With the puck set to drop on the 2010-11 NHL season tomorrow night, teams, players, fans, and owners are taking in a deep breath of positivity.
And why not?
I mean, until the games start and the points start to rack up, every team, in theory, has a chance to have a great season.
The Montreal Canadiens are no exception to this rule, as the collective excitement of their fans can be felt reverberating in the far reaches of the globe. Just jump on to Twitter for an hour and you’ll see, first hand, how everyone is looking forward to a great season.
Coming off of a great and unexpected playoff run last year, it seems logical for fans to be upbeat too, despite certain holes and weaknesses in the current team. But, like Mike Boone from the Gazette, I am not here to talk about the negatives, but to turn the spotlight onto the areas of hope and ask the questions that we are all wondering.
Game 1: Montreal @ Toronto
The Canadiens kick off their season in Toronto tomorrow night against the Maple Leafs. It is always a highly emotional affair when these two teams clash, but being the season opener for both teams—and the home opener for the Leafs—means that the insanity will be at a fever pitch.
The Canadiens will start the season without their prized sniper, Michael Cammalleri, as he serves his one-game suspension for his preseason slash on the Islanders Nino Neiderreiter. Taking his spot in the lineup will be rookie Lars Eller—the key player acquired in the Jaroslav Halak trade.
While Eller is a natural center, he didn’t look out of place playing on the wing with Tomas Plekanec during training camp. This new assignment will only last until Cammalleri is back on Saturday night, but it is an opportunity for the youngster to make his mark and show what he can do in the top-six.
In other news, the Habs put both Alex Henry and Curtis Sanford on waivers yesterday. The Henry move means that Roman Hamrlik will be ready to suit up versus Toronto tomorrow night.
I have to say that given the opponent tomorrow, Henry might have been a good addition to the lineup. His combination of strength, toughness, and nastiness would be the perfect antidote to what is sure to be a rough and tumble Toronto squad. As for Sanford, it is unlikely that he will be claimed, and should play another season in Hamilton while providing a little security for the big club in Montreal.
Jacques Martin must announce his final roster for tomorrow’s game by 3 pm today which means that Ryan White still has a chance of being in the lineup. White, like Henry is a player who will not hesitate to drop the gloves. More importantly, however, White is a real hockey player and is very similar to Maxim Lapierre minus the reticence about fighting. Moreover, White was a standout at camp and looked fast, gritty, and was exactly what the Habs lineup needed.
The fact that there is a question as to whether he will be playing in game one suggests that Martin had decided on his line combinations a long time ago. It would be unfortunate if White is not in the opening lineup but even if he isn’t, he will get a chance at some point and I can see him staying in the lineup when he’s called up.
So that’s it, folks. The prep is done, the lineups are being finalized, and the puck is ready to drop. So enjoy the games tomorrow, this weekend, and enjoy the entire season. But more importantly, hold on to that feeling of optimism because 82-game grind has a tendency to dash hopes and crush optimism. For now, however, all teams are equal and anything can happen.