The Future is Bright in Montreal

By now you’ve already heard the news that defenceman Hal Gill has been traded to the Nashville Predators along with a conditional fifth round draft pick in 2013  in exchange for forwards Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney, as well as a second round draft pick in 2012.

My initial reaction was sadness and a puzzled look on my face, never having heard of the two forwards the Canadiens acquired (okay, maybe I live under a rock sometimes).

After some quick research and more thought, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

With Gill being an unrestricted free agent, it was only a matter of time before something had to happen with him.

As my step dad predicted last week, he was traded.

It makes sense, seeing as we either would have lost him for no return or would have had to shell out the big bucks to keep him in town.

In return we pick up two young forwards who are 6’2″; one whom bleeds bleu-blanc-rouge and has Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion and Howie Morenz running through his veins, the other is a good Canadian boy.

According to the current roster on Canadiens.com, 19 of 25 players listed are over 6’0″ and 15 of them weigh in at 200 pounds or more.

For a team that’s been criticized for lacking in size all season long, those are certainly big numbers.

With only seven players over the age of 30 on the Habs roster, it’s looks like the beginning of a great future in Montreal.

Okay, here’s the part where the girly hockey fan in me shines through so close your eyes for two seconds boys.

By adding Gill to their line up, the Preds continue to bolster their roster of “sexiest NHL players.” To be fair, we still have a number of stunners on our team a la Josh Gorges, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty to name a few.

Okay, girl comments are done, you can start reading again guys.

What we gain:

As I already mentioned the biggest trade off is return on a UFA in size and youth. Geoffrion played 22 game with Nashville this season, where he earned three assists. In 20 AHL games he has two goals and seven assists. He was awarded the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, as the Top U.S. Collegiate Player in 2010

Wow..what a day…its bitter sweet, going to miss my hometown of nashville, but going to where it all started with my family…MONTREAL!!! -@BlakeGeoffrion on Twitter

Slaney has split the season between the AHL and the ECHL. He has one assist in nine AHL games, and eight goals and five assists in 23 ECHL games.

Want to thank everyone in Nashville for everything, and excited for a new start in Montreal!  #newbeginnings -@rslaney67 on Twitter

What we lose:

A veteran defenceman with a wealth of playoff experience, strong penalty-killing ability and depth.

Moving Forward

As sad as I still am to see Big Hal depart for Nashville, I am excited for the future generation of Montreal Canadiens.

They may not be having the best season this year, but neither were the Ottawa Senators last year and look at them now.

“We are also very pleased to have acquired a second-round draft selection in 2012 and two young prospects for our organization. We look forward to working together with Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney to continue their progression.” -Canadiens GM, Pierre Gauthier

This time, I’d like to give PG a pat on the back for a good trade.

My First Tweetup

Sporting my Habs colours, even my iPhone wears bleu, blanc, rouge. Photo by Laura Kenney (@Habbykins)

On Feb. 11 the All Habs Tweetup crew hosted a Toronto event at St. Louis Bar and Grill for a Hockey Day in Canada match up between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During the last year I’ve been reading up on these tweetup events and the friendships that come out of meeting fellow twitter Habs fans face-to-face, and finally had the opportunity to attend one myself.

After carefully choosing which of

My fiance wearing my step dad's Canadiens sweater. I couldn't resist taking a photo for all his Sens fans friends back home.

my bleu, blanc, rouge outfits to sport to the bar (I went with a Josh Gorges t-shirt), and raiding my step dad’s closet to give my Sens fan fiance a sweater to wear, we were on our way to show our colours in enemy territory.

Not going to lie…the following words did escape my mouth en route to the bar:

“The Habs better win this game, I am going to be so embarrassed if we take over a Toronto bar and have to walk out with a loss”

Luckily for me, Les Canadiens not only won, they completely dominated the blue and white in their home arena and shut them out on a night they were celebrating their beloved ex captain Mats Sundin.

