News for Saturday, December 29th

Pat Hickey reports on the Habs' 5-1 win over the Panthers last night. He credits Chris Higgins for doing what no-one else has been able to do for the last six weeks: get Michael Ryder on the scoresheet. Ryder finished off a tic-tac-toe play after a quick, cross-crease pass from Higgins in the first period. Hickey also gets Jacques Martin to explain what he was thinking when he started Vokoun, pulled him, put him back in, then pulled him again: "I took him out to shake things," he said. It didn't work.

The Palm Beach Post covers the game from the Florida side. The article notes that about half of the crowd cheered for the Habs against the home team, and it sounded like it was the louder half. "We didn't give them any reason to cheer us," Jacques Martin reasons. He blames lack of effort for the loss, calling out Jozef Stumpel and Branislav Mezei specifically. He lets goalie Tomas Vokoun - beaten on his first three shots against - off the hook, saying that the Panthers never gave him a chance: "the goalie is not there to cover for [your mistakes]". Vokoun also is unhappy with the effort in front of him: "This isn't figure skating," he complains, and indeed, those little skating skirts the ladies wear provide better coverage than the Panthers provided last night. The Panthers gooned it up when it got out of hand, but Martin doesn't really comment: "At least it shows he cares," he said of Bryan Allen's triple-roughing tantrum. Well, I think it was pretty bush-league, Jacques.

For your private schadenfreude I pass along without comment this Globe and Mail piece on the crapness of the Leafs. Okay, a few comments: Dave Shoalts bemoans the fact that the Leafs - just four points behind Montreal as of yesterday, six now - blew a chance over the past couple of weeks to climb in the standings. He think they should've won a couple more with their improved defense. Hey, cry us a river, Dave.

In La Presse, Robert Laflamme discusses the improvement of two local favourites: Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre. Before, he notes, all anyone said about the young forward was how slow he was. Now, with 11 goals in just 34 games, no-one's complaining anymore. Guillaume is especially pleased with the fact that 10 of his goals have been scored at even strength, and as Laflamme notes, Latendresse's contributions are a big reason why the Habs are +1 overall at 5-on-5.

Also in La Presse: tired of Carbo's incessant line-juggling? Well, fret no more. According to Robert Laflamme, Carbo "believes he has found the right combinations at last." With 2 wins and 10 goals in the last two games, you can understand his satisfaction. Of course, the cynics out there might suggest that Carbo's faith in his current lines will last about as long as the first bad shift one of them takes, and they'd probably be right.

Finally La Presse reports that Ryan O'Byrne is out indefinitely after hurting himself in one of his fights last night. Now there's some bad news, as O'Byrne was starting to play some good, physical hockey for the Habs.

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