Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Seasons Greetings: A Time for Reflection on the First Half of the Season

Seasons Greetings, Habs Addicts! I hope everyone had wonderful holidays as we gear up for the New Year.   

Currently the Habs have a 23-14-3 record, good for 4th in the Eastern conference. Not too shabby at all. Scoring has been down this year, as the offense has been held to 3 goals or less in 28 of 40 games played this year and has only potted 5+ goals in a game twice this season, naturally both wins.  Carey Price and Peter Budaj have been stellar in goal and the overall defensive effort has been solid, but if we had the average goaltending we did last year, it’s easy to argue that our record could be 14-23-3.
Photo Credit: Allhabs.net

Going into 2014, the future is still looking bright. Our prospects have performed well thus far at the World Junior Hockey Championships (WJHC). On Team Canada, Zach Fucale got his first start between the pipes on Monday (December 30) against the Slovakian team and won, earning a New Years Eve start against Team USA.  Charles Hudon has played himself onto the top line with Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha. Elsewhere, Sebastian Collberg has played well for Team Sweden and Jacob de la Rose has meshed well with Filip Forsberg and has 3 points through 2 games.  Finland’s Artturi Lehkonen has played a dominant physical game on the top line, while Martin Reway has starred for the Slovakian squad, with 3 goals and 6 points through the first 2 games of the tournament. 

In Hamilton, the squad has been a mixed-bag of results this year, playing average hockey with a 15-14-4 record.  Martin St. Pierre leads the team with 25 points in 30 games, but the career AHLer is not considered a prospect.  Louis Leblanc continues to sputter with 9 goals/18 points in 30 games.  Blueliner Magnus Nygren left the squad to go back to Sweden earlier this season.  With no real opportunity to make the Habs this season, he opted to return to the Swedish Elite league where he could make more money than his $70,000 AHL salary.  Dustin Tokarski has received the bulk of the starts, with 22 appearances and has provided solid goaltending with an 11-7-2 record, with a 2.30 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.  While the organization has depth, not too many of these players are truly NHL ready.  Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn continue to develop and can ably fill in for the Habs when Marc Bergevin decides its time to move on from the Douglas Murray experiment or retire Francis Bouillon to the press box.

There is still just over half a season left for the Canadiens.  Back in November, I provided Habs Addict with a reflection of the first 20 games.  If you haven't read it, or you want to refresh your memory, I have linked the article here: At The Quarter Mile: Analysis of the First 20 Games.  Since that time, the Habs have played another 20 games and this quarter of the season has seen them post a 13-6-1 record (10-8-2 in the first 20).  While the record has improved, there has been only a few changes to the overall positives and negatives that I listed back in November.  Here's the latest update: 

Positive: The Kids.   
After starting off the season strong and creating the much hyped 'EGG Line'.  As is the trend with Michel Therrien this year, the line has since been disbanded and both Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk have had a revolving group of linemates. While Galchenyuk has continued to find success on the scoresheet, Eller has had games where he has largely been invisible.  Brendan Gallagher has found comfortable spot with the rejuvenated Max Pacioretty (team leading 15 goals) and David Desharnais (14 points in last 19 games; 1 point in first 21 games) and continues to bring a strong, gritty presence in each game, even though his stick has gone cold in the scoring department. 

Negative: Veteran Performance.  
Pacioretty and Desharnais have sparked each other and have since started to roll. Tomas Plekanec continues to be a steady contributor.  However, Rene Bourque, Brian Gionta, Rafael Diaz and Francis Bouillon continue to disappoint while collecting rather handsome paycheques. 

Positive: Subban Continues to Shine.  
His shooting percentage is down by half this year (4.5% this year; 8.7% last season), as such his goal output is lower this season. His point total of 27 in 40 games leads the team and his average time on the ice of 25:09/game is second only to Andrei Markov (25:32/game).   He will be in the running for the Norris Trophy at the end of the season at this pace. 

Negative: New Additions. 
Daniel Briere has 10 points in 29 games. He's been a healthy scratch and is showing diminished skills and speed.  Douglas Murray has no points and a team-worst -11 rating in 21 games.  He is showing clearly diminished speed.  George Parros has missed time with two separate concussions and has no-points and a -5 rating in 9 games.  Needless to say, no positive impact has been made by any of them. 

