Friday, September 30, 2011

Jarred Tinordi Named Captain of London Knights

The Habs' have a number of captains and assistant captains throughout the Canadian Hockey League, including Morgan Ellis (C), Brendan Gallagher (C/A), Michael Bournival (C), and Darren Dietz (A), but there was a significant announcement tonight when defenseman Jarred Tinordi was made captain of the historic London Knights franchise.

This shows a lot of confidence in Mr. Tinordi, a player that Hab fans tend to flip-flop on from being a future fixture in the top 4 to being a bust a la David Fischer. With such a large and imposing frame as he possesses, of course it takes Jarred longer to fill out and get comfortable with his size, but once he does, he should be a good one on the Canadiens' back end.

Tinordi's leadership skills have been acknowledged before, as he was previously captain of the American National Under 18 team.

Congratulations to him, and wishing him all the best for a great season with the Knights!

As an aside, the Hamilton Bulldogs' first preseason game is at 7:30 PM. You can catch the legendary Derek Wills calling the game on CHAM 820 radio as of 7:25 at:

Habs Cut Gallagher, Bournival, Nattinen

The Montreal Canadiens announced this afternoon three more roster cuts, with Brendan Gallagher being assigned to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Michael Bournival to the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, and Joonas Nattinen to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

In Gallagher's case, it was undoubtedly a tough decision. He was amongst the Habs' best forwards for much of training camp, but was unable to bury his chances offensively. In his final game yesterday against a near-complete Tampa Bay Lightning roster, he looked small and weak at times, easily shoved off the puck with his 5'8" frame. He will benefit from another year in junior and at the World Junior Championships where he will represent Canada. The fact that his teammates were slumping through the preseason was simply not sufficient enough of a reason to keep him around.

As for Bournival, he showed some nice things, but his time in camp was limited by injury. He should also have a good junior season and join Gallagher on the Canadian team.

For those uncertain, because of their young age and inexperience, neither Bournival nor Gallagher was eligible to be assigned to the Bulldogs. Both can join Hamilton at year's end if their junior team's season ends before the 'Dogs are eliminated, and are locks to play in the NHL or AHL next year. Both Gallagher and Bournival need to be signed by next June 1st (and will be) to remain in the organization and avoid re-entering the NHL entry draft.

Lastly, Nattinen missed the entirety of his debut camp in North America because of an injury of his own. His being assigned to the Bulldogs should mean his injury is almost fully healed, and many will be watching his development with intrigue.

What does this mean for camp and the team's final roster? Well if you look HERE you can see which players are left in camp. Excluding injuries, we're basically down to a final roster of 23 players. Healthy in camp are 2 goaltenders, 9 defensemen (incl. swingman Yannick Weber), and 12 forwards, with the injured roster players being Andrei Markov, Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and Ryan White. 23 is the maximum roster size, so no further cuts at all are required until one of those four is ready to return.

This means for opening night, we should expect to see the following:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Mathieu Darche - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mike Blunden - Andreas Engqvist - Yannick Weber/Aaron Palushaj

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges - Chris Campoli
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

Leaving Alexei Yemelin, Jeff Woywitka, and one of Yannick Weber or Aaron Palushaj in the press box. Given that the first game is against the Toronto Maple Leafs, one would imagine the team will opt to dress tough guy Mike Blunden, but he hasn't particularly shone during preseason. That fourth line is messy and will likely remain so until it can be bolstered by White and Moen, barring a trade or waiver claim.

Aside from a battle for the #6 d-man spot between Yemelin and Diaz, the other question simply regards line combination, with Erik Cole being tested on David Desharnais's wing while Andrei Kostitsyn finds old linemates in Tomas Pleakanec and Mike Cammalleri for this morning's practice and likely the start of tomorrow night's final exhibition game.

But that's your team as it stands. The group of d-men looks a little weak without its #1 in Markov, and while there are three good scoring lines, a checking or grind line is clearly lacking. Still, the roster is a lot more solid than the team's 1-6-0 preseason record would indicate, and I'm certain general manager Pierre Gauthier won't hesitate to bring in reinforcements if things are going wrong.

Your Canadiens for September 30, 2011

And the sun still rose over Montreal the morning after what should have counted as a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, despite a near complete Canadiens roster dressed, a loss that took the team to a 1-6-0 record with the only win coming by shootout. Really, it did. We have proof thanks to this photo posted to Twitter by Hockey Inside/Out journalist Dave Stubbs:

Last night wasn't pretty, so much so that Jacques Martin called for a team meeting one hour prior to practice this morning at 10:00 AM. Yes, "It's only preseason," but that excuse is only valid for another 48 hours. At some point prior to next Thursday, the Habs need to find a way to flip a switch and turn it into high gear, because, at year's end, points lost in October are just as costly as points lost in March and April.

If you want to torture yourself and our piece wasn't enough. here's another similar look at last night courtesy of

The Hamilton Bulldogs are on the ice early today, with the Canadiens scheduled to skate at 11:00 AM. We'll provide updates here as they come in.

This should include, at some point, an update on Andrei Markov's health as he is expected to meet with doctors today. If we don't get an update on his status, it will be cause for concern as it may be an indication the team is concealing the severity of his injury.

UPDATES: - As could be expected, Jacques Martin is very vocal on the ice today and making the players skate hard. Not many smiles on the rink.

- In a strange move, Martin has drastically shaken up his lines. This seems odd with only one preseason game to go. One would expect he would want to give his real lines time to gel. Here is what was seen this morning:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Michael Bournival - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Mathieu Darche - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Aaron Palushaj - Andreas Engqvist - Yannick Weber
Mike Blunden - Lars Eller - Brendan Gallagher

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Chris Campli - Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Yemelin - Jeff Woywitka

Max Pacioretty was a notable unexplained absent from practice. Following the session, Jacques Martin revealed that he missed the day due to a family commitment.

Alexei Yemelin again appears to be the 7th defenseman for now, again practicing with Jeff Woywitka.

Yannick Weber remains at forward. Martin confirmed he will play there Saturday night.

Seems pretty clear from these lines that Michael Bournival and Brendan Gallagher will actually be returned to juniors. Bournival is a placeholder for Pacioretty in the line-up, while Gallagher skated with the "extras".

I would expect this to be the line-up tomorrow night with Pacioretty in the Bournival spot. It seems weird shifting Erik Cole, who has been amongst the Canadiens best forwards during preseason, off a line he was beginning to click with, but it seems that Martin is committed to three "balanced" scoring lines. Andrei Kostitsyn, coming off a terrible performance, is "promoted" to a top line, but at least perhaps Cole's more consistent physicality and big body presence will create some room for David Desharnais.

- The update on Andrei Markov is that he continues to "progress well." Though added to that now is that apparently the Canadiens "knew he would miss the beginning of the season all along." Nice cover.

- Injured Travis Moen skated by himself two hours prior to his teammates taking the ice.

- The Hamilton Bulldogs have released Josh McFadden, Ben Winnett, and Tony DeHartfrom their try-outs. Thus, of the 6 who attended Habs camp, only Phil DeSimone and Olivier Dame-Malka earned contracts.

- Bulldogs goaltender Peter Delmas is expected to return to action within the next 10 days, after recovering from a concussion that ended his strong camp early.

