Jaroslav Halak: Clearly Number 1

Jaroslav Halak guards net for Team Slovakia.

As the Winter Olympic Games wind down, the storylines from the Men’s Hockey tourney grow increasingly exciting. One story that will peak the interest of all Montreal Canadiens fans is how Team Slovakia has pushed its way through the crowd of pre-Game fav’s to find themselves in the Semi-Finals against Team Canada.

No small feat for Team Slovakia considering they knocked off Team Sweden in the Quarter-finals to reach the Semi’s… of course we all know Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Peter Forsberg, and the Sedin Twins (Daniel + Henrik) to name the mega stars on the Swedish roster.

Of special note is Team Slovakia’s starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak otherwise known as the other guy in Montreal behind supposed Franchise netminder Carey Price. Halak has impressed all with his play and the results speak for themselves. He is scheduled to become a Restricted FA this Summer and the Canadiens will be wise to lock him up or at the very least plan + anticipate offer-sheets heading Halak’s way.

So what should we take away from this storyline? For starters, (1) Halak is rising to the top as the cream of the crop should. (2) He’s proving he can handle pressure situations + how he and Team Slovakia perform in the Semi-Finals will determine how Halak is perceived as a Money/Big Game goalie. (3) He proved former Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey wrong, that it was Halak who should’ve been given the Number 1 job in the Fall, not Price (yes, hindsight is a beautiful thing). And finally, (4) Jaroslav Halak has shown he’s a Number 1 caliber goalie in the World, not just the National Hockey League!

Canadiens Need Olympic Break

The Winter Olympics couldn’t have come st a better time for the Habs. With the recent departure of GM Bob Gainey, the trade deadline looming, injuries to key personnel, Montreal is fortunate to get this breather to regroup for the final 6 weeks of the regular season.

Jaroslav Halak appears to have won the starting job over Carey Price. That should help Montreal’s chances of landing a play-off position. Halak has been more consistent and delievered victories when his team’s needed him.

Mike Cammalleri should be able to return in the final weeks to help the Habs with their post-season push. Some goes for the Andrei’s, Markov and Kostitsyn, both are key contributors on the powerplay which has been silence for the past several weeks leading up to the break.

Im thinking this 2 week break will help teams refocus and have a strong finish to the season.

However, I still maintain the Canadiens will just sneak inti the playoffs as the 8th seed in the East and get bounced in the first round. At least I can hope the upcoming trade deadline brings interesting players to Montreal, though it didn’t kickoff very well with the addition of Dominic Moore. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

Canadiens Bullied ‘n’ Beaten

Order your Hal Gill punching bag today! Free Shipping. :)

Order your Hal Gill punching bag today! Free Shipping included. :)

The season opened with promise for the Montreal Canadiens, stealing two games from division rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres. Carey Price was the talk of the town with whispers of “he’s back” and “we just might make it to the finals if Price plays like this the whole year.”

Leaping Off Bandwagon

Now four games into the season and after posting two straight loses against Western teams, the Calgary Flames (4-3OT) and the Vancouver Canucks (a 7-1 embarrassment) the bandwagon is suddenly empty and the obvious questions are making the rounds on radio sports talkshows. People are questioning the Canadiens’ toughness and size. The Canucks hurled one-liners at the Canadiens’ small top-line of Mike Cammalleri (5’9″), Scott Gomez (the line’s giant at 5’11″), and tiny Brian Gionta (closer to 5’6″ than his listed 5’7″). George Laraque chased Darcy Hordichuk for the better part of the first period while the Canadiens we trailing 0-3, asking Hordichuk to drop the gloves without success. Laraque looked like the awkward kid at their first dance that no one wanted to dance with.

Low Point: Assistant Captain Gets a Beating

However, the defining moment for Montreal and perhaps the moment that will foreshadow things to come this season for the Canadiens was the beating newly appointed 6’7″ Assistant Captain Hal Gill received from smallish 5’11″ Right-wing, Rick Rypien. With the Canucks up 5-1 in the third period, Rypien took on Gill in a fight that can only be described as a David versus Goliath embarrassment for the Habs. Rypien grabbed hold of Gill’s jersey like a determined pitbull and didn’t let go until he was declared the winner and completely beaten the fight out of Gill. If Montreal expects to be beaten on the ice AND allow themselves to be beaten physically by opponents, this will be a long and painful season for Montreal.

Recipe for Redemption: Fists Must Fly

However, like Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, there’s always hope and Montreal will have to redeem themselves quickly at the start of their next game against the Edmonton Oilers. Expect no less than two fights within the first five minutes of the game if Montreal intends to repair and restore their bruised and battered reputation.

Waiting for a New Captain.

Montreal Canadiens faithful are eagerly awaiting the possible naming of a new Captain. Early concensus from the players and local Montreal media is Brian Gionta would be selected if the decision were to come from a player’s vote.

Gionta, known for his competitiveness and aggressive play sounds like a great choice on the surface but naming another small Captain that stands 5’7″ (on skates) will be not end well for the Habs.

At 5'7" Gionta would appear to be too small to fit the bill as captain.

At 5'7" Gionta seems too small to fit the bill as team captain.

