‘How could things be worse?’, is a topic that many hockey fans are saying around Montreal these days. Tuesday night’s game was an embarrassing 6-4 home loss to Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, a team that featured 9 rookies in the visitor’s lineup. Those ‘rooks’ only managed 9 of the Pens’ 16 points that evening. While two Habs rookies each managed a point [recent callups Andrei Kastsitsyn had an assist, and Jonathan Ferland scored his first NHL goal], Pittsburgh’s goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury clearly outplayed a still struggling Jose Theodore to earn the win.
Immediately after the game, coach Claude Julien held a closed door meeting for approximately 20 minutes. The contents of the discussion were not fully disclosed, but fans are hoping that Alice Cooper’s ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ could be heard blaring in the background, a few decibels under the screams of Julien’s voice. Later, Julien told the press that the he and the team discussed the philosophy of sticking to the strategies that the coaches have laid out for the players. If they do not execute them, then the players leave themselves open to lose was the message he repeated to the players.
The last game did have a few highlights worth mentioning. Despite being down 3-0 in the middle of the first period, the team mounted an impressive 4 goal come back, lead by Jan Bulis’ 7th goal late in the first period. The second period saw the Canadiens pot 3 goals by the 6:43 mark to take the lead. However, a late power play marker by Pittsburgh tied the match, while the 3rd period saw Crosby score his second of the game, a game winner.
Tonight’s game against New Jersey is another match between two struggling teams. The Devils have gone through a lot of turmoil lately, with losing their head coach, former Habs great Larry Robinson. Player changes have had their team lose former Hab defenseman Vladimir Malakhov to retirement or suspension, Alexander Mogilny to waivers, but the team has added star forward Patrik Elias back from battling hepatitis the past several months. On Tuesday night Elias returned to the Devils lineup to help lead his team to a 3-0 win over Florida. The line of Elias, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were a combined +6 with 5 points between them, and should form a dangerous trio for the Canadiens to contend with.
Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alexei Kovalev
Andrei Kastsitsyn – Jan Bulis – Michael Ryder
Chris Higgins – Radek Bonk – Niklas Sundstrom
Garth Murray – Steve Begin – Jonathan Ferland
Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Sheldon Souray – Mathieu Dandenault
Mike Komisarek – Francis Bouillon
Brian Gionta – Scott Gomez – Patrik Elias
Jay Pandolfo – John Madden – Jamie Langenbrunner
Zach Parise – Sergei Brylin – Grant Marshall
Erik Rasmussen – Viktor Kozlov – Cam Janssen
Brian Rafalski – Colin White
Richard Matvichuk – Paul Martin
David Hale – Tommy Albelin
Starting Goalies: Jose Theodore [Montreal]; Martin Brodeur [New Jersey]
Habs Notes: Yesterday the players reviewed the video from Tuesday’s game in hope that they would see what Julien has been preaching about what happens when the players do not follow his system. Kovalev indicated the coach was correct, and that the video review was not a ‘finger pointing’ exercise. Steve Begin said the team had to stop beating itself, so perhaps the video review will be helpful…Rumours have it that Alexander Perezhogin’s recent demotion was due to the rookie’s lack of concentration and hustle. During a weekend practice, Perezhogin allegedly was floating through the drills when Julien reacted by smacking his stick loudly on the ice. He then called a conference with the other assistants, and was visibly upset the whole time. This speculation, along with previous comments to the media by Julien about Perezhogin’s desire to play hard, may have lead to his demotion.
Devils Notes: Lou Lamoriello’s recent moves to move Mogilny, Malakhov & veterans Dan McGillis and Krzysztof Oliwa off of the team’s salary cap roster, may have cleared up some cap space for a possible trade deadline transaction. Should the Devils improve their position in the standings, look for some type of player movement to occur….The Devils won their first encounter with the Habs 5-3 on November 18.