- The Bulldogs open their preseason schedule tonight in Victoriaville against the Binghamton Senators.

29/09/11: Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 0; at least there's only 1 left

Any Habs fans expecting a change in the team that had a 1-5-0 preseason record now that there were more veterans in the line-up were quite disappointed last night. It seems the team has not yet decided to flip the switch from preseason to the real thing... or at least, we hope that's all this slumping play is. After a solid first period, the game went way downhill with many players having nights they'd like to forget. The 4-0 score is generous, even, as two clear goals for the Lightning were not counted (Lecavalier's because whistle blew, and Pyatt's because the refs just missed it and there is no video review). We discuss some of the players' performances below.

Peter Budaj: When your team is shutout, blaming a goaltender seems like a cop-out, but Budaj has had a very poor preseason. After 'tending in the blowout loss to Boston in Halifax, Budaj looked weak on virtually every shot sent his way (not just the goals), seeming lost in his crease at times and having to search hard to find pucks. At this point, I have little confidence in him as a back-up, but hopefully he improves as the year goes on, working with Pierre Groulx while Carey Price starts the lion's share of games.

David Desharnais: I'll give him a break as it's his first game back from injury, but definitely not his night. Admittedly he looked good when the puck was on his stick in the offensive zone, showing some creativity and flare, but at every other time he was out of position on the ice with horrible defensive zone coverage. Needs to step it up or he's on the outs when Lars Eller is healthy.

Andrei Kostitsyn: Awful game, even worse than Desharnais. Threw his body around a bit in the third period which earned him a couple of points back, but horrible play in his own end, soft when on the puck, and didn't generate anything offensively.

Andreas Engqvist: The Habs depth at center becomes a problem because Engqvist is no looking like an NHL'er right now. Clearly he didn't help himself by adding much weight/muscle this summer, as despite his 6'4" frame, he looks very weak on the puck and is knocked over easily. He is fine on the penalty kill, but at this point I'd take Tom Pyatt back over him. Gabriel Dumont was far better, but the Habs want a righty and some size so Engqvist stuck around instead.

Max Pacioretty: A few chances, but overall perhaps his worst performance of the preseason. Stayed to the perimeter far too much to be effective, committed a number of giveaways. Couldn't finish around the net, pushed out of position too easily.

Mike Cammalleri: Probably the Habs most dangerous forward on the evening. Unfortunately had hands of stone, missing empty nets and hitting goal posts. Cammy has looked quick and slick in preseason and seems poised for a good year.

Tomas Plekanec / Brian Gionta: I'll lump these two together for their highly unimpressive preseasons. Mostly invisible, lack of intensity, sleepwalking through to October. That's not a problem so long as they're ready for game 1 of 82.

Scott Gomez: Perhaps the second best forward for the Canadiens, but lacked in creativity with the puck. Seemed to try the same play over and over again in the offensive zone, with a bank pass off Dwayne Roloson's pads, but it almost clicked a few times, so not a bad night.

Erik Cole: I'd lump Cole with Cammalleri and Gomez in the "forwards who actually played well" category. Goes to the traffic areas where he needs to be, tries to deflect shots. He has also shown throughout preseason a knack at stealing the puck off players skating up ice. His ability at creating turnovers will be valuable on a smaller team like the Habs.

P.K. Subban: The good and bad of P.K. were on display, as he weaved his magic with the puck in dancing through the neutral zone a few times, but was also caught out of position a lot. Looks like he needs one more season of babysitting with a defensively responsible blueliner like Hal Gill.

Alexei Yemelin: Horrible start to the game, but got better as it went on. Subban is not the ideal partner for him as he isn't ready to cover for a partner's pinches or miscues. Known as a punishing, "dirty" defenseman, his physicality has been missing for most of preseason. He came to camp laying out big hits in the first day's scrimmage, but has completely toned it down ever since. The only plausible explanation is that someone on the coaching staff had a chat with him about focusing more on positioning than hitting, but it is severely hurting his game. When he improved in the third, it's because he was starting to take the body again.

Raphael Diaz: Looks to be ahead of Yemelin for the 6th spot on D. Has weaknesses in his own end, but showed good smarts in moving the puck, a strong first pass, and creativity in the offensive zone.

Brendan Gallagher: Good first period, but disappeared after that. Was very neutralized by bigger, experience Lightning players. Even Marc-Andre Bergeron completely rubbed him out along the boards on one play. His inexperienced showed on this night, but I don't know that it hurt his chances given the awful play of Desharnais and Kostitsyn. And honestly, with how badly the Habs have performed in preseason, I don't think they can afford to cut a guy who has consistently been one of their top forwards. Should get a 9-game trial just to bring some enthusiasm and energy to the group.

Josh Gorges: The Habs best d-man on this night. Looks like his old self, and survived a scare when Ryan Malone fell awkwardly on his right knee. Skated to the bench gingerly, but didn't even miss a shift, right back out there only seconds or minutes later.

Chris Campoli: He looked good for a first game. Certainly not a shutdown guy, but he's a good skater and moves the puck well. Fired some good shots at the net. Seems like a nice addition while the inexperienced players like Yemelin and Diaz adjust and develop.

And so that's it. We've got only one more game before the eternal optimists and apologists can tell us to "stop complaining because it's only preseason!" Hopefully they show up stronger on Saturday to give us some confidence for the season opener in Toronto.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Preseason Game 7: 29/09/11 Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens

Updates from this morning in preparation for tonight's penultimate preseason game for your Montreal Canadiens:

UPDATE: - Lines for this evening from practice:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brendan Gallagher
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Desharnais - Brian Gionta
Michael Bournival - Andreas Engqvist - Mike Blunden

Chris Campoli - Josh Gorges
Alexei Yemelin - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz

Peter Budaj (full game)

Strange that Brendan Gallagher and Brian Gionta are swapped from what we saw in practice yesterday HERE. I wouldn't take that as the best sign for Gallagher, given that it's unlikely this will be held over to the regular season. However, it's also possible the team is giving him another opportunity to really show his stuff, as it would go a long way to ensure him a look if he could bury one of his scoring chances tonight

It's also a great opportunity for David Desharnais who gets a chance to play with 2 "top 6" forwards in Andrei Kostitsyn and Gionta.

Also interesting is that Gallagher, Andreas Engqvist, and Mike Blunden will be in the line-up, while Yannick Weber and Aaron Palushaj will sit. It gives us a possible indication of the direction the team is leaning.

Nice to see Alexei Yemelin getting in the line-up ahead of veteran Jaroslav Spacek. With so many pro d-men with the club, Habs fans will be paying close attention to how Jacques Martin manages his group. All of the latest pairings seem to indicate Yemelin prefers playing LD over RD (he has been tried on both sides), which means to earn a permanent spot, he will be in competition with Andrei Markov, Hal Gill, and Spacek. Of course, once healthy, Markov's spot is assured, with Spacek being most likely the easiest to dislodge.

- As first reported by website Dans Les Coulisses this morning, a source has indicated that Pierre Gauthier had preliminary discussions with the agent of Brendan Gallagher last night. If true, it shouldn't be long before a contract is announced as there is little to discuss on a rookie deal, but it has yet to be confirmed. In order to stay with the team for even just a few games of the regular season, Gallagher must be signed to an entry level deal by no later than 5 PM Saturday. Keep in mind, however, that even if Gallagher is signed, there is no guarantee he sees regular season action depending on the status of injured players.