Positive: Elite Goaltending.
Carey Price and Peter Budaj have continued to excel under the tutelage of Stephane Waite.  Price is playing his way into a starting role on the Canadian Olympic team and both goaltenders have consistently played at an elite level all season long.  This has not changed since the first 20 games.  Without this tandem playing at the level they have been, there is no way this club is in the playoffs.

Negative: Decision Making. 
After all of last season and half of this season, there has still been no impact trade made by Marc Bergevin. Coach Michel Therrien cannot find consistent line pairings outside of Pacioretty-Desharnais-Gallagher and as such, there has been a lack of secondary scoring on a consistent basis.  How you can coach a team for a season and a half and still have no idea who can play well with each other is beyond me. The team plays well enough in its own end, but without the goalies playing at a high level, Therrien could easily be fighting for his job rather than a home ice playoff spot.

The New Year generally brings new hope and optimism for all. Out with the old and in with the new.
2014 could be a great year for the Canadiens and the fans. With half a season remaining, there is still plenty of hockey to be played and a full off-season for the roster to be improved by the front office through the draft and free agency. 

Until next time, Habs Addicts, have a happy New Years!!

Nick M. is a transplanted Montrealer, currently living in evil LeafLand. He is a contributor here at HabsAddict.com and give him a follow, as he can often be found rambling on Twitter.

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Hurricanes (Game #41)

Habs Vs Canes 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (23-14-3) will finish up 2013 in Carolina with a match against the Hurricanes (14-16-9) on New Year's Eve. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS.

This is the first of three games between the Habs and Canes. Last season the Habs swept all three games against the Hurricanes, earning 3-0, 4-2 and 4-1 victories. Carey Price earned two of the wins, but it was Peter Budaj that collected the shut out victory.

What to Watch:

Montreal's offense was held to just one goal yet again Sunday night against the Panthers. It was the seventh time in their past 9 games the Canadiens scored one goal or fewer, but even so, the team has managed to win 4 of those matches.

After a disappointing season last year, Jeff Skinner has gotten himself back on track and leads the Hurricanes in goals, despite missing 11 games already this season. With 14 goals and 24 points in 28 games, Skinner has already matched his point production from last season.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens will want to end the calendar year on a high note. A struggling Hurricanes team should provide them with every opportunity to earn a victory, Carolina has just one win in their last 9 games.

Who's Out:

George Parros hasn't seen action since suffering a concussion earlier in the month, although he has been skating with the team. Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is out long term.

The Hurricanes are without Jiri Tlusty (appendix) and Jay Harrison (concussion).

What Else:

The Canadiens had themselves a pretty satisfying 2013, going 52-28-8 up to now. Carey Price has been one of the biggest reasons for Montreal's success, he's stopped 1948 pucks already in 2013, giving up just 160 goals for a .924 save percentage.

The Question Mark:

What do you expect to see from the Habs in the coming year?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment below or send us a message on Twitter using the #MTLHockey hashtag.

There is no Pregame or Post Game Show tonight, join us again Thursday when the Canadiens play the Dallas Stars for the Best Damn Uncensored Habs Coverage around.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Panthers (Game #40)


Match Up:

The Canadiens (23-13-3) will finish their stay in sunny Florida with a Sunday evening meeting against the Panthers (14-20-5). The early bird special starts at 5:00 and airs on RDS and TSN.

It's the second of four meetings between the Habs and Panthers. Florida pulled off an improbable 2-1 win against the Canadiens two weeks ago on Bell Centre ice, holding the Habs to 18 shots over 3 periods.

What to Watch:

Tomas Plekanec has goals in consecutive games and is up to 13 on the season. Brian Gionta has 4 assists in his last 5 games, bringing him up to 20 points on the year.

The Panthers have a pair of rookie sensations helping to lead the way. Nick Bjugstad scored the winner in Montreal when these teams last met, he has 8 goals and 15 points on the season. Last draft's second overall pick, Aleksander Barkov has been on a tear recently with a goal and 4 assists in his last 5 games, he's up to 17 points on the season.

What's at Stake:

The Habs should feel the need to take some revenge on the lowly Panthers and earn what is on paper an easy two points. Montreal is just a point shy of the 50-point mark at just under the halfway point in the season.

Who's Out:

Peter Budaj is slated to get the start Sunday night, giving Carey Price a night off after his shootout win versus the Lightning. The Canadiens are missing George Parros (concussion) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder), but are healthy enough to force Michel Therrien to do some juggling. Michael Bournival was a healthy scratch against the Lightning, as was Douglas Murray.

