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Thursday, April 28, 2011

2nd Round Predictions

No time to sit around... the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins tonight with the Nashville Predators visiting the Vancouver Canucks. So here's my predictions. 3-5 in the opening round. Not great, so let's see if I can finish in the money for the 2nd round:


Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators
Here's the deal. The Canucks should win. But the season series was tied 2 games apiece and we know Nashville plays hard and does well with seemingly very little. They also have a top goaltender in Pekka Rinne. Advantage in nets to Nashville, but I have to pick the 'Nucks, Canada's last great white hope to bring the Cup home.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Canucks in 6

Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks
Wow, this is a toughie. The Red Wings are the old guard. The Sharks have always underachieved in the postseason. But "No Show" Joe Thornton showed up in the 1st round, so could this be San Jose's year? At least to get past the Wings??? The Wings are older and battered but they've gotten a lot of rest over the past week.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Wings in 7


Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Two exciting teams with some of the league's top scorers. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green (if he's ready) against Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavallier and Gagne. I think Tampa has the edge in goaltending if anything for experience and compete-level in Roloson. But I think Washington has figured out what they need to do to win tight playoff games and the addition of Jason Arnott at the trade deadline may be the deciding factor.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Capitals in 6

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
The Bruins must be riding high. They persevered against the Habs and beat their old rivals in an emotional and extremely tight 7-game series. Now they have the chance to take care of the team that was the source of their epic meltdown in last year's playoffs so they're probably drooling at the bit.

I'm not sure how Philly can win this series with their shaky goaltending. But like we saw last year, one of those goalies could possibly go on a run. Boucher is good, but not great. Leighton helped them get to the finals last year, but Bobrovski is the guy who gave them success this past season. Who knows what Coach Laviolette is going to do, but if I were him I'd go back with Bobrovski.

Boston definitely has the edge in nets with Thomas. But the Bruins are goons, and we saw it last night in their game against Montreal with the two hits on Halpern. This is going to be a dirty, rough and tumble series, and probably the most entertaining series to watch because the Flyers don't take shit.

The Flyers have crazy scoring depth and they could pick apart the Bruins defense which is average at best, especially if Chara doesn't play at his highest level. The Bruins powerplay is power-less. Nevertheless -- it kills me to say this -- but I think the Bruins will get their revenge this year. But I want to be wrong with this one ;)

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Bruins in 7

On y va!!

OT Habs' Achilles Heel

And so my friends the last siren has sounded on the Montreal Canadiens' 2010-2011 season, falling 4-3 in OT last night to lose their opening round series against the Bruins 4-3.

David Krejci celebrates as he reacts to the puck hitting the twine in Game 7 last night in Boston. Price had no chance on the deflection off of Jeff Halpern's skate. Some unlucky bounces and the lack of 5-on-5 scoring did the Habs in.

Disappointment reigns large, but this Habs team has nothing to be ashamed about. They fought hard, showed a lot of courage and determination last night and in the series as a whole, and if not for a few unlucky bounces (and maybe a high stick call in the 3rd) things might have been very different.

That's how close this series was.

Boston had the magic touch in Overtime and as any veteran NHL fan/viewer knows, that's big when it comes to advancing in the playoffs. Where would the 1993 Habs have been without all of those OT wins that eventually lead to the team's last Stanley Cup!?

Teams get on a run and either find the magic or get stymied in Overtime. Back in 1986 when the Habs went to OT in Game 7 against the Hartford Whalers, my brothers didn't want to watch. Why? Because the team had been hopeless in OT the last few years in the regular season and the playoffs, and the team itself wasn't confident going to the extra frame. Thankfully Claude Lemieux broke that jinx to start a fresh, new run of OT success that eventually lead to more OT wins and a Stanley Cup that year.

For Bruins fans, they can only hope the good OT vibe continues. Now they can get excited about facing the Philadelphia Flyers to try to get payback for their epic collapse last year.

My brother mentioned after the Canadiens lost game 4 in OT that it was a bad omen. He as well as I know all too well how OT success in the playoffs makes ALL the difference. And unfortunately, the Habs lost 3 out of 4 games in OT.

That's how close this series was.

And last night's game was a good representation of this.

The Habs did a lot of good things this year and in the playoffs. But for the 2nd season in a row, the team could not ice their true team. With 2 top four dmen out in Markov and Gorges as well as their up-and-coming power-forward out in Max Pacioretty, the Habs were running on fumes so to speak.

GM Gauthier did an admirable job filling in some holes by acquiring Wisniewski and Sopel. Now he will roll up his sleeves as he has some major decisions to make moving forward, especially on the blue line. Jacques Martin did a great job getting the most from his squad. More on these items in the coming weeks.

But for now, the Habs missed a chance to renew their playoff rivalry with the Washington Capitals, who instead now draw the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning, atteam that pulled off what the Habs couldn't -- come back from a 3-2 series deficit and win Game 7 on the road. Way to go head coach Guy Boucher!!!

If you break down last night's game, it's quite clear what the difference was for the Canadiens: they dominated the special teams (killed every penalty, scored a short-handed goal, scored on the powerplay), their goalie made some huge stops, but their inability to score 5-on-5 was their downfall.

The Canadiens become a better 5-on-5 team next season and they will be better off for it. They also were whooped in the playoff circle and they need to get better in that aspect of the game. It really comes under the scope in the playoffs and a lost faceoff resulted in the series-winning goal by Horton.

C'est la vie. Thanks Montreal Canadiens for an excellent and entertaining season of hockey. I'm sorry it's over, but already can't wait until next year!!! Habs Fan in LeafLand is with you 100%!!!

3-5 -- not that good. Mind you, I made some ballsy predictions, taking the Hawks and the Coyotes to win their respective series. But don't worry, I didn't lose any money over it ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Game 7 tonight in Boston.

This is it.

For all the marbles.

Winner take all.

Who will it be???

The Habs have to be happy to have forced Game 7 and to have successfully put all the pressure back onto the Bruins' shoulders heading into Boston. Carey Price has to be happy that a soft goal wasn't the difference in the game this time.

The Bruins have to look in the mirror and wonder why they played such an undisciplined game last night!? Maybe Dr. Recchi specializes in sports psychology???? They have to be pleased that they carried the game 5-on-5, but now nerves and doubt will set in. Even Timmy Thomas appeared a bit rattled in a post-game scrum when a reporter's microphone got a bit too close to his head.

No doubt, the Bruins lose tonight, their season is a failure and some changes will come to that squad.

The Habs win tonight, they've done it again, then they will face the Washington Capitals in a rematch that I'm sure Ovechkin et al would relish.

Although it wasn't their best game, the Habs once again showed they have tremendous character and leadership. And it all starts with Captain Gionta, who scored the game winner.

Last night's game was a bit of a weird one: the referees seemed to have taken over the game especially in the 2nd period. Poor passing, missed checks, a general lack of flow and some puck fumbling by both goalies probably was the result of nervousness with both squads.