- The Tampa Bay Lightning line-up for this evening:
Brett Connolly - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Shannon - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Nate Thompson - Steve Downie
Dana Tyrell - Tom Pyatt - Blair Jones

Mattias Ohlund - Eric Brewer
Marc-Andre Bergeron - Pavel Kubina
Matt Gilroy - Bruno Gervais

Dwayne Roloson
Mathieu Garon

Which means some notable scratches include Victor Hedman, Dominic Moore, and Brett Clark, but a pretty full line-up for the most part.

A player to watch for the Lightning is Brett Connolly, the team's first rounder from 2010, who appears poised to make the club after spending the preseason with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. It will be interesting to compare him to fellow 19-year old 2010 draftee Brendan Gallagher this evening.

UPDATE: - Habs Alex Henry has cleared waivers and officially been sent to the Hamilton Bulldogs.

- In their first games back with their junior clubs last night, both Morgan Ellis and Nathan Beaulieu played starring roles in wins for their teams. Ellis, captain of his team, had 2 goals and an assist en route to being named first star in a 5-2 Cape Breton win, plus must have lost a few chicklets along the way given a post-game Tweet about going to the dentist. Beaulieu, meanwhile, picked up a goal and an assist in a 3-1 Saint John win. Beaulieu's team was recently ranked #1 overall in the CHL and will look especially stacked if Jonathan Huberdeau is returned from the Florida Panthers.

Video of the three goals:

- A new possible member of the Montreal Canadiens (but certain member of the organization) has a little known Twitter account. Though many of his Tweets are in Swedish, Habs fans can follow Andreas Engqvist at: @aengqvist
He only has 300 followers so far! Come on #Habs fans, we can do better than that!

Another organization member with far too few followers is Brendon Nash. Follow him at: @bnash4
Wish him well in his recovery from surgery!

UPDATE: - The Canadiens made "official" this morning the fact that the Hamilton Bulldogs will play at the Bell Centre in November:

What is funny about this is that the press release lists four french players as "young prospects who will be present," two of which are Danny Masse and Philippe Lefebvre. Neither of those two is sure to make the Bulldogs roster, possibly spending time in the ECHL, and thus may not be around when the 'Dogs make their trip to Montreal.

UPDATE: - Some oddball legal news concerning the Habs as well.

First, a study into the illegal downloading of movies in Canada found the Montreal Canadiens hockey club's IP address to have pirated the film The Hurt Locker.
It is unclear at this point whether formal charges will be laid or not.

A second legal challenge has to do with the Montreal Canadiens boutiques which were taken over by a third party private firm in early September. One of the major shareholders of the firm that now runs the boutiques, Frank Bertucci, is being investigated for corruption.

- Peeking over at Hamilton Bulldogs practice (also in Brossard), thanks to Derek Wills, we see a powerplay unit of Alexander Avtsin, Brian Willsie, Brock Trotter, and Mark Mitera and Joe Stejskal on the points. While the 'Dogs don't have their full team together yet, Avtsin getting a look with those guys is encouraging news for him being given more ice time and a real chance to develop this season. The pointmen, however, are a little depressing, as one would hope for more out of a first powerplay group. The 'Dogs will miss the traded Mathieu Carle and injured Brendan Nash on the PP, but perhaps that creates a spot for recently signed Olivier Dame-Malka.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dangerously Close to Habs Final Team

Brendan Gallagher has made the Montreal Canadiens. Wait, I'll let that sink in for a moment.

Ok, so maybe it's not a 100% given, but after today's cuts and waiver announcements, the Canadiens are dangerously close to finalizing the roster that will open the season. Not including the players in camp strictly due to their injured status, the following names remain on the active roster:


30- BUDAJ, Peter
31- PRICE, Carey


17- CAMPOLI, Chris D/L
61- DIAZ, Raphael D/R
75- GILL, Hal G/L
26- GORGES, Josh G/L
79- MARKOV, Andrei G/L (injured)
6- SPACEK, Jaroslav G/L
76- SUBBAN, P.K. D/R
68- WEBER, Yannick D/R
74- YEMELIN, Alexei G/L


45- BLUNDEN, Michael AD/RW
49- BOURNIVAL, Michael AG/LW
72- COLE, Erik AD/RW
52- DARCHE, Mathieu AG/LW
81- ELLER, Lars C (injured)
63- ENGQVIST, Andreas C
73- GALLAGHER, Brendan AD/RW
21- GIONTA, Brian AD/RW
11- GOMEZ, Scott C
32- MOEN, Travis AG/LW (injured)
14- PLEKANEC, Tomas C
53- WHITE, Ryan AD/RW (injured)

The final Habs team is likely to consist of 23 players, being 2 goaltenders, 13 or 14 forwards, and 7 or 8 defensemen. With 4 injured players (Andrei Markov, Lars Eller, Travis Moen, and Ryan White) in camp, that means only 2 final cuts are necessary for Montreal to lock in a squad for opening night.

These cuts are likely to be Michael Bournival and Jeff Woywitka, both of whom have had solid camps, but the former's lack of action due to injury and the latter's two-way contract mean they should be the ones out.

This means, effectively, that Brendan Gallagher should make the opening night team to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in October. So should Andreas Engqvist, Aaron Palushaj, and Mike Blunden, one of whom would sit as a healthy scratch in the 13th forward slot.

Of course, there are no guarantees. Any of Eller, Moen, or White might be ready by then, creating a need to cut another body. But it looks good for the youngsters, especially young Gallagher's chances at getting at the minimum a 9-game tryout.

On defense, based on lines in camp (see below), Raphael Diaz is the leader for a spot in the top 6, leaving Alexei Yemelin to start the year as a 7th defenseman in the press box. Hopefully being around the team will help him adjust his game to the NHL level quickly. Yannick Weber, meanwhile, appears to be in a swing role, serving as a 14th forward fill-in or an 8th d-man. A possible scenario has Weber playing on the fourth line and with second unit powerplay duties, while one of Gallagher or Palushaj is sent down.

The most recent lines including these players can be found in our updates from today's practice HERE.
It should end up looking something like this until the injured players are back:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Mathieu Darche - Andreas Engqvist - Yannick Weber

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Chris Campoli - Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

PRESS BOX: Alexei Yemelin, Aaron Palushaj, Mike Blunden
IR: Andrei Markov, Ryan White, Travis Moen, Lars Eller

It is very possible that Palushaj is sent down rather than sitting, just as it is possible he would play wing ahead of Weber or Gallagher. But Gallagher has been the more impressive of the two, and as much as most hate the thought of playing a d-man on the wing, Weber would contribute more than Palushaj with his defensive presence and powerplay ability.

Updates from Habs Practice (Sept 28)

Though the Canadiens have yet to submit a contract offer to Brendan Gallagher, which they'd have to get signed for him to play any regular season games, the 19-year old was at practice this morning with the Habs.

Gallagher slid into the spot yesterday occupied by Aaron Palushaj on a line with David Desharnais and Andrei Kostitsyn.