The Panthers are dealing with a slew of injuries including Ed Jovanovski (hip_, Scottie Upshall (upper body), Jesse Winchester (hand) and Erik Gudbranson (orbital bone), however, Tim Thomas is expected to get the call in nets for Florida, his first start in 3 weeks.

What Else:

The Habs are on a 2-game win streak heading into Sunday's game, but they only have 1 regulation win in their last 8 games, a 3-1 victory against the Coyotes. The team has just 10 regulation goals in that span, including an empty-netter. Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and PK Subban are the only Canadiens to find the back of the net since the 6-0 loss the LA Kings.

The Question Mark:

What's more exciting, watching the Habs travel through Florida, on watching the World Junior Hockey Championship?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or leave us a comment below.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Lightning (Game #39)

Canadiens Vs Lightning 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (22-13-3) return to action Saturday night after their extended Christmas break by facing the Lightning (23-11-3) in Tampa. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the second of four meetings between the Habs and Bolts this season. A late third period goal by Daniel Briere helped the Habs force overtime in their first meeting, but the Canadiens ultimately lost 2-1 in a shootout, spoiling Carey Price's 44-save performance.

What to Watch:

David Desharnais is riding a 3-game point streak going into Saturday's action, including the game winning goal in Montreal's 4-3 OT win against the Predators last Saturday. PK Subban scored his first goal of December against the Predators, just his fifth of the season. Subban still leads the Habs with 27 points through 38 games.

Valtteri Filppula has been the hottest Bolt of late with 3 goals and 5 assists in his last five games. Both Filppula and Laval native, Martin St. Louis, are riding 5-game point streaks. St. Louis has 7 points in his last 5 games, including 3 goals.

What's at Stake:

On the strength of their current 5-game winning streak, the Lightning have passed the Habs in the standings are are now second in the Atlantic Division. While the 5-game streak is impressive, the Bolts only faced one team above .500 in that span, the Detroit Red Wings. The Habs will have a chance Saturday to bringing the Lightning back down to earth and claim a share of second place in the process.

Who's Out:

Josh Gorges (lower body) should return to action Saturday night. His 167-game streak came to an end last week when he missed his first game since returning from knee surgery during the 2010-2011 season. George Parros (concussion) joined the team in Tampa and has resumed skating in practices. Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is out.

The Bolts are without their top threat, Steven Stamkos, who suffered a broken leg in November. Despite playing less than half of Tampa's 37 games, he is still third on the team in scoring.

Also missing for the Bolts are Keith Aulie (hand) and Ryan Malone (ankle) while Eric Brewer (arm) and Sami Salo (upper body) are day-to-day.

What Else:

The first goal could be extremely important in Saturday's match-up. Both the Bolts and the Habs are two difficult teams to be when they grab an early lead. Tampa has won 15 of the 17 games they've scored first in, while the Habs have 17 victories in the 20 games they've scored the first goal. On the flip-side, the Lightning have managed to overcome an early deficit 8 out of 20 times they've allowed the first goal. The Canadiens have managed to come back just 5 times in the 18 occasions they were scored on first.

The Question Mark:

What should Habs fans expect from their team between now and the Olympic break: Will the defense find their way? Are their scoring woes behind them? Will Price continue to be a dominant goalie? Will they maintain their playoff positioning?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or leave us a comment below.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Montreal Canadiens Three Stars of the Week - Dec 16 to 22, 2013

 montreal canadiens habs tricolore 3 stars nhl

The Canadiens were able to claim 4 out of a possible 6 points last week with wins over the Coyotes and Predators sandwiching a disappoint 5-1 loss to the Blues in St Louis. They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead over the Preds Saturday night in Nashville but still needed overtime heroics to claim a 4-3 win and send them to their week long Christmas break on a high note.

First Star: David Desharnais

Desharnais was the only Hab to find his way onto the scoresheet in all three games, picking up a goal and three assists on the week. He assisted on the game winning goal in against the Coyotes and was the overtime hero in Nashville, getting the game winner unassisted after a great individual effort.

Second Star: Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty will spend the holidays with his newborn son, Lorenzo, but not before collecting three goals and an assist last week. Patches had two goals and an assist including the game winner in Montreal's 3-1 victory of the Coyotes and picked up the second goal on a breakaway in Nashville to end off the week.

