Lil' Jon, P.K. Subban

Your moment of zen: Lil’ Jon hanging with the Montreal Canadiens


Rapper Lil’ Jon was a big time supporter of the Atlanta Thrashers. Being from Atlanta it made it easy to support the home team. Now that the Thrashers have moved to Winnipeg though, he’s taken up with someone new as he was busy hanging with the Montreal Canadiens last night in Montreal.

Considering that Lil’ Jon was even asked about buying the Thrashers last year when the team was desperate to stay in Atlanta shows that he’s at least a big enough hockey fan to care. Seeing Lil’ Jon sipping wine during the game and then later posing with P.K. Subban as well as Rene Bourque shows that it must be nice to be a celebrity.

Now if we can get Lil’ Jon to show up at the NHL Awards sometime with his giant chalice, then we’re talking about a good time.

Montreal Canadiens owner joins Twitter, will soon discover block function

Geoff Molson Twitter

Saying he wants to “connect directly with fans who share my passion for Les Canadiens,” Montreal owner Geoff Molson has joined Twitter.

At first glance, this might not seem like a noteworthy development. There are other NHL owners operating their own Twitter accounts, most notably Washington Capitals boss Ted Leonsis — but the timing of Molson’s Twitter debut is compelling because of the controversy surrounding him and his team.

As you might’ve heard, the hiring of non-bilingual interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth brought heat on the organization. Several French nationalist groups called for a boycott of Molson products — the eponymous brewery makes one of Canada’s most popular beers — while others have blasted Molson for his ham-fisted handling of the situation. Shortly after the Cunneyworth hire, Molson issued a statement saying, “Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.”

In a related story, I believe tire-au-flanc is French for “lame duck.” (There’s also the more literal translation of canard boiteux.)

So now Molson’s on Twitter (@GMolsonCHC), a whopping two days after his GM, Pierre Gauthier, publicly apologized to anyone that was offended by the Cunneyworth hire. Gee, think there’s a PR strategy in play here?

(Image courtesy Twitter.)

You could probably suit up for the Montreal Canadiens at this point

Max Pacioretty Injured

“When it rains, it pours” is a rather tired cliche.

So thank goodness for the Montreal Canadiens, who have spiced up the old line:

“When it rains, it pours…then there’s Montreal, where the deluge takes out half the hockey team.”

The Canadiens will be without six regulars tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes. Andrei Markov, Chris Campoli and Ryan White are all on injured reserve. Scott Gomez got the green light to return to action, but he’ll be a scratch. Andrei Kostitsyn will miss his second straight game with a lower body injury and Mike Cammalleri will also be held out, also with a lower-body injury.

That leaves Montreal with forward lines looking something like this:

Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Mathieu Darche – David Desharnais – Erik Cole
Travis Moen – Lars Eller – Aaron Palushaj
Michael Blunden – Petteri Nokelainen – Yannick Weber

Palushaj was called up from Hamilton of the AHL on Wednesday. Weber is a defensman lining up at forward. Blunden has only played in seven games this year. Yikes.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes have won three of their last four at home, are close to full health and have two of the league’s hottest players in Radim Vrbata (nine points in his last five games) and Mike Smith (6-2-2, 2.36 GAA, .926 save percentage.)

Did we mention Phoenix has also enjoyed a five-day break, having not played since beating Edmonton 4-2 last Saturday?

Three (News) Stars of the Week: Talented teenagers, Montreal Canadiens and Ilya Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov
1 Comment

“Three (News) Stars of the Week” will run every Friday. It’s our way of acknowledging the week’s big NHL stories that gave us lots of page views, thereby increasing PHT’s attractiveness to advertisers.

Third star: A bunch of teenagers who are good at hockey

A number of the top picks from the 2011 draft were under the microscope this week as teams had to decide whether to keep their highly-touted prospects or send them back to junior. Most of the big names survived the cut, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson and Sean Couturier. Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad didn’t make it, so he’s clearly a bust. It will be interesting to see if any of the teams made mistakes keeping their young guys up instead of giving them more time to develop at a lower level. Kyle Turris was rushed into the NHL too soon, and his career’s a mess right now.

Second star: Somebody had to pay for Montreal’s slow start

The Canadiens lost to Florida on Monday at the Bell Center, dropping their record to a disastrous 1-5-2. It was the Habs’ worst start since dinosaurs roamed the earth, so the city was in quite the tizzy. Calls for coach Jacques Martin’s head came from both the fans and media. Sensing this unrest, GM Pierre Gauthier took decisive action and fired assistant coach Perry Pearn. Why he did this isn’t entirely clear. Some have speculated Martin had become too reliant on Pearn’s advice and wasn’t listening to the other people in the organization. Those other people must have had some useful things to say, because as soon as Pearn was gone the Habs started winning.

First star: Ilya Bryzgalov is a basket-case

The Flyers thought they’d finally put their biggest issue to rest this summer when general manager Paul Holmgren signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a huge contract that doesn’t run out for a long, long time. Many long-time hockey watchers considered it a risky move, as the 31-year-old Russian with the peculiar personality boasts no record of playoff success and has never played in a big hockey market like Philadelphia. Bryzgalov started out well with his new team, but he quickly fell on hard times. After a poor performance Wednesday in Montreal, he was forced to come off the bench Thursday against the Jets in relief of back-up Sergei Bobrovsky. Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 10 shots and Winnipeg won 9-8, after which the distraught goalie bared his soul to the media, admitting he had no confidence in himself, saying he was lost in the woods, and generally crumbling in front of our very eyes. Bryzgalov is scheduled to start Saturday in Carolina.

