Kovalev-AK...a...The Grinch?

2009 - 2010 or How Montreal Fans Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Smurfs...

I will take this opportunity to give my take on the Habs past season for two reasons; one for the simple fact that Fansided was missing a Habs entry  and two, this affords me an opportunity to paint my opinions on a blank canvas and allow readers an insight into my train of thought before we enter a new season.

Following a disastrous 2008-2009 campaign – Bob Gainey dismantled the team and replaced the likes of Koivu,Kovalev,Higgins and Komasarek with Brian Gionta,Scott Gomez,Mike Cammalleri and Hal Gill.Everyday fans were up in arms over their departures while ‘true’ hockey fans knew that something had to be done.Les ‘Femmes Fatales’ in The Bell Center were especially upset over the departure of Kovalev or “Kovy” as he was so affectionately known.When the star player of The Montreal Canadiens is an underachieving Russian that spends the majority of his time wandering the rafters in the true form of Bill (The Spaceman) Lee …the franchise that gave us Richard, Beliveau and Lafleur is most definitely in trouble.

Not since the days of the infamous ‘Smurf’ line which consisted of Oleg Petrov,Valeri Bure and Saku Koivu did the Canadiens  faithful require a magnifying glass to observe their beloved Habitants

Smurfs On Ice

Gionta – 5’7″, Gomez – 5’11” and Camalleri-5’9″ were chastised by the fans and media before they had removed their collective skate guards.Even the presence of 6’7″ Hal Gill could not silence the natives.

The season began and The Habs iced a team of question marks. New coach in Jacques Martin, a Smurf line – the sequel,a battle for the starting goalie position and what the dynamics of seven new additions would bring in and outside the dressing room.The only sure thing was defense man Andrei Markov and being a team kinda guy – added to the question marks by allowing A Maple Leaf of all people, to skate on his leg and slice up his Achilles Tendon in the first game of the regular season.As Gainey said;”Let them play before you judge them!” Geez Bob – will they play?

Another One Bites the Dust

Price played well but Halak played consistent so the latter was handed the starting position just after Christmas although Jaques Martin would not agree with that statement as he refused to anoint either one his starting goalie..The team won a few,then lost a few and so the season went.Just when it appeared that everyone was starting to acquaint themselves with one another’s underwear color – one by one they started  to fall.Gionta who was the team’s most consistent player was lost for 20 games.Then Gomez joined his Devlish buddy in the infirmary. Andrei Kostistyn, a lone Russian/Belarusian with the absence of his brother Sergei and Markov – decided that his most prolific period with The Habs was enough and joined his fallen ‘Comrades’ at the clinic.Paul Mara, another off-season pickup, injured his shoulder during one of his ‘every two game’ shifts and was gone for the season.Jacques Martin must have wanted out of Dodge when he learned that the team’s leading scorer – Mike Cammalleri was lost with a knee injury but luckily for Jacques , Gainey acquired defense man Bergeron along with his powerful slapshot and that  enabled a struggling powerplay to win hockey games.

Slowly the team added players from sick bay and we started to get a glimpse of what this team could do.The battle for the number one goaltender’s job only enhanced Halak’s play and at the same time – forced Carey Price to mature while on the bench.As the season neared an ending, the team seemed destined to either miss the playoffs by a point or gain a slim entry.If not for the courage of this fearless crew…the S.S. Canadiens would be lost. If the on ice organization had remained healthy the entire season, a total of at least ten points would have been added and the Habs would have finished fifth in the conference or even higher as the team would have found some confidence just passed Christmas.

A Christmas Gift...?

Speaking of which…those who indulged in too much EggNog during the festive holiday season awoke to a surprise.Bob Gainey, the team’s G.M resigned his post and Pierre Gauthier took command of Bob’s team.Given the standing of the team at that point – the fans were not sure to take Gainey’s departure as a gift or to be sad that he was gone after bringing the organization from the brink of embarrassment,to the top of the Conference and back somewhere in the middle.Time will tell.

Gauthier’s team caught the playoffs just as it entered April and was pitted against the mighty Ovechkin and the first place Caps.Halak stood on his head, the team shut down Washington’s four players and just like that…they were playing the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Habs beat the Pens for three  reasons – Halak,Camarelli and Hal Gill.The Habitants’ goaltender made the big saves when he had to, Hal Gill wrapped everything around Sid the ‘Crybaby Kid’ and his partner in ‘cryin’ Malkin. Cammalleri, Montreal’s best sniper since Stephane Richer along with Gomez and Gionta provided the goals and voila!The Habs were headed to Broad Street to take on the Flyers and their castaway goal-tending hero – Micheal Leighton.

The Flyers came back from an 0 – 3 defecit to upset the Bruins and everyone in Montreal was convinced that the Habs would prevail as long as they shot on goal. Les Habitants, especially Pouliot, Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn did not get the memo.Not only did they not shoot at Leighton, they did not shoot against the boards – they did not shoot against Halak in warm-up and I don’t think they even took any shots at the neighborhood bar.Leighton was/is a career minor leakier who could not stick with a team if you placed Velcro on his head and bounced him on the bed toward an astro turf ceiling.The Flyers won the series with relative ease as Mr.Leighton recorded three shut -outs against a placid Montreal offense.

Duck Michael-Duck!

All in all it was a play-off series that will live forever in the memories of  Habs faithful. Halak joined Dryden ,Penney and Roy in the ‘best goal-tending performance by a newcomer’ category and ‘The Smurfs’ made every fan forget their beloved ‘Kovy’. In fact if Kovalev is  The Grinch then let us hope that he was flying his plane overhead during the Habs playoff run and that he heard  a Who. If he stopped and listened , he would have realized that the Who in question was Brian Gionta and maybe, just maybe – Kovalev’s heart grew ten times that day…

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