Game 11 Preview: The Isles? Again? Really? Update: Cammalleri named second star of the week!
UPDATE 3:15: I guess the NHL read my spotlight story on Mike Cammalleri yesterday, they've named him the league's second star of the week between the league's top scorer Anze Kopitar and Patrick Marleau. Cammy tallied 4 goals and 2 assists in 4 games. Let's hope he can keep up the pace!!!
I know the Canadiens don't pick most of their opponents (although I'm sure they get a few gimme picks from the league, like most of their encounters with the Leafs and a few with the Bruins, among others, not to mention when they go on extended road trips, etc), but who was the genius who decided to send the New York Islanders to the Bell Centre twice in 5 nights, during the Canadiens first home stand?
Not trying to be a smart ass Hab fan here (regarless of whether I am or not), but you'd think the schedule makers would give the Canadiens at least a couple of marquee matches to start off the season at home. And yes, it's true, the Avalanche and the Thrashers are playoff teams at the moment and when the Canadiens played them, but they weren't when the schedule was made, nor is there much history between those teams and the Habs (and no, the Avalanche aren't the Nordiques). Getting the Rangers on a Saturday night is nice, as is playing the Sens last week, and I have no problem with seeing the young guns from the Island, but they couldn't manage another team with some recent history against the Habs for this homestand? The Bruins? The Flyers? The Capitals?
Hey, maybe I'm nitpicking. Maybe I'm just looking to fill some blog space since there isn't much to talk about that I didn't already cover last thursday!
To recap, we talked about the Tavares show rolling into town (he didn't really do much), about how unknown journeyman Matt Moulson leads the team in scoring (didn't really do much), and how Martin Biron is usually amazing against the Habs (he got lit up), not to mention Mark Streit's return to Montreal (he got shut down by Tomas Plekanec).
Well, Biron gets another chance tonight to try and re-create some of his Bell Centre magic form the 2007-08 playoffs, but it will be his last chance to do so, as this is the last meeting between the two teams at the Bell Centre (they meet again on the Island on December 19th, 2009 and April 6th, 2010), and he'll be looking to rebound from an embarrasing performance last Thursday.
The lines are reported to be as follows:
The Isles will be looking to stop a two game losing streak tonight, and in order to do so, their very young top line will need to find a way to beat Jaroslav Halak (more on him starting later). Tavares has but 1 assist and is a -4 in his last four games, after starting the season strong. He needs to produce. Moulson is a surprise, but if he wants to stay on that top line he'll need to be better, as he hasn't scored in the last 2 games. Okposo is pointless in the last three games after a 6 game point streak.
RDS broke the story this morning that Jaroslav Halak will be getting his 4th straight start tonight. While I can't say I'm all that surprised, since he went 3-0 last week and posting an impressive 0.960 GAA and a .960 SVP before giving up four goals in the overtime win against the Rangers, I can say that I'm slightly disappointed and slightly confused about Jacques Martin's decision.
He's obviously the coach and he'll do what he needs to do to get his team the win, but is it smart to sit Carey Price out for four straight games? While tonight's game is as much of a gimme game as it's going to get, there are three tough teams lining up to face the Habs for the rest of the week.
The Habs are in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Chicago Friday and back in Montreal to face the Leafs on Halloween Saturday. The Pens are Stanley cup champions and the Hawks are as close to a powerhouse as you're going to get, and not much needs to be said about how tough those games are going to be. The Leafs could legitimately come into the game at the Bell Centre with an 0-10-1 record, and if that's the case, they'll be very angry, very desperate, and very dangerous.
That being said, Price WILL be starting at least one of these games this week. He's missed over a week of action, and Martin is going to throw him into the fray against one of these teams? I'm not sure if it's the right move. Halak might win tonight and face the Pens on Wednesday, but he won't go back-to-back Friday and Saturday, win or lose.
And while you don't want Price to lose against the Isles, and I understand the argument behind pitting Price against a tougher team versus risking hurting his confidence if he loses to a basement dweller, but Jacques Martin is playing a dangerous hand with his goalies (I had a good poker analogy here involving low connectors and Aces in the river, but I couldn't put it together. I apologize).
When asked about it after practice (from habs I/O again), he simply said:
"Jaro's played well and we'll stick with him for tonight's game."
While he's right, sometimes it's not as simple as that.
We'll see how it all plays out, but I'm skeptical to say the least, especially after Jacques Martin gave his vote of confidence to Price over the summer.