The Habs looked nervous, but came out of the gate strong only to have a sure goal by Gionta called back because the referee lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead. Okay, it happens. He lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle before the puck went in. It's the right call, if not what we wanted.

Good on the Habs to not let that get them down.

Then the Habs benefitted from the Bruins' indiscipline. A too many men penalty (refs had to call it) bled into a slashing penalty (the refs had to call that one too) and next thing you know Michael Cammellari is blasting his signature one-timer (hope we see it again tonight) past Timmy Thomas. 1-0 after the 1st period.

Inexplicably, the Habs then started the 2nd period as if they all had two left feet and a comedy of errors and not pressing the puck handler enough resulted in Seidenberg's goal early in the period. Price should have had that one, obviously as he was beat against the post under his glove arm.

1-1 and the pressure was back on the Canadiens. Price then made a terrific glove save a few minutes later when it looked like the Habs were ready to book their tee times, thus announcing to his team "not tonight."

This is how Price has grown from previous years. He lets in a bad goal, sure. But now his resolve, resiliency and focus is so strong, he just lets it go. As does Thomas. And for the rest of the game Price came up big and made some terrific saves.

Then the Habs got another 5-on-3. Lucic clocks Spacek and gets a 5 minute and game misconduct. Bye bye Milan (no word on whether he gets suspended but I highly doubt it).

A short time after, Bergeron is called on a delay of game penalty. All penalties the refs HAD to call. So Julien can rant all he wants about those penalties and the 5-on-3s, but all he has to do is blame his own team. They weren't disciplined and put their team and goaltender in trouble. AND they couldn't score on their power play chances either.

Finally Gionta scored on a rebound -- which counted -- and the Habs regained the lead, 2-1.

Canadiens come out in the 3rd like they started the 2nd. Soft on the puck and giving the Bruins wayyyyyy too much space. If not for Price, the Bruins maybe win this game. It was nerve-wracking and the game clock -- could it have moved any slower!?

Game 7 against Boston. We couldn't have asked for much more as hockey fans. 2 games in 2 nights? Does anyone have the advantage???? Guess we'll see.

The Vancouver Canucks -- by the skin of their teeth -- finally got past the Chicago Blackhawks in OT last night, winning 2-1. Captain Clutch, Jonathan Toews, scored the tying goal -- short-handed -- with less than 2 minutes remaining. At that point, who didn't think the Canucks were done like dinner!? Then the Hawks got an early powerplay in OT and I'm like "That's it." But that wasn't it. The 'Nucks killed it off and then Burrows pounced on a turnover at the Chicago blueline and pounded past Crawford. 'Nucks win. 'Nucks win. What a relief!?

Now my earlier caveat comes into play: was this victory like a Stanley Cup for the Canucks??? Can they ramp up the emotional factor even higher as they move through the playoffs??? Proof point, Luongo's comments after the game, saying this was bigger than the Olympic Gold Medal game. Careful Roberto. You have a long way to go man. Because the team will have to ramp it up to be successful the rest of the way. And if they play Detroit or San Jose, it's not going to be easy.

Goaltending!? We don't need no stinking goaltending!!!
The Philadelphia Flyers pounded the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 last night to wrap up their 1st round series. Too bad Buffalo but you had your chances. It's a tribute to the Flyers' scoring depth that they even got to 7 games, let alone win the game. Because Pronger is not 100% and the goaltending has been shoddy at best. But they pulled it out. Now they wait the winner of the remaining series to see which team they'll try to beat with 3 goalies :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wotta Night of Hockey!!!

Tonight's a HUGE night in the 1st round of the NHL playoffs. The question is how I'm going to watch it all:

Habs vs. Bruins - Game 6
In Montreal the Habs look to send the series back to Boston for the ultimate showdown tomorrow night. Who in the NHL doesn't want Game 7 to happen???? Price is due after losing his last 7 playoff starts in Montreal and the team needs to redeem themselves after letting Game 4 slip through their fingers. If Montreal plays a full 60 minutes they can pull this out. Then all the pressure goes back onto Boston's shoulders.

Not good. Desharnais is out with a sprained knee, and Wisniewski is doubtful. We'll see who Martin decides to throw in to the lineup.

Whatever happens, it'll be a good game.

Sabres vs. Flyers - Game 7
I have to look it up, but if the Flyers pull this one out, they may be the first team to ever win a playoff series with 3 different starting goaltenders, none who were hurt. Unbelievable how bad their goaltending has been and yet they are still alive. With these epic goaltending issues, how the hell are the Flyers still in this series?? Danny Briere, that's how. The Sabres will be kicking themselves if they lose tonight and they may have already lost with Tim Connelly out. But enter the wildcard, Derek Roy who has been out almost the entire season. Will he be a difference-maker?

Blackhawks vs. Canucks - Game 7
On any normal night, the Habs/Bruins tilt would be THE game to watch. And it is for me, because I'm a Habs fan. However, looking at this objectively, has there been a bigger 1st round game than this one!? The Canucks, President's Trophy winners and Stanley Cup favourites at home against their nemesis and arch-rivals, the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks who have knocked the Canucks out the last two years.

ALL... and I mean ALL the pressure is on the Canucks. Even their GM is sweating it. Yesterday Gillis blamed the refs for his team's Game 6 loss. BIG MISTAKE. First, it shows the Hawks that even management is nervous. Second, if they should win this is not going to bode well with refs in the next round. Third, what he SHOULD HAVE said was we weren't happy with some of the calls, but that's playoff hockey and next time we'll get the calls.

Hoo boy. Will this be another epic collapse of a team up 3-0 like what happened to Boston last year? Or will the Canucks finally exorcize their demons?? Can't wait to find out!!!!!

PS: My favourite playoff whipping boy, Joe (no-show) Thornton finally showed up, scoring the series-ending goal in OT against the L.A. Kings last night and ending that series in 6 games. L.A. came from behind three times and then had a 5 minute power play that extended into OT but couldn't score. Maybe this is San Jose's year, if Thornton scores the big goals.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Habs Need Win at Home to Force Game 7

Can't really blame the Habs last night for coming up on the short end of a 2-1 double OT loss to in Game 5 to the Bruins last night. The game could've gone either way. That's playoff hockey folks.

For the first time in the series it's my opinion at least the Bruins played and dictated -- for the most part -- their style of game. The limited offensive chances, they pressured the Habs' zone, they cycled the puck well and they got two dirty goals when it counted.

The Habs for their part played a solid, reactionary game evoking tons of patience and discipline. And it was the Habs who had the better of the scoring chances in the game. Unfortunately, they couldn't put them home. Thomas made some great stops when he had to, and when he wasn't there his teammates bailed him out. Michael Ryder seems to have decided he wants to be a difference maker in the series and though he didn't score last night, he was effective and saved a goal in regulation off of the stick of Tomas Plekanec when Thomas was dead and gone.