Imagine how the team will feel when they see their Captain run into the boards game in, game out because the opposition wants to get under the Habs skin. A Captain should be capable of defending not only himself but also his teammates and it looks unlikely that will happen with Brian Gionta. Imagine for a moment Gionta challenging Milan Lucic to a fight? It will happen sometime this season, but Lucic will laugh-off a feather-weight like Gionta.

Expect an update within the next 24 hours.

Update @ 11:30AM ET Oct.1, 2009: The Montreal Canadiens have named three Assistant Captains: Andrei Markov (D), Hal Gill (D) and Brian Gionta (RW). Head Coach Jacques Martin expects to start the season with the three Assistants to evaluation which candidate can live up to the pressures of wearing the Captain’s “C”. A wise move by the coaching staff considering two of the three candidates only recently joined the Canadiens as Unrestricted Free Agents during the past off-season.

Canadiens Richie-Rich Line Like $$ in the Bank.

cammalleri_gomez_gionta_canadiensYou heard it here first people. I’ve dubbed the Montreal Canadiens’ best line so far in the pre-season… the “Richie-Rich-Line.” Why? The line consists of Brian Gionta ($5 million Right-wing), Mike Cammalleri ($5 million Left-wing) and Scott Gomez ($8 million Centre) the three highest paid forwards purchased by General Manager Bob Gainey this past off-season to breathe new life into the Canadiens’ attack. So far the Richie-Rich-Line has been the top performing line in pre-season games, a relief as their play buys them a reprieve from the relentless French media which is known for tearing into all non-franco/Quebecois players donning the bleu-blanc-rouge (reference Saku Koivu “criticized” by local reporter Bertrand “My-Neck-Is-Deep-Red” Raymond, for not being bilingual – a ridiculous accusation considering Koivu speaks English, Finnish and Swedish… that’s fine, most of us ignore Bert’s shallow and often old-school commentary which reads like it was written by an extremely tired old man).

With 7-days to the start of the regular season, Montreal looks all but set with the following forward line combinations:

  • Richie-Rich Line: Gionta-Gomez-Cammalleri
  • 2nd: Max Pacioretty-Tomas Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn
  • 3rd: Matt D’Agostini-Maxim Lapierre-Guillaume Latendresse
  • 4th: Sergei Kostitsyn-Travis Moen-Glen Metropolit

Depth/Taxi Squad: Gregory Stewart, Georges Laraque (enforcer)

There’s talk Jacques Martin wants to spread the Richie-Rich wealth around and drop Max-Pac onto the Rich-line while bumping Cammalleri to the second line to “balance the attack” but chances are the Richie-Rich Line will be Martin’s go-to trio when the game’s on the line.

Again you heard it here first, the “Richie-Rich Line.”

Resource: NHLNUMBERS.COM provides a comprehensive view of each NHL team’s salary cap situation.

Hired: Ex-Canadiens Coach Carbonneau

Ex-Montreal Canadiens‘ Head Coach Guy Carbonneau has been hired as an analyst on Canada’s top rated hockey telecast, Hockey Night in Canada.

Will audiences hang on Carbonneau's every word or be bored to death?

Will audiences hang on Carbonneau's every word or be bored to death?

This is a strange career move for Carbo as he is not known for his colorful personality. It will be interesting to see how his commentary is accepted by audiences. Betting fans expect a painful rookie TV campaign for the former Selke Trophy stalwart (3-time winner of the award given to the top NHL defensive forward), Captain of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge, 14-season NHL alumnus and 3-time Stanley Cup champion (2 with Montreal + 1 with Dallas).

The list of ex-NHL Head Coaches who have or are currently hired by Hockey Night in Canada include Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and most recently Marc Crawford.

We here are Cranium Carom! suppose not every former Head Coach can get the call to join government as a Senator, right Jacques Demers!?!

P.S. My personal mission is to get an unbelievably high ranking on Google, Google.com, Google.ca, Google anything.  So Google us or Google this article. Heck, Google yourself if you want.  :)

Canadiens Rookie Camp: Day-3

habsrookiecamp09

The Montreal Canadiens 2009 Rookie Camp is in its third day and the focus to date has been on Teamwork and Leadership.

Montreal’s new coaching staff of Jacques Martin (Head Coach), Assistant Coach Perry Pearn, Goaltending Coach Pierre Groulx and returning Assistant Kirk Muller have been seen at the Canadiens practice facility in Brossard, QC setting the paces both on and off the ice with drills that are designed to get the team to communicate more.

On-ice drills started early in the morning and players were seen leaving the ice at 9:30PM Tuesday Sept.8th. Off-ice drills at the in-door soccer field include teams of three players pitted against another trio with the twist being two-out-of-three players per team being blind folded while the lone seeing player guides his teammates. Clearly some new techniques being employed by the new coaching staff.

The player to watch early in the Canadiens rookie camp is 20 year-old defenseman P.K. Subban. The top rated prospect who was Montreal’s 2nd round (43rd overall) draft pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft has been by far the most vocal participant in scrimmages. Subban isn’t expected to break camp with the parent club this year and will likely spend the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League where he will improve on his defensive play. However if he can impress, Subban might just fill the type of role former Canadiens defensemen Mark Streit and Mathieu Dandenault played, as a part-time Forward/Defenseman given his high-end offensive skills. Subban is projected to be a future Powerplay quarterback with a strong leadership abilities.