Other line-up notes:
- Georges Laraque didn't practice today. He's nursing a minor injury (surprise surprise... he hasn't even played the last 2 games!!!)
- Glen Metropolit is doubtful with the flu and didn't practice. While this is the right game to sit him out, bad news for Metropolit, who's played great in the 3 full games he was in the line-up.
- The only line staying intact is the ''Little 3'' of Gomez - Gionta - Cammalleri, and that's good news. The other three units are being switched due mostly to injured, and one demotion.
- Tomas Plekanec continues rotating through most of the team's line-up. Tonight he'll be playing alongside Guillaume Latendresse and Matt D'agostini, who have had a good string of games while demoted on the bottom line. Latendresse still needs to find the back of the net, but if this team's trends continue, he has a good chance of scoring tonight.
- Maxim Lapierre returns to the 3rd line. Bad break for him, but he has a chance to prove he can produce with Pacioretty and Moen.
- Kyle Chipchura continues to find a way to stay in the line-up, as he'll play with doghoused Andrei Kostitsyn and doghoused Greg Stewart tonight. We'll see how that goes...
- There's an outside chance Metropolit will play tonight. In that case, expect Stewart out and Lapierre back on the 2nd line.
Haven't been posting many rumors on here since we started the site since we've frankly wanted to stay away from that stuff, but the following is a source that I would trust.
Brian Wilde is a reporter for CTV in Montreal and has been covering the Habs for years. He always offers some of the best insight into the team in the entire city, along with guys like Dave Stubbs, Pat Hickey, Eric Engels, Francois Gagnon, and others, but doesn't usually get all that much attention. Well the following post he made on CTV Montreal's website yesterday deserves some attention. He doesn't usually post rumors simply for the sake of creating rumors, and when he breaks a story, it usually ends up being true (I remember him breaking the Tanguay trade at the 2008 draft). Here's what he said:
From my time with the Oilers in Edmonton dating back to the early 90's, one of the relationships I have been able to foster is with Kevin Prendergast. He's an extremely intelligent hockey man who is the top scout and decision maker for talent, young and old, that the Oilers might be interested in. Prendergast and I talk usually when he takes in a Habs game. He doesn't take in many. Every two or three months, he watches one contest and then moves on to the next city whether it be Ottawa or Albany.
The last two times he stayed for an extended period, Alex Kovalev and Michael Ryder were on the trading blocks. Not to say that he said that was who was he looking at each time. He's too clever to offer that information to me, but one can take an educated guess, and put it together. Neither deal worked out between the Oilers and Habs, and I don't know honestly how close they got, but Prendergast wasn't in town for the hotdogs, though they sure are popular.
I mention all of this because Prendergast has spent the last three games watching the Habs home stand. A week in the same city is a long time for a scout like Prendergast. I won't speculate who he is looking at, because I haven't started a rumour in this industry in 26 years, so I won't start now. All I will say is I felt confident that he is definitely looking at some Hab closely. Feel free to start your own rumour.
You can bet he wouldn't report the news of a scout staying in Montreal if it didn't mean something. While a trade may happen or may not happen with the Oilers, it's certainly interesting when a scout stays in Montreal for an entire week. There's only so much smoke meat and poutine one man can handle on his own accord!
The Oilers certainly have some interesting players that might interest Bob Gainey, and the first that comes to mind is 6'4'' 220 pounder Jean-Francois Jacques. The Montreal native is a 24 year old who is just starting to break out as an NHLer, and would certainly be a great fit in Montreal, addressing some size issues, as well as having the added bonus of being Quebecois. He has a goal and 3 assists in 11 games with a -2 rating and 16 PIMs, and leads the Oilers in hits by a wide margin with 42.
Naturally the Oilers won't be so quick to give up on a breakout young player, but considering Jacques has failed to stay on the Oilers line-up in every year since the lockout, it would be an interesting scenario.
This is, of course, just speculation, but I wait until Eklund reports this as an E3. :)
Who else do you think would be involved in a potential deal between the Habs and the Oilers? While both teams have similar needs, there is certainly trade potential there.
Enough rumors for the week... enjoy the game tonight, looking for another Habs win. I predict a repeat of my perfect prediction from last Thursday:
Canadiens 5 - Islanders 1
Goals from Gionta (2), Spacek, Bergeron, Latendresse, Kostitsyn (Okposo for the Isles).