its last 10 games and only two points out of first place in its division.  A win tonight by Montreal would put it in a tie with the Rangers and the Bruins—first place in the Northeast—with 61 points.  In addition, it would leave the Canadiens only two back of Washington and three back of Pittsburgh, fifth and fourth, respectively, in the Eastern Conference.

Needless to say, Montreal wants this win really badly.

Another source of motivation is that neither team wants to go into a one-week break on a loss, so expect a playoff atmosphere tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.

Claude Giroux and Mike Richards are the two hottest players for the Flyers, with five points in two games and five points in three games, respectively.  For Montreal, the defense is bringing the heat with James Wizniewski's 12 points in his last 11 games and P.K. Subban having six in his last six.

Max Pacioretty has also been heating things up lately with four points in his last two games.

Tonight's game is one that will feature a nice goaltending matchup with Carey Price—24 wins—going head-to-head against Sergei Bobrovsky—20 wins.

Montreal will be getting a much-needed boost to its lineup with the return of Jeff Halpern in favour of Andreas Engqvist, who was sent back down to Hamilton yesterday.

Game time is at 7:30 p.m. with the puck dropping around 7:40 p.m. for what should be one heck of a game!

(Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images North America)

Habs/Flyers preview, Jeff Halpern back in lineup, rumours and more...

Pregame: Habs @ Flyers - Canadiens Game Day: Habs and Flyers Clash in Pre-All Star Rumble

Habs Inside/Out - First place Flyers feature scoring balance

Big one tonight

Halpern returns vs Flyers

TSN - Gameday - Canadiens-Flyers Preview

Habs Inside/Out - Habs Future

RDS - Desharnais garde sa recette gagnante Blog: Instant replay can't solve all close calls

Rumor Roundup: Is Seabrook on the block?

Spector's Hockey - Senators to rebuild

Monday, January 24, 2011

Montreal Canadiens' Andreas Engqvist Sent to Hamilton; Sunday Shinny Episode 6

by Kamal Panesar

The Montreal Canadiens sent big, lanky center Andres Engqvist back down to Hamilton yesterday, clearing the way for Jeff Halpern to return to the lineup.

Given that the Canadiens have a week off after their tilt tomorrow night against the Flyers, this must mean Halpern is 100 percent ready to hit the ice.

His strength in the faceoff circle and the penalty kill will be a boon for the Canadiens, whose walking wounded just have to push through Tuesday before enjoying some well needed R&R.

Carey Price will be the lone Canadien in Raleigh for the All-Star festivities, which start on Friday with a live televised draft of sorts in which the All-Star captains, Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Stall, will choose their teams.

For an event that usually doesn't hold my attention for anything more than the skills competition, I have to say that I am intrigued and will likely tune in to see what the deal is on Friday.

But will you? What are your thoughts on the All-Star game? Do you care or, like me, do you only enjoy the skills competition?

The Sunday Shinny - Episode 6

Here is episode six of the Sunday Shinny on the Team 990 for your listening pleasure, or if you hate podcasts, for your angst and derision.


Topics include the last chance to enter our Habs contest, the return of Koivu and Lapierre, Forsberg and Nabakov and the latest on the night club drama with Mike Komisarek.

Click play to listen in (40:12 listening time):

Habs in good mood, Philly awaits, Engqivst to AHL, Sunday Shinny and more...

News - Andreas Engqvist Sent Back to Hamilton, the Sunday Shinny Ep. 6

The Team 990's Sunday Shinny - Episode 6 - January 23, 2011

Habs Inside/Out - One more until the break

Philly awaits before all-star break

Engqvist back to Hamilton, Halpern to return

RDS - Engqvist à Hamilton; Halpern de retour

CH : ambiance de fête à l'entraînement

TSN - MCKENZIE: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ON LONG ISLAND? - Will HBO be back? It's a 'no-brainer'

Nicklas Lidstrom, 'The Perfect Human' - VIDEO: One-on-two with top prospects Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu

Ottawa welcomes Quebecor's commitment to NHL-style arena in Quebec City

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Team 990's Sunday Shinny - Episode 6 - January 23, 2011

In this episode of the Sunday Shinny, Gary Whittaker, Nick Murdocco, Kamal Panesar and Amanda Stein welcome JT Utah of to the show.