2011-12 season preview: Montreal Canadiens

Henrik Lunqvist; Travis Moen; Roman Hamrlik;

2010-11 record: 44-30-8, 96 points; 2nd in Northeast, 6th in the East.

Playoffs: Lost to Boston 4-3 in Eastern quarterfinals

Sure, they didn’t make it to the Eastern Conference finals like they did in 2010, but the Habs still played over their heads at times last season. That included the guy who took over for one-time hero Jaroslav Halak, as Carey Price showed why Montreal’s front office made the brave decision to side with him and let Halak leave. The Canadiens took the eventual Stanley Cup champions to overtime in Game 7, but Nathan Horton’s goal ended their season in an instant.


The Canadiens scored the lowest amount of goals (216) of any team who made the playoffs. Ultimately, Jacques Martin’s teams don’t get to where they are by blowing their opponents out with staggering offense and there’s little reason to believe that will change this season.

Montreal parted ways with depth players such as Benoit Pouliot and decided to make one splashy move by signing former Hurricanes power forward Erik Cole to a risky contract. Cole brings a nice mix of scoring punch and flat-out punch to a team heavy in ‘finesse’ forwards, but the worry is that he’ll falter without an All-Star center like Eric Staal. (He certainly stumbled in his only experiences outside Carolina with Edmonton.)

That being said, it would be pretty cool to see an ‘All-American’ Canadiens line of Cole, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. Speaking of Gomez, the Habs hope that he will bounce back from a lousy season, even if the chances of Gomez justifying his oft-cited price tag are close to none. It wouldn’t hurt if the team could find a way to motivate Andrei Kostitsyn either – he was in full-on pout mode this offseason.

Max Pacioretty’s attempt to bounce back from that notorious Zdeno Chara hit ranks as one of the potential ‘feel-good’ stories of the season.


The bad news is that Andrei Markov’s knee is still a problem. The good news is that the Habs made the playoffs without him last season, as the underrated Russian defenseman missed all but seven games.

Still, that puts a lot of pressure on a Habs’ defense that lost valuable all-around guy Roman Hamrlik and suddenly expensive scoring blueliner James Wisniewski. That probably means P.K. Subban will shoulder an even greater burden as he increasingly works his way up to being the Canadiens’ ‘go-to-guy’ on the blue line. Such a situation smells a bit like Buffalo resting too much of their hopes on Tyler Myers last season, but we’ll wait and see. (Subban doesn’t lack confidence, for whatever that’s worth.)

On paper, this defense is somewhere between questionable and awful.


Perhaps even more than last season, this campaign will be ‘The Carey Price Show’ in Montreal. He played a stunning 72 games last season, notching 38 wins and an outstanding .923 save percentage. Those numbers might go down a touch because of the declining defense in front of him, although a contract year should give him motivation to plug many of the leaks.

His backup is a slight downgrade. Alex Auld was a steady, if unspectacular backup, while his replacement, Peter Budaj, has had an up-and-mostly-down career with Colorado. Budaj has one benefit though: he’s carried the ball as a top or 1a/1b goalie plenty of times before. He has three seasons with a considerable workload: 57 games played in 2006-07, 56 in 08-09 and 45 last season. Of course, his results were mediocre, but at least Budaj is familiar with that role in case something happens to Price.


Martin isn’t much of a ‘charmer’ – at least when he’s in head coach mode – but he might not get enough credit for yielding strong results with whatever roster is put in front of him. (He probably deserves at least a partial mulligan for failing in Florida, because everyone fails in Florida.)

This season will test Martin’s strategic skills. As mentioned before, that defense looks pretty lousy on paper. It should be interesting to see if he can make it all work.

Breakout candidate

OK, so Subban already ‘broke out’ in a way last season. Still, going from ‘obvious up-and-comer’ to ‘probable All-Star’ ranks as a breakthrough in its own right. With all the problems on Montreal’s blue line, the power play will likely go through Subban’s talented hands. Don’t be surprised if he flirts with 50-plus points and big minutes, as long as he doesn’t get in trouble for his occasional mischievous moments.

Best-case scenario

The Canadiens ride a cushy schedule to a Northeast title as Price earns serious Vezina (maybe even Hart?) Trophy buzz. Martin finds ways to minimize the team’s problems and maximize Subban’s output. Cole clicks with his linemates while Gomez gets his act together. Montreal makes a deep playoff run to shake off whatever Halakian monkey remains on Price’s back.


An easy schedule should help Montreal achieve the usual: squeaking into the playoffs as a seventh or eight seed. Gomez should improve merely based on how awful he was last season. Cole won’t live up to his contract, but might provide a rare physical element. Price will play just as well as last season, although a leakier defense will keep his numbers from completely showing it.

The Habs have a chance to be frisky in the playoffs, but a limited defense and mediocre (if opportunistic) offense will keep their ceiling low. Michael Cammalleri will probably still score a ton of postseason goals, though.