The top 6 remained unchanged, meaning full forward lines were:

(thanks to J-F Chaumont on Twitter for getting these out quickly)

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Andrei Kostitsyn - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher
Michael Bournival - Andreas Engqvist - Mike Blunden
Mathieu Darche - Lars Eller - Yannick Weber - Aaron Palushaj

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges - Chris Campoli
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Yemelin - Jeff Woywitka
Alex Henry - Frederic St. Denis

Certainly this looks good for Gallagher at least playing Thursday night, if not having an inside track at a roster spot. Lars Eller is not yet cleared for "full practice", and given that his line is the "extras" group with Yannick Weber practicing at wing for a second consecutive day, it looks like Michael Bournival, Andreas Engqvist, and Mike Blunden may be dressed ahead of Aaron Palushaj tomorrow evening.

Similarly, it appears Raphael Diaz will get another chance on D ahead of Alexei Yemelin by virtue of the pairings. Diaz was impressive in his previous game, so taking another look at him doesn't seem like a bad move. Yemelin may start the year in the 7th d-man slot if Diaz earns a top 6 role.

- Also supporting Diaz's current "hold" on a spot are the powerplay units from practice.

First unit:
Mike Cammalleri - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Tomas Plekanec - P.K. Subban

Second Unit:
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Raphael Diaz / Chris Campoli / Andrei Kostitsyn (rotating)

Tomas Plekanec at the point is not something too new, as he occasionally played back there last season. If he does get a chance in that spot, it will be as a placeholder until Andrei Markov is ready to feed P.K. Subban the puck instead.

- Jacques Martin appeared rather impatient this morning, often loudly correcting players and taking time to point out even small mistakes. With the team off to a 1-5-0 preseason start (despite of course not playing a full roster), now seems like a good time for the coach to step up before the real games begin.

- In other news, on a different sheet of ice in Brossard at Hamilton Bulldogs camp, the injured Olivier Fortier and Louis Leblanc are both on the ice, but still wearing "no contact" jerseys. Leblanc appears still a little while away, as he sat on the bench for much of practice. This actually highlights a huge advantage to having the Canadiens and 'Dogs both holding training camp practices in Brossard. Because they've yet to receive a clean bill of health, neither Fortier nor Leblanc can officially be cut from Habs' camp. Yet since Hamilton's sessions are in the same building, they're able to train with their AHL teammates.

UPDATE: - Placed on waivers yesterday, Brian Willsie and Nathan Lawson both cleared and will join their AHL teammates with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Defenseman Alex Henry, captain of the Bulldogs and coming off of a solid training camp, was placed on waivers today to also be sent down.

What if Habs Keep Brendan Gallagher?

While there have been a number of intriguing plotlines during training camp, none has captured the attention of Habs fans more than the outstanding play of 19-year old Brendan Gallagher.

The 5'8" Vancouver Giants star, picked by the Canadiens in the 5th round in 2010, is coming off of WHL seasons of 41 and 44 goals, but has shown he is far more than a diminutive one-dimensional goal scorer. In fact, the best comparable for Gallagher would be somewhere between two current NHL'ers he can look "up" (not literally) to in Brian Gionta and Brad Marchand.

Gallagher displays offensive awareness and slick hands much like Montreal captain Gionta. He comes in hard on the forecheck, and has vastly improved his skating, once considered the biggest weakness in his game (aside from his size). While Gionta isn't afraid to go to the net, battle in the corners, or throw the occasional hit, Gallagher is even more comfortable with the rough stuff, hence the Marchand comparison, able to play like a little wrecking ball coming in on opposing defensemen. The most exciting thing for Jacques Martin is likely that Gallagher is rather responsible defensively as well, making him a real complete player.

The knock against him is that he has been unable to finish plays thus far in preseason, leading the Canadiens in hit goal posts. Perhaps he isn't quite ready for starring offensive duties, but, what IF he does make this team? It's not like there is a job for him in the top 6 anyway. Gallagher would likely slot in as a third or fourth line winger, filling in for an injured Travis Moen, Ryan White, or Lars Eller to provide secondary scoring support while highlight the responsible and physical sides of his game. He may not have super talented linemates to produce with offensively initially, but he has shown a skillset strong enough to generate his own chances, and at least on a bottom line, he'd be shielded from opposing top forwards and shutdown d-pairings.

Who would he play with? Considering the Habs have only 12 players on NHL deals and up to 3 may miss opening night, there is definitely a spot to be won. But the who depends on how you rate his camp in comparison to fellow youngster Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj started camp really slowly, underwhelming and even disappointing many, but picked it up recently with 4 points in his last 2 games to tie him for the Habs' preseason scoring lead. Palushaj isn't a fit on a gritty fourth line, so given the full top 6, he would need to play on an offensively oriented third line to work, perhaps with Andrei Kostitsyn and David Desharnais. The question would then be, with Palushaj's better production but Gallagher's more impressive play, which of the two should be in that slot? It would seem that IF both are to make the team due to injuries initially, Palushaj's weaknesses work in his favour in slotting in on that unit while Gallagher might play with Andreas Engqvist and Mathieu Darche.

And what about his contract? Gallagher remains unsigned at the moment and would have to pen a deal with the Canadiens by Saturday in order to stay with the team beyond this weekend. Signing a deal doesn't mean it would kick in right away, given that Gallagher is a junior aged player. The Habs could keep him with the team for up to 9 regular season games on a "tryout" basis without year one of his deal commencing, at which point they'd have to decide whether to return him to the Giants or keep him in Montreal. If he stays, that starts the clock ticking on his UFA age one year earlier than his anticipated pro-turning date next Fall, and of course would officially begin year 1 of his entry level contract.

But unfortunately, these are the only options for Brendan. It's Montreal or Vancouver, as a CHL player under 20 cannot play in the American Hockey League (meaning no Hamilton). This means that unlike a player like Gabriel Dumont, Gallagher couldn't be called back up mid-season. It would mean goodbye till the Fall if he were sent down. Because of this, and because I feel he deserves to make this team ahead of Palushaj or Engqvist or Mike Blunden, I believe the right call is to keep him in Montreal at least until everyone is healthy (< 10 games), and then make a decision on if he can really continue to help the team all year. As such, while Francis Gagnon's estimation this morning that he has an 80% chance of making the club might be a little high, I do think there is a good chance he sees at least a few games.

As such, I would propose an opening night roster like the following (assuming there remain 3 injuries to forwards):

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Aaron Palushaj - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Andreas Engqvist - Brendan Gallagher

That leaves an (at least) temporary spot for Mike Blunden as the 13th forward, which basically means the cuts up front are done (aside from Michael Bournival, who, because injuries limited his camp time, has no real aspirations of sticking with the team this year).

If Palushaj can't keep his level of play up, then either Mathieu Darche or Gallagher could swap on to the third line in his place. And keep in mind that just because I slot Gallagher on to a fourth line for now, doesn't mean I see his career potential as a fourth liner. It's simply the opening that best suits him given the players currently under contract, and no matter where he plays, it'll be good for him to get some actual NHL experience. The question will be what moves the Habs decide to make once Eller, Moen, and White area ready for action.