Topics include:
-the last chance to enter our HABS ADDICT contest
-the return of Koivu and Lapierre, Forsberg and Nabakov
-the latest on the night club drama with Mike Komisarek

Click play to listen in (40:12 listening time):

Montreal-Anaheim: Bobby Ryan Scores SO Winner in Saku Koivu's Emotional Return

by Kamal Panesar

Well, it's over. The much hyped return of Saku Koivu to Montreal has come and gone and none are happier that it is over than Koivu himself.

By all accounts, Koivu was extremely nervous before the game in which he received a rousing ovation from the crowd in a moment that was as powerful for Saku as it was for his adoring fans.

Aside from the emotional return of Koivu, there was actually a hockey game to be played and, once it started, it was kind of hard to get into it for the first few minutes.

The first period seemed to take on a strange feel with the game going back-and-forth but not much happening on the ice; few scoring chances and a lot of turnovers. Eventually, the Ducks started to control play as the Canadiens looked disorganize and one step behind the play.

Anaheim opened the scoring at 15:07 of the first period on the power play, when Cam Fowler's shot deflected off Roman Hamrlik's stick past Price.

Montreal got that one back, also on the power play—with Koivu sitting in the box for slashing—as Max Pacioretty putting it past Jonas Hiller 7:55 into the second. After that the Canadiens, carrying the momentum, had several quality scoring chances but Hiller stood tall, keeping them off the scoreboard.

Hiller's excellence kept the teams tied long enough for the Ducks to seize control with two goals in the last three minutes of the second period and at that point, it seemed like the game was over.

But the Canadiens had some surprises in store for the crowd.

With the Ducks collapsing into a Jacques Martin-esque trap for the entire third period, Montreal poured it on, dominating play and outshooting Anaheim 23-5 in the process.

The Habs made it a one goal game when Mathieu Darche deflected a Yannick Weber shot past Hiller with less than four minutes to play. Then, with Koivu again in the box, time running out and Carey Price on the bench for the extra attacker, the Habs tied the game with 13 seconds to play on Max Pacioretty's second goal of the night, sending it to overtime.

The extra period solved nothing and it was left to Bobby Ryan to redeem the Habs former captain by scoring the winner in the shootout.

Final score: Ducks 4 - Habs 3 (SO)

Habs' scorers: Max Pacioretty (5,6), Mathieu Darche (8)
Ducks' scorers: Cam Fowler (4), Bobby Ryan (22), Corey Perry (25)

Three stars: 1. Bobby Ryan, 2. Saku Koivu, 3. Max Pacioretty

Game Notes

1. These two goaltenders are real good.

While neither goalie had to make many spectacular saves, at least in the early portion of the game, a large part of the reason for that is because of their exceptional rebound control.

Canadiens' fans are used to seeing Price's solid positioning, excellent lateral movement and ability to let out few rebounds, but we don't get to see Hiller a lot in the East. That being said, watching him last night you could see why he is now tied with Price for total wins in the league at 24.

These two teams are very similar in that they don't score a ton of goals and have some small, fast forwards in their lineups. Well the Ducks also have a bunch of big player on their team but with the likes of Jason Blake and Koivu, they are not all big.

As such the Ducks, like the Canadiens, tend to lean heavily on their goaltender for wins.

Hiller responded well, especially in the third period when he was being barraged, stopping 37 shots on the night and 23 in the third alone. Despite the onslaught form the Canadiens, Hiller made things easier on himself by gobbling up rebounds meaning that most of the Habs shots were taken on first chances.