From the moment I walked into the bar, I knew it was going to be a great night.

We were welcomed with open arms by my Twitter acquaintances whom I’ve built online relationships with throughout the last year or two.

It was pretty surprising when I didn’t even have to introduce myself; as I walked in Dayes yelled “hey! Melissa”

I finally got to meet @habbykins, @Kuyaz and @cokeaddict who I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with on Twitter about the Habs, my own hockey endeavours, and not to mention cake. Mmm, cake.

Michael Kuyaz and I meeting in person for the first time! I'm wearing a Gorges t-shirt, he's wearing Pacioretty!

I also met @thetonyjones and new follower @ange_ducharme, among others.

When Erik Cole scored five minutes into the second period to give Montreal a 1-0 lead, the entire bar (okay, our entire group…which made up 3/4 of the bar) errupted in cheers as @Kuyaz came around and gave everyone a high five.

The blue and white crowd at St. Louis would remain silent for the rest of the game as the Habs went on to rout the Leafs 5-0 just hours after Sundin claimed Toronto was the hockey capital of the world, in his pre game speech.

So much for that, eh Mats?

The Canadiens chased James Reimer out of the net after 40 minutes of play, after he allowed four goals on just 15 shots. Jonas Gustavsson replaced “Reim Time” between the pipes for the third period and was beat once on three attempts.

Carey Price made 32 saves for a perfect game, as Montreal won their fourth straight.

It was the first shutout by the Canadiens in Toronto since Jose Theodore blanked the Leafs 4-0 on Oct. 11, 2003.

The Canadiens league-leading penalty kill was tested five times, while they’re power play (which is second worst in the league) was 1-for-2.

Kuyaz and I, he added the caption. Photo by Dayes (@Cokeaddict)

Back to the Tweetup…

On each table was a piece of paper that included feedback on the event and a short quiz about Hockey Day in Canada.

Needless to say, I didn’t know a single answer on the test but wound of winning a prize, $25 St. Louis gift card, for ‘most creative answers’.

Mike managed to snap this photo as I was cheering for the Eller goal. Epic! Photo by Mike Milonow (@MikeMilonow)

When Lars Eller dangled Dion Phaneuf and undressed Reimer for the Habs fourth goal, we were pretty sure the Leafs would not be able to come back into the game in the third period.

During the second intermission our group sang happy birthday for former Montrealer Jaroslav Spacek, who was celebrating his 38th birthday.

There’s a video recording of it somewhere, you’ll have to ask @cokeaddict for it.

After filling up on nachos, wings, delicious drinks and plenty of high fives, hugs and photos the night came to an end and it was time to part ways.

A big thank you to @Kuyaz and @Cokeaddict for putting on a fabulous event. I can’t wait for the next one!

Next on my bucket list is to attend a Tweetup in Montreal.

Bruins Extend Win Streak to 9 in Montreal

Going into this game I predicted P.K. Subban would sit in the sin bin more often than the most hated man in Montreal, Zdeno Chara, on the TSN Predictor – Hockey Edition contest.

At least I earned a point tonight.

While the Habs were killing a Subban penalty in the first period, Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen broke out of the zone on a 2-on-1. Pleks gave Moen a perfect tape-to-tape pass but Moen missed the net.

Fanning on shots or just plain missing the net entirely seems to be a common trend for le bleu, blanc, rouge as of late.

The Canadiens deserve a lot of credit for their first period action, though. The boys were hard on the puck, going in the corners and winning battles against their giant counterparts.

Erik Cole lays a hit on Andrew Ference. Photo by: REUTERS/ Christinne Muschi

Alexei Emelin had a huge hit behind Carey Price and I fell in [hockey] love with Josh Gorges a little more when he levelled Lucic just inside our blue line. Even our smallest player, and wonderful captain, got in on the action throwing a few hits at the 6’9 Chara.

