Sunday February 25 6:30 PM
Just came into the office to pick up my bag of tricks, logged on to check some e-mail, and arriving in my Inbox almost simultaneously was a message from The Canadiens that they had traded Craig Rivet to San Jose for Josh Gorges and a first round draft choice next June. This marks the second time a Habs GM has acquired a defenseman named Josh (what-you don't remember Josh DeWolf?)I like Craig Rivet very much. He's the ultimate team player. Clearly not as important on the ice as Andrei Markov and Sheldon Souray. But important nonetheless. More valuable than Francis Boullion. Yes, Bouillion gives you a lot, can skate well, plays bigger than his size, etc. But I'll take Rivet. Bouillion was awful saturday on Long Island. He was knocked off the puck early by Victor Kozlov and played jittery in his own end the rest of the afternoon. Even though he doesn't back down from anybody Bouillion is often seperated from the puck by opposing forwards. While Rivet lacks Bouillion's mobility, and as much as he struggled this season, he's been much more reliable in his own end. And has been more effective on the point on the second power play unit.
The Canadiens will receive a low first round pick and a young NHL ready defenseman for a player who wasn't in their plans. On the surface a good deal for Gainey. But while Atlanta gets Alexei Zhitnik and Keith Tkaczuk, Carolina picks up Anson Carter, the Penguins apparently ready to move on Georges Laracque, the Rangers earlier acquring Sean Avery and Pascal Dupuis and the Islanders recent acquisition of Marc Andre Bergeron makes you wonder if last Thursday's improbable comeback win in Nashville has Gainey re-examing his priorities. Maybe he needs an additional first round pick to eventually deal one in return for an impact type rent-a-player. If not, I can guarantee you that the veterans in the room will be looking at each other wondering if the front office has packed it in.
The victory in Nashville wasn't completely wiped out by the loss to the Islanders but the eastern conference match up had a lot more on the line. Don't sell the Islanders short. They've been a strong five on five team all season. Ted Nolan's record speaks for itself. Weak on the power play, especially without Alexei Yashin, they improved it with the acquisition of Bergeron. Now, after a slow start following his 15 year contract signing Rick DiPietro is playing as well as any goaltender in the east not named Martin Brodeur.
As I was saying in my last post, the Canadiens were looking for a spark from an unexpected source and Jaroslav Halak and Andrei Kostitsyn have supplied it since their arrival from Hamilton. And clearly Michael Ryder and Sergei Samsanov have look more dangerous offensively rather than just offensive. Is it now David Aebischer's turn?
I love the way Halak has looked in the four games he's played. True, he'd love the Jason Blake backhander back, but more than made up for it with several terrific saves the rest of the game. Aebischer getting the start against Toronto surprises me. He better be good. The Canadiens play their following five games on the road. In New York against the Rangers, in Buffalo, in Boston, in Atlanta and in St Louis prior to returning home against...the Islanders.
Coming up in the next day or two a complete wrap up of the first ever Team 990 Sports Personality of the Year luncheon friday at Place D'armes hotel. Saku Koivu was the overwhelming choice-as voted on by listeners-as personality of the year.
Favorite Habs from Craig Rivet's NHL debut (1994-95):
1. Mike Keane
2. Lyle Odelein
3. Turner Stevenson
4. Mark Recchi
5. Patrick Roy