Speaking of keeping players in Montreal, because it has been a common question and is a little complicated, here's the situation with players injured during training camp. The following applies (currently) to Hunter Bishop, Olivier Fortier, Louis Leblanc, Brendon Nash, Joonas Nattinen, and Ian Schultz. An injured player cannot officially be cut from a training camp, meaning these guys can't be sent down to the Bulldogs until they have received a clean bill of health. This also has implications for the salary cap. Of course, it wouldn't make sense for the Canadiens to be charged the full NHL cap hit to keep a guy like Bishop around just because he's hurt (and yes, injured players DO count against the NHL salary cap; a team is simply allowed to replace that player while he's out and exceed the cap by the injured player's salary in replacing him). The CBA has a weird quirk rule to handle this, which is that the player is charged a prorated amount of their current NHL and AHL salaries based on how much time they spent in either league last season. So, take Nash for example, who spent a few days in Montreal last year, playing 2 games. Let's assume he spent 4 days on an NHL roster last year and that works out to about 3% of the season. A formula that looks at how much of his AHL salary and how much of his NHL salary he was paid last year based on this is calculated, and the ratio applied to his salaries this year to figure out his cap hit while injured.

What does this mean? From the Canadiens perspective, it means the injured players will be charged against the cap at their daily AHL salary rate for the most part, which will have an immaterial impact on the club's cap position, given that most annual salaries there are > $100,000.

Whatever does end up happening, with just two preseason games to go, all Canadiens fans are super excited to see what the real team will play like, myself included! Let's forget this 1-5-0 record and get on to the real thing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Updates from Habs Practice (Sept 27)

A busy morning for the first non-game day in quite some time in Habs land. Quick hits from this morning:

- Philip DeSimone's agent, Alec Schall (same agent as Max Pacioretty) announced via Twitter this morning that Phil has signed with the Montreal Canadiens organization. Per Renaud Lavoie, it is a two-way AHL deal with the Hamilton Bulldogs, meaning he could play in the AHL or ECHL. Congrats to him; well desereved! You can follow the newest member of the organization on Twitter, @DesyStorm.

UPDATE: - Just like DeSimone, Olivier Dame-Malka has earned an AHL deal with the Canadiens organization. The defenseman was impressive during rookie camp, despite not seeing any preseason action, and should be a solid contributor on Hamilton or Wheeling's back end.

UPDATE: - Brock Trotter has cleared waivers and will join the Hamilton Bulldogs. Brian Willsie and Nathan Lawson have been waived to be sent down.

UPDATE: - Gabriel Dumont joins those sent to Hamilton yesterday as he was cut from the training camp roster after practice. Dumont performed very well throughout camp, turning a lot of heads, and is likely one of the top call-ups for a third or fourth line role.

For a list of players still in camp, please SEE HERE.

- Chris Campoli joined his teammates for practice this morning. He has historically worn #14, but with that being Tomas Plekanec's property, he has taken #17.

- Lars Eller, David Desharnais, and P.K. Subban all joined their teammates for practice this morning, none wearing different coloured "no contact" jerseys. Great news!

- Lines at practice:
Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Aaron Palushaj - David Desharnais - Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche - Gabriel Dumont - Andreas Engqvist
Yannick Weber - Lars Eller - Michael Bournival

Hal Gill - P.K. Subban
Chris Campoli - Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Yemelin - Jeff Woywitka
Alex Henry - Frederic St. Denis

Yes, that is correct: Yannick Weber practiced as a forward this morning.

None of Brendan Gallagher, Mike Blunden, Brian Willsie, or Nathan Lawson were at practice this morning. The team stated they were simply given the day off.

- The Hamilton Bulldogs also kicked off their camp this morning, with the 5 remaining invited try-out players all in attendance. For more on that, SEE HERE.

Hamilton Bulldogs Open Camp This Morning

The Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, are set to open their training camp this morning with a number of players previously cut from Habs' camp. The camp begins in Brossard at 10:30 AM this morning, with two preseason games scheduled for Friday, September 30th, in Victoriaville, and Saturday, October 1st in Drummondville (both against the Binghamton Senators).

We'll get you a full list shortly, but the following players are amongst attendees:

Forwards (8)
Alexander Avtsin
Alain Berger
Andrew Conboy
Philip DeSimone
Phillippe Lefebvre
Dany Masse
Brock Trotter
* Ben Winnett

Defensemen (6)
* Olivier Dame-Malka
* Tony DeHart
Zack Fitzgerald
* Josh McFadden
Mark Mitera
Joe Stejskal

Goaltenders (2)
Peter Delmas
Robert Mayer

More players will be added to camp as they are sent down from the Habs.
* Denotes player attending camp on a try-out basis.

26/09/11: Boston 2, Montreal 1; can preseason end already?

Just because preseason losses are meaningless, doesn't mean we can't get tired of losing. On the bright side, there were a number of inspired performances from a Montreal Canadiens team dressing 6 NHL regulars vs. a Boston Bruins team that played 10.

Brendan Gallagher: We'll start with the guy who has been one of the team's most dangerous forwards in almost every game he has played. Gallagher impressed again last night, generating more chances, driving the net with reckless abandon, showing nice hands, and yes, hitting more goalposts. Honestly I feel bad. Perhaps saying Gallagher had Chris Higgins-itis on day 1 of rookie camp was a jinx, cause this is exactly how it has played out. By virtue of having outplayed the likes of Aaron Palushaj and Andreas Engqvist, the little Giant deserves to stick around. If there are injuries at forward to start the season, the Habs lose nothing in signing Gallagher and playing him 5 or 6 games, given that his contract doesn't kick in unless he hits the 10 game mark (which he won't).

Michael Bournival: Slow-ish start, but strong overall game for Bournival, just returning to action from a minor injury. Looked better and better as the game went on, showing good skating ability and some offensive creativity. Wasn't cut after the game, so may get a second chance to impress on Thursday.

Philip DeSimone: Undoubtedly his best game thus far. He has looked pretty good going all the way back to rookie camp, and to me, has earned at least an AHL deal. Awesome move on the Cammalleri goal, but strong all night in generating a number of chances. He's off to Hamilton's camp tomorrow, but he shouldn't have trouble inking a contract.

Gabriel Dumont: Continues to surprise. Plays with tons of energy and forechecks hard. Lacks a little defensive awareness / could improve coverage in his own end, but a useful fourth liner who has as good a shot as any of sticking around into October.

Raphael Diaz: Another player with his best outing of training camp, though with the signing of Chris Campoli, there doesn't appear to be any place for him to start the season. Looked more confident with the puck, making some nice plays in the offensive zone.

Jarred Tinordi: Also looked much better last night, delivering a number of big hits and putting up a solid performance in his own end. Though his 17 minutes were least amongst Habs blueliners, and he is still a few years away, he showed glimpses of the kind of player the Canadiens hope he develops to be.

Carey Price: His best performance of the preseason to date, meaning he has gotten better every time he has been in goal. Very encouraging sign for him being ready to start the year on a good note.

Frederic St. Denis: Quietly, another surprise of camp. He has looked very steady in his own end, making few mistakes, and, despite his very average size, looking strong enough to contain larger players. There's no room for him right now, but with another year of development in Hamilton, could conceivably challenge for a job next Fall.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Canadiens sign D Chris Campoli to 1 year Deal

The Montreal Canadiens announced today that the club has signed defenseman Chris Campoli to a 1-year, $1.75M contract.

With all the injuries the team has suffered this month, Campoli reinforces the group of d-men. However, it definitely raises some suspicion.