Third Star: PK Subban

Subban had a goal and an assist on the week, opening the scoring in Nashville to help set the tone early. Subban also led the team in shots against the Predators, with 6 of the team's 23 shots on goal. Last year's Norris Trophy winner leads the Habs with 27 points in 38 games. He was a plus-3 Saturday night bringing him up to plus-11 on the season.

Honorable Mention: Brendan Gallagher 

Gallagher continued to be a spark plug for linemates Desharnais and Pacioretty last week. While he was held without a point against the Coyotes, he could be found right on top of goalie Mike Smith as the first two goals were scored. In St Louis on Thursday, Gallagher had Montreal's only goal of the night but his play of the week was the breakout pass in Nashville that sent Max Pacioretty in alone on Marek Mezanec and helped give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead at that point.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Predators (Game #38)

montreal canadiens vs nashville predators 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (21-13-3) are in Nashville to take on the Predators (16-16-3) Saturday night, their last game before the team gets a week break over the Christmas holiday. The match is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the second and final meeting between the Habs and Preds this season. Rookie defenseman Seth Jones scored the game winning goal for the Predators with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation putting the Predators ahead 2-1. David Legwand had a pair of assists for Nashville.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais have been the Habs' most consistent offensive producers during their recent offensive drought. Since being shutout by the Kings, the Habs have scored just 7 goals in their last 5 games. Pacioretty and Desharnais each have 4 points in that span with Patches picking up 3 goals.

As much as the Habs have struggled offensively, the Predators aren't faring much better. The Preds are 26th in scoring with just 80 goals scored in 35 games. Legwand, the team's top scorer, has 6 goals and 25 points on the year, including 5 points in the last 5 games.

What's at Stake:

The Lightning have caught back up to the Canadiens to take over third sport in the Eastern conference. The Habs and Lightning are both at 45 points on the season but the Bolts have two games in hand on Montreal. With a win in Nashville the Canadiens have a chance to effectively end the first half of the season on a high note after a disappointing stretch.

Who's Out:

The Habs are missing George Parros (concussion) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

The Predators are only dealing with one injury but, it's a doozy. Pekka Rinne (hip infection) has been out of action since late October and there is no set timeline for his return.

 What Else:

Last season, scoring first was a major strength for the Habs, they struck first in 29 of 48 games last year. This season, Canadiens have opened the scoring in 19 of 37 games, slightly better than 50 percent. But December has been a different story altogether, in 10 games this month the Habs have only managed to score first in 3, and only once in their last 6, an overtime winner in their 1-0 victory of the Islanders.

The Question Mark:

Christmas is just around the corner and we want to know, what gift would you get the Habs this year and have they been naughty or nice in your books?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or leave us a comment below.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Blues (Game #37)

montreal canadiens vs st-louis blues nhl
Match Up:

The Canadiens (21-12-3) are in St. Louis Thursday night to meet the Blues (22-7-3). The game starts at 8:00 and airs on RDS.

This is the second and final meeting between the two teams this season. When the teams met in Montreal, the Habs scored twice in the second to take a 2-1 lead over the Blues but couldn't hold on in the third and couldn't beat Jaroslav Halak in the shootout, ultimately losing 3-2.

What to Watch:

This match up features a wealth of defensemen looking to take home medals from the Sochi Olympics. PK Subban, Andrei Markov, Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin will square off against Canadians Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, American Kevin Shattenkirk and Czech Roman Polak.

On top of that, the match should pit Jaro Halak and Carey Price against each other for a fourth time. Halak has earned the win in all three prior matches.

What's at Stake:

After coming back to defeat a slumping but respectable Phoenix Coyotes team, the Habs have a chance to prove themselves against another strong Western opponent. The Blues are second in the league in goals per game but the Habs are third in terms of goals against which puts them on even footing.

Who's Out:

Rene Bourque returned to action Saturday night, leaving just George Parros (concussion) and Davis Drewiske on the sidelines for the Habs.

The Blues are dealing with key injuries right now, captain David Backes (upper body) is out for at least a week, defensman Jordan Leopold (hand) is out as well. Also missing for the Blues is forward Ryan Reaves (hand) while Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) and Jaden Schwartz will be game time decisions.

What Else:

The St. Louis Blues announced a three-year extension for Alexander Steen on Wednesday, the team's leading points scorer with 36 in 33 games. Steen extension is worth 17.4 million for a cap hit of 5,8 million over the next 3 seasons. The 29-year old is 15 points shy of a career high, he scored 51 points including 20 goals in the 2010-2011 season.