Shot, save, no rebound. Shot, save, no rebound.

That's how you do it and that is the only reason the Habs were unable to steamroll the Ducks in the third.

2. Don't look now, but Pacioretty might be heating up.

It's hard to believe that Pacioretty took a James Wizniewski slapshot in the ribs less than a week ago. It's also hard to believe that he hasn't missed a game due to the injury, despite having a severe rib contusion.

For those who don't know, a contusion is basically a really bad bruise. As such, a contusion on your rib is the type of injury that hurts every time you breath, so the fact that Pacioretty is even playing speaks volumes about his character.

Even more incredible than his character is his play since taking the puck in the chest.

Pacioretty, who has played well with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, has not exactly been racking up the points since being recalled from Hamilton. Over his first 17 games with the team, Pacioretty managed seven points (3G, 4A), but over the last two games, he suddenly has four points (3G, 1A).

More importantly, he has been going to the net with conviction and it is paying off.

Yesterday, Pacioretty scored his fifth goal of the season by grabbing the puck behind the net, coming out front and just shooting it on net, despite Hiller seemingly having all angles covered.

The puck somehow squeezed through the five-hole and is an example of the type of mentality that he has to show to have success in this league: go to the net at all costs.

His instinct to always be around or go to the net is something that has been sorely missing from the Canadiens lineup since the days of John Leclair.

Keep it up Patches, the Habs need your offense!

3. The Habs were masters of their own fate.

The Canadiens didn't play a great first period and while they didn't exactly look tired from their game the night before in Ottawa, they were constantly one step behind the play.

The Ducks, who did an excellence job of shutting down the neutral zone, carried the play and the puck for the first twenty minutes but got themselves into penalty trouble in the second.

With Koivu taking two penalties in the first seven minutes of the second frame, the Habs were finally able to get on the board and the penalties allowed them to grab the momentum and run with it.

As a result, they had a bevy of scoring chances including two partial breaks by Brian Gionta, but were unable to capitalize.

Shortly after the Ducks' third penalty of the period, Tomas Plekanec was called for holding and the Ducks scored, giving themselves a one goal lead. Anaheim put one more past Price, also on the power play, before the end of the second putting the final nail in the Habs' coffin.

Despite the Habs gritty third period play and comeback, this was a classic case of a team not being able to cash in on their chances and it coming back to bite them. The comeback was great and the character displayed was even better, but the bottom line is that Montreal still has to figure out how to score more goals.

4. David Desharnais is becoming an important part of this team.

With news that the Canadiens told Desharnais to get an apartment because he will be here for the rest of the year, I feel that Montreal has added a key component to their team.

Playing his 10th game with Montreal this season, Desharnais finished the night with 14:20 of ice time—3:13 on the power play and 37 seconds short handed.

What is interesting is to see how quickly Jacques Martin has accorded him more and more importance in the lineup by virtue of his increasing ice time. Desharnais' ice time fluctuated between 8:46 and 16:09 over his first five games this season.

Over the last five games, however, his ice time reads as follows: 9:13, 8:38, 15:07, 14:46 and 14:20. More importantly than the stable amount of minutes he is starting to get, Coach Martin is using him in all situations; even strength, power play and short handed.

Despite his diminutive stature, Desharnais is an honest, hard working, defensively responsible player with excellent offensive upside. And like Tomas Plekanec, he is the type of player that Jacques Martin loves, as evidenced by the large role given to him out of the starting gate.

Desharnais is a player that makes the Canadiens a better team and I would love to see him playing with Max Pacioretty, as the two of them ripped it up together in the AHL.

Regardless, Desharnais has become a key cog on the Habs' third line with Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche, and with the ups and downs Montreal has had this season it's nice to see some stability in the bottom six.

5. For all the hype, the Habs didn't do much to honour Koivu.

According to Koivu's teammate and former Hab, Maxim Lapierre, he has never seen Saku as nervous before a match as he was last night.