What does this mean about Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban's health? We speculated this morning that the silence around P.K.'s condition could only be a bad omen. However, both Jacques Martin and Pierre Gauthier spoke out, denying this was a reactionary move to anyone's health. Subban skated this morning with David Desharnais, which is a positive sign, and Gauthier repeated that IF Markov is to miss games, it won't be many.

In this case, what does this mean about Yannick Weber's future in Montreal? The young defenseman has had a disappointing training camp to say the least. The Habs have 8 NHL d-men on the roster now in Markov, Subban, Campoli, Weber, Alexei Yemelin, Josh Gorges, Hal Gill, and Jaroslav Spacek.

As for Campoli, if Habs fans don't expect too much, they may be pleasantly surprised. Once seen as a promising young player for the New York Islanders, his career took a downturn in Ottawa and then in Chicago, but he's still only 27 years of age - well in his prime for a defenseman.

Campoli is a mobile two-way player who scored 21 points in 67 games last season. He is a fine third pairing guy who can play 2nd unit powerplay minutes. He does have a bit of a bad reputation for turnovers, including the one that led to the overtime winner in round 1 of last year's playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks.

Just last season, his trade value was considered a 2nd round pick, so it's not like he should be considered "washed up." He adds more depth on the blueline, saving Gauthier from having to give up picks of his own to replace injured d-men during the course of the season. I had avocated during the summer for the signing of Scott Hannan, which I would have preferred, but as a depth d-man, this is not a bad move. We had Campoli at #6 on our list of remaining UFA in August.

The dollar amount feels like a lot given that we're just 2 weeks away from the season openers, and Campoli remained without a contract. It is a raise on the $1.4M he made last year, but in his defense, it is less than the $2.5M an arbitrator awarded him this summer (an amount that the Chicago Blackhawks walked away from).

Habs Announce Second Wave of Cuts

The Montreal Canadiens announced a number of cuts this afternoon as, despite injuries, their roster gets closer to a manageable size and to a decision on which players will start the season with the team.

The following players were dropped from camp and returned to the following teams:

Olivier Archambault (Drummondville, QMJHL)
Morgan Ellis (Cape Breton, QMJHL)
Nathan Beaulieu (Saint-Jean, QMJHL)
Jarred Tinordi (London, OHL)

Alexander Avtsin (Hamilton, AHL)
Alain Berger (Hamitlon, AHL)
Andrew Conboy (Hamilton, AHL)
Philip DeSimone (Try-out, Hamilton, AHL)
Phillippe Lefebvre (Hamilton, AHL)
Dany Masse (Hamilton, AHL)
Mark Mitera (Hamilton, AHL)
Joe Stejskal (Hamilton, AHL)
Brock Trotter (Hamilton, AHL)

Robert Mayer (Hamilton, AHL)
Peter Delmas (Hamilton, AHL)

Also today the Canadiens placed the name of Brock Trotter on waivers in order to be sent to Hamilton, meaning unofficially he is part of this wave of cuts as well. This is undoubtedly disappointing for Trotter, who returned to North America from the KHL hoping he had improved enough to earn an NHL job. He did little to help his cause during training camp, however, mostly unnoticeable in the games he played. He should have a good season with the Bulldogs and be one of their leading scorers.

There was some talk of Alexander Avtsin being unhappy at the news of being cut and speaking of flying home to Russia. These reports are unconfirmed and are in stark contrast from what we heard from Avtsin not long ago, when he sounded very committed to toughing it out in North America. It is hard to see what Avtsin would be upset about, as he was given 3 preseason games to show his stuff and was largely ineffective. He could not have expected to be on the club's opening night roster.

For a list of players remaining in camp, SEE HERE.

Preseason Game 6: 26/09/11 Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens

Tonight, the Boston Bruins (well, some of them...) make their first trip back to the Bell Centre since eliminating the Habs from the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. After blowing out the Canadiens 7-3 in a game in Halifax last night, the Habs will ice a very different team for this one.

Here's a look:


Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Michael Bournival - Brian Willsie - Brian Gionta
Brock Trotter - Gabriel Dumont - Mike Blunden
Phillippe Lefebvre - Philip DeSimone - Alain Berger

Jeff Woywitka - Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek - Raphael Diaz
Jarred Tinordi - Frederic St-Denis

Carey Price (full game)
Nathan Lawson

Expect a significant round of cuts to be announced either after the game this evening, or else tomorrow morning. The Hamilton Bulldogs will open their training camp this week with their first preseason game scheduled for Friday, September 30th, in Victoriaville against the Binghamton Senators.

Habs forward Max Pacioretty will not play tonight as he is sidelined with a flu.

The Bruins, meanwhile, will play many of the same players in the second half of the back-to-back, with notable absences tonight including Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, and Benoit Pouliot.


Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Max Sauve - Rich Peverley - Chris Clark
Jordan Caron - Chris Kelly - Jamie Arniel
Lane MacDermid - Greg Campbell - Shawn Thornton

Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference, Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

Montreal Canadiens Injury Updates

Though the season has yet to begin, a number of members of the Canadiens organization are presently sidelined with injuries. While most are of the minor variety, they have kept players out of preseason action, and may jeopardize the start of the year for some of them. Here's an updated list of who is out:


Desharnais, David - Suffered upper body injury during preseason game. Extend of injury unknown, considered day-to-day. UPDATE: Skated with P.K. Subban this morning and may play in one or both of the remaining preseason games.

Eller, Lars - Still rehabbing shoulder from 2011 playoffs. Not yet cleared for contact in practice. Hopes to be ready for season opener.

Markov, Andrei - Still rehabbing knee from last season. Skating on his own, yet to rejoin team for practice. No timetable for return, but hopes to be back early in the season. Pierre Gauthier and Jacques Martin both reiterated today that they don't see him as a long-term injury case.

Subban, P.K. - Nagging back injury from off-season training. Played 1 preseason game, looked great, but then returned to disabled list. Considered day-to-day. While I'm concerned about the silence surrounding his condition and what it may mean for the potential of back surgery, he did skate this morning which is a big positive.

White, Ryan - Skated yesterday, but suffered setback. Will be off skates for a week, and will miss season opener.


Berger, Alain - Injured during preseason action. Returns to the line-up September 26th.

Bishop, Hunter - Injured during preseason action. Extent unknown.

Bournival, Michael - Injury suffered during rookie camp appears to be rehabbed, and he is expected to play his first preseason game tonight (Sept 26).

Delmas, Peter - After a great rookie camp, an injury has kept him out of preseason action. Considered day-to-day, timetable for return unknown.

Fortier, Olivier - Unknown injury has kept him out of preseason action. Considered day-to-day.

Leblanc, Louis - Still rehabbing from shoulder surgery of the off-season. Not yet cleared for contact in practice.

Nash, Brendon - Had surgery on his shoulder last Wednesday. Out indefinitely.

Nattinen, Joonas - Injury has kept him out of game situations going as far back as rookie camp scrimmages. Considered day-to-day, timetable for return unknown.

Winnett, Ben - Injured during a training camp scrimmage, considered day-to-day.

25/09/11: Boston 7, Montreal 3; Habs fall to meaningless 1-4-0

Again, preseason losses aren't something to panic about. In fact, they should be looked at as learning opportunities to fix problems with parts of a team's game or address certain weakensses. But certainly no one would have set out the script for the Montreal Canadiens' exhibition calendar to begin with a 1-4-0 record.