The Question Mark:

How deep will the Canadiens need to make it in the playoffs for you to consider this season a success?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or just leave a comment.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Habs/Coyotes Post-Game December 17th 2013

The Habs earned a victory against a very strong, and defense focused, Phoenix Coyotes squad by a score of 3 to 1. The victory was important given how they flat they came out against the Florida Panthers in front of the home crowd Sunday evening in their losing outing.

Max Pacioretty was ringing the doorbell often as he hit the post three times before finally getting a bounce off the skate of Michael Stone to beat Mike Smith. He also added an empty netter to seal the game and put away the sword as he has done quite often this season.

The Habs came out of the gate flying, Pacioretty was sent in on a breakaway thirty seconds into the game and a series of other opportunities tested Smith early. A penalty by Briere for holding did turn the tempo of the game and gave the Coyotes momentum. Only a few minutes after their powerplay did the Yotes get on the board with a goal by Antoine Vermette.

The Yotes held this pace in the game for the better part of the first two periods. The Canadiens weren't without their chances. Price came up big for the Habs, especially in the first as he faced 15 shots. His performance in the first could easily have given the Coyotes the game much earlier but he made sure the lead didn't grow as the game progressed. He also showcased extremely well in his matchup against another possible Olympic starter for Canada in the other net.

While the first period was a battle for Price the remaining two periods were less demanding as the Canadiens must have gotten an earful from their coaches between the first and second as they suddenly gained back the advantage in the shots category in the next two frames. A big moment in the game came when the Canadiens needed to kill off a Brandon Prust double minor and came away clean against a strong Coyotes power-play.

Mike Smith was also on his game however. He came up with an immense save against Galchenyuk with 30 seconds left in the second to rob him with the glove. A save like that given the habs recent snake-bitten goal scoring would make fans wonder whether or not there would be a goal for the home-side.

Numerous shots off the post and a glaring open cage for Lars Eller all should have been gotten by Smith and onto the score sheet but the Canadiens just couldn't seem to get luck on their side. This did not help ease the tension for the fans who had been left without any reward for their teams hard work on the night.

Fortunately for them the Canadiens managed to capitalize on a couple of their power plays in the third to score a pair of goals against the stingy Coyotes. A blast from Andrei Markov trickled into the net through the pads of Smith who failed to get all of the shot by the Habs blue-liner.

Despite the early setbacks the Canadiens played a hard game against a very strong opponent in the western Pacific conference. On Thursday night the Canadiens take on the mighty St-Louis Blues.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Coyotes (Game #36)

montreal canadiens vs phoenix coyotes nhl
Match Up:

The Canadiens (20-12-3) are home to host the Coyotes (18-9-5) Tuesday night, their last home game of 2013. The match starts at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the first of two meeting between the Habs and Coyotes and their first meeting in Montreal since the beginning of the 2010-2011 season. The Habs are riding a 13-game undefeated streak against the Yotes that stretches back to December 9, 1998.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens offensive woes continued Sunday against the Panthers as the team was held to a goal or less for the fourth straight game. Alex Galchenyuk scored Montreal's only goal Sunday, his second in the last three games.

With the Coyotes in town, a familiar face returns to Montreal, Mike Ribiero. Ribiero leads the Coyotes in points with 26 in 32 games played. Before Saturday's loss to the Hurricanes, he had racked up 5 points in 3 games, including the game winner against the Islanders on Thursday.

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith leads the league in terms of saves this season, unfortunately for the Coyotes he has also faced more shots and allowed more goals than any other tender as well. The Kingston, Ontario native has started 27 of the 32 games the Yotes have played this season and while he has a respectable .911 save percentage, his gaa is hovering just under 3 goals per game.

What's at Stake:

After playing 11 games in 19 days, the Habs look to be a team running on fumes. They have two tough games lined up in the Coyotes and then the Blues on Thursday before facing the Predators on Saturday and then get to cash in on a well-earned week of rest during the Christmas break. Any points the Canadiens can salvage in their next three is merely a bonus.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens confirmed that George Parros suffered a concussion in his fight Saturday against Eric Boulton, he is out for the foreseeable future. Rene Bourque (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) are also out.

The Coyotes are without Shane Doan (illness), meaning Carey Price won't have to worry about getting scored on by his cousin. Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is also out.

