Friday, February 25, 2011

Sopel to the Habs

What makes me happiest about the Canadiens acquisition of defenseman Brent Sopel? How excited he is to be coming to Montreal. Being one of the few NHLers with a Twitter account, he immediately changed his avatar to the Habs logo, updated his bio information (now reflecting his Habs status, as opposed to the Thrashers) and tweeted: "@BrentSopel: Looking forward to getting to Montreal to start the running for another Stanley Cup." Might I mention he's acquired roughly 4,000 new followers on Twitter since yesterday's trade announcement?

While Pierre Maguire described Sopel as an "older, slower version of Josh Gorges" on the Team 990 yesterday afternoon, I think that any version of Josh Gorges is a great acquisition, particularly in light of the fact that we do not currently have the original Josh Gorges in the lineup. What does this mean for the Habs? More blocked shots, mainly, taking some pressure off of Carey Price.

Ben Maxell was a great bargaining chip, and while I've heard a lot of people complain about the deal, I have to say that I like it. While it doesn't get me jumping up and down with excitement, I think it was a good move on Gauthier's part, and I'm looking forward to seeing Sopel join the Habs lineup Saturday against the Hurricanes, where the boys will no doubt be hungry for a win, after a disappointing loss against the Leafs Thursday night. Also, Nigel Dawes will indeed add depth in Hamilton.

All in all, I think it was a good deal. Feel free to disagree if you must.

PS. Sopel's wife has a blog about being the wife of an NHL hockey player. It's worth checking out, and I've added it to the list of my favourite blogs. When you have a chance, make sure to throw it a glance!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Sabres netminder Ryan Miller will not be between the pipes tonight versus the Canadiens, which is unfortunate for the Habs, being that he's coming off a 7-6 loss to the Islanders, where he faced a mere 26 shots. As a Habs fan, I have an unfounded and completely ludicrous vendetta against the American goalie. The last game I went to a game was the November 27th 2010 3-1 win over the Sabres, and I joined the crowd in taunting Miller relentlessly. No matter how focused the goaltender, it has to be extremely difficult to play your best when 20,000+ people are mocking you, and waiting for you to make a mistake. Unfortunately, Montreal is a city where the same can be true for our own goaltenders.
While he may be coming off his 6th shutout of the season, last season, Carey Price faced much mockery and an overall lack of confidence that was widespread across the island of Montreal and the surrounding area. Every armchair GM was on the Jaroslav Halak bandwagon, and Price wasn't given much of a chance. When Halak headed to St-Louis in the summer, there were eruptions of debates on every radio station, in every bar and around every dinner table. While some of us were capable of understanding the concept of a salary cap, many others were not. Fans cried out for Pierre Gauthier to "find a way to keep both". I'm sure he would have loved to do so as well, however that was simply not an option; not if we wanted to keep players like Plekanec on the roster.

The decision to keep Price over Halak is one that I feel has already paid off. I think the main reason people are [still] getting their knickers in a knot is because they feel we did not "get enough" in return for Halak (particularly due to the unimpressive play by Lars Eller). I feel that while it may not sound like a great reason, this is a factor in why Eller isn't in Hamilton at the moment, where he could benefit from further AHL experience. It doesn't mean that he won't develop into a good player, but perhaps now is not the time (see Pacioretty for a fabulous example of what a little extra time with the Bulldogs can do for you!).

All that being said, I'd like Habs fans to keep in mind that being an NHL goaltender is one of the most high profile and pressure filled positions on the team roster. Last year, the lynching mob was chasing Price, this year there's women lined up on the streets on their knees (read into that what you will). While I have aligned myself with naysayers and antagonists in the past, I think that there's a respect aspect to the hockey code that is the responsibility of the fans as well. Perhaps we could all afford to show a little more respect to not only the opposing team, but to our own as well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Montreal Rocks

This weekend, I attended my second Habs Tweetup. I even dragged my best friend along, who isn't necessarily the biggest hockey fan in the world, but she was a good sport about the whole things, especially considering it was her birthday. I knew it would be a good time, but I was really surprised by just how much fun I had. I learned a few things this weekend at the Habs Tweetup, and I wanted to share them with you:

-PK Subban is a bad ass. I don't care what anyone says, and you can disagree with me if you like, but he IS the grit on the Habs. Players and fans of the NHL have been criticizing him for "running his mouth off" but "refusing to fight". Pay special attention to the look on his face after his fight with Lupul. That says it all.

