Saku > Mikko

Thanks, Ottawa, for beating up on the Minnesota Wild for us (Red's recap). I believe it was a hit by Chris Neil that knocked Demitra out of the lineup. The Habs are now 4-0-0 vs. the Northwest division.

It looks like Bonk/Johnson were matched up with Rolston and his wide assortment of linemates. These guys keep facing off against stars and outscoring them. They're bailing out the Koivu and Kovalev lines, who are just treading water at even strength. On top of that, they've been dominant on the PK. Don't look now, but Radek Bonk might just be Montreal's most valuable forward thus far.

Carbonneau dressed seven defensemen last night, and Janne "Two For Holding" Niinimaa was not one of them.

At the start of the season, Niinimaa had this to say about playing in Montreal:
"When people care, you feel that whatever you do out there, good or bad, you're accountable for it. I like that."

Janne should really enjoy this:

So far, the Ribeiro-Niinimaa trade has been a disaster. One of the Habs' biggest problems this year has been staying out of the penalty box. Niinimaa has averaged a minor penalty for every 20.5 minutes of icetime. The rest of the blueline has averaged one for every 42.1 minutes of icetime. The aggressive Mike Komisarek is a distant second place, with a minor every 31.3 minutes.

And the penalties aren't even the most boneheaded thing Niinimaa has done. After having played seven games with his new club, Janne decided to go all Joe Namath and guarantee a win over the best team in the league. Not smart.

What do you do with an 8th string defenseman who's making $2.5M? If you're Dallas, you trade him for Mike Ribeiro. If you're Montreal, you have second thoughts about the price you paid for defensive depth and pine for the days of Karl Dykhuis.


Who has the better PP point tandem: Toronto or Montreal?

Kaberle + McCabe: 9.0 PP points/60 min
Markov + Souray: 14.8 PP points/60 min

Kaberle + McCabe: $10M in cap space
Markov + Souray: $4.4M in cap space


Curiosities at the Hockey Recap penalty report:

Georges Laraque's replacement Patrick Thoresen been slapped with 3 instigator penalties already, and Anze Kopitar is guilty of the one and only "face" penalty this season. He must have stuck his tongue out at Blaine Angus.


Notable Blogosphere activity:

* This headshaking moment is brought to you via BoO (via someone else, via... ad infinitum):

"The Ottawa charter to Philly this afternoon was delayed due to some last-minute culinary demands. The food service caterers were called to deliver a box of chocolate bars, and one player (we don't know who) reportedly demanded a specific type of salad dressing be made available, before the aircraft could depart."

I won't speculate who. I'll just note that known Nancy-boy Jason Spezza does TV spots for "Jubilee Fine Jewellers - Official jeweller of Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators." I wonder if Spezza dons a "Jubilee Fine Jewellers" hat prior to post-game interviews.

* At Hockey Analysis, David Johnson reminisces about the time the Leafs traded away the NHL's worst case of acne.

* Spector's Soapbox is a quarterly report of the Eastern Conference.

"MONTREAL CANADIENS. The Habs are off to another good start but unlike last season it doesn't appear they'll suffer a potentially season-threatening collapse."

Yes, the start to this season has been eerily similar to last season. Even all the "Power Rankings" are giving the team lots of love. I'm not quite so optimistic.

Montreal has been winning a lot of close games. They're being outshot regularly. They're -8 at even strength (30GF, 38GA). Special teams have been an excellent +13 (21 ppgf & 6 shgf, 13 ppga & 1 shga), but the rate they've scored shorties can't continue. Their goaltending has arguably been the best in the league, and that is unlikely to continue. Although the rankings say the Habs' schedule has been tough, they haven't played a whole lot of games. They have benefited from plenty of rest.

This is not the second best team in the East.


Anonymous kazmojo said...

Ribeiro had grown complacent in Montreal. Any trade would have been a big wake-up call to him. So sure he looks good now, and is playing better than last year.

Gainey needed to dump Ribeiro and his lazy ways, and he needed a veteran d-man when Bouillon went down. With Hainsey and Beauchemin gone on waivers, there was no one left to call up. And when Dandenault got hurt, Niinimaa was looking even better.

Sure Ribeiro was worth more than Niinimaa, and is proving it now, but obviously no team was willing to take that chance at the time.

If Gainey has made a bad move this offseason, it might be the signing of Samsonov. But that's all 20-20 hindsight, as Sammy seemed a perfect fit at the time: a right-handed shooting left winger skating with a lefty right winger (Kovalev). And he's Russian to boot.

In all, Niinimaa did his job holding down the position until Dandenault and Bouillon got healthy. The Habs have done well, and are only now getting healthy. When Higgins gets back, look out!

11/23/2006 6:47 p.m.  
Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

I concur the Habs are winning a lot of close games, but unlike last season's "cardiac kids", you get the sense from this team (thanks to Carbo and his staff) that they're not going to falter.

I think their defensive game will improve as the season progresses. Certainly most of them are working their butts off and that's a good sign.

It also helps that they've got depth in goaltending this season. Huet appears to be winning the role of starter over Aebischer, but you've gotta admit the goaltending appears a lot more solid than it did a year ago.

Also, it was just before the Remembrance Day long weekend that Les Canadiens lost to the Pens on Crosby's highlight reel shootout goal that started the Habs two month season-threatening tailspin.

A year and two weeks later, the Habs have won four of five since getting embarrassed by the Leafs (grrrr!), their special teams are among the best in the league, Souray and Bonk are playing better, Komi and Higgins shown real improvement, and Latendresse is showing flashes of the power forward they hope he'll become.

Hence the reason why I'm convince a tailspin isn't in the cards this season.

11/23/2006 10:01 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is the camera work so high in Montreal. Unless you have a 50" tv its hard to follow the puck. This isn't the 1960s anymore when all cameras were set up high.

I hate Toronto with a passion, but at least they have great game viewing on tv.

12/04/2006 5:47 p.m.  

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