What Else:

The Coyotes are currently the best team in the league that wouldn't make the playoffs if the season ended right now. With 41 points to their credit, the Yotes are 2 back of Minnesota for the final wild card spot in the West. They also hold 3 games in hand on the Wild. Meanwhile, with 43 points on the season, the Canadiens have a comfortable 9-point cushion over the Senators, the ninth place team in the East. Phoenix is tenth overall in terms of points per game, two spots ahead of the Habs.

The Question Mark:

How many points will the Habs earn in their next three games?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or just leave a comment.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Montreal Canadiens Three Stars of the Week - Dec 9 to 15, 2013

montreal canadiens habs tricolore 3 stars nhl

After their incredible 9-0-1 run, the Canadiens crashed back to earth last week. The Habs managed just one win in four games. Even more troubling, the Habs scored just 3 goals in their games and Montreal's only win was an overtime shutout effort by Carey Price.

First Star: Carey Price

The past week went so badly for the Habs that even though Price was pulled less than halfway through the Kings game Tuesday, he was still able to make up for it with his next two starts and claim the team's first star of the week. Price bounced back from allowing 4 goals on 16 shots against L.A. by stopping 46 of the next 48 shots he faced and was the team's best player in Philadelphia and Long Island.

Second Star: Alex Galchenyuk

Galchenyuk picked up two out of the three Habs goals this week, including a power play goal Sunday that ended a 6-game drought. Chucky was the team's most consistent player throughout the week and arguably the Habs' best skater Tuesday against the Kings, when he registered 7 shots in a season high 19:03 minutes of ice-time.

Third Star: David Desharnais

Desharnais provided the offensive spark the Habs needed to get by the Islanders in overtime Saturday night. His strong forecheck against Thomas Hickey freed the puck up deep in Isle territory and his pass to Max Pacioretty secured Montreal's only win of the week.

Honorable Mention: Habs Fans in Long Island

Braving blizzards and the less than welcoming atmosphere of the Nassau Coliseum, thousands of Habs fans made the trek from Quebec to Long Island to cheer on their team. The Canadiens treated their faithful to 60 minutes of scoreless hockey, but eventually managed the victory in front of their traveling fans.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Panthers (Game #35)

Match Up:

The Canadiens (20-11-3) are home to host the Panthers (11-17-5) Sunday night, after squeaking out a 1-0 overtime win in Long Island the night before. There's an early start to this one, the puck drops at 6:00 and the game will air on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the first of four meetings between the Habs and Panthers this season. Last year the Habs went 3-0-0 against Florida, allowing just 3 goals against in the 3 meetings. In the second meeting last season, Carey Price posted a 1-0 OT shutout in Florida, making 26 saves in the effort.

What to Watch:

David Desharnais was the hero for Montreal Saturday night, a powerful forecheck in overtime freed up the puck and he was able to find Max Pacioretty who buried the OT winner. Price made 21 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. It's unclear whether Price or Peter Budaj will get the start on Saturday.

With 24 points, PK Subban still leads the Habs in scoring, however he's now gone 6 games without a point.

The Panthers also took their last game beyond regulation, they beat the Capitals 3-2 in a shootout that lasted 10 rounds Friday night. Florida does not have a single player with over 20 points at this point in the season, so it's no surprise they're among the leagues worst in terms of goals per game, only ahead of the Sabres. Scottie Upshall leads the Panthers with 17 points.

What's at Stake:

Despite a win against the Islanders on Saturday, the Canadiens lack of offensive production over their last three games is a major cause for concern. The team has just 2 goals in their last 3 and haven't scored a power play marker in over 6 games. The Panthers are allowing over 3 goals a game on average and have the third worst penalty kill in the league, presenting the Habs with a golden opportunity to get back on track.

Who's Out:

George Parros (head) left Saturday's match after his first period fight with Eric Boulton. Rene Bourque (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) are also out.

The Panthers are without Tim Thomas (groin) and Ed Jovanovski (hip). Jonathan Huberdeau suffered a minor injury Friday against the Caps and will be a game time decision in Montreal.

What Else:

After an offensive outburst for David Desharnais that started in Montreal's 6-2 win over the Wild on November 19, and saw him score 9 points in 8 games, his assist in OT last night broke a 5-game drought. Desharnais and his linemate Max Pacioretty haven't produced as expected this season, the duo combine for 26 points. At the same time, Pacioretty does lead the team with 12 goals on the year, including the last 2 power play goals the Habs have scored.

