Montreal Canadiens 2008 Year In Review
With so many ups and downs in 2008, the Canadiens seem to have surprised many in the hockey world. Not only was it the rise to the top in the Eastern Conference or the parallel rise of Carey Price to the starting goaltender for the Habs, but it was the revival in Montreal that occurred that have made fans of le bleu, blanc, et rogue even more in love with their team and its players.
Here now, is the 2008 Montreal Canadiens Year In Review.
In Cristobal We Trust
After splitting much of the goal with Carey Price for the first half of the season, Cristobal Huet seems to be the uncontested No. 1 goalie in Montreal after Price is assigned to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL after a 5-4 OT loss on January 5th.
During the month of January, Huet would rattle off an impressive 8-2-1 record with a 2.36 GAA and a .906 SV% with one shutout.
Markov Makes His Mark
Andrei Markov ventured into his first career NHL All-Star game in late January. Markov's steady play on the Habs blueline earned him a starting position on the Eastern Conference's blueline, paired with Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Up to the point of the All-Star break, Markov had notted 11 goals and added 23 assists, to be among the leaders in defensemen in scoring.
Markov made his mark during the game scoring a goal 9:43 into the first frame.
On February 19, 2008, the Canadiens welcomed the New York Rangers to town on a cold, snowy day. Carey Price had just been recalled from Hamilton earlier in the month and had been playing well, winning his last three starts, only letting in four goals and having one shutout in those games.
However, the Rangers got to Price early and often. Price's night was done 14 minutes into the first frame after allowing goals by Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery, and Brendan Shanahan. Price only stopped 8-of-11 shots.
Cristobal Huet replaced Price and didn't fare any better as Shanahan would notch his second of the game and Chris Drury would put the Rangers up 5-0 only 5:03 into the second period.
Cue the comeback. Only three minutes after Drury's made it 5-0, Michael Ryder, the former 30-goal man, notched his 10th of the season and added his 11th over four minutes later to make it a game. The teams went into the second intermission with the score 5-2.
Only 6:43 into the third frame, Alex Kovalev notched his 28th which was followed immediately off the faceoff by Mark Streit's goal that put the Canadiens right back into the thick of it.
With time winding down and Rangers defenseman Marek Malik in the penalty box for hooking, Alex Kovalev put home his 29th to tie the game 5-5 and send the game into overtime and the Bell Centre faithful into a frenzy.
After a flurry of action that resulted in nothing in overtime, Cristobal Huet denied Shanahan and Drury. Combined with a Saku Koivu goal on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and a final penalty shot miss by Jaromir Jagr, the Canadiens completed the most amazing comeback in franchise history, winning 6-5.
The Price Is Right In Montreal
On February 26, 2008, Bob Gainey pulled a bold and unexpected move trading away veteran No. 1 goaltender Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals in return for a second-round draft choice in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
The move, done just at the NHL trade deadline, shocks the hockey world and many in Habs nation. With the move, Bob Gainey entrusts the No. 1 position to rookie goalie Carey Price, who rewards Gainey with a 26 save performance in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers that night.
The move paid off as Price would go 12-3-0 with a 2.13 GAA and a .937 SV% as the Canadiens went on a late season tear to the top of the conference.
And all with a rookie goalie.
Already having 6 wins over their rivals the Boston Bruins under their belt from the first half of the season, the Canadiens continued their dominance over their divisional rival in the late stages of the 2007-08 campaign.
After defeating the Bruins in January 5-2 on January 10th and then 8-2 on January 22nd, the Canadiens took to the Bruins again as Alex Kovalev stunned the Bruins on March 20th, netting two goals and an assist in great style.
Perhaps the slickest move of the season as he spun around Bruins defender Zdeno Chara and slipped the puck past Boston netminder Tim Thomas through the five-hole.
The Canadiens would go on to sweep the season series, going 8-0 against the Bruins defeated them 4-2 in their own barn and then sending them packing two nights later 3-2 at the Bell Centre.
The domination of the Bruins would go on to a 12-game streak during the regular season, which was recently snapped.
Canadiens Enter The Second Season
With high hopes and expectations of being the first seed in the East, the Canadiens met their bitter rivals from Boston once again. Many thought because of the sheer domination by the Canadiens over the Bruins in the regular season, the Canadiens were easy favourites to win in five or even sweep.
Game One started out rough for the Bruins as the Canadiens scored only 34 seconds into the series and would score again two minutes later. The score ended 4-1.
Game Two offered more of a tight checking game in which the Bruins started to slow down the high-octane Habs offense. But the Habs got the last laugh as Alex Kovalev notched the overtime winner, going from potential goat to hero, as the Habs took a 2-0 series lead.
