Preseason Game 39 – Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 0

Preseason Game 39
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 0
Monday, September 17, 2001
Mile One Stadium, St. John’s, Newfoundland

When matters of the world are put aside for thoughts of sport, not that it matters all that much, the Montréal Canadiens try hard to think well of themselves.

To an outsider, it appears an impossible task.

The Canadiens have not made the National Hockey League playoffs for the past three seasons. Their ownership rests on financially suspect legs. The players are stricken by more serious injuries than any other team in the league.

And then there is the matter of Saku Koivu. When cancer in the form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was discovered to have attacked the Canadiens’ captain, it was easy to think the players might throw in the towel before the season even started.

“I’d be very disappointed to find out that anyone on the ice thinks that way,” said Canadiens winger Joé Juneau, who joined the team this summer from the Phoenix Coyotes. “Once we’re on the ice, we are all professional enough to concentrate on what we’re doing. We have no choice.”

Juneau said Canadiens president Pierre Boivin played a large role in keeping the players in a positive frame of mind.

“I saw really strong leadership coming from the president,” he said. “We had two meetings and in both of them, the president was the guy talking.

“The last one we had was very strong. (Boivin) said ‘If I hear one guy talking negatively about this thing, he’s not welcome here.'”

Koivu was recognized early in the first period of last night’s preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an announcement of support that drew a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 5,813 at Mile One Stadium.

The fans were less sympathetic a little earlier when the Canadiens stepped on the ice. Since they left almost all of their star players behind in Montréal – Juneau and forward Andreas Dackell were practically the only recognizable names – the local fans were not happy and let them know it.

They were in a little better humour a few minutes later when a cheque for $1 million, representing the proceeds from the teams’ visit plus a grant from the province, were presented to the Newfoundland healthcare system.

Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said the lack of star power was not a slight to Newfoundlanders but made necessary by the disruption in the preseason schedule caused by the terrorist attacks in the United States.

“First of all, as we all know, because of the tragedy we have had to adjust ourselves,” Therrien said. “We have a lot of kids to look at and we have to see those kids very quickly. Training camp is a lot shorter than it was supposed to be.

“We have to put them in position to see how they play against good NHLers.”

Three of those kids were in the lineup last night: forwards Mike Ribeiro, Éric Chouinard and Marcel Hossa, the younger brother of the Ottawa Senators’ Marian. Koivu represented the lion’s share of the Canadiens’ offence and the team will need production from at least two of those three to help fill the hole caused by his loss.

The youthful Habs started well against the Leafs but ran into goaltender Curtis Joseph, who was in midseason form. He made a series of outstanding saves, two in succession on Chouinard, before the Canadiens finally put one by him at 18:49 of the first period on a shot by Craig Darby.

Joseph and fellow goaltender Mike Minard were left unprotected by the Leafs, and by the end of Joseph’s stint, the Canadiens led 2-0 after a goal by Finnish rookie Martti Jarventie.

Ribeiro scored on Minard early in the third and the Canadiens went home with a 3-0 win over the listless Leafs. They will play the Leafs again tonight in Montréal.

But Therrien has a difficult task ahead. The loss of his number one centre means others will be forced into unaccustomed roles. Former Maple Leaf Yanic Perreault, an effective third line centre, will probably share the top job with Jan Bulis, who has scant experience as a full time NHLer. Juneau, once a 100 point scorer, was brought in to bolster the power play but admits his value will just as often be as a teacher.

“At 33 years old, you can’t expect (scoring) as much,” he said, “that I’ll score 100 points like I did with Boston or 80 points like I did in Washington.

“I’ll be kind of playing a veteran, two-way role. It’s a nice challenge because there’s a lot of young players on our team. It will be a good experience to teach those kids. I look at it like the role Guy Carbonneau had (before becoming an assistant coach).”

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, September 18, 2001

1st Period
MTL GOAL – 18:49 – Darby (Chouinard, Traverse)

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 04:19 – Jarventie (Dackell, Juneau)

3rd Period
MTL PP GOAL – 01:12 – Ribeiro (Jarventie, Dackell)

MTL – Garon (W + SO, 17-17), Tarasov (SO, 12-12)
TOR – Joseph (L, 15-17), Minard (11-12)

MTL – 15+8+6 = 29
TOR – 7+10+12 = 29