-I heard someone tweet once that Facebook is to stay in touch with people you don't want to be friends with anymore, but Twitter is to stay in touch with people you should be friends with. This is especially true of the Habs Tweetups. I absolutely adored meeting each and every tweep there, and am already looking forward to the next one!

-Annakin Slayd is a really cool dude. I was super excited and a total dork when the "Feels Like '93" singer arrived, as I've been a huge fan for a while. But I got a chance to chat with him, and he's really awesome (obviously, he's a Habs fan!).

-Being creative actually can get you somewhere. The All Habs trivia quiz was EXTREMELY tough, and being that I firmly believe in always at least guessing for every question, I did my best. Despite probably not getting many of the questions right, I won a Habs scarf and Habs mittens for my creative answers. Huzzah!

-I'm constantly reminded just how amazing the city of Montreal and its people are. Being in a bar surrounded by cold beer and good company, as the Habs score a goal, truly is one of the greatest things to experience. All that being said, in honour of their Grammy weekend, I wanted to end things off with my one of my favourite songs from Montreal band the Arcade Fire. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Habs Need Grit

One thing the Montreal Canadiens have is heart. You can pick apart specific players, but as a whole, this team is "the little engine that could" - key word being "little".

It has been debated for years that the Habs needed to break its habit of acquiring speed & skill over size & grit. While the Canadiens fast play, fancy stickhandling & arguably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL may work against teams like the Capitals and the Penguins, it goes without saying that it simply does not work against teams like the Flyers.

Wednesday night's game versus the Bruins made it clear just how lacking size is on the roster. My issue with this debate is how size tends to get lumped in with the role of enforcer (ie: Habs fans expecting Hal Gill to "step up"). The bigger the player, the more he is expected to protect his team mates. While I'm not implying that this task should be left to players of Gionta's stature, I still believe that this should not rely solely on the shoulder's of the league's giants. However, when players like Lucic are able to cross-check Price without any fear of retaliation, there's a problem.

As much as management and the players may say that it "isn't their style of play", until hitting and fighting are eliminated from hockey altogether, a need for size & enforcers will exist. Quite frankly, if I wanted to watch a hockey game without hitting & fighting, I'd watch a high school bantam game. Despite the heated debates that sprung up in the aftermath of Wednesday's game, it was one of the most entertaining games of the season from the standpoint of a fan. I like my fighting, leave it where it is.

At the moment, the Habs consist of offensive-minded midgets, yappers & teddy bears, trying to play for a defensive-minded coach, all the while missing 2 of their best defensemen (Markov & Gorges). In order to play the defensive style of game that Martin seems intent on doing, you need size, and not the washed up, out of shape veteran kind (see Laraque). This, along with an overpaid, under-producing player (Gomez) and a lack of enthusiasm (Kostitsyn), equals a major disconnect.

This team relied heavily on goal-tending in the post-season last year, and the same can be said for the regular season this year. Unfortunately, despite Price's size, he cannot be an enforcer for his team (I would, however, like to point out the class, maturity & intelligence that he displayed in not pummelling Thomas when he easily could have). If the Habs don't acquire an enforcer (or have someone on the team step up to the challenge), and we meet the Flyers in the playoffs, that will be the end of our stint for the season. I am, of course, hoping not to meet them in the first round, and that someone else will knock them out before the conference semi-finals. A girl can dream.

All that being said, I'd like to re-iterate Wednesday's game as one of the most intense games of the season. I liked the way the players attempted to step up (see Pyatt), and they have the shiners & stitches to prove it. Do I think the city should be getting their panties in a bunch over it? No. Keep in mind that we are currently 3-1 against the Bruins this season, with another 3 matchups to go. The stakes have been raised, and if Gauthier makes the right moves before the trade deadline, and Martin starts limiting his unwavering confidence and ice time to the over-paid and under-producing players, this team could have what it takes to be more than the victim of a first round sweep in the post-season. That is, as long as we don't meet the Flyers...