Game Three was rocking in Boston as the Bruins fed off their hometown crowd's enthusiasm all game long. Marc Savard would score the eventual winner in overtime with his first post-season goal.
Game Four was crucial and was yet another tight checking affair as the Canadiens squeaked out a 1-0 victory in Beantown. Price would make 27 saves and Patrice Brisebois' powerplay goal in the second held up for the 3-1 series lead.
Game Five and Price's goof in net cost the Canadiens the game and almost the series. Boston gains momentum and rolls to a 5-1 win with four third period goals, going 2-for-5 on the powerplay.
Game Six was back in Boston and there was no mercy for the Habs this night as the Bruins held on to take the series to seven thanks to Phil Kessel's dangles and heroics.
Game Seven, the game that no one thought would be played, panned out just right for the Habs. A lucky break helped the Canadiens go on top as Mike Komisarek's point shot deflected off Vladimir Sobotka's stick and past Thomas and in.
The Habs never looked back as they destroyed the Bruins 5-0 and take the series 4-3.
Canadiens Meet The Flyers
In a series between two teams pushed to the limit in Round One, the Flyers and Canadiens met up yet again in the playoffs.
Game One featured two sluggish slow teams just coming off Game Seven wins against tough teams. Philly takes the early lead and with help from a Mike Richards penalty and a broken stick in Jeff Carter's hand off the draw, Alex Kovalev ties the game with under 30 seconds left.
With only 48 seconds gone in overtime, Tom Kostopolous nets his 3rd of the playoffs and the Habs take Game One.
Game Two went south for the Habs as RJ Umberger became the Hab killer, scoring his 3rd and 4th goals of the postseason in a 4-2 Flyers win.
Game Three and the Flyers would take control in the second with three goals. The Canadiens mount a comeback that is too little, too late, Flyers win 3-2.
Game Four and head coach Guy Carbonneau makes a bold move putting in backup netminder Jaroslav Halak in for the fatigued Carey Price. The gamble seems to pay off as the Habs tie the game with seven minutes left until Daniel Briere nots his 8th of the postseason and RJ Umberger adds an empty netter and the Flyers take it 4-2.
Game Five and it's do-or-die for the Habs in their own buildling. A high scoring affair has the Habs tying the game two minutes into the final frame before Scottie Upshall nets the winner on a high redirect and Mike Knuble adds an empty netter to end the Canadiens season.
RJ Umberger would score 10 goals in the post-season, 8 of them against Montreal.
No Mats...No Problem
Even with rumours of Mats Sundin possibly coming to Montreal linger in the air, Bob Gainey finds the right man who will make up his mind. Gainey trades for veteran centreman Robert Lang.
Lang, a perennial 20-goal scorer, adds leadership, size, and experience to the young Canadiens lineup.
Welcome Home Alex Tanguay
After rumours of a possible Kovalev-Tanguay deal during the 2007-08 season, Bob Gainey deals the 25th overall pick in the 2008 draft to the Calgary Flames for the playmaking winger Alex Tanguay.
Tanguay adds depth and a Stanley Cup ring to the roster as well as being one of the top playmakers in the NHL.
Let's Celebrate - Centennial Season
Coming into their centennial season, the hype starts as training camp begins and the newest faces arrive. In addition to the arrivals of Tanguay and Lang, Gainey signs tough guy Georges Laraque, a Quebec native, to toughen up the Habs lineup.
The Canadiens had been granted both the 2009 All-Star Game and the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in celebration of their 100th season. The Canadiens start the season off with a bang—rattling off a 7-1-1 mark in October, including a 6-1 drubbing of their most fierce rivals —the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 11th.
The Injury Bug Bites Again
The injury woes begin for the Canadiens at the start of November as Mike Komisarek injures his shoulder in a fight with Boston Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic on November 13th.
The game would be a blowout for Boston as they snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Canadiens in the regular season winning 6-1 and putting Komisarek out of commission for over a month.
The next to fall are Chris Higgins, Mathieu Dandenault, Saku Koivu, and Carey Price.
Happy 99th Les Habitants!
On their 99th birthday, the Canadiens put in an extraordinary effort as six different players score for the Canadiens in a 6-2 win over their Original Six rivals the New York Rangers, including a two-point night for rookie Matt D'Agostini, Maxim Lapierre, Georges Laraque, Andrei Markov, and Steve Begin
Looking Towards 2009
As the Canadiens lumbered through December with a 5-3-2 record up until the Christmas break, looking towards 2009 seems to be bright.
With the imminent return of Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins in the new year, the Canadiens are already on pace to match last years totals, already bypassing last years mark at this time.
With a southern Florida road swing up-and-coming, the Canadiens hope that Santa will bring them the present they've been wanting for the last fifteen years - a 25th Stanley Cup.