Although Montreal outshot Boston 10-5 in the first, Mr. Glove Malfunction (or Andrew Ference) flipped the bird at Price’s shutout, ending his streak at 148:11 minutes of play to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Ference was left all alone in front, took the pass and beat Price who had no chance to cover the net. The goal would ultimately be the game winner.

Is it bad I hoped someone would jump that guy cheering in the Lucic jersey the camera panned to after the Bruins goal?

While Sidney Crosby (remember him? Yeah, The Kid is back) was lighting the lamp in Pittsburgh, the Habs played a lackluster second and third period which would not go unnoticed by Twitter.

“Habs playing like a PeeWee team” -@DannyBoyMTL

 

“This has to be the most emotionless Habs Bruins game in recent memory” – Arpon Basu

The refs finally gave the Bruins a penalty, after keeping their eyes closed to the dirty stick work in the first period, when ex-Habs Benoit Pouliot stupidly retaliated and hooked Emelin behind the play.

Michael Cammalleri had a nice shot from the point, which was deflected in front but Tim Thomas denied him with the kick save.

Too many times the Canadiens cycled the puck and didn’t take the right opportunities to shoot, then took shots from the weakest angles or coughed up the puck.

When the shorthanded team has as many shots on net as you during your power play, it’s time to rethink your special teams. Write that in your notebook, Jacques Martin.

Pouliot was sent back to the box not long after his escape, this time for four minutes, for getting his stick up in Subban’s face.

Once again, the Habs couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.

Boston’s victory can no doubt be placed on the shoulders of Thomas who made 33 saves for his third shutout of the year, earning him the game’s first star.

The Bruins earned their ninth straight win while Thomas has gone 133:04 minutes without allowing a goal.

With 1:39 remaining in the game Rich Peverley took a penalty for cross-checking Cammalleri. Even with the extra attacker, the Habs couldn’t buy a goal.

At one point, with 45 seconds left in the game, the Canadiens pulled a dump-and-chase making me throw my hands up in disgust as Boston quickly cleared the zone and the time on the clock ran out.

Even with their mini-me sized roster compared to the Bruins, Montreal out shot and out hit Boston.

To give them credit, Price (17-18) and the boys only allowed one Boston goal. Impressive, considering the Bruins had outscored their opponents 42-14 in the first eight games of the hot streak they’re on.

Budaj Not to Blame in Habs Loss

Budaj's 29 saves would not be enough as the Islanders defeated the Canadiens 4-3. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

Let me start by saying I actually agreed with the coaching decision to sit Carey Price and play Peter Budaj against the New York Islanders tonight.

Many fellow Habs fans on Twitter did not agree with this decision, taking another opportunity to make shots at Jacques Martin (whom which I dislike just as much as the next guy, by the way).  Would these people have had a different opinion had Price not earned a shutout last night?

YES.

The decision to play Budaj or Price was more than likely made before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes even started. It didn’t matter to the coaching staff how the game ended; they had already made up their minds.

With two games in two nights and some tough matchups remaining this month (Rangers, Bruins, Hurricanes followed by back-to-back games against the Flyers and Penguins), giving Price a break was a smart move. He might be the saviour in Montreal, but the guy isn’t invincible; he needs a rest once in a while. That’s why we have a backup goaltender in the first place.

Onto the game itself, where the Habs fought back from a 3-0 deficit to ultimately lose 4-3 and the hands of the Islanders.

New York’s first goal of the game can solely be blamed on Budaj who attempted to play the puck behind the net and instead gift wrapped an early Christmas gift for Pierre-Alexandr Parenteau.

After playing a solid first period, the immediate “Pull Budaj” comments following the first goal he allowed were a bit much, to say the least. In my opinion, that would be the only goal of the game that he could take full blame for (let’s remember there are five players in front of him too).

