Friday, October 28, 2016

Poor Len: 2016-17 Habs are the real deal -- real BIG deal!

Poor Len here, feeling the glow from the Montréal Canadiens' best start to the NHL season since... well... last year, but let's not get into that. This year's team -- and I emphasize the word "team" -- is so different from last year's as to not bear comparison. New players, new culture, and no distractions in the dressing room or on the ice. Adds up to 7 wins and 1 shootout loss in their first 8 games, good for first place in the NHL Eastern Conference and in the league overall!

Here's a great picture (scraped from the Gazette) from last night's 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a tight first period, the match was very entertaining, with good chances at both ends of the ice, fine goaltending from TB's Big Ben Bishop and even finer from Habs' Carey Price. I'm happy to see him fully recovered from last year's injury and already at the top of his came. Kudos too to Al Montoya, a veteran backstop who's taken some of the load of Price's shoulders. Each has allowed a stingy 6 goals in 4 games, with Montoya's GAA 1.47 and Price's 1.51. It's going to be hard for other teams to beat goaltending like that!

This year's edition of la Sainte Flannelle can score too -- all of them! The usual suspects -- Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk -- are in form. Wee Brendan has had 28 shots in 8 games, 4 of which found the back of the net. With 3 assists that gives him 7 points. Some of last year's support players have come alive too. Torrey Mitchell has had 4 goals, with Paul Byron, David Desharnais and Phillip Danault potting 2 each. But the best news has come from new guys Alexander Radulov, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw, all making solid contributions.

I've reserved the last paragraph for the defence. As the season got under way, many (but not I!) wondered if last June's blockbuster trade -- P.K. Subban to Nashville Predators for Shea Weber -- would prove to be GM Marc Bergevin's undoing or the Best Deal Ever Made. Much to the chagrin of Dr. C.K. and Dave Stubbs, Shea Weber has so excelled on both defence and offence that Habs fans have already forgotten Stubbsy's "transcendant defenceman". Weber is solid on defence, and the key man on the team's much-improved power play. He also leads the team in scoring, with 3 goals and 6 assists. With Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin (who actually scored a goal) and Jeff Petry, the Canadiens now have a defensive corps that the goalies and forwards can count on.

All in all, 2016-17 looks like being a very good season. Better not to start planning the Stanley Cup parade down Rue Ste-Catherine just yet, but I've already got my bets down on the Habs not just making the playoffs, but winning the Atlantic Conference. Anyone who disagrees may send a cheque c/o Walt.

Click here to read complete statistics on the Canadiens website

Worth reading: Guy Lafleur speaks out on why Habs traded Subban, from the Montreal Gazette 29/10/16. (My sentiments exactly!)

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