What went wrong last night in a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins? What didn't? The score was not reflective of the play, with Peter Budaj - who played the full 60 minutes in goal - admittedly not having his best outing.

But that's not to blame him entirely for the loss. The Canadiens took a few too many chances, including young defenseman Nathan Beaulieu who likely played his worst of the three games he's been in, though still moved the puck well for much of the night.

The team also couldn't finish a number of their own opportunities, most notably a Brendan Gallagher sweet move early in the second the resulted in a puck clanking off the post. Gallagher may have been the team's best forward in the loss, again showing that he oozes with potential.

Aaron Palushaj continued on his productivity streak from Saturday, following up on his 2 assist performance with a goal and a helper last night. After a horrible first part of camp, this recent spurt may allow him to stay with the club through the remaining exhibition games instead of being a part of the cuts coming Monday night or Tuesday.

Yannick Weber is doing little to inspire confidence in his spot in the top 6. While Alexei Yemelin hasn't been blowing anyone away, he has been far more solid and stronger than the Swiss defenseman and looks to be well ahead of him in the depth chart. With no shot of making the team this year and playing in his first preseason game, Morgan Ellis may have actual been the team's best d-man last night, playing in front of many family and friends as he is a native of Prince Edward Island and plays for Cape Breton in the QMJHL.

The Canadiens next preseason game is at home tonight against the same Bruins. Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival is recovered from the knee injury he suffered during camp and expected to make his preseason debut.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Preseason Game 5: 25/09/11 Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins, in Halifax

Line-up for tonight's game as your 1-3-0 Montreal Canadiens face an iteration of the Boston Bruins for the first time since the B's eliminated the Habs in the first round of the playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.


Brendan Gallagher - Scott Gomez - Erik Cole
Andrei Kostitsyn - Brian Willsie - Aaron Palushaj
Mike Blunden - Andreas Engqvist - Mathieu Darche
Alexander Avtsin - Dany Masse - Olivier Archambault

Nathan Beaulieu, Hal Gill, Alexei Yemelin, Yannick Weber, Alex Henry, Morgan Ellis

Peter Budaj (full game)
Robert Mayer


Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Benoit Pouliot, Greg Campbell, Jordan Caron, Zack Hamill, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Trent Whitfield, Max Sauve, Chris Clark

Zdeno Chara, Joe Corvo, Adam McQuaid, Stephen Kampfer, Zach McKelvie, David Warsofsky

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

Interesting to note that Zdeno Chara and Benoit Pouliot are in the line-up tonight, meaning they're unlikely to play at the Bell Centre in Montreal tomorrow. Max Pacioretty, meanwhile, will skip his turn this evening in favour of playing at home tomorrow, so any Chara-Pacioretty hostilities will have to wait (though they are rather unlikely anyway).

Brendan Gallagher will have another golden opportunity to strut his stuff with two talented offensive players, while Aaron Palushaj NEEDS to string a second solid game in a row together here if he has any shot at sticking with the big club. In Gallagher's case, if there are a number of players on the IR when the year begins, it's possible he stays in Montreal for a few games to see how he fares vs. NHL competition. There is no doubt he'll end up back in Vancouver before the 10 game mark to prevent his contract from kicking in, but if the team needs more health bodies, he has been one of the better players.

NOTE that the game begins at 6:00 PM EST tonight!

24/09/11: Ottawa 3, Montreal 2; Sens dish out revenge

Playing with a line-up that included minimal vets, the Canadiens were surprisingly effective for half of last night's game, taking a 2-0 lead. But just as they had overcome a 3-0 deficit to Ottawa the night prior, the Sens came roaring back, snapping a 2-2 tie on a Chris Neil goal on the powerplay with about 30 seconds to play to steal the win.

The positives? (other than the fact that it's still only preseason) Carey Price continues to show slow and steady progress, looking better every time he takes to the goal. Though his back-up Peter Budaj will go the distance tonight, there should be little doubt Price will be ready for a date with the Leafs in October.

Mike Cammalleri looks to have gained a bit in footspeed this off-season, looking quick throughout preseason and netting a pair in this one to pace the team. Also contributing offensively was Aaron Palushaj. Yes, you read that right. Aaron Palushaj. Hello Mr Palushaj and welcome to training camp. You've shown up 2 weeks late, but better late than never.

Gabriel Dumont turned in another solid performance, playing with more offensive wingers. Certainly the Canadiens would rather have Andreas Engqvist in the line-up for size reasons, but based on play and merit, Dumont should have a lead on him in the fourth line center battle right now. The decision is likely to come down to the wire over the last few preseason games, and as we get a better idea on the health of David Desharnais, Lars Eller, and Ryan White.

Olivier Archambault showed some nice offensive creativity at times in his preseason debut, though for now, he can be regarded as a long-term project at best.

Nathan Beaulieu led all Montreal blueliners with close to 23 minutes of ice time. While he was perhaps less noticeable than in his first game, he again showed to be a great skater and have tremendous sense and confidence with the puck. Certainly a future fixture on the Habs back end. Mark Mitera, getting his first preseason action, played the fewest minutes at 16:14 but didn't look out of place, with a couple of strong plays defensively and even picking up assists on both goals.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preseason Game 4: 24/09/11 Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens

The Habs try to build on momentum from their first win of the preseason tonight as they have a rematch against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre.

Your roster this evening:

Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta
Aaron Palushaj - Gabriel Dumont - Brock Trotter
Olivier Archambault* - Philip DeSimone - Travis Moen
Phillippe Lefebvre* - Dany Masse - Ian Schultz

Nathan Beaulieu - Josh Gorges
Jaroslav Spacek - Jeff Woywitka
Mark Mitera - Frederic St-Denis

Carey Price
Robert Mayer

* = Preseason debut

Not the strongest of teams this evening, but interesting that Gabriel Dumont, Brock Trotter, and Aaron Palushaj continue to get long looks for a roster spot. An interesting player to watch on D (other than Nathan Beaulieu) will be Mark Mitera, acquired this summer from the Anaheim Ducks in return for Mathieu Carle.

Carey Price will get his second start in as many nights.

23/09/11: Montreal 4, Ottawa 3 (SO); vets lead way

While we've stated that losing in preseason isn't a real concern, repeated losses may eventually have the effect of weighing down team morale. Thus, it was a nice sign to see the Montreal Canadiens bounce back from a 3-o deficit last night to top the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in a shootout and improve their exhibition game record to 1-2-0.

P.K. Subban had been the Habs' top player against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday but he was held out last night with a minor upper body injury. The slack was picked up by another young veteran, Max Pacioretty, who followed up on a "decent" first outing against Buffalo to lead the way with 2 goals, a boatload of shots and chances, plus a nice shootout marker against the Sens. Pacioretty looks ready to start the year, every bit as fast as his pre-injury self and playing the same game.

A player that DOESN'T want to repeat last year, Scott Gomez, made his preseason debut and looked far better than he did for most of last year. Gomez skated the puck well and set up some chances, all the while showing off his trademark carrying of the puck through the neutral zone - a skill at which there might be no better forward in the league. While it wasn't pretty, he was credited with the game-tying goal in the last 35 seconds by positioning himself in front of the net and whacking away at a rebound.