And the same thing happened in OT, when Mike Cammellari had a wide open cage only to have his shot hit Chara's rear then Bergeron's skate and away from the net.

It was just one of those nights for the Habs, unfortunately.

Yes, the bounces weren't going the Canadiens' way last night. That's the way it goes, you win some you lose some. Last night, what the Canadiens didn't do, aside from burying their chances, was bail their goalie out when he needed it. Boston's two goals were the result of poor to weak coverage in front of the Habs' net. First Brad Marchand was left alone when Plekanec turned the other way and found himself with an open net from a fluky broken stick shot by Bergeron that hit off of a skate and right to Marchand.

Then the game winning goal was the result of Roman Hamrlik losing his battle with Horton out front, who then just kicked the puck to his stick to put it into the open side.

A bit earlier, Gionta had a chance to end the game on a 2-on-1 with Travis Moen, but he put it back into Thomas rather than pick the far side and Thomas made a great save. But Gionta would have beaten him had his shot been in the right spot.

Really, Montreal had a strong outing with an excellent effort. To a man the team played very well. Lars Eller and David Desharnais had excellent outings, as did Jeff Halpern who tied the game up late. Tom Pyatt and Ryan White also played well, along with Darche, Gionta, Plekanec and Kostitsyn. Cammellari had a few nice scoring chances and James Wisniewski came back after being injured earlier in the game. Subban was Subban. Carey Price turned aside 49 shots and did whatever he could do to bring his team the win. Unfortunately, they couldn't squeeze another one past Thomas -- who was definitely on his game last night.

Kudos to the Bruins, but kudos also to the Habs. Someone had to win and someone had to lose. Both teams played well. It was an exciting, heart-thumping game. The Habs could have won last night. Unfortunately they didn't.

Another thing I think the Habs can do better is getting the puck through when they're on a rush. Too many times their speed and forward thrust has been in vain when someone -- like Gomez -- pulls up to fire a shot towards the net in the hopes that the two other forwards who have already skated towards the goal, might be able to get the puck or rebound. But almost every time, the shot was blocked or poorly executed. Not to blame Gomez solely because a few other forwards are guilty of this, but Gomez would admit he didn't have his A game last night.

So since the opening two games of the series, the Habs lost a game they almost came back to win, lost a game they should have won after letting it slide through their fingers, then lost a game in double OT which could have gone either way.

Dem's the breaks.

Now it's up to the Habs to show some serious resolve and moxie and go home and win what might possibly be their last home game of the season. Let's hope the team forces the issue like they did last year and bring home a win to take it to seven games. Then anything is possible. As fans, we deserve this in the least. It's been a very entertaining series to date.

Game 6 is set for this Tuesday in Montreal.


PS: Andrew Ference was fined $2500 for his gesture to the crowd the other night in Montreal. Pretty much what I thought. He couldn't even admit to it, claiming it was a fist pump gone wrong. What a joke. This is the kind of true character the Bruins possess as a whole. Always leads to losing one way or the other.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bruins Burn Habs Homestand -- Series Tied at 2

Turnabout is fair play, at least that's how the expression goes.

With all the momentum after winning the first two games in Boston, the Habs had the Bruins on the mat, bloodied and confused.

But they let the Bruins off of the mat and now, suddenly, Boston has all the momentum heading back to Boston for Game 5 after a dramatic 5-4 OT win in Montreal with who else but Michael Ryder scoring the overtime winner 2 minutes in.

The Habs led in each period but couldn't put the Bruins on fire.

Actually there were two games in one last night. The first saw the Canadiens completely dominate the Bruins in every facet of the game. Brent Sopel gave the Habs a 1-0 lead and if it weren't for some nice stops by Timmy Thomas it could've been easily 3-0.

The Canadiens picked up where they left off in the 2nd period but it was the Bruins who scored, when Michael Ryder was left completely alone and had the time to use his great shot to pick the top corner on Price.

But the Habs turned on the heat once again with goals by Cammellari and Kostitsyn 55 seconds apart to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Show over right? Or so we thought.

Boston coach Claude Julien called an effective time out to settle down his troops and it worked. The Bruins came back with 2 more goals of their own to tie the game at 3 before the period was out. And the Bruins took over from that point on.

But of course they still had time to show their true colours when Andrew Ference flipped the bird to the Montreal crowd after scoring Boston's 2nd goal. Classy... and uncalled for. And something for the Habs to rally around. Nice Andrew, nice. According to the rules, he could have been kicked out of the game. He can also get fined or suspended. He'll probably get fined, but the league has yet to review the incident.

But early in the 3rd, the Habs grabbed the lead again with nice wrist shot from P.K. Subban giving the Habs a 4-3 lead, which looked like it might be enough. Price made a terrific save on Johnny Boychuk at the goalmouth, but later in the period Chris Kelly scored with a little more than 6 minutes remaining.

Then a bad line change by Subban opened the door for the Bruins, creating a 3-on-1. The shot went wide, but a fortunate bounce for the Bruins put the puck right onto Marchand's stick, who found Ryder alone in the slot to put it past a helpless Price.

Now, the Bruins are in the driver's seat, seemingly heading home with their mojos back after completing the improbable. Maybe the Habs should take a quick stop in Lake Placid themselves???

Ultimately the Habs need to look at the positives as they prepare for Game 5.

Yes, they let this one slide through their fingers and if they ultimately lose the series, they will look at this game as the turning point. But they know they can win in Boston, they know they can beat the Bruins, they won the season series, they aren't intimidated by Thomas and they're not down in the series. Now it becomes a best of three and if you asked the team before the start of the series if they would have taken being tied going into Boston for Game 5, I'm confident they would have been okay with that.

After the game although the Habs were down, in the locker room they didn't sound as if they were defeated, but resolute. This is a good sign. The team has a lot of bounce back and hopefully they can dust themselves off and get up from the mat, just like the Bruins did. Kudos to the Bruins for not quitting last night and finding a way to pull it out.

Montreal vs. Boston in the playoffs. It really doesn't get any better than this eh???


Uh oh, not again!? The Chicago Blackhawks are showing why they are the defending Stanley Cup champs. Down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks, the Hawks shmeared the Canucks at home then marched into Vancouver last night and whooped the 'Nucks 5-0. Not another Canucks choke!? Game 6 in Chicago tomorrow night, gonna be a good one.

Sharks bite Kings: So often we see this in the playoffs. A team has the advantage in a game, to only fall to a bitter defeat, and then the rest is history. So the Kings

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's a Series Now -- Bruins Take Game 3 in Montreal

Nobody expected the Boston Bruins to just roll over and die.

Well, nobody except the Canadiens, apparently.

The Habs came out flat and were "out Canadien-ed" by a now officially desperate Bruins team to lose 4-2 in front of a frenzied crowd. Boston is back in the series and now have new life.

