Game Preview: St. Louis Blues vs Montreal Canadiens (#74)



    The Canadiens will be looking to continue their winning ways tomorrow night against the road warriors or should I say road “weary” St. Louis Blues who will be playing their seventh game of nine road games. The extended road trip is courtesy of the Scottrade Center arena being solidly booked with High School Musical On Ice, NCAA wrestling and basketball. I wouldn’t be terribly pleased if I was the Blues management (Hello John Davidson!!) and had to go on a long, extended road trip during a very critical time of the season.

    The Blues are currently 0-5-1 on this present road trip from hell and have been outscored 28-12. To make matters worse, they are a miserable 1-10-2 in their last 13 games and have realistically fallen out of playoff contention in the Western Conference with only 69 points (they are presently 13 points out of 8th place).

    Like the New York Islanders, the St. Louis Blues have a hard time generating offense and are currently tied with the Islanders for the least goals scored in the league (176). Beyond Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya, Keith Tkachuk and Andy McDonald, there isn’t a lot of scoring prowess on the Blues roster.

    With all that being said, Guy Carbonneau will likely be reminding his players (as he probably did with the Islanders, I’m sure) that the Blues shouldn’t be taken for granted as any NHL team can rise to the occasion and beat another team especially in an electric atmosphere like the Bell Centre.

    As far as the Canadiens are concerned, Guy Carbonneau has announced he will stick with the same winning lineup that gave the Canadiens a 3-0 victory over the Islanders. That means Jaroslav Halak will get a second consecutive start tomorrow night against the Blues. Halak is on a roll at the Bell Centre with an unblemished 8-0 record. He has looked very sharp in his two starts (plus one period each against the Rangers and the Hurricane) and has only given up three goals on 86 shots over that time (a sparkling .965 save percentage and 1.13 GA……granted it’s not quite 3 full games). The great thing about Price and Halak is that they are hybrid style goaltenders who handle the puck extremely well. They seem unfazed and oblivious to the incredible pressure and at times, burden that goes with being a Montreal Canadiens goalie……without a doubt, the toughest NHL job in hockey.

    Like many Habs fans, I was a bit surprised that Carbonneau gave Halak another start so quickly but let’s face it, trying to predict Guy Carbonneau’s lineup changes and/or lack of changes, is like trying to figure out your girlfriend’s or wife’s spending habits………they’re unpredictable, frequent and always leave you frustrated in the end!!!!

    It would appear that Patrice Brisebois will get another start as well which is ashamed because Ryan O’Byrne won’t get any better sitting in the press box. I understand that the coach wants to keep everybody fresh but Brisebois’ due date expired a couple of years ago.

    Dr. Carbo’s chemistry experiment with the forwards will continue with the Higgins/Grabovski/Kostitsyn line remaining intact against the Blues. I thought the line started off slowly against the Islanders but gradually showed some signs of life as the game progressed. In the third period, they displayed a lot of speed which the Islanders had trouble containing and handled the puck well.

    With or without Dr. Carbo’s chemistry set, the Canadiens need to continue their winning ways especially against an inferior opponnent like the St. Louis Blues. Nothing should be taken for granted and hopefully the coaching staff will emphasize the importance of hard work, something the Habs have done most of the season.