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Emotion please, fashionable Russians and the idea of booing Roy

Today is Tuesday, January 23. It seems to me that the start of 2024 would be the perfect time to resurrect the (late) 25Stanley brand, don’t you think?

Big Shiny Stay tuned, as the saying goes.

1. Tonight, against Jacques Martin’s Senators, the Canadiens will try to stop the hemorrhaging that began against the Sens last Thursday night. Losing 6-2 to your Ontario rivals, then 9-4 to your Bostonnais rivals… at home both times… let’s just say it doesn’t look good for your culture and the heart in the belly of those who wear the sacrosanct Flanelle vest.

There was a time when representing the people of Quebec in Boston and Ottawa meant something. #Rivalries

Fortunately, the guys didn’t fly last night and cleared customs on Saturday night. They shouldn’t be too tired to perform tonight at the Bell Centre (in front of people who will have paid top dollar to come and cheer them on). Unless, of course, the last few nights have been cut short for other reasons…

Will the Habs get their revenge against the Senators, 48 hours before the visit of Patrick Roy’s Islanders? I was talking about emotions and rivalries a few seconds ago; tonight and Thursday, there will be some… on the other side, at least.

2. The Habs sent Justin Barron back to Laval yesterday afternoon, a few hours before recalling Arber Xhekaj.

Understand that Barron was sidelined twice ten days ago, before returning to the lineup for the team’s last three games (including the two recent thaws). Barron has made a number of mistakes on the ice, and getting his rhythm (and confidence) back in Laval won’t do him any harm…. Even if, at the moment, he can’t be too thrilled at the idea of finding himself on the North Shore.

As for Xhekaj, he almost single-handedly revived the Rocket’s season. Before Xhekaj’s dismissal to the AHL, the Rocket had been in the bottom half of the North Division. As of this morning, the Canadiens’ training club sits third in the division, behind the Monsters and the Crunch, with an 8-0-1 record in its last nine games.

Will Logan Mailloux and the Rocket be able to carry on without the Sheriff? They’ll have to, because Xhekaj has shown that he’s not an AHL-caliber player. He’s an NHLer and he belongs in Montreal, not Laval.

It remains to be seen whether he understood the message – because it wasn’t just hockey – behind his dismissal to the AHL.

3. Xhekaj’s recall – linked to Tanner Pearson’s imminent return to action – will allow Martin St-Louis to leave Michael Pezzetta in the stands when he’s not delivering the goods. Pezzetta went several games without giving any to the Habs… until he felt some urgency and started to find his “mojo ” (and his role with the team).

Internal competition and the complementary nature of the players in place will enable MSL to make the right decisions… while ensuring that his club doesn’t get too shaken up when the opposition is more robust in nature. We saw just how important Xhekaj is when games go off on a very physical tangent last weekend (Senators vs. Rocket).

4. With Barron in Laval and Xhekaj in Montreal, the Habs find themselves this morning with five left-handed defensemen (Matheson, Guhle, Harris, Struble and Xhekaj) and two right-handed defensemen (Savard and Kovacevic). It’s safe to assume that games on the bridge are a thing of the past for Johnathan Kovacevic…

And that David Savard is more likely to leave Montreal in 2025 than in 2024. #SurplusToLeft #LackToRight

5. Damn, Patrick Roy’s return is good for the NHL. A credible, experienced, passionate, emotional, intense, entertaining, spectacular and well-liked guy… that doesn’t come cheap.

I hope the Montreal crowd doesn’t start booing Roy on Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Unfortunately, I’m afraid they will. #Drouin

6. The NHL amateur draft is only five months away. 150 days is tomorrow…

Every prospect fanatic has been waiting for it… and now it’s here: Bob McKenzie’s mid-season prospect list.

What do I take away from this list?

McKenzie, who chatted with dozens and dozens of credible players before completing his ranking, mentions that Macklin Celebrini is the unanimous choice at the top. We’ve seen what he’s capable of at the World Junior Championships and with players much older than him in the NCAA, and we’re not going to argue with Bob.

Cole Eiserman, probably the player who most challenged Celebrini over the last two years, is fourth in McKenzie’s rankings. He is outranked by two Russian/Belarussian players (not named Ivan Demidov): Anton Silayev and Artyom Levshunov.

Silayev is a 6’7 defenseman who plays with Bogdan Konyushkov in the KHL. He has 11 points this season, about half Konyushkov’s production (Canadian pick)… but he’s only 17. And I repeat: he’s already 6’7.

Levshunov, on the other hand, has been in America for quite some time now, playing in Michigan(NCAA). He played in the USHL before that. NHL teams are therefore likely to be less cautious when the time comes to draft (or not draft) Levshunov. #RussianFactor #Putin #MilitaryService #IvanFedotov #Michkov

Demidov is ranked sixth, behind giant forward Cayden Lindstrom. He’s said to have more talent and a better attitude than Matvei Michkov.

Still, it’s special to see two defensemen occupying ranks two and three! I have a feeling that will change between now and June…

7. Clearly, wearing a moustache was part of Olivier Renard’s recruitment criteria this year. #LOL

8. In closing, let me take a few seconds of your time to thank Serge Fortin, Denis Lévesque and the entire team at the brand-new 9 Millions digital media for the opportunity, the trust and the new challenge. It’s going to be quite an adventure! #IWillEnjoyTheRide

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