Rabid Habs

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Vol. 9

Written by: Karine Hains

I’m thinking about renaming this blog this week…Why? Well, quite simply put, 18 games in, the Habs are sitting pretty at the top of the league. That’s right first in the league ahead of the Lightning, Ducks and Penguins (ok they have a few games in hand but still). Couple that with the fact that la Sainte-Flanelle had a perfect 3-0 week and it’s pretty hard to find something bad to write about! I shall however give it my best shot.

The Good: This week’s results

It all started with a 3-0 win over the Jets on Wednesday in which Price got his first shutout of the season and which meant that the Habs stopped the Winnipeg outfit’s winning streak. Then, on Thursday, the Canadiens had a date with the hated Bruins who everyone expected to come out big as they had been humiliated by the Leafs in a 6-1 routing the night before. While they did score first towards the end of the first, Dale Weise tied things up at the start of the second on a penalty shot and the Habs never looked back from that point on. In the end, they triumphed 5-1 and Weise got himself a Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist and a fight). Without Chara and with an invisible Lucic, the Bruins quite simply didn’t measure up. It’s almost as if Claude Julien had told Lucic not to do anything stupid and since that’s pretty much all he normally does against the Habs, he took it to mean do not do anything. Finally, last night, the Habs jumped to a 3-0 lead over the Flyers and Habs fans felt like that one was already in the books. However, the Flyers fought back and when the Habs got their fourth goal disallowed, the prospect of a Flyers comeback looked all the more real. Thankfully, and not for the first time this year, the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge kept to its plan and ended up with a 6-3 win. With a power play firing on all cylinders and an attack working at full speed after somewhat of a draught lately, last night’s game was a delight for fans and players alike. That game was also the 300th win in Michel Therrien’s coach career, a feat worth mentioning even if it’s only in passing.

The Bad: The struggles of the power play since the start of the season

While the Habs had a league leading power play last year, this season it has been anything but stellar. In fact, they’ve yet to score a single power play goal on the road. It’s hard to pinpoint what the precise issue is here but one thing is for sure: something had to be done. And something was done, in the wake of the Moen/Gonchar deal Michel Therrien changed his power play units and added Gonchar to Markov’s side on the first wave while putting Subban alongside Gilbert on the second. While there was no breakthrough in the game against Boston on Thursday, there were some encouraging signs and last night, the man advantage finally was on target. The Habs were granted 3 power plays and scored on each of them, twice through the first unit and once through the second one. It was refreshing to see Subban move towards the net and blast in the rocket of a pass he received from Galchenyuk who did very well himself to handle the hard pass Plekanec sent him. In all honesty, can we really say that one unit is the first and the other one the second? I mean, the talent on both of those is quite impressive. Let’s hope that this goal also prompts P.K. to shoot more often, I bet many of you have been screaming “shoot!!!!” at the screen more than once…I know I have.

The Ugly: The enigmatic Rene Bourque and the out of favor Travis Moen

Last week, I was wondering if the recall of Bowman from Hamilton could have spelled the end of Bourque in Montreal… Suffice to say we didn’t have to wait long to find out. Hours after I posted this weekly column, Bourque was put on waivers which he cleared before getting his bus ticket to Hamilton. As the news broke, you could almost literally hear Habs nation scream “Alleluia!”. While no one thought that the Habs had got a superstar in return for Michael Cammalleri back in January 2012, I don’t think anyone thought Bourque would end up being that much of a train-wreck. Thankfully though, the man at the helm nowadays has got no problem making tough decisions and after failing to trade Bourque, Bergevin came to the conclusion that Hamilton was the only possible solution. We didn’t lose everything in that trade though, keep in mind that we used the 2nd round pick we got from the Flames to draft Zach Fucale who looks like a rather promising goaltender!

As for Travis Moen, Bergevin did his mea culpa for the 4 years contract he was given in the 2012 offseason. In short, Bergevin said that considering the size, or lack of, of the squad back then, he felt obligated to retain Moen’s services. However, since number 32 had become little more than a passenger on this youthful and determined Habs team, the Habs GM found a dance partner in Dallas and pulled the trigger. Swapping Moen for aging Sergei Gonchar and his huge contract might not look like the deal of the century at first glance but considering that his contract is up this season and that the Stars retained a part of his salary we cannot complain. Since Moen’s contract ran until the end of the 2015-2016 season, Bergevin has essentially cleared some much needed cap space for next year which will no doubt go a long way in helping him sign Galchenyuk and Gallagher to new contracts this summer, or even earlier God willing.

Once again this week, the Canadiens have got a full schedule! Starting with Detroit tonight, Sid and co on Tuesday, the Blues on Thursday and the third game of the season against the Bruins on Saturday in Boston…something tells me the bear poking from last Thursday might have awaken them…time will tell!