Mat of Habs Retweet and I discuss what we’ve liked so far of the Habs’ preseason (in French).
I urge you, Habs fans, not to give into the wave of negativity that has shrouded this beautiful city.
Sure, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov are pivotal pieces that the Bell Centre faithful will no longer enjoy watching in the Bleu Blanc et Rouge uniform. But after a 0-6-0 start to their preseason schedule, their two recent victories demonstrated that the Montreal Canadiens have unanimously bought into head coach Claude Julien’s system. On Saturday night, fans were treated to a 9-2 romping of the Ottawa Senators. While I never put too much weight into preseason performances, I believe it’s important to be optimistic after witnessing what was a nearly-flawless game by all involved.
- I’ve always liked Jacob de la Rose. Former head coach Michel Therrien sang his praises years ago, claiming that the youngster possessed stellar defensive acumen and intelligence. Those abilities cannot be taught. Superior hockey sense can allow a player to learn the offensive side of hockey, and perhaps de la Rose has finally grasped it. He netted two goals against an uninspired Senators team on Saturday night, and has greatly improved his skating. Therrien’s declarations have convinced me that there’s much more to this kid than what meets the eye. He’s my pick to center the fourth line when the regular season schedule starts, a role which Michael McCarron has not earned…
- I don’t want to pick on any players – I’ll leave that to the naysayers who are aplenty – but I still don’t get the hype surrounding McCarron. Never have, never will. I’m open to eventually being wrong about him. The same way I hope the ones who continuously target Alex Galchenyuk will someday eat their words once and for all.
- It’s a damn shame that Skype was having technical issues on Thursday afternoon. Andrew Sarrazin (SIT Analytics and The Fourth Period) and I recorded a very fun, incredibly positive podcast about the Canadiens, but the recording itself had too many bugs for me to publish it. Andrew made a great point about Galchenyuk: maybe he isn’t cut out for the pressures of the Montreal market and that he could thrive elsewhere. I used to call Galchenyuk an untouchable and would prefer to stick by that statement, despite the accuracy of Sarrazin’s statements. Regardless of where you stand, we can all agree that the Habs need him to be at his best on a consistent basis. When his confidence is switched on, he is a dominant offensive force that can dictate the pace of a match single-handedly. He was electrifying on Saturday night and managed to score a goal while notching an assist.
- In a French podcast I recorded with my good friend Mat of Habs Retweet last Wednesday, I mentioned that I expect Tomas Plekanec to have a very impressive season. Final contract year notwithstanding, Plekanec had a nagging wrist injury that affected his play up until the last playoffs started. He was one of the better forwards against the New York Rangers in Spring, and I truly believe that having Artturi Lehkonen and Charles Hudon as his regular wingers will allow him to find his scoring form yet again. We’ve all seen what the Czech can do when he establishes a lasting chemistry with players who compliment his playmaking prowess. Did you see his incredible pass to Hudon before the latter struck the post? Is a 20-goal season a farfetched prediction?
- Raise your hand if you think Hudon should be sent back to the Laval Rocket. I’ll wait.
- Raise your hand if you are not completely impressed by Victor Mete. Yeah, I thought so too.
- Somebody on Twitter pointed out that Mark Streit’s locker is next to the 19-year-old’s, and that he is his mentor of sorts. Streit has occasionally played as a forward in the past. Mete’s skating stride is beyond his age and experience and resembles that of a forward’s. Did you see how he scored on Saturday night? Do you see what I’m starting to get at? Is it at all possible that Mete is being groomed to potentially be a viable forward option should there be any injuries up front? Call me crazy, but if someone like Paul Byron gets injured in the middle of a game, wouldn’t it make sense to at least try Mete there in his stead? Spitballing here, folks. Purely spitballing.
- Speaking of dominance, how good is that Jonathan Drouin guy? I initially predicted that the experiment of playing him down the middle might be a short-lived one, but I might be wrong. At least, Claude Julien would disagree with me. The youngster acquired in a trade for Mikhail Sergachev has improved with every passing moment as a center as the head coach so duly pointed out, but there are so many more layers to Drouin than his hockey superstardom (he notched three assists against the Sens) and versatility. Watch how attentive he is when fielding journalists’ questions. He looks interviewers right in the eyes and heartedly acknowledges everything they say, which is a sign of superior confidence. Let’s not forget that he is only 22 years old, so this kind of high emotional intelligence is very telling of just how little the pressure of playing in this market is going to affect him… for now.
- Before the regular season begins, let me remind you all: captain Max Pacioretty is a streaky scorer. If he is held off the scoresheet for a few games, refrain from going to your local Canadian Tire store in search of pitchforks. Leave him alone, for the love of all that is holy. No one has targeted him just yet– their preferred whipping boy this season is clearly Galchenyuk– but I can already see it coming and hope that somehow, this message will be heard. Let’s not drive him out of town.
- Speaking of scorers (?), Andrew Shaw might finally be healthy enough to match his career-best 20-goal 2013-2014 season. He scored in three consecutive games and has looked like a good fit alongside Phillip Danault and Galchenyuk. I believe last year’s relatively boneheaded tendencies should be eliminated from his behavior, though I would encourage him to continue crashing the net while his linemates exercise a passing game.
There’s no doubt that the real question marks heading into the 2017-2018 regular season revolve around defense. Most analysts and fans remain convinced that the yet-to-be-named six defensemen that will take to the ice on October 5th leave much to be desired when compared to the rest of the NHL, but here’s food for thought.
Should the “slow-footed” D-corps apply Julien’s system to a tee, they simply have to be perfectly positioned to send the forward group speeding away on the transition with crisp passing. In other words, the blue-liners will need to compensate for their supposed lack of mobility by continuously moving the puck to their teammates while not succumbing to the constant forechecking pressure all of their opponents will surely exert on them. A tall order, perhaps, but one that could very well work should they all unite under the coaching staff’s instructions.
With that in mind, I hope that we can all remember why we started watching the Canadiens in the first place. It’s impossible to deny the emotions a professional hockey franchise can stir up in the hearts of fans. Through the ups and downs, the Habs will always give us all something to talk about on a regular basis. This might be wishful thinking, but perhaps we can all unite and remain civil in our discussions this year.
Let’s temper our expectations and allow ourselves to be pleasantly surprised by what should be an entertaining and emotional roller-coaster ride.Follow @andrewmikestone