Habs vs. Flyers: Looking for Revenge
It's been a busy week in Hab-Land. After a weekend of games against the Penguins and Bruins, the organization began the week with the decision to make a change. On Monday, Bob Gainey stepped down as GM of the Montreal Canadiens, citing the desire to leave before he overstayed his welcome, that he basically had no desire to continue on with the team through the end of his contract, making decisions that someone else had to live with - never mind the fact that we already have to live with a lot of the decisions he's made in the past.
His replacement; Pierre Gauthier. A man with a long resume, having worked in major roles with the Quebec Nordiques, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Ottawa Senators, and since 2003, the Montreal Canadiens. In seven years with the team, he's seen his role expand from Director of professional scouting, to assistant general manager, to now, general manager and vice president of hockey operations. For those keeping track, that's four jobs. To my knowledge, he's still doing all of them. Most of us would have trouble doing one.
Nevertheless, Gauthier is now the man in charge of this organization, and he didn't waste any time getting to work. Most of the time when you start a new job, there's a feeling-out process. Especially if you're in charge of things and people, you wait a little while before really asserting your authority. At least that's what you'd expect of a new employee. But Gauthier tackled things head-on heading into Wednesday's game against the Capitals. His first official move was the promotion of Tom Pyatt, demoting Ryan White and Brock Trotter back to Hamilton. The move seemingly paid off, as Pyatt scored his first NHL goal and added his first NHL assist on Wednesday night in a 6-5 win against the Washington Capitals.
But he wasn't the only factor in the victory, which ended the Caps' 14-game win-streak. Whether they were playing the way they did order to impress their new boss, or whether they were just being the hot-and-cold Canadiens we've come to know and love this season, the Canadiens made a statement on Wednesday night, beating the Capitals in a game they shouldn't have been in at all. The weirdest part? They did it with Carey Price between the pipes. And while Price gave up a few questionable goals, he made some key saves and contributed to the victory. His participation in the game could have had something to do with Gauthier.
On Thursday, Gauthier continued to leave his mark on the organization, acquiring forward Dominic Moore from the Florida Panthers for a second round pick, and calling up the Canadiens best prospect, PK Subban, from the Hamilton Bulldogs.
And just like Tom Pyatt and the returning Carey Price did on Wednesday night, both immediately made an impact, as Moore scored a goal in last night's 3-2 loss to the Flyers, and Subban played very well for his first NHL game, setting up an great play to get the Canadiens their first goal of the mini-comeback in the 3rd period (from a 3-0 deficit) and picking up his first assist in his first NHL game.
But the game ended on a negative note, as the Flyers' Darroll Powe hit Jaroslav Spacek from behind in a vicious hit that got him a 5 minute major and a game misconduct, ejecting him from the game. Once the game ended, the Habs unable to capitalize on a powerplay to end the game, a small brawl broke out, which saw Kimmo Timonen and Scott Gomez exchange words, and eventually fists, before everything was finally settled down. Knowing that the two teams would be facing each other tonight, both benches stayed calm, but it could have gotten much uglier.
Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton decided to get involved since the Canadiens had two more men on the ice, thanks to a powerplay and Carey Price sitting on the bench for the extra man, which could have spelled trouble for either team, especially if Price had decided to come back on. Nevetheless, the referees and linesmen managed to break things up before it got any worse than it did, and with mere hours remaining before puck drop, it's doubtful that any suspensions will be handed out before tonight's game.
All of this leads into some pretty major storylines going into tonight's rematch at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens will be looking for revenge for the Spacek hit and the ensuing scrum, not to mention for the loss itself. Moreover, the Canadiens have one more chance to make an impact of sorts tonight, as they play their final game before the Olympic break against the team that is now a point ahead of them in 6th place, thanks to last night's victory.
Spacek is questionable for tonight's rematch at the Bell Centre, and CKAC says that it's doubtful that Markov, who missed last night's game, will play tonight. Paul Mara is also uncertain, leaving the Canadiens a possible man short on the blue line. Add these injuries to the already ailing Bergeron, Pouliot, Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn, and most Habs will probably be happy to have a few weeks off after tonight.
But tonight, they will hopefully have revenge on their minds as they take on the Flyers. Expect some rough stuff, with guys like Gomez probably still fuming after what happened last night. The key to tonight's game will be to keep those emotions in check, realize that there's an important game to be won, and play a full 60-minute effort. Score early, score often, and go into the Olympic break knowing that you're coming back with the 6th spot in the conference.
While the Canadiens will be taking a seemingly needed break, TCL will still be up and running during the Olympics. On top of covering the games and the much-anticipated hockey tournament, our bloggers and myself will be providing you with all the latest details on our respective teams, as well as covering any trade rumors that may surface during the trade freeze. Moreover, expect some special features and unique blogs to surface before NHL action resums at the beginning in March.
Once the games are over, we will be jumping right back into it with special trade deadline coverage. So stay tuned to TCL in the coming weeks for all that and more!
For now, enjoy tonight's game, should be an interesting one!