It seems that the pressure to perform these teams face in front of their home crowds is getting to them. Boston has been ruthless on their team. The Montreal crowd last night did everything they could do to motivate their team, but it wasn't enough.

Buoyed by the return of big Zdeno Chara, Boston knew they had to win this game if they had a chance to get back into this series and they delivered their best effort to date. Scoring first seems to be of paramount import and that's exactly what happened when David Krejci scored early in the first.

It looked as if everything was coming up Habs when Chara first stepped onto the ice only to cause a too-many men penalty. Unfortunately the Canadiens didn't come out with that "eye of the tiger" intensity and focus and didn't capitalize. The Habs had their chances but their powerplay seems to have stalled.

Meanwhile, the Bruins kept chipping away, winning puck battles and getting pucks deep. Sound familiar??? A bit of a lucky one by Nathan Horton that barely went in made it 2-0; then Carey Price was burned on a lackadaisical clearing which deflected off of Mark Recchi and straight to Rich Peverley who put it into the open net.

Too bad but we lost because of that one. But in a way, sort of happy Price was burned like this now rather than later. He's flirted with danger for awhile now, and better he tightens up that part of his game now.

Not to say Price didn't play well. He had no chance on the first goal which Boston scored on its first shot of the game. He made some big time saves otherwise this game could have gotten out of hand before the Habs finally received the memo and started playing hockey.

Boston certainly wasn't dominant in this game, but they did what they needed to do to win and kudos to them for that. Now it's a series. Well it's never easy, that's for sure and the quicker the Habs realize this, the better. Because they still have a golden chance to go up 3-1 in the series when it resumes for Game 4 on Thursday.

The Canadiens ultimately showed up for the second half of the game and made it exciting with a goals by Andrei "my foot is sore" Kostitsyn (and who probably was the team's best forward last night) and Tomas Plekanec on a spin-a-rama.

Timmy Thomas seemed to fight the puck a bit last night but came up big when he had to, making some huge stops in the 3rd when the Canadiens began pouring it on. And Scott Gomez again couldn't put the puck home with an open net after a nice feed from Gionta with about 3 minutes to play. This is where we really miss Pacioretty.

Boston heads to Lake Placid with new life and energy. The Canadiens need to look in the mirror and not take anything for granted. They have to come up with their best effort of the series to get a win on Thursday. Let's see if they're up to the challenge.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Habs Head Home Up 2-0

Can't ask for anything more than this. Habs are up 2-0 in their 1st round series against the Bruins with Games 3 and 4 to be played in Montreal.

It's only 2 games, and there's still a long way to go. But is it safe to say to all of the naysayers that the Habs are the real deal and that last year's run was no fluke?? And that the Habs have crafted a team around a core that knows what it takes to win in the playoffs???

The Habs continued to put into practice their tough, everyone plays for eachother game with another strong effort in Game 2 last night in Boston, defeating the on the ropes, looking-for-answers Bruins 3-1 -- a game where the Habs once again got an early lead and never looked back.

The start to Game 2 was memorable if for only the announcement of the lineups. Andrei Kostitsyn, who has now officially "gotten it" -- meaning he's figured out what he needs to do to be successful, and that doesn't always mean scoring goals -- was forced to sit after taking a Chara slapper off of his foot in Game 1.

But then the real shocker: Zdeno Chara, the big brutish Bruins dman who brought bad karma his way after shoving Pacioretty into the stantion back in March, looked like death warmed-over in the warmup and didn't end up playing. Chara has supposedly contracted some sort of virus and checked in to the hospital on Friday with dehydration.

Chara's status is uncertain for Game 3 but we can understand, he must have been in seriously bad sorts if he couldn't play the game. We'll be sure to keep an ear open for Mark Recchi's diagnosis sometime tomorrow :)

We know how much of an impact player Chara is. But let's be honest Bruins fans: your defense is average at best with him even in the lineup. Sans Chara, the Bruins' defense corps of Boychuk, Kaberle, McQuaid, Seidenberg, Ference and Chara's replacement Shane Hnidy are completely lacklustre. Does this sound like a Stanley Cup contending defense corps???

Tomas Kaberle has, and always will be, a DEFENSIVE LIABILITY. This Habs Fan in LeafLand has seen the good and mostly the bad of Kaberle. Not the final piece of the puzzle for a cup run.

Compare them to the Habs' defense: Subban (star), Gill (cup winner), Hamrlik (1st pick overall 1994 draft), Spacek, Sopel (cup winner), and Wisniewski. And Weber who can play defense is playing forward, and two of our top four dmen are out in Markov and Gorges. It's not even close.

Ultimately Chara's absence gave the Habs yet another mental boost over their beantown, chowder-eating rivals. The Habs grabbed the early lead, this time Mike Cammellari putting in a rebound from a James Wisniewski shot less than a minute into the first period.

Then after a bad Bruins penalty, the Habs made them pay with Mathieu Darche finishing off a nice play in front of Timmy Thomas. Habs 2-0. Boston crowd, grumbling, calling for Julien's head. They'll get it soon enough.

The Bruins came out like a house on fire as could be expected in the second period but the Habs didn't wilt or falter. Boston finally broke their series long goose egg when Bergeron put the puck past Price, but the hermetic seal around Carey Price's net reinstituted itself from then on in.

The straw that broke the camel's back came near the end of the 2nd period when Lars Eller's shot from the top of the circle was kicked out by Thomas right to Yannick Weber -- ironically replacing AK46in the lineup -- who then seized the moment by backhanding the puck into the open net. Habs 3, Bruins 1.

A real key to the Habs' success so far has been their play in the neural zone. They're winning the centre ice line by intercepting passes and turning it around quickly. It's really a joy to watch as the Bruins get caught looking one way while the Habs are already zoning in on Thomas with the puck.

Before last night's game, David Krejci, who's been giving Joe Thornton a run for his money as to who's the best playoff "no-show," had the nerve and poor judgment to guarantee a Bruins victory last night. Suddenly he thinks he's Marc Messier. The Bruins, both off and on the ice, have been a hapless bunch making ALL the wrong decisions.

It's sad that the media and all the pundits are putting the blame on poor Timmy Thomas -- the soon-to-be 2011 Vezina winner and new shooting percentage recordholder. Everyone's pointing the finger at him. Like Tukka Rask -- or as Don Cherry blurted last night "Put TASK in" -- is going to do any better!?

Well, it's true Thomas is being outplayed -- no doubt about that. But let's be honest, the Habs are making the right shots and playing the right way against this goalie. Thomas plays a wonky style and has ALWAYS been prone to rebounds. It's not his fault that the Bruins defence is losing the race to the puck when Yannick Weber or Cammellari gets there first to put the puck into the open net.