The Islanders’ second goal, the first of the season for Jay Pandolfo, began with a 3-on-2 into Montreal’s defensive zone. Both Scott Gomez and Aaron Palushaj coasted into the zone, while Mathieu Darche came back hard and dove in attempts to break up the pass at the blue-line. Both Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz had their men covered leaving Pandolfo all alone in front.

Had Gomez or Palushaj actually skated hard to defend our zone, the goal may not have happened. Budaj was in position but stood no chance against the unprotected Pandolofo.

Mark Streit, who played for the bleu, blanc, rouge from 2005-2008, shovelled the Isles’ third goal passed Budaj on a Habs defensive error.

Emelin made a weak attempt to clear the zone, when he had all the time in the world to set up a play. Streit picked up the puck and brought it back over the blue-line then passed it in front when Travis Moen lightly bumped him. After getting around Moen, who barely put any pressure on him at all, he picked up the loose puck in front of Budaj and put it home.

You can argue it was a weak goal on Budaj’s fault but it started with two major weak plays by his teammates.

Max Pacioretty finally put the Habs on the score sheet late in the second with a snap shot that beat Rick DiPietro on a pass from Lars Eller who capitalized on an Islanders defensive error.

The game really started getting exciting when Erik Cole cut the lead to one as he roofed the puck over a sprawled DiPietro who couldn’t regain position.

Just as quickly as the Habs looked to be taking back control of the game, Matt Moulson gave the Islanders their safety goal back.

Once again, on a 3-on-2 into the Habs zone, Moulson fired a wrist shot, which may have deflected off P.K. Subban’s stick as he turned, that beat Budaj between the legs.

Brian Gionta would give the Habs a power-play goal in the third, with an assist going to Mike Cammalleri who put in a solid effort getting the puck to the net.

From this loss I leave with the feeling that the Habs need to work on their defensive zone coverage. The forwards are not supporting their defencemen enough through the neutral zone and behind the blue-line and it’s costing them odd man rushes leading to goals.

The Islanders, who are last in the Eastern Conference out shot the Canadiens 33-29 in the 4-3 victory.

On the plus side the Habs continue to have a strong penalty killing unit, defending three New York power plays tonight. They have not given up a short-handed goal in their last six games.

I also really enjoy seeing Subban, Gionta and Cammalleri together on the power play. They were able to capitalize just once, but their chemistry led to a few great chances on others.

Scotiabank Place: Home Away From Home

Les Boys warming up

Kanata, ON – It was Heritage Night at Scotiabank Place when the Montreal Canadiens came to town for their first game of the regular season against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 4.

It may as well have been a home game for the Habs.

The crowd was a sea of bleu, blanc, rouge and the chants of Go Habs Go were loud and clear. When the in-house announcer introduced the Sens Army, the boos rang through the rafters.

As great as it was to be surrounded by Habs fan (there were less than a handful of Sens fans in my section), I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Senators and their fans; it must be a terrible feeling to play at your home rink and not even have the home support.

Decked out in my Habs gear for the game

Decked out in a Maurice Richard jersey, a baseball cap and scarf I was tingling with excitement for puck drop. It was my first time seeing Les Boys play live since the season before the lockout.

During the first period there was an announcement put on the big screen to enter a competition to win a heritage Ottawa jersey. To enter, you had to take a picture of yourself at the game wearing an old Sens jersey and tweet it to the official Sens account (@NHL_Sens) with your seat number and the hashtag #Sportcheckheritage.

I decided to take a picture of Mike in his jersey and send it in and he ended up winning a signed Neil jersey! The sportcheck representative came up to our seats and whisked Mike away to go on the big screen with his new jersey.

Mike and I at the game; He's sporting his newly won heritage jersey

I asked why I couldn’t go, since I had sent the tweet, and the lady told me I could not go with Habs gear on. She offered to let me go on camera too, as long as I put a Sens jersey on.

I obviously refused.

Our whole section cheered at my loyalty to Les Canadiens.

Everyone in our row won a $25.00 Sportchek gift certificate as well.

