MONTREAL, QC. — Sunday seems like a decade ago. Since I sat with Arpon Basu to discuss the Habs training camp, a whirlwind of events have occurred throughout the NHL. Brendan Shanahan has laid down his inaugural rulings with suspensions, the defending Stanley Cup champions have taken to the ice to display their new mettle, and the world of hockey has taken moments of silence to celebrate the lives that were lost during one of the most horrendous summers in NHL history.
Here in Montreal, we’ve witnessed two pre-season matches, both which have ended in losses for le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge. But more than anything else, a picture is emerging as to how this team may look running deep into the coming season.
Less than seven days ago, Arpon and I talked about the re-emergence of Scott Gomez. He hasn’t been part of a single pre-season game thus far (due to a shoulder injury), but his promise of off-season fitness training appears to have paid off. He looked great in training camp during the medical wind sprints, and is one of three stand-outs (Spacek and Kostitsyn included) that look “Jacked Out” for the coming year. Apparently Gomez will be ready to go against Ottawa on Friday, which will give the world at large a chance to see his new game.
There was talk about Pacioretty and the hit that he took from Yemelin in the scrimmages. But despite the fact that Pacioretty may have taken a questionable hit from the new defenseman, watching him on ice last night versus the Buffalo Sabres made me realize beyond a doubt that number 67 has secured himself a top six position.
Max Pacioretty has the right “mental make-up” according to Basu. He displayed it last year after his rib injury, taking the next practice in front of the net to tip pucks. Even at the Canadiens golf tournament this season, he told Arpon that he wants to get hit because “he needs to feel it” in order to be game ready come October 6.
Palushaj was a topic of discussion as well, and it was voiced that this needs to be a break out year for him. Up until now he could be seen as a “tweener”, but I don’t think that his pre-season game play has set him up to be a breakout player. Perhaps in Hamilton he will shine more, but he clearly doesn’t have his NHL game ready.
In order for Les Boys to have a successful year, Arpon believes there is a list of “if’s” that must come to fruition. Among them are Markov being healthy, Price having an equally successful year, Gomez stepping up his game, P.K. Subban avoiding the “Sophomore Slump”, Eller being prepared, Desharnais’ capability to play a full 82 games, Erik Cole being a good fit, and above all – the whole team remaining healthy.
Looking back on our chat together, and having the ability to evaluate two preseason matches after that talk, I’ll give these thoughts.
Yemelin and Cole look both powerful and intriguing. There is no doubt in my mind that they have securely proven they belong on the roster. There have not been many rookies that have shown they’re ready for the AHL, never mind the NHL. Price was much softer in his debut than Peter Budaj. It doesn’t scare me one bit, but it’s a fair assessment. Price knows he’s the man in Montreal and no one should be assessing his game based on Tuesday night, but I have to say that Budaj was impressive.
Pacioretty made his debut back on the ice in our second pre-season game, and played like it was the regular season. Anyone who questions if he’s ready for a top six position on this team this year has to seriously examine their “little grey cells”. His play with Gionta was exemplary, and proof that he’s ready to take over where he left off last year – being a force to be reckoned with. With the addition of Erik Cole, who clearly seems to gel thus far with his fellow players, Montreal may have a top six that can be extremely damaging.
Standout on Tuesday night was Martin’s trust in allowing rookie Nathan Beaulieu to play a whopping 27 minutes. Considering he looked lost and slow during the first twenty minutes of play, I was surprised that the head coach decided to give him so much time-on-ice leeway. In the end it paid off as Beaulieu managed to secure an assist on Subbans’ powerful wrister, and clearly upping his game over the last forty minutes.
At the end of the day, I like Arpon’s take on this team. I appreciate his thoughts on Engqvist, the possibilities of the fourth line, and how crowded the rookies made it in training camp this year.
October 6th draws closer, and there will be many cuts between now and then. But training camp and pre-season play has proven something. The talent of the Habs runs deep, for this year and many years to come.
Please enjoy the second audio segment in the player below.
About the Author (Author Profile)Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.
Sites That Link to this Post
- GameDay: Bruins vs Habs Lineup, Injuries, Sophomore Slump | All Habs | October 29, 2011