It appears that Eugene Melnyk's "Everybody Remain Calm" message has bore some short term fruition. With two surprising wins over rival Buffalo, the Sens may have begun to turn a nightmare start around.
It could be that the return of goalie Ray Emery to the fold had as much, if not more to do, with the renewed confidence. Coach Bryan Murray ought to be relieved he has not been relieved.
Melnyk was quite concise when he spoke. While appearing to appease the fans, it was evident the words were aimed at the players. In this case, the owner settled the rising dust by being firm on the notion he was not going to capitulate with the usual remedies of trades and axes. While past trades have been questioned, leadership probed, and dedication and conviction analysed, Melnyk refuted calls to take the easy way out. Good on him.
It remains to be seen however, if the Sens can maintain the frantic winning pace required to qualify for the post season. They may need to win close to 40 of their remaining 60 games to pull it off. A tall order for any team, and a taller one for a squad lacking confidence. The talent is there but it will take much more than Emery's heroics to reach their goal. Should they cling to a 7th or 8th position, they'll make for one curious first round underdog. It just might suit them!
The Maple Leafs are fortunate a light schedule is theirs while injuries are healing. Without the pivotal Sundin leading, and the comfort of Raycroft between the pipes, they have slipped a little with recent back to back lossses. You know all hell will break loose in the Big Smoke should this streak reach deeper into the loss column. The good start they have enjoyed so far is benefitting them in this regard and they have played well under the circumstances of late. What we are seeing happening now, is that opponants are adjusting to how they play the Leafs, and without Sundin to counter, the perspective is simplified. The short term nature of the injuries says that no alarm bells ought to sound off anytime soon.
The Canadiens have had an up and down week, while taking 3 of 5 games in an eight day span. Two spiritless undoings at the hands of the Leafs and Panthers were cause for concern, while wins against Ottawa, Tampa, and Atlanta, were some of the Habs best "team games" so far this season. Not coincidently, goalie Cristobal Huet has returned to form in those three wins while the team played a more relaxed and poised game in front of him. In both the losses, Huet replaced David Aebischer, and looks to have wrangled a steadier turn of starts from the rotating goalie system. Huet has a 6-2-2 record, with a 2.22 GAA and a .931 save percentage, good for 8th and 2nd, respectively in the league.
In the six games since top winger Chris Higgins has been out to injury, Guillaume Latendresse has aquited himself well on the Habs top line for a 19 yr old. With 4 goals and 2 assists in that time, Latendresse has also led the team in scoring chances and hits on most nights.
At the top of the Canadiens scoring list are defenseman Andrei Markov (2-15) and Sheldon Souray (8-8). The oddity due in large part to the Habs power play prowess. Before saturdays game against Atlanta, both the PP and PK ranked 4th in the league. Of prime concern for coach Carbonneau is the teams continuing habit of taking untimely penalties. The coach's constant yapping and laughing behind the bench at the nature of some of the calls is hardly the manner in which to deliver a message to players, no matter how frivolous and unpredictable officiating is becoming.
Career years are the making for such former softies as Dainus Zubrus, Alexander Frolov and the seemingly back in business Alexei Yashin. The Islanders captain has been prodded and pampered by coach Ted Nolan, and it seems to be paying dividends on the .500 team....Will Ken Hitchcock, itching to get back behind a bench, reel in the first nibble and grab the Blue Jackets job. It has been noted by the coach that he has been viewing up to 6 hours of game films per day, keeping up on prospective destinations. A story to follow for sure...Upon Saturday's retiring of Habs great Serge Savard's # 18 jersey, former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers likened the 70's troika of Savard, Guy Lapointe, and Larry Robinson to a team in today's era lining up Pronger, Neidermayer, and Lidstrom on the blueline. An astute comparison despite the era's....In other Habs tribute fallout, a Toronto journalist attempted a splash by suggesting Patrick Roy may have been Leafs bound upon his trade to Colorado. Trouble is, there was nothing to the story except a notion suggested by Roy that he was on a short list of destinations that included Detroit ( confirmed by Scotty Bowman ), Chicago, and Toronto. Leafs GM at the time, Cliff Fletcher stated he has no recollection of taking a call concerning Roy. To add insult to the jounalist's reputation, he goes on to suggest that former Canadien greats would balk at the retirement of Roy's number, claiming that some would ask that theirs be taken down should it happen. He then fumbles all credibility by saying it looks like it will a long time before # 29 gets its day. Precisely, # 29 will be hung this coming January 29th - in honor of one Ken Dryden. Quick, revoke this tools press pass....Look for a mid-season retirement press conference for Jeremy Roenick. He imposed a put up or shut up gag on himself before the season, and has done neither....On the Coyotes subject, all they'd done smartly so far is grab Yannick Perreault from the unemployment line. Very quickly, he is close to leading the team in goals, and will eventually finish out the season as bargain trade deadline pick up....How many teams are kicking themselves in the groin over passing by Dominik Hasek? This cheapest of signings has so far been one of the best....The much despised Sean Avery, who was put on "double secret probation" by LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi in pre-season is responding by being a key player for them so far. Unfortunately, it's done little to alter their outcomes...Why is it Don Cherry gets booed in the House of Commons? He does get a bit too Canadian at times for Quebec stomachs, but this is like Flyers fans booing Santa Claus.
There was some suggestion in Montreal media circles that former Habs GM Rejean Houle was given little choice of accepting the position when president Ron Corey purged all staff and cleaned house in 1995. The always humble and respectful Houle would never say so much, but it looks more and more like Corey was true architect behind a decade of decline in Montreal. Houle was a puppet GM who never pointed a finger, to his credit. Much maligned as he was in the GM's chair, Houle is as decent a person as you'll ever meet. As president of the Habs Oldtimers Association, he has done great work over the years and surely deserved a better fate.