Sunday, February 24, 2008

Perhaps a gold watch and a handshake next time

Nobody in the NHL puts on a pre game ceremony like the Montreal Canadiens; they do it up right as they say. An event that provides the required pomp and ceremony befitting one of hockey’s oldest and most respected franchises.

Saturday night they saluted long time captain and current GM Bob Gainey with a sweater retirement that left few dry eyes in the house. With old friends Guy Carbonneau and Doug Jarvis with him and his family by his side, Gainey basked in the applause of the Bell Centre crowd and watched as his number was raised to the roof, forever to be enshrined in Montreal lore.

It was a ceremony that would surely motivate any player to follow Gainey’s lead of hard work and dedication. However, on Saturday one team apparently took the lesson to heart more than the other and it wasn’t the home squad.

The Columbus Blue Jackets with their young phenom from Montreal, Pascal Leclair in the nets played party crashers on Saturday with a solid 3-0 victory over the still in commemoration mode Habs.

The Blue Jackets were the ones with the jump, the ones quick to the net and the ones that went into the corners to pull a puck out, much like a younger Bob Gainey would do for the rouge, bleu et blanc for so many years.

The current crop of Habs must have still been trying to comprehend all of that history, for they seemed lost when the time came to take to the ice. Leaving the home crowd destined to be disappointed that the feel good aura of the pre game wouldn't be a lasting effect by the time came to go home arrived.

The story on the night, other than the well deserved honours for Gainey was the play of Lecalir. Who turned aside 31 shots for his first shut out in Montreal, achieved in his first game ever back home. He was the difference in the game, as his Blue Jacket compatriots bottled up the Habs making his work appear effortless.

With the win Leclair picked up his ninth shut out of the year, a league leading total that bodes well for future success for the Blue Jackets

Canadiens Head coach Guy Carbonneau was disappointed that his team couldn’t provide their boss with a win to go with the glow of the night, but as the game wore on Carbonneau could be seen quite frustrated at the state of his teams play.

They far too frequently gave the puck away or were caught out of position, a lack of focus that has continued for two consecutive games now and has reared its head over the las couple of weeks.

Montreal had been flirting with overtaking the Senators for first in the east the last few games, but with a couple of losses on their end and Ottawa returning to form to degree the space is growing again between the two rivals on the 417.

Montreal will try to get back on track on Monday night when they play in; they owe their GM an IOU for Saturday night, after providing such a downer to what had been such a grand occasion.

Gainey might be content if they find some of that passion that they had only a week ago, when they appeared to be believers that they were ready to not only compete but dominate.

Somewhere on the NHL network this week there may be some old footage of Gainey during his playing days, the current crop of Habs could do a lot worse than sitting down and watching a few minutes to see how to regain that intensity and the zeal to do whatever it takes to win.
Montreal Gazette--Canadiens blanked
Dallas Morning News--Bob Gainey is pure class

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