Rumours of Rumours
Bruce Garrioch at the Toronto Sun serves up a boatload of post-deadline scuttlebutt. It may or may not be true, but either way it's fun. Items of note: Huet had the Caps at hello, they'll re-sign him this summer and cut ties with Kolzig; Alex Tanguay was willing to go to Montreal, but Daryll Sutter wanted more than Gainey would offer; Hossa is a good bet to sign with the Bruins this summer, being best pals with Zdeno Chara, so it's lucky Montreal didn't spend a lot to rent him; and finally, the Habs called Chicago to inquire about Martin Havlat, apparently out of a desire to hook him up with Marian Hossa on an all-new top line. Now that's juicy.
Future is Now?
It's a little jarring to see Carey Price on the cover of The Hockey News's Future Watch issue, ranked as the number one prospect in hockey. Jarring, I say, because last time I checked, Carey Price was not a prospect at all, but was in fact the Montreal Canadiens' starting goalie! That must mean that the future ... has arrived. I look forward to enjoying Canadiens games on my Holodeck, eating nutritional capsules, using the Force, and flying to work with my jet-pack on my back. If Price's recent play is any indication, the future rocks.
ESPN: Predictions Redux
In an article that looks at this season's unexpected events, ESPN online heralds the Canadiens' number-one status with wonderment, saying, "Before the season, if you had said the Montreal Canadiens were the best team in the Eastern Conference, most people would have called you crazy." Most people, including ESPN, it hardly needs to be added. They go on to add that Carey Price is "making Bob Gainey look like a genius for trading away Cristobal Huet."
Wicked Sticks of the East
The Montreal Canadiens became the top team in the Eastern Conference (for however long it lasts) the hard way: they took it away from the team that had it. An impressive feat for a team that was largely written off before the season got underway, even more impressive considering that the game that earned them their current heady status came against nemesis Marty Brodeur and his New Jersey Devils.
So how have they done it? Mike Boone of Habs Inside Out is right on the money: "Here's my one-word explanation: Youth ... In a salary cap league where you can't throw money at your mistakes, scouting and player development are the keys to success. Chapeau to Trevor Timmins and his staff. And bravo to Bob Gainey, who has doggedly stuck to a team-building plan that is ahead of schedule." Well said.
It is indeed all about the young players: the Habs would be nowhere without them. But the guy who coached a lot of them in Hamilton - Don Lever - should also come in for some praise. Just look at how a little time with the Bulldogs has turned around the season of Mikhail Grabovski, or at how easily Ryan O'Byrne has made the transition to the NHL.
And while we're praising coaches, how about a little love for Guy Carbonneau? The much-maligned (online at least) Montreal coach, ridiculed for juggling his lines and goaltenders, has moulded this raw collection of hockey prospects into fledgling contenders. He's learned patience with the refs and has proven that's he's open-minded enough to admit when he was wrong and learn from his mistakes. He's a smart guy, a scholar of the game, and the NHL's best new coach.
Sunshine & Rainbows
It's all coming up roses at the Gazette. Red Fisher is happy to be wrong about predicting that the Canadiens would squeak into the playoffs at number seven, which was a wildly optimistic prediction when it was made last fall. As he points out, the Habs have been successful because all the pre-season question marks - goaltending, development of the young players, the fate of the power-play after Souray, Kovalev, Carbonneau's maturation as a coach - have all had positive answers. Everything has broken their way this year, a run of good luck they've earned after a decade of futility. Elsewhere in the Gazette, Pat Hickey reports on the game, singling out Carey Price as the hero (with an assist from the ever-more dangerous Andrei Kostitsyn), while Kevin Mio talks to Josh Gorges (aka Mike Boone's Man) about solidifying his place on the team's top six defencemen.