In addition to scoring the shootout winner, Erik Cole picked up 2 assists to now give him 3 points in 2 games. He was most noticeable in creating turnovers throughout the game, picking the pockets of opposing defenders. Looks like he'll be a nice fit.

If his first game against Buffalo was disappointing, it may have been just nerves, as Brendan Gallagher turned his play up many notches last night. His quick hands were evident as he took advantage of playing with Pacioretty and Gomez in coming up with several near-miss scoring opportunities.

In goal, Carey Price made a few nice saves, a small improvement from his first outing. But he still doesn't seem to be in season shape, with 3 pucks getting by him on 18 shots in the game's first half. Nathan Lawson looked quite good playing the second half, as while he didn't have to make many tough saves, he supported the rush well, most evidently with a long bomb breakaway pass he fed to Pacioretty for his second goal on the powerplay.

In what may be training camp's biggest surprise, Gabriel Dumont is meddling with a lot of prognosticators line-ups and depth charts. The short but feisty center has been far more remarkable than the likes of Aaron Palushaj, Brock Trotter, or even Andreas Engqvist. It will be interesting to see how the Habs handle the situation, as Engqvist fits the team's need better due to his size, and is a very responsible defensive player, but Dumont has shown greater upside in playing more physically and having a better rounded game.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Preaseason Game 3: 23/09/11 Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators

The Habs try to put their first win of the preseason up on the board tonight as they take the bus trip out to Ottawa.

For Scott Gomez, who was nursing a minor injury at the start of training camp, this will be the first step towards forgetting what was an awful 2010-11 campaign. He will be paired with usual linemate Max Pacioretty and youngster Brendan Gallagher. A funny link between Gomez and Gallagher is that during Scott's junior days, he was once treated medically by Gallagher's father, a trainer, and even visited the family's home. Brendan was 6 years old at the time, and tonight they will be linemates!

For Carey Price, it will be another chance to continue rounding into game shape in preparation for the start of the season. He had a shaky opener before which he declared himself as unprepared, but it is no reason to panic. Slow and steady improvement is all that is needed until early October.

Up front, Andreas Engqvist is in the line-up again, meaning he's played all 3 preseason contests. Given that he's also playing with veterans in Andrei Kostitsyn and Erik Cole, it seems like the 4th line center job is his to lose. Interestingly, in practice, Kostitsyn took turns playing the point on the powerplay. With only P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov as locked pointment on the PP to start the season, there may be an opportunity to play a forward back there along with Alexei Yemelin or Yannick Weber, both of whom will continue to try to prove superiority in the depth chart this evening.

With Lars Eller, David Desharnais, and Ryan White all currently out rehabbing small injuries, there may be additional spots open for a player like Mike Blunden to start with the team as well. He showed poor skating ability in his first start, but certainly was amongst the team's most physical players.

Your lines for this evening:



Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brendan Gallagher
Andrei Kostitsyn - Andreas Engqvist - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Gabriel Dumont - Alexander Avtsin
Brock Trotter - Philip DeSimone - Mike Blunden


Alex Henry - Jarred Tinordi
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Alexei Yemelin - Yannick Weber


Carey Price
Nathan Lawson



Nikita Filatov - Jason Spezza - Bobby Butler
Milan Michalek - Stephane Da Costa - Daniel Alfredsson
Mike Hoffman - Zack Smith - Erik Condra
Derek Grant - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Andre Petersson


Filip Kuba - Erik Karlsson
Chris Phillips - Brian Lee
Patrick Wiercioch - Mark Borowiecki


Craig Anderson (full game)
Alex Auld

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lines at Practice, Sept 22

Here's a peek at Jacques Martin's lines from this morning, an indication of who should be expected to dress tomorrow night in Ottawa:

Max Pacioretty - Scott Gomez - Brendan Gallagher
Andrei Kostitsyn - Andreas Engqvist - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Gabriel Dumont - Alexander Avtsin
Michael Blunden - Philip DeSimone - Brock Trotter
Lars Eller

Zack Fitzgerald - Alexei Yemelin
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Morgan Ellis - Jarred Tinordi
P.K. Subban - Alex Henry

Carey Price
Nathan Lawson

It looks like Gomez may be back folks! If Engqvist does play, it will be his third straight contest, a good indication that he may start the year in Montreal.

It's a little disappointing to see Peter Delmas again held out of the roster as I do believe he's an intriguing prospect, but it's not the biggest deal. It's possible Price would play a full game at this point anyway.

David Desharnais and Hunter Bishop did not practice after suffering minor injuries in last night's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Brendan Nash, meanwhile, was operated on for an undisclosed upper body injury yesterday, and will be out for an indefinite period of time.

21/09/11: Buffalo 3, Montreal 1; but a good building block

It may have been the second loss in as many preseason nights for your Montreal Canadiens, but it was hard not to walk away with at least a little smile from last night's game at the Bell Centre.

Perhaps it was because Peter Budaj delivered a solid half game performance, seeming like he will be a perfectly acceptable back-up to Carey Price.

But that wouldn't be enough. Was it that P.K. Subban showed no signs of his training camp injury in being by far the team's best player and scoring a goal (followed by a celebration that delighted fans in the building but is sure to draw ire from people around the league given that it's just a preseason game)? Likely not, as Subban was just being Subban, though it does seem at this point that he may end up being the team's most important player not named Carey Price.

If it wasn't either of them, perhaps it was merely the fact that a team composed mostly of young players hung in there against a near-full Buffalo Sabres roster who, admittedly, weren't playing particularly passioned hockey? While this is true, it is still exhibition play, and so the outcomes are of little importance.

No, I think the biggest reason for Habs fans to have been happy last night was a first exposure to the stud that will be Nathan Beaulieu. Now Beaulieu didn't have a perfect game. He had a couple of giveaways, a few poorly executed passes, and some failed powerplay set-ups. But on the whole, the fact that he didn't look out of place is perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay the 18-year old kid. Beaulieu showed great skating and stickhandling ability, and set up teammates with a few very slick breakout passes. Ladies and gentlemen, we've got ourselves a top notch prospect. Expect Beaulieu to require a few seasons of development before he is a full-time Hab, but he appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

As for the rest of the team, fans who came to see Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Avtsin may have left disappointed, as Gallagher was basically quiet except for one very strong offensive zone shift, and Avtsin did little to be noticed aside from being pasted into the boards on a few occasions. Andreas Engqvist further extended his lead for a roster spot with sound defensive play over Aaron Palushaj who continues to float through camp with little impact.

Gabriel Dumont had a nice debut, showing his willingness to hit anything that moves and lots of combativeness for such a small player.

As far as the veterans go, Max Pacioretty had a solid outing with a number of chances / shots on goal, and doesn't appear to have lost any speed since his injury. His center for the night, David Desharnais, did a fine Scott Gomez impersonation through the neutral zone at times, but was of little influence on the game's result. The same could be said for Brian Gionta who had a quiet night and wasn't particularly noticeable, with the entire trio finishing a -3.

Next up for the Habs is a duel in Ottawa on Friday, the first of 4 games in 4 nights, meaning few cuts should be expected between now and then. The chemistry experiments continue as all players try to round themselves into shape.