Thomas is a small but agile goalie who is extremely good at reading plays, especially down low. And without some key stops last night the game would have been out of hand very early. But the Habs are provoking turnovers and penalties while playing an extremely disciplined, smart and patient game that's built on last year's run. And the thing is, this year they have a better goalie in Price.

The Habs are totally into this team's collective heads. The fans too. Usually boisterous, loud and loyal, Bruins fans were caught leaving the proverbial scene of the crime -- again -- with more than 5 minutes remaining. Your team is uptight as it is... do they need to hear your boos? Not that I want anything to change...

Aside from the goal scorers, the Canadiens had another strong team outing last night. From Plekanec all the way down to Ryan White -- who brings the kind of consistent energy and grit we had hoped from Maxim Lapierre -- the Habs seem committed to playing a team game, one where everyone plays for eachother and seems to want to do whatever it takes to win.

I was really impressed with Lars Eller's compete level last night. Tom Pyatt also won a lot of puck battles and kept the puck deep. Weber came in and was a difference maker, and Ryan White -- love that good Canadian kid.

And each of the elements pundits put in the Habs corner: coaching, goaltending and special teams -- are all playing out. Julien is being badly outcoached; Price is playing for real this time; and the Habs penalty kill has been picture-perfect, while their powerplay at least got into the action last night.

Post-game Julien seemed composed, almost as if sure, we lost because Chara was out. Well my friend, you lost with Chara in the lineup, and you can make all the excuses you want once this is all said and done, but it's your team and so your job situation will be put to the test over the summer, that's for sure.

By now, if you're following this series, you've probably heard, the Bruins are 0-26 when down 2-0 in a playoff series. Beantown is not a happy place right now, especially with the Red Sox off to a 3-10 start.

But Boston, if you can take any consolation in it, at least you're used to losing.

Game 3 is Monday night in Montreal.


Ducks Ryan suspended for 2 games for stomping. What an ugly, malicious and just plain dangerous act. Ryan was right to be suspended and since he's a key player it just puts the Ducks in a very tight spot. Really hate seeing that.

Kings bounce back hard. Is last night's game just a blip, or is it San Jose's cue to bow out, once again??? We'll see, but boy the Sharks were just plain bad last night.

Flyers and Sabres in a wild one. Sabres took wayyy too many penalties and that's just asking for trouble, even with one of the NHL's top goalies in Ryan Miller. The Flyers may just have gotten their mojos back in the nick of time. But still no Chris Pronger.

McGill University scores! Interesting stat, Mathieu Darche's goal was the first time in 58 years a McGill grad scored a goal in the NHL playoffs. Way to go Darche!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Price Perfect -- Habs Win Game 1 in Beantown

It may go against the so-called experts' predictions, but is anyone really surprised how the Habs won game 1 of their opening round series against the supposedly big, bad Bruins?

Montreal-area Boston Pizzas are changing their names for the series. Brilliant!!

Not me. But of course, I picked the Habs.

The Canadiens as a team played a picture-perfect road game and Carey Price stopped all 31 shots he faced, making sure to remind everyone that he plans to build on his terrific regular season and take things to the next level in the playoffs with last night's 2-0 shutout against the Bruins.

Price was cool, calm and collected as we have become used to seeing when he's playing at his best. He made the key saves when needed, but let's also make sure to give the Canadiens defence their kudos -- they kept the Bruins to the outside for most of the game, and made some key shot blocks when it counted. Boston was limited to only 5 shots on goal in the 3rd period.

Postgame all the experts spoke about all the mistakes the Bruins made last night. Sure, they made lots of mistakes. Some may even think Milan Lucic is a mistake, period. But nobody (outside of RDS) praised the Habs in causing those mistakes. Let's be honest. When a guy like Andrei Kostitsyn, who heroically takes a Chara slapper off of his foot early in the game to then come back and still win puck battles then you know -- something good is going on with Montreal.

This has nothing to do with how the Bruins played Don Cherry; this has to do with how the Canadiens played. And the Canadiens played a terrific road game. They won puck battles. They played with energy. They kept their feet moving. They got the puck deep. They cleared the zone. They cleared rebounds. They didn't panic. They played for eachother...

Sure that pest who looks like a skinhead Brad Marchand missed a wide open net and was also stopped by Price down low. But Tomas Plekanec, who had a terrific game last night, also missed 2 open nets -- one after Timmy T. fumbled with the puck.

And with Price being the game's 1st star and of course Brian Gionta, Capitaine Clutch with both goals, who was the unsung hero last night but little Scotty Gomez!? Yes, that Gomez, the guy who supposedly earns his 8 million salary in the playoffs. Well, he's off to a good start with helpers on both Gionta goals.

Once again Bob Gainey, who was with the team last night, can be validated for his GM decisions.

And even Leafs fans could cheer as their "past his prime" former golden boy Tomas Kaberle turned over the puck in the Bruins' zone which Gomez promptly collected and threw over to Gionta for the game's opening goal early in the first.

It's not going to be long, if it hasn't begun already until the Bruins press and fans alike start raking Kaberle over the coals. The fact is, he's a defensive liability and was brought in for the one and only goal of helping the Bruins' powerplay. Last night, they were 0-3.

If this trend continues, Kaberle will probably be back with the Leafs come October.

Then later in the 3rd Gomez took the puck away from Milan Lucic -- who looked big time frustrated for most of the game -- then dropped the puck to Gionta who blasted a hard slapper through the smaller Timmy Thomas with less than 4 minutes remaining in the game. Habs 2, Bruins 0.

Reporting the Habs victory, the TSN panel who all picked Boston to win the series implied with their body language that, yeah -- this isn't that surprising and that the Habs just picked it up where they left off in last year's playoffs.

Here's where the fun begins. Coming into the series, the heavily-favoured Bruins were already working at a mental deficit. Why? Because they're going to LAKE PLACID to practice in between the games in Montreal. What does that say to you? Does that breed confidence???? And Coach Julien was already talking about the Bruins in the cup finals... glad to see he was outcoached badly last night. Boy is Martin schooling him.

So the two areas where most pundits did actually give the advantage to Montreal -- goaltending and coaching -- comes off big for Game 1. I know Chara is a wanted man in Montreal and it's probably a good idea to take some extra precautions, but this isn't like J.F.K. going to Dallas. Lake Placid? They can go to Lake Placid all they want in about 10 days time when Boston pulls their golf clubs out of storage.

So now the Bruins with all the pressure already on their shoulders, have to contend psychologically with losing the first game at home, losing home ice advantage, running away to Lake Placid for their Montreal games and having Carey Price bore deeper and deeper into their collective heads. This could snowball very quickly.

Me and my bud, we loved it when we watched that Gionta shot find its way through Thomas at the end of the 3rd to seal the deal. But what we loved even more was the reaction of one Boston fan in a grey hoodie, who stood up and gave the Seinfeld-esque "ehhh" hand gesture/wave, got up and left. Boy, 500 bucks at least for that seat... and he doesn't even stay the full 60 minutes?

