Happy Thanksgiving Everyone ... at least to all you Canadians out there! And I guess a Happy Columbus Day to the kind American followers that read this blog! I hope that you have plenty to be thankful for on this fine October day.
No complaints here in Good Ol' Montreal! I mean, we had a "Bright, Bright, Bright - Sunshiny Day", and we watched Ben Cahoon make CFL history, as he became the leagues all-time leading pass receiver (catching his 1007th to pass previous CFL legend Terry Vaughn).
But I guess in retrospect - all those Habs fans out there are looking back on Saturday nights victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins as an early, yet continuous Thanksgiving Day present. That gift that keeps on giving. Let's face facts, ever since that night that Crosby smashed his stick against the post of Jaro Halak in the playoffs last year - there hasn't exactly been a love-on for the Pens Captain. As a matter of fact - you could take every watched segment of his "Golden Goal" and thrown it in the trash as far as Habs fans were concerned. "The Kid" was showing his true colours. A spoiled little boy that relishes in accomplishment - but has no room to stomach defeat.
And that brings me to the point at hand. The other things that came about in game 2 of our regular season that we have to be thankful for.
Clearly, we saw a very confident and skilled netminder between the pipes. I don't know if its the fact that Carey Price is just sick of coming up with losses on occasions when a win should have been at hand (and no - I'm not blaming him for it all), or if there was a new confidence that our young goalie decided to get back to. But without doubt, Price was looking more like the Price of old. He was stepping forward in his crease, challenging shooters, taking away the angles. More importantly, after he allowed that first goal off Malkin on a beautiful feed from Crosby, there was none of that traditional shoulder slump in his body language. He got beat, accepted it, and moved on. Even more impressive was that he continued to stand tall after the Letestu goal. After all - he really should have had that one - and I'm sure he'd love the chance to get that back.
But after giving up two - Carey did something that we've seen him do many times before. Times where - in the past - his team has been known to let him down. He continued to make great saves, as well as routine saves, in order to keep his team in the game!
So what else do have to be thankful for today?
Well there was a definite step up on the defense and the penalty kill. Taking 7 penalties in all for the night - the Habs certainly (at times) looked a bit undisciplined, and yet the likes of Gorges and Gill were great on the PK. With the exception of Spacek coughing it up again a couple of times, there seemed a bit more consistency in shutting down the Penguins offense. Having said that - even Spacek began to flex his muscles from the blue line with a pair of blistering point shots. Subban continues to shine as well. On the forecheck, working hard in the defensive zone, grinding it out. And despite what Don Cherry has to say - this kid need not offer any special treatment to "veterans" like Crosby. He's faced off hard against him in the playoffs, and shut him down. Why should that be any different in the regular season. You don't get a Golden Hall Key just because you've been around the school for a few years.
So let me just make one quick point on that issue. Cherry spoke on Coach's Corner Saturday night, like he was a soothsayer proven right. He spoke to the fact that he knew PK Subban was going to get injured; because he hasn't shown the right level of respect to superstars in the league. Nonsense! This rookie is doing his job. Making sure that no matter how long you've played in the league, no matter how much the press holds your hand and bows at your every word - that you better bring your "A" Game every time out - or be put in your place. Thank God that Mr Cherry is not our coach. He is definitely not in our corner.
So things have looked pretty decent so far! Lots to take to the table tonight and offer our thanks for. But let's not forget the glaring shortcomings that need addressed immediately, if we want to see future success for this team, and a good run deep into the playoffs.
Offensively, the Habs looked weak on Saturday night. Despite the early goal from our returning hero - Mike Cammalleri - there is some great weakness to be taken care of. Yes, the Plekanec feed was excellent, but after that moment in time - until deep into the third - there was a serious lack of offensive effort. For a team that has tried to move to some bigger sizing in the offseason, including the likes of Eller and keeping Poulliot, there was in huge lack of getting players to the front of the net.
Fleury was a one man smorgasbord of rebounds. Juicy, delectable, and inviting. But no one came to the table. Instead they sat back trying to find a spot in the slot for Cammy (which was shut down consistently). Believe me. After last years playoff high of 13 goals from that exact position - don't expect it to be too vacant over the regular season for #13.
And what about the likes of Moen, Kostitsyn, and Lapierre? Where was the net presence with that trio? If things are going to look up, especially against big time teams like the Caps, Pens, and Philly; there needs to be much more assertive play to the crease.
One last note. I know this is going to get under many a skin, but it has to be said as far as I'm concerned. Enough about Scotty Gomez. Anyone who actually watched the game on Saturday night noticed one thing. This man can not only move the puck, he was one of the VERY few Canadiens who was shown any respect by the Penguins on the power play. When he gained the zone (another Gomez specialty that is lacking by the rest of the offensive lines), they backed off and recognized him for the danger he can be. I know he got his frst shot late in the game, and that he finally scored. But leave the man alone. He's a playmaker, and continues to do his job well. Despite what most fans may say. You don't like Price being criticized, so don't pick someone else to bear the cross instead.
Well - enough said. We did what we set out to do. We set the pace for the season against Pittsburgh. We made a statement that told the hockey world "It wasn't just dumb luck in last years playoffs!". We continued to build as a team, and make it known that we will be contenders again this year.
And as far as I'm concerned - that's plenty to be thankful for.
Good On Ya Boys!