Habs win first game 4-3 in OT... but lose Markov for 4 months...


Credit Picture to Habs Inside/Out

Edit: I learned just after writing most of this blog that Markov just underwent surgery and will be out for 4 months. God help us all.

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Last night, I was so ecstatic about the Canadiens victory over the Leafs that I almost posted a blog right away. I figured I'd wait, seeing as letting a few realities of the game sink in might reduce my homerism and allow me to transmit a more objective viewpoint (ya right).

Needless to say, I think I speak for a lot of Habs fans when I say that our egos are at least somewhat deflated this morning, despite the impressive victory the boys put together last night. Some of it certainly has to do with the fact that the Canadiens weren't even near to playing a solid game (more on that a bit later).

But what's weighing heavily down on this important yet early-season victory is the potentially serious injury to All-Star defenseman Andrei Markov. Word broke this morning that Markov could require surgery to repair a potentially damaged tendon in his leg after he sliced his leg on Carey Price's skate during the third period last night. Markov spent the night in a Toronto hospital and did not travel with the team to Buffalo.

Needless to say, the entirety of the Habs nation is holding their breath right now. Markov is the key to this team, the all-star, the best defenseman, the key to the powerplay, and arguably their best player. On nights where he's been injured or out of the line-up for whatever reason, this team has looked lost. Even this past pre-season, after the habs acquired defensemen Hal Gill and Paul Mara in order to build defensive depth and make sure defensive injuries wouldn't hurt as bad.

And to be honest, if Markov is out long term, it won't hurt as much as it would have last season. Gorges and O'Byrne are more mature and they can step up, Spacek can make up for his absense offensively, and Mara and Gill can take over his leadership and presense role, not to mention Hamrlik who can step up and play like a number one defenseman on some nights. But if we are to expect the worst (and that's an injury similar to Robert Lang's last year, which ended his season and severely limited his chances at ever playing in the NHL again, before the Coyotes picked him up), then any combination of our improved defense corps won't be able to make up for Markov's total contribution. Not in the long term anwyay.

And that, my friends, is scary. Nevertheless, we shouldn't panic until we know more about his injury.

There is still a game to review, and another 81 games on the schedule to look forward to, and last night, the Canadiens proved that there is hope for this team this season and that fans should be excited about most of the arrivals. They put together an effort that was good enough to beat a much improved and very tough team in the leafs in front of their home crowd, and both the team and habs fans should be proud of that.

Leafs fans shouldn't worry either, their team showed grit, effort, toughness, and any new big words Brian Burke decides to learn, and in reality the game was extremely close.

But for now, it's time for the Habs to celebrate.

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But without further adieu, here is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that I took in from the game:

THE GOOD

- Josh Gorges: A solid performance from this young defenseman. Josh Gorges had a lot of Habs fans worried this past little while due to a less than stellar training camp and pre-season, but he stepped up last night, and in a big way. Scoring the game winner and adding an assist, and playing an overall solid game that allowed him to garner the first star of the game, and a deserved star. Hopefully, he can continue to play like this and impress.

- Carey Price: The best performance we've seen out of Price in a long time, the former 5th overall pick managed to stop 43 out of 46 shots in what was an incessant Leafs offense. Despite Bob Gainey's assurances that the defense would be there for Price this year, he showed a lot of nay-sayers that he isn't done as a starting goaltender in this city and that he can perform.

- The 18-million dollar trio: Bob Gainey took more criticism than praise this off-season when he traded for Scott Gomez and signed Brian Gionta and Mike Cammaleri, so they too had something to prove last night and they accomplished just that. They started the night on different lines but played many shifts together, and all three looked comfortable. Gomez was the ''worst'' out of the three, but he wasn't bad, even drawing a 4 minute penalty out of Komisarek which the habs scored quickly on, and winning the faceoff on the game-tying goal. Gionta scored early and played his heart out, and Cammaleri blossomed late in the game, in the end createda spectacular play, rushing up the ice at full speed and forced Gorges' game winning goal, finishing the night with 2 assists.

- Travis Moen: 2 fights, 1 goal +1 in less than 10 minutes of ice time. Not much else you can say, and not much else you could ask out of him.

- Georges Laraque: Big Georges played played just a bit over 5 minutes and spent about the same time in the box, but he did what he needed to do out there last night. He fought (even though it was staged against Orr), created a play that led to Moen's goal, and looked out there the rest of his ten-ish shifts. If he can learn to lay in a big hit once in a while and remain healthy, Laraque's contract won't look so bad after all.

- Leafs truculence and pugnacity: Gotta give credit where credit is due. Even though they lost, they came out flying, hitting, fighting, and tough. They proved that they mean business and despite losing the game in overtime made a statement to the habs, the rest of the league and certainly their fans that they're going to be much tougher to play agains this season.

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THE BAD

- The rest of the Canadiens defense: While Gorges had a solid game, the rest of the defenders in red didn't look all that great. Markov was alright, Spacek looked slow out there and Hal Gill even slower. We knew coming into the season that they would be slow and weren't signed because of their speed, but when they're eating up 20 minutes + of ice time each playing like they were, it might be a cause for concern if Markov is out for a while. There isn't much to say about Mara and O'Byrne, but one would hope they'd be at least a little more physical in the future.

- ''Gone are the days of 38-39-40 shots against the Canadiens'': That's a gem of a quote from Mitch Melnyk on his radio show yesterday, during his segment with Pierre McGuire. What happened to the solid defensive trap system that Martin wanted to put into place? I understand that the players are still getting used to each other and the defense is to come, but giving up 46 shots to the leafs is nothing to be proud about.

- Francois Beauchemin: He had no positive effect on the game last night and looked pretty bad on a couple of Canadiens goals. Hopefully he's 100% after missing most of the season last year, but that's someone to keep an eye on.

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THE UGLY

- Mike Komisarek: I said he was going to be the center of attention last night, and he was. I don't know what he was trying to prove last night, or to whom. Did he want to prove to Habs fans and his old teammates that he was tough? Did he want to show Brian Burke that he made a ''good'' decision to sign him? It's one thing to play tough, but his toughness translated to stupidity on the ice. 2 minor penalties, one double minor and a fight. He could have had at least 3 more minors if the refs had called the game a little tighter, and he could have injured Brian Gionta, cross checking him from behind, dangerously close to the boards. Needless to say, for the first time in a long time, Mike Komisarek contributed to a Canadiens victory, so thanks for that Komi. Can't wait to see you again at the end of the month.

- Line Juggling: Once again, I know that Martin is getting to know his players and how they work well together, but it seemed like every shift out there tonight, the players had different linemates. And it wasn't like they had to adjust to injuries or someone getting kicked out of the game (at least not with the forwards), but sometimes there were even 2 centers at a time out on the ice. It didn't make much sense to me as you'd imagine that Martin would allow his players to get used to each other before juggling lines. In the end it worked, but it might be a long season if he continues coaching like this. Just reminds me a little too much of what we went through with Carbonneau last year...

- Andrei Markov out for 4 months: :(

- What the F*CK are we going to do without Markov: Ugh...

- Kill me now: Markov!! :(

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More on the Markov injury and what the Canadiens should do about it tomorrow, along with a Habs/Sabres pre-game and more.

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com