Montreal’s matinee madness – Jim Hughson
Montreal Canadiens teammates Carey Price, left, and P.K. Subban enjoyed their time during NHL all-star weekend in Raleigh, N.C., but now it’s back to the business of the regular season. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Read up on the latest tidbits and trends as Hockey Night in Canada’s play-by-play voice Jim Hughson takes you behind the scenes and into Saturday’s (and Sunday’s) featured game.
This week’s work: Montreal’s annual Super Bowl weekend matinee doubleheader
- New York Rangers 0 @ 2 Montreal (CBC, CBCSports.ca Saturday 2 p.m. ET)
- New Jersey Devils @ Montreal (CBC, CBCSports.ca Saturday 3 p.m. ET)
When the Canadiens got to the East final last spring, it became easy to forget they were an 88-point eighth-seeded David before they became Goliath.
The Canadiens are 10 points ahead of last year’s pace so one would assume, if they don’t suffer through a massive slump, they’ll get a chance to duplicate that performance. But there are a few questions nervous fans could be asking about the chances of warm weather hockey this year.
Where can the Habs get some more goals?
Montreal defends well and is top 5 in the league in goals against, but on the attack, the Habs are fourth in shots but 24th in goals per game. Assuming good health and the return of Michael Cammalleri, the Canadiens are still searching for one more forward who fits nicely in their top 6.
The top two candidates from within would be 21-year-old Lars Eller who’s good defensively but hasn’t yet found his hands and Max Pacioretty who shows some promise with a willingness to get to the net. Failing that, cross your fingers and hope Brian Gionta stays hot, Scott Gomez gets hot and Andrei Kostitsyn comes out of the witness protection program.
Are the Habs strong enough on defence?
In the absence of Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, the Canadiens will live with and teach the human highlight reel P.K. Subban. he and fortuitous pickup James Wisniewski have to keep logging big minutes and contributing to the power play.
A concern might be the heavy workload for soon to be 37-year-olds Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik, who provide experience and stability, but could use another veteran body to help.
Is Carey Price playing too much?
Who knows? Price seems well over a mid-season speed bump and will soon reach career highs in games and minutes played. He’ll be in new territory in March, April and beyond, but he’s young and plays an efficient style so why rest him? might as well ride him because he is the single player on the team who can determine just how far this edition can go.
Price is also the player Jacques Martin has lacked in his other NHL stops and the coach clearly feels better when he runs him out every game.
Spotlight on the Devils:
The old Devils are back! it took Jacques Lemaire a month to get them organized and playing the way we’ve grown to expect and they can now suck the life out of an opponent and win a chanceless 2-1 games just like the old days.
Say what you want about the style, but the players will tell you it beats losing every night. Heck, Lemaire even has Ilya Kovalchuk killing penalties.
There is no chance this crew is going to make the playoffs, but they are going to drag a team or two down with them. Get behind them early and face the prospect of skating through barbed wire the rest of the night.
Write out the lineup, if you know the names, and it won’t scare many teams but the Devils are a handful again and Martin Brodeur has already shutout the Canadiens 3-0 this season at the Bell Centre. He’s 39-16-5 against the team from his hometown with nine shutouts and has a 17-9-1 record at the Habs’ home rink.
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