It's only one game with still lots to go. But Martin and his team have to feel satisfied with their performance last night. Maybe a bit more of an offensive thrust and things will hopefully continue this way.

Game 2 in Boston is this Saturday at 7pm.

The Habs know that Boston will come at them tomorrow night in a way they did previously when they become desperate. The Habs, extremely well-coached, will hopefully rise above the fray and let the Bruins beat themselves by taking bad penalties. We'll see what transpires. Going home to Montreal with a 2-0 series lead would be a lot to ask for. But...


Meanwhile, the Sabres beat the Flyers last night in Philly. Skill over braun my friends (I think I'm going to start making t-shirts with this). With all of their scoring punch, the Flyers were also shutout last night. Ryan Miller -- you know he's up to the challenge. Meanwhile with the shady goaltending and no Chris Pronger, suddenly the Flyers don't look as good as they used to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nobody is Picking the Habs!!

The "real" NHL season begins tonight -- a long and tough road that leads to the holy grail of sports trophies -- the Stanley Cup.

Hayden Panettiere licks Lord Stanley's... mug.

Oh, to be young again, when this time of year Montrealers would watch as Ste. Catherine street was cleaned and prepped for the annual Stanley Cup parade. You know, how then Mayor Drapeau put it, along the "usual route."

We took it for granted back then. Still a little boy, I was just happy that Montreal, the city I was born and bred in, was a winning town. We're winners in Montreal and I liked that. And it was only a matter of time that winning attitude would bring a World Series for the Expos. But that's another story.

So when the Habs went through their first Stanley Cup drought from '80 - '85, while the Islanders and Oilers got in on the party, it seemed like they hadn't won the cup in a very long time.

Then in '93 when Jacques Demers' Canadiens hoisted the cup, it was like "Wow, took long enough!"

Now, it's been 18 seasons since our last cup. 18 seasons!!! Just to put that into perspective, if in 1979 the Habs had won their first cup in 18 seasons, that would have meant their last one would have been in 1961!!! Thank goodness that wasn't the case.

Of course, 18 seasons pales into comparison against our 1st round opponents the Boston Bruins (39 years) and the current NHL leaders in this area, the Toronto Maples Leafs (44 years).

The Hawks finally got the monkey off of their backs last season after not winning the cup since 1961. Maybe the Bruins will do the same this season!?

I think not.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is picking the Habs to beat the Bruins. Watching the tv pundits, reading the sports pages, I have yet to see anyone outside of Montreal pick the Habs to win.


Even though the consensus pick is the Bruins, I couldn't help but observe a slight hesitation, a slight tremble, a slight awkwardness in this choice from these same pundits. Sure, on paper the Bruins are the better team. Sure the Bruins finished ahead of the Habs. Sure the Bruins score more goals. Sure the Bruins bullied the Habs in two of their last three regular season games. Sure the Bruins are bigger and maybe hungrier after last year's epic playoff collapse.


Yes, it's the "but" that all hockey pundits have to consider when the Habs play in the playoffs, especially against the Bruins. Even though the hockey pundits were signing off on this prediction, you could tell they didn't want to. Not because of any Hab allegiance but because they know better. Of all NHL teams, it's the Habs who are capable of the magical run all the way to the promised land. It's the Habs who pull off epic playoff upsets. It's the Habs who have beat Boston in 24 of 32 playoff series.

And it's the hockey gods, who although want the best for all NHL teams, and wish them all well, ultimately punish the brutish, big bad Boston Bruins, who can't seem to get it through their heads that skill always beats braun, no matter the era.

That's why Harry Sinden's Bobby Orr - era Bruins won the cup, while the Don Cherry Bruins lost in more ways imaginable, and always vs. the Habs.

Okay, that's today's history lesson. And if history tells us correctly, the Habs will win. Here are my predictions for the 1st round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs:

Eastern Conference

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins

An instant classic as they've all been, safe for the last time these two teams met in the playoffs, which saw Boston blank the Habs 4-0. Not just because the Bruins won, but because it didn't have the usual drama we're used to seeing. The Bruins wins in the '80's against the Habs were much more entertaining affairs. Anyhow, the bigger Bruins need to stay disciplined and dominate the space on the ice. Thomas will be Thomas. But the Habs have confidence against this team, and have karma on their side. And if they win the special teams, they're going to win.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Montreal in 6

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Folks make a big deal out of Henrik Lundqvist being the wildcard here. While the Rangers have the advantage in between the pipes, Lundqvist is completely beatable and the Caps' sharpshooters will take full advantage. Plus the Rangers have trouble scoring.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Washington in 5

Buffalo Sabres vs. Philadelphia Flyers

If Philly plays as if this is a done deal, they should be very worried. The Sabres have been one of the better teams in the NHL since the All-Star break and have the advantage in goal. Philly's goaltending is, as usual, their achilles heel. And Crissy Pronger is coming off an injury without any games to get back up to speed. But I think the Flyers' scoring depth will ultimately prevail.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Flyers in 6

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher has done a great job with this team, not only getting them into the playoffs but into the 5th spot in the conference. He deserves serious consideration for the Jack Adams. But so does Pens coach Dan Byslma, navigating his team without his top 2 stars in Crosby and Malkin. Stamkos had a great year, but cooled off significantly down the stretch. The Pens have the advantage in nets with Fleury. I just can't see the Pens losing.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Pens in 7

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. ????

Oh yeah, the Leafs are golfing :)

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks

They'd be lying if they weren't worried. The Canucks that is. All the pressure is on them to win it all after the year they had. But the path goes straight through their nemesis of recent years, the Blackhawks who knocked them out in 2 straight years. True, the Hawks lost a few key components to last year's cup-winning team in Ladd and Byfuglien, and their star dmen haven't exactly been playing their best hockey. Crawford in nets is unproven and they're having trouble scoring goals. That said, the Canucks choke year after year and although their star players have had terrific seasons, is this team any different than last year's edition?? I'd like to see a Canadian team win, but I'm tired of the Canucks disappointing me. I think the Hawks are going to pull this one out and be the dragonslayer.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Hawks in 7

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

Will it be the "no-show Joe" show once again? Boring rerun means the Sharks go down. But if they pull that show from the schedule and instead broadcast the "Logan Couture Clutch Hour" they may just pull it out. And they have a confident goalie in Niemi who won it all in Chicago last year. The Kings lost Kopitar, Penner's been rivaling Joe Thornton's no-show status and they've played poorly down the stretch.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Sharks in 4

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings are the perennial favourites, but they're limping in. Goalie Jimmy Howard is not 100% and Zetterberg is not starting the series due to an injury. And the 'Yotes have the revenge factor from last year where they took the Wings to 7 only to lose big at home.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Coyotes in 7

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks

If Hiller were healthy, I'd be out of the gate for the Ducks. They have veteran leadership and scoring depth. Corey Perry was untouchable since the All-Star break and is extremely dangerous. Toss in Selanne, Ryan and Getzlaf and you have a solid team that should win. But don't count out the Preds. They are always sneaky (but boring) good. Goalie Rinne has been solid. Still I think this depends on Anaheim's goaltending. If Hiller can't go or isn't up to form, can Emery/Ellis fill the bill? Tough call.