The Question Mark:

While Michel Therrien has been hitting the shuffle button on the Habs' forwards lines, are you satisfied with the defensive pairings or would you rather see other combinations?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or just leave a comment.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Islanders (Game #34)

Match Up:

Saturday night, the Canadiens (19-11-3) will look to put an end to their 2-game losing streak in New York against a slumping Islanders (9-19-5) team. The game start at 7:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Islanders this season. The Kid line led the Habs to a 4-2 victory on home ice in their first meeting, the night of Alex Galchenyuk's infamous jersey kiss. Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller each potted a goal and combined for 8 points in the win.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens offense has been kept to just one goal in Montreal's past two games and a span f over 120 minutes without a goal. PK Subban still leads the Habs in points but he's gone his past 5 games without a point and has just 4 goals on the year.

John Tavares has 5 points in his last 3 games for the Isles, with 13 goals and 37 points he leads the team in both departments. Newcomer Thomas Vanek has 13 points in 17 games since joining the team in exchange for Matt Moulson, including 4 points in the last 3 games.

What's at Stake:

The Habs have lost ground to the Bruins and Penguins in the past week and their cushion over teams like the Red Wings, Lightning and Capitals is quickly disappearing. The Islanders sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan division and the Habs can't afford not to capitalize against a team that has 3 wins in their last 19 games.

Who's Out:

Rene Bourque (upper body) didn't travel with the team but is nearing a return to action, Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is out long term.

The Islanders are missing Radek Martinek (back) and Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion). Casey Cizikas (jaw) is also Questionable for Saturday's game.

What Else:

While Montreal still has the sixth ranked power play in the league, the Canadiens' man advantage has been kept goalless in the last 5 games; the team is 0 for their last 13 attempts. The Habs will have a chance to turn that around Saturday against the worst penalty kill in the league. The Islanders have allowed 30 goals in 105 short handed situations, exactly double what the Habs have given up in 108 attempted kills.

The Question Mark:

Tell us what you think, where does Galchenyuk's crest kiss rank in your memories as a Canadiens fan?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or just leave a comment.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Habs/Flyers Post Game December 12th 2013

The Habs were looking to bounce back after a poor outing against the Kings but home ice advantage seemed to favor the Flyers in their 2-1 victory against Montreal, who have now dropped 2 straight in regulation.

The game could have gotten out of reach in the second period after Alexei Emelin was ejected from the game for a elbow to the head on Flyers forward Steve Downie. This resulted in a five minute major against the Habs who allowed nothing to get by Price. Given the recent amount of discipline being handed down by Brendan Shanahan it can be expected that Emelin will be missing a couple of games after tonight.

The Flyers are also coming off of a terrible loss, 7-2 to the Blackhawks and were eager to gain ground in the open Metropolitan division. They were the hungrier team in the game and generated the most chances. The game could have turned into another dropping had Price not been able to maintain composure throughout. He was under heavy pressure and came up big, not only stopping the entire 5 minute major, but with great saves against many other chances from a Flyers team that dominated the puck possession on the night.

Mason was not tested often but did play well enough to give the Canadiens an idea of why he has been their starting goalie as of late. This and the fact that the Flyers only took one penalty on the night, a surprising statement given that they are the most penalized team in the league, left Montreal's power-play off the ice and unable to produce.

The Habs were playing on their heels a large part of the game. When they play to their strengths and use speed and skill to get pucks on opposition net they have done well to emerge victorious this season. On the other hand, playing back and letting the opposition come to you while hoping for mistakes to capitalize on isn't a strategy that should be relied upon to make it to the playoffs during an 82 game season.

The consolidation prize for the Canadiens came with less than a minute remaining when Galchenyuk got one by Mason, ending the shutout bid. While it didnt result in anything more, it is better to score one than it is to be shut out in two consecutive games.

The Canadiens now get ready to face a struggling Islanders squad. Unfortunately, while they did put together a 9-0-1 run this is quickly forgotten when a team goes through back-to-back losses in the style the Canadiens did. The team needs a win, even if it is not convincing it is important to get back on track and keep up their pace in the strong Atlantic division.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Flyers (Game #33)

Habs vs Flyers
Match Up:

The Canadiens (19-10-3) look to rediscover their winning ways Thursday night when they take on the Flyers (13-15-3) in Philadelphia. The game starts at 7:00 and will be broadcast on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Flyers, Montreal already scored a 4-1 win over Philly on Bell Centre ice at the beginning of the season. Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller and Rene Bourque each posted a goal and an assist in the victory.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens were crushed by the Kings Tuesday night in their most lopsided loss of the season, a 6-0 disaster. Carey Price was pulled for the first time this year after allowing 4 goals in less than 26 minutes of play.

