Deja vu for Tanguay

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

MONTREAL -- After voicing concern a couple of years back over the idea of playing in front of the unmerciful fans in Montreal, Alex Tanguay hasn't yet felt their wrath.

If his current slump lasts too much longer, he might.

"I had a good start. Now, it's not quite going the way I wanted it to go," said Tanguay, whose former club, the Flames, play the Habs tonight in the third game of Calgary's current road swing

"I've had a lot of scoring chances. I just haven't been able to bury them.

"Hopefully, that turns around pretty quickly."

Nobody wants to upset the Habs faithful in this city.

Tanguay found himself mingling with fans in Calgary, but never had any disrespectful or interrogative run-ins.

Here, you almost expect it at some point.

"Outside the ice, the fans in Calgary were always nice and respectful. The fans in Montreal are a little bit more direct," he said.

"They'll let you know.

"That's just how we, the French people, are, I guess."

Starting the season with eight goals and 15 points in his first 15 games with the Canadiens, Tanguay might have earned some leeway.

Always his own biggest critic, Tanguay's disappointment over scoring only one goal and no assists in the past nine contests is palpable.

But with his friends and family able to watch many of the home games, and the excitement of remaining in a hockey hotbed, the Ste-Justine, Que., product has enjoyed his first few months as a member of the team he admired as a kid.

"It's not bad. Everything's been positive and people are excited about the team," he said.

"So far, it's certainly been a lot of fun."

Tanguay's struggle to find consistency is a team-wide problem.

After winning seven of nine games in October, the Habs dropped eight of 14 in November -- three in shootouts.

"We've got a good team, but we haven't played up to the level that the team was last year, or that we feel we can play," said Tanguay.

"We're playing OK, but not as consistent as we'd like."

One of Tanguay's beefs with the Flames was the way he was being utilized.

After spending his first year primarily on the top line with Jarome Iginla, he was asked to play fewer minutes on lower lines and contribute on the penalty-kill rather than the first powerplay unit.

His fast start in Montreal came alongside star centre Saku Koivu.

Recently, Tanguay's been playing with the two Toms -- Tomas Plekanec and Tom Kostopoulos -- who don't have the same offensive upside. And things aren't as wide-open in Montreal as some believe.

While they transition from defence to offence with the best of them, the Habs are pretty committed to stifling the neutral zone.

"Defensively, we're a pretty tight group. We play a system in the neutral zone that we think is pretty tough to go by," said Tanguay. "In Calgary, the system was more aggressive, I'd say. I would say in Montreal, we're maybe a little more patient."

Patience is something Tanguay hopes to get plenty of from the fans eager to see their most recent Francophone addition thrive.


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