Tony came all the way from Scotland to see the Habs play!

I found out a fellow Habs fan on Twitter (@Habs_Clan) was going to be at the game too, all the way from Scotland! I met Tony during the second intermission to give him a Canadian welcome.

All-in-all it was a fantastic game. The Habs won (2-1), we won a jersey worth over $400 and we only bought the cheapest tickets in the house.

Social Media Fan of the Day

The Montreal Canadiens started a great contest of recognition this season; Habs Social Media Fan of the Day.

Beginning September 1, 2011 they announce a daily winner via the Habs officialTwitter account (@CanadiensMTL). The winner also receives a $10 gift certificate to use at any Habs Zone location.

Entering the contest is as simple as visiting the website, filling out the form and uploading a few pictures of yourself decked out in the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge. 

On October 28, 2011 I was crowned the Habs Social Media Fan of the Day.

After seeing two fellow Twitter pals (@emann_222 & @GucciPucciPrada) also gain recognition in the month of October I was overjoyed to join them.

When I entered a week earlier, I didn’t think I had a chance of being chosen. Just knowing the size of the fan base on Twitter alone, I figured it was a one-in-a-million shot.

Thanks to this contest I also had my profile posted on the Canadiens website, including a link to my blog. That day, I had 30 hits on my site. I can’t say for certain if they were all because of the link on the Habs website, but it definitely played a role.

Thank you to all my friends, followers and family for all your continued support in reading this blog and a BIG THANKS to the Montreal Canadiens organization for being the number one franchise in NHL history and making it easy to be a lifelong fan.

Go Habs Go

March Madness

Winless (and scoreless) in their last three games, the Canadiens will be looking for a much needed win at home tonight when they face the Atlanta Thrashers.

The bleu-blanc-rouge started the month of March on a high note; a four game winning streak that saw them defeat Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston. Nearing the end of the month though, it is a completely different story.

They have now fallen seven points behind Boston, who has a game in hand.

After crushing the Minnesota Wild 8-1 the Habs went on to lose their next three games, being outscored 11-0, including an embarrassing 7-0 blowout to the Boston Bruins.

Who is to blame for this?

It is impossible to point a finger at any one player in general. The forwards aren’t scoring, the defencemen aren’t defending. Carey Price continues to stand on his head in net but the team in front of him is not producing results.

A few months ago I posted a blog where I mentioned an interesting stat about Scott Gomez and the correlation between his time on the ice and the result of the game.

When Gomez has more than 18:40 minutes of ice time the Canadiens almost always end up losing.

At the time the Habs were 1-6-0 when he played more than 18:40 and 12-1-1 when he played less.

While studying the way the month of March has unfolded I’ve come to realize that this stat still holds true.

When Gomez has played more than 18:40 in the month of March the Habs are 2-6-0. When he has played less than that they are 5-0-0.

I’m not going to say Gomez is the one to completely blame for this. It’s not like he decides his own ice time.

The problem with Gomez is he is a defensive liability (hence why he is -16 on the season). His style is very offensive; he does not have a strong defensive mind set. However, with only seven goals to his name his offensive talent is being completely discredited.

When the Canadiens are down Gomez gets more ice time and the fourth line sits more solely based on this fact that he should be producing goals. This is why the ending result is a loss when he plays more. He just isn’t scoring.

When the Habs are leading Gomez sees the bench more because he is a defensive liability and he’s not needed on the ice. This is why the ending result is a win when he plays less. He isn’t on the ice to get scored on.  

As I mentioned in By the Numbers the best thing the Habs can do is keep Gomez’s ice time below 18 minutes a game. He’s proven time and time again that he is not going to be a high scoring player this season.

When Montreal and Atlanta last met on March 1, the Canadiens won 3-1. Gomez had 19:09 minutes of ice time and was +2. Hopefully they’ll see similar results tonight. They cannot afford to keep losing.