So with the anticipation growing before puck drop, a cheer of "Sa-ku, Sa-ku!" went up when his name was announced in the starting lineup. Then as the players stepped onto the ice there was a another cheer for the crowds former captain.

There had been talk that the Canadiens organization was going to do a pregame montage to honour Koivu's years in Montreal, but all that happened was that there was a brief flash of him on the scoreboard during the anthems, from the game when he returned from cancer treatment.

But that's it.

Now there's nothing saying that they had to do anything more than that, but I truly thought that they would.

Talk about a lunch bag let down!

The national anthems were sung, then the "Sa-ku!" chants were renewed along with a rousing standing ovation for the city's hero.

Koivu's teammates left him at center ice by himself to soak in the moment but a visibly emotional Koivu motioned for them to join him at center, clearly wanting the game to start. Even Scott Gomez and the Canadiens players hung back at their bench, allowing Koivu to be alone at center ice to soak in the love.

The emotions were clearly too powerful for a teary-eyed Koivu and he again motion to his teammates to join him but did not immediately oblige, allowing the crowd to continue with their ovation. But Koivu quickly got the ref involved in the action, signaling the players to center ice to start the game and that was the end of his homage.

Thankfully, Habs' addicts are ravenous and with a Facebook page already organizing a campaign to vote Koivu as the game's first star, regardless of his performance, you hoped he would yet have his time with his fans.

True to their rabid nature, the fans did vote Koivu into the three star selection but he was bumped to second with the rule that any overtime or shootout goal scorer automatically gets the first star.

Koivu skated out onto the ice for his second star selection, helmet off, relief on his face, to another standing ovation from his adoring fans, hands raised to the crowd in appreciate of the total adulation he was receiving.

Then after a few laps he skated off the ice and the moment was over.

I don't know about you, but the whole thing made me sad that he is no longer with the team and while I do understand that it was likely time for both him and the team to part company, it would still be great to see him with the CH on his chest.

I think that at some point, perhaps after he retires, the Canadiens will find some way to bring him back into the fold as an ambassador, scout or some other role within the organization.

To me, Koivu is and always will be a Montreal Canadien.

Standings and Next Game

The shootout loss gives the Habs one precious point in the standings for 59 overall with a 27-17-5 record, good for sixth overall in the Eastern conference.

Montreal is two points back of Boston, who has 61 points and one game in hand, for third in the East. After the Bruins—who are in third overall in virtue of their first place in the Northeast division—are the Penguins and the Caps with 64 and 62 points respectively.

Behind the Canadiens are the Rangers, also with 59 points but one more game played, the Thrashers with 55 points and one more game played and the Hurricanes with 52 points and one game in hand.

The Canadiens, with six wins and three losses over their last nine games—one in overtime and one in a shootout—now enjoy two days off before taking on their nemeses, the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday in Philly.

The game will be the last one for both teams before the week long all-star break and as such, I would expect them to go full tilt for victory.

So what did you think about Koivu's return? Do you feel the Habs did enough? Should they have done more?

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

Habs lose, post game, Koivu, Pacioretty, Rumours and more...

Post game: Ducks 4 - Habs 3 (SO) - Montreal-Anaheim: Bobby Ryan Scores SO Winner in Saku Koivu's Emotional Return

Habs Inside/Out - Game 49: Ryan saves Ducks in Koivu's return

RDS - S. Koivu et les Ducks s'en tirent bien

TSN - DUCKS BEAT HABS IN SHOOTOUT; KOIVU GETS STANDING OVATION - Bobby Ryan, Jonas Hiller take charge in SO to power Ducks

Habs Inside/Out - Video: Eventful night ends in win for Koivu

Happy 93rd to Habs icon Elmer Lach

RDS - Max Pacioretty joue mieux que jamais

The Hockey News - From the pages of THN: Pavelec moves on from early-season scare

Spector's Hockey - Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – January 23, 2011

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)