Habs Fan in LeafLand: Ducks in 7

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Leafs Throw in the Towel as Habs Head Towards Beantown Showdown

Well that's the end of the 2010-2011 Montreal Canadiens regular season. It's been fun and some great stories emerged.

April 9, 2011. MLSE handed out these towels upon entering the ACC in Toronto last night. How fitting. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand.)

The Habs faced a lot of adversity this year right from the onset:

1) Mike Cammellari suspended at the start of the season after his hack on an Islanders prospect in the preseason;

2) Andrei Markov tearing the same ACL he had repaired against Carolina -- out for the season;

3) Josh Gorges playing on an injured knee which finally gave way -- out for the season; that's 2 top four dmen out for the season;

Coach Jacques Martin heads to the bench for the 3rd period in Toronto last night. Martin won his 600th game as a coach last night. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand.)

4) P.K. Subban sitting for five games midseason, before getting the message, hearing it from opposing players across the league, inventing the low-five with Carey Price, taking to heart the advice of mentor Hal Gill then playing Calder-calibre hockey the rest of the way;

5) Carey Price being booed in the preseason because the fans were largely disgruntled by the Halak trade, then telling everyone to "chill out."

Carey Price awaits his teammates for the start of the 3rd period last night in Toronto. He picked up the win to end the season on a high note. Hey everybody, "chill out." (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

He knew what he was talking about.

The Habs coaching staff and management should be highly commended in commandeering this team to a not only a playoff berth, but to 6th place in the Conference after last night's 4-1 win against the Leafs in Toronto. In fact, the Habs were never out of a playoff spot the entire season. James Wisniewski's pickup midseason from the Islanders for essentially squat was key to keeping the engine going and shouldn't be overlooked. Whatever happens in the playoffs, I hope they keep this kid. He's really great on the powerplay and makes strong passes overall breaking out of the defensive zone. And of course, he's got a terrific shot that will match perfectly with Markov.

The win was Jacques Martin's 600th of his career. Say what you will about Mr. Martin, but he's a great coach and he's doing a great job -- at least in my opinion. And those who argue that he can't manage good, raw young talent just has to look at P.K. Subban's evolution this year -- he's really come into his own since January.

Last night's game was an important one if the Habs truly wanted a Boston showdown in the first round of the playoffs. They wanted it, they got it. Btw, Buffalo won last night too. Hoo boy, watchout Philly.

Captain Gio relishing his first goal of the game last night in Toronto. With 2 in the game, he ended the year with 29. Not too shabby given his slow start to the season. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

So the team came out strong, with tough guy Ryan White scoring from a sharp angle through James Reimer's pads to make it 1-0 before the game was 4 minutes old.

The play was made through some nice work by Lars Eller in the corner, winning a puck battle then passing the puck out to White.

Then the Habs powerplay got into the action -- which is starting to wake up once again. Captain Gionta one-timed a laser past Reimer after some nice work by Darche and Gomez down low. Gionta was left alone in the high slot when Mike Komisarek made a poor decision and skated into the corner while the puck went out into the slot. I really don't miss that. 2-0 Habs.

The Habs' powerplay will be key if they want to beat the Bruins in the opening round. Carey Price let in a bit of a soft one and so the score was 2-1 after one period. The second was largely uneventful, until Gionta scored his 2nd of the game again on the powerplay. Yannick Weber's point shot was saved but the able-bodied Canadiens captain was posted in front and put home the rebound for his 29th of the season. Given his slow start and the team's general lack of production, 29 goals is pretty impressive for Gio.

The third period had some interesting moments. The Leafs thought they cut the lead in half when a puck seemed to squeeze through Price's pads and rolled over the line. However the ref called no goal on the ice, and the replays proved inconclusive.

Conferring with the league office on the play that would have made the game 3-2. The verdict? No goal. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

Later at home, I watched the play on tv and it's true, it looked like it might have crossed the line, but it really was inconclusive. Price was skill to get his glove over it just in time to wash out any conclusive evidence. Nice one Carey.

Plekanec completed the scoring on a short-handed breakaway late in the 3rd.

Final: 4-1 Habs.

At the end of the 2nd period my buddy and I mosied down to the Habs' locker room and took some shots with the Habs' gloves and in front of the RDS banner where they do their interviews.

HabsFanInLeafLand with his hand on Lars Eller's glove. Hopefully it gives him luck going into the playoffs. But don't blame me if he doesn't play well. (Photo by Shantanu Roy).

Then we watched the Habs emerge to go to the ice for the 3rd and last period of the regular season. Given the Habs lost the first two here in Toronto (one with me in attendance, remember that post?) it was nice to see them get the win. At least I have a winning record with the team, going 2-1 when I was at the game (the other win was in Buffalo).

Now the team can go into the postseason with confidence and now they can prepare to meet the Bruins. This is going to be good.

Obviously, the Habs have some matters to settle with Boston.

Habs' gloves getting the heat treatment. It's surprising how small they really are, especially when compared to the gloves Lafleur or Gretzky used during their careers. (Photo by HabsFanInLeafLand).

More on the matchups in the coming week, but Game 1 of the first round is this Thursday in Boston:

Timmy against Carey.

Chara against the city of Montreal.

Martin against Julien.

HabsFanInLeafLand against Stanley Cup of Chowder.

It's what we wanted. Can't wait!

HabsFanInLeafLand and Shantanu Roy in front of the RDS banner. Nobody asked us for an interview. Maybe next time :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nailbiter Towards the Playoffs


That's what I said after last night's game which saw the Habs score a 2-1 OT victory against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. You'd think normally a 1-1 game would be snooze-fest. Not this time. End to end action. Both goaltenders on fire. Lots of speed. Some good hitting. Maybe some questionable calls... but most importantly, the end result the team and Habs fans alike were hoping for.

With the win, the Canadiens punch their ticket into the postseason and win their final home game of the year. Nice to do it with a victory instead of backing into the "real season" like last year. Carey Price stamped his name into the Canadiens' long record book with his 71st start of the season. And in my opinion, last night showed how Price can actually ramp his game up a notch... something Jaro Halak was able to do in last year's playoffs. This is crucial to the team to have any chance of postseason success.

Last night felt like a playoff game -- both teams desperately wanted to win. The Habs had a lot of jump right from the getgo but Corey Crawford, the Montreal-native making his first ever start in Montreal for the Hawks, was up to the challenge. He literally stole the 1st period from the Habs, stoning Gomez, Gionta, Cammellari and Kostitsyn on multiple occasions.

