Welcome to the first edition of Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down where throughout the season we'll be focusing on weekly positive and negative notes.
After suffering defeat on opening night the Habs rallied from a 2-1 deficit on road to a 3-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
With the first two games out of the way, the Montreal Canadiens head home in preparation for a clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre this Thursday. This contest will also mark the return of former Hamilton Bulldogs coach and NHL rookie Guy Boucher.
Even though we're only two games into the season, we all know a few question marks have already arisen and many shiny gold stars need to be distributed.
Thumbs up to you, Primetime
Our first thumbs up of the season goes to Montreal top prospect P.K. Subban, my secretary has already mailed out his trophy. That's if you consider a Mae West cake a trophy.
Young Subban looked very impressive in his first two outings with the big club this season, logging in an average of 23 minutes of ice-time, second only to fellow blue liner Josh Gorges.
Him not being on the score sheet at the moment is not really much of a concern as Primetime has set up some plays and felt the wrath of Marc-Andre Fleury's goal post in Pittsburgh. If Jacques Martin keeps using him on a consistent basis in light of Markov and Hamrlik's absences it is almost certain P.K. will be piling up points on the P.P. in the process.
With his name continuously being circled by opposing coaches before the game don't be surprised to see him get heckled a lot more by those pesky little fourth liners throughout the season.
Subban dealt with Mike Comrie's ''accidental'' high stick yesterday by leveling up his game and continuing his strong play against Sidney Crosby. On a side note, please feel free to leave as many remarks about Don Cherry's comments as you'd like.
I for one will remain silent all season when it pertains to Mr. Cherry's Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada. When I want insight, I'll get it from actual Stanley Cup winners, like Bob Hartley and Mario Tremblay for example.
Thumbs up to you, Penalty Kill
Even after being penalized eleven times over the course of two contests, the Canadiens have killed off every opportunity they've given to opposing squads.
Led by the strong play of Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, and Carey Price, the Habs did a great job containing the likes of Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby and Gino Malkin.
Considering one goal separates both games they've played, this department actually deserves two thumbs up as they've assisted in keeping the matches tight and winnable.
Things are only getting harder as the penalty killers are receiving Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Simon Gagne on Wednesday. They've got a lot more shot blocking to look forward to.
Thumbs up to you Michael Cammalleri
After returning from a one game suspension, Montreal's star sniper wasted no time in terms of improving last season's goal tally on Saturday night.
Lighting up the lamp after receiving a nifty little pass from line-mate Tomas Plekanec and deflecting Josh Gorges' shot for the equalizer.
It is without question that the Canadiens are a much more dangerous team whenever Michael Cammalleri is playing. His blazing shot and tremendous hockey sense are a headache for every defensive core across the NHL.
As the season continues, Cammy will have to deal with a lot more irritable players and one can only believe that Ryan White's tenure in Hamilton will be short lived if that starts happening.
Take a look at the embedded video as well, it's Easton's new marketing campaign featuring Mr. Cammalleri and his Jedi Knight stick tricks.
I always knew he had a high percentage of midichlorians flowing through his body, perhaps he is the chosen one that will bring balance to the force? I'd settle for a Stanley Cup, for now at least.
Thumbs up to you, Carey Price
For anyone that's tried it, standing on your head is almost an impossible feat. Your bound to crack your neck or trip over eventually.
It seems like Montreal's number one goaltender Carey Price has mastered that art, at least for this week. He gets a huge Andre The Giant thumbs up for his performance in the opener and especially for his effectiveness against the fiery Penguins.
Price stopped every rebound opportunity and jumped on every possible loose puck he had in front him en route to his first win of the season. Can this possibly be the second coming of Jesus Price?
If he keeps his focus where it needs to be, which is on stopping pucks, there's no limit to what this young man can accomplish.
His efforts will not go unnoticed by Habs fans when he makes his home debut, look for chants of Ca-rey, Ca-rey to resonate across the Bell Centre. Our mantra as Habs supporters should be simple, a confident Carey Price is a dangerous Carey Price.
Let's leave the Boos at home until October 31st okay?
Thumbs down to you, Benoit Pouliot
What's a person's initial reaction when someone is driving up your backside? You inevitably go faster, or simply change lanes.
You would think that Pouliot is feeling a little bit of the heat right now as he has already been a victim of Jacques Martin's line juggling act and Lars Eller's performance on the top line last Thursday.
Being signed to a one year contract means Big Ben cannot afford to miss any opportunities. In a perfect world, a player with Pouliot's talent and size would profit from having Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez as line-mates.
The thumb will remain in the down position until he capitalizes on the openings his teammates will provide for him. Perhaps a trip to the third line would serve him well, let him bang a couple bodies and pick up a few garbage goals to boost his confidence a little.
Thumbs down to you, Power Play
Special teams went 0 for 6 in two very tight games and missed out on scoring goals to would have ultimately made the difference.
A big thumbs down in my book. Being dominant in today's NHL means having a power play that makes you pay for your mistakes.
Here are three adjustments Jacques Martin can make:
- Having Ryan O'Byrne or Travis Moen use their big frames in front of the net.
- Preaching the shot. You can't score if you don't shoot.
- Using Cammalleri at the point. Teams are already defending his shot from the left face-off circle.
The expectations are enormous for the Canadiens in this department having finished second in the league last year with a 21.8 percent ratio.
Get well soon Andrei Markov, you've got a lot of work waiting for you.
Thumbs down to you, Jaroslav Spacek
Any blue liner that is subject to dekes like the one Clark MacArthur laid on Spacek should automatically receive a thumbs down.
There's no place for a flatfooted D-man in the new NHL, the action is fast and furious and unfortunately for an aging Spacek, he no longer is.
When faced with adversity it is no secret that going back to the drawing board is a tried and true tactic. In Spacek's case, the drawing board being the treadmill.
Getting back to the basics is currently key for Spacek, making the simple play should be his modus operandi.
Worst thing is, his cap hit is currently at $3.83 million for this season and the next one.
That's it for this week's edition, folks!
Goodnight and Godspeed.