Thursday will be Daniel Briere's first visit to Philadelphia since joining the Habs last summer. Briere spent 6 seasons with the Flyers tallying 283 points and 72 playoff points in 68 post season games.
The Flyers are coming off a lopsided loss of their own against another Western powerhouse, they fell 7-2 to the Blackhawks in Chicago Wednesday night. Jakub Voracek picked up a goal in the defeat, his second in consecutive games.

What's at Stake:

While one regulation loss in their last 11 games is no reason to panic, the dramatic way in which the Kings defeated the Canadiens on Tuesday should have the team looking to prove the loss was not a sign of things to come.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are missing Rene Bourque (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

The Flyers are without Vincent Lecavalier (back).

What Else:

After starting the season 0-3-0, including the 4-1 loss to the Habs, the Flyers let go of head coach Peter Laviolette, replacing him with Craig Berube. Berube played with the Flyers for parts of 5 seasons and has been amongst their coaching staff since 2004 as an assistant coach and then head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms, and then as an assistant coach with the Flyers since 2008. Since taking over as head coach, the Flyers have gone 13-12-3.

The Question Mark:

While the Canadiens have been playing to their strengths recently, the Kings certainly exposed some weaknesses on Tuesday. What is the Canadiens biggest weakness right now and how can either Michel Therrien or Marc Bergevin realistically address it?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The NHL Needs To Stop The Violence, Or Expect The Inevitable

By: Tony Padula

Even by UFC standards, the knee to the head by Penguins' forward James Neal on the Bruins' super pest Brad Marchand in the Boston's 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday night is considered a viscious and calculated blow. Neal took advantage of Marchand's vulnerability, and it is one of the most cowardly and unmanly cheap shots ever in recent memory. That was followed up by an equally heinous retaliatory slew foot and face pounding by Shawn Thornton on a prone and defenceless Brooks Orpik.

The NHL, and its officials, have allowed this situation to escalate, and has moved one step closer to reporting its first death as a direct result of a violent act since Bill Masterton died in 1968.  Former NHL referee Wally Harris characterized the Masteron hit by saying, "he was checked hard, but I'm sure it wasn't a dirty play." That argument sounds vaguely familiar to some of the asinine explanations we have been provided in recent years by many NHL media outlets and "old school" thinkers.

So long as the discussion of fighting keeps getting bastardized with acts of violence that fall outside a conventional dropping of the gloves, the NHL will never turn the pendulum away from barbarism and towards beautiful skillful artistry.

If violence was a successful strategy to glory, then explain why these acts of violence do not take place in the playoffs? Explain why the Montreal Canadiens have 24 Stanley Cups, and Boston and Philadelphia, teams known for their brutish styles of play, only have a handful?

When five year old children register to play hockey for the first time, do we teach them to skate, stop, and pivot turn, or do we teach them boxing and wrestling moves?

The day is coming when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will have to look the NHL's Chairman of the Board of Govornors, and Bruins' owner Jeremy Jacobs in the eye and tell him that violence needs to be reduced for the sake of the game, and that a cultural shift needs to start happening in cities like Boston and Philadelphia. 

This is exactly what it is...a cultural gap that exists between our two countries. 

In Canada, we see spots of societal devastation that involve mass murder. It hits the nation’s citizens hard, and we reject it as being tolerable. 

In the USA, they hide behind the constitution and learn to accept the almost daily occurrence of such inexplicable destruction of human life, and it is only inevitable, and somewhat expected, that such inner feelings carry over into the field of sports.

Fighting in hockey was nothing more than a policing measure to make up for the pathetically inept and biased officiating that existed in the game today. And now, we find ourselves one step closer to a ferocious beating, an unexpected clubbing or a senseless kneeing of a hockey player when in a defenseless position that will not only knock a player out or end his career, but will no doubt kill him. 
Mr. Bettman, I hope you have a R.I.P. message ready, because it will be needed sooner rather than later unless you put an end to this garbage goon mentality pushed by a few, but powerful owners.