The Gomez line had a lot of jump but it was Plekanec's line that were really flying. Lots of energy was brought to the ice by these players. Good to see. Then the Habs took a few penalties but showed they weren't about to get unravelled and killed them off early in the second frame.

Finally, Kostitsyn made a superb pass from behind the net into the high slot where Cammellari saw his wrister deflect off of Brent Seabrooke past a helpless Crawford to give the Habs a 1-0 lead.


But it didn't last long. The ever-dangerous and sneaky Patrick Kane deeked Darche out of his pants at the Habs blueline and sent a nice hard wrist shot through traffic and just inside the post to beat a surprised Price 1-1.

The 3rd period was probably some of the most entertaining hockey I've seen all year from the Habs.

Great speed, great saves, desperation on both sides, lots of scoring chances and some key defensive plays -- like PK Subban breaking up a 3-on-1.

With less than 10 minutes remaining while the Habs were on the powerplay and threatening, Crawford made a great glove save off of Cammellari. A moment later, the Hawks were on a 2-on-1 and Price made a terrific, game saving lateral save. Then the Hawks got a powerplay late but couldn't get it past Price -- who looked super-focused on the job at hand. He probably didn't want Crawford to come into his building and beat him.

The Hawks outshot the Habs after the 1st period, but only got that one past Price.

It was a nailbiter. I was happy for the point in the least, but we all wanted what the team wanted, which was to clinch their playoff berth with this game. They didn't dissappoint.

In OT, the always dangerous Toews (why isn't he in the Hart trophy discussion?) tried a very sneaky play by quickly slew-footing Subban into the boards. It was so hard to see because Toews brought his stick up so fast that it looked like he never even touched PK's skate. But he did, and the ref called it -- and rightly so. Obviously Hawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't pleased, but he can blame his captain for that one.

33 seconds later, Subban beat Crawford with a perfect one-timer set up by who else but Andrei Kostitsyn, who is rounding out his game to become a passer-extraordinaire. 2 great passes, 2 points for Kostitsyn last night.

Jacques Martin showed his approval with some rare smiles after the game in an interview with RDS. Must have been a great relief for him and his staff. Great job Jacques!! When you consider all the drama at the start of the year with the goaltending, all of the season-ending injuries, the scoring droughts by the team's top players and the persistent line-juggling, the fact this team is in the playoffs is quite the accomplishment. Martin should be praised, not blamed.

This is a team that is getting better year to year. What more can we ask for??? Habs are in the playoffs. Good. Now they end the season on the road with games in Ottawa on Thursday, then Toronto on Saturday. I'll be at the game here in Toronto and will post some pictures. Hopefully the Habs maintain their current 6th spot. But whoever faces the Sabres, watch out!!

Speaking of Toronto, they were finally put out of their misery last night when Buffalo won their game against Tampa Bay. Nice try Maple Leafs, you at least made it somewhat exciting for your fans. But once again, it's wait until next year for LeafLand.

With the win, the Habs remain in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, one point up on Buffalo and 2 on the Rangers. 6th place and a showdown with the Bruins in the 1st round is in the balance. Last thing we want is to finish 7th and play the Flyers, who lost again last night. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad come to think of it -- I think Philly peaked too early and their goaltending is not as good as it looked 6 weeks ago. And isn't Crissy Pronger hurt???

And what can be said of the defending cup champs??? Dallas won last night, so now they're only 2 points back. And Troy Brouwer didn't finish the game, or his check on Lars Eller -- causing him to land awkwardly at the foot of the boards. He was down for a bit but eventually left on his own. But chances are he's got a separated shoulder or something not good. The Hawks, they're having trouble scoring goals. They need Patrick Sharp back right away before it's too late. But wouldn't it be great if they finished in 8th and played the Canucks in the 1st round??? I'd love to see that one...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Play the System = Habs Win

Last night's 3-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Jersey last night was more of a morale booster than anything. But it also showed that the team took a step to evaluate themselves, and return to the kind of hockey that has proven to be successful for this team. Carey Price checks out what's behind him on Mattias Tedenby's penalty shot last night in New Jersey. The puck hit the post before touching Price's right pad to keep it out of the net. Photo by: Paul Bereswill, Getty Images. Jacques Martin's squad played a solid, 60 minute performance that wasn't fancy or spectacular. What it was was a team that decided to buy back into the system and do what it needs to do in order to be successful. It was a solid, much-needed win keeping the Habs in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, with 3 games to play. The Sabres lost in OT against the Caps, while the Rangers beat the Flyers in a SO this afternoon. So the Habs remain 2 points up on the Rangers, and 3 points up on the Sabres who have a game in hand. Mathieu Darche potted 2 goals, almost instant replays of eachother. He drove the net while Brian Gionta put the puck right on his stick allowing Darche to tip it past a helpless Martin Brodeur. Although the Devils weren't at their best, especially since they played the night before, Carey Price did what he had to do and only lost his shutout with less than 7 minutes left in the game. Darche provided a little of what has been missing on this team since Pacioretty went down to his injury: driving the net, using his speed, getting some important, but not necessarily pretty, goals. He's not MaxPac, but we need this kind of offensive push. P.K. Subban continued his fine rookie season with the 2nd goal of the game early in the 3rd period on the powerplay. And who was right in front of the net, but Andrei Kostitsyn. I don't know if this guy has grown up or finally realized what he needs to succeed, but he's been taking hits, giving hits and looking like one of our best all around forwards of late. Good for him. And the team only took one... that's right, one penalty during the game. In order for their offense to get in gear, the Habs need to stay out of the box and that's what they did last night. Hopefully their disciplined play continues. The turning point of the game came in the 1st period when Mattias Tedenby hit the post on a penalty shot while the score was still tied 0-0. If he scores there, game might have been very different. But luck was on the Habs side on this night. The Habs now return to Montreal for their last regular-season game against the Chicago Blackhawks. 2 points would almost certainly clinch their spot in the postseason. The team holds its fate in its own hands. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their last season surge with a 4-2 win in Ottawa against the Senators. But unfortunately for them, they only gained 1 point on the teams they're chasing. And with the win, the Habs cannot be caught by the Leafs, so that's one less team to worry about. Good for the Leafs to hang in there. It doesn't look like the playoffs are a reality, but the team can certainly build on their play of late for next season. Ultimately though, the Leafs aren't as good as they have been playing of late, while they're not as bad as they were at the start of the season, especially with a good goalie backstopping them. I didn't like Ron Wilson's quote the other day saying "It doesn't matter who's in nets...the way we've been playing." Is he serious???? Give me a break. With an average defense at best, the team needs to rely on a good goalie who can save the day. Boy, I bet he wished he had started James Reimer in that game against Florida the other week. Those 2 points could have made a difference.