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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back To Le Futur

You know... I spoke about groundhog day a lot this past season with the Habs.

Seemed like the same thing kept repeating over and over and... over!

But with Gauthier gone and new GM Marc Bergevin in place, I thought that'd be over. That we turned a corner.

Michel Therrien in his first stint as Head Coach of the Habs. More hair, less ability than he has now -- we hope.

Think again.

Because today's naming of Michel "my players are too soff" Therrien is the same ol' story. We've seen it before, right!?

And it didn't end too good.

Of course someone on TSN -- probably Darren Dreger -- said that if Scotty Bowman was named head coach today, there probably would have been dancing in the streets. Knowing Montreal, riots even.

But Michel Therrien is no Scotty Bowman. He hasn't won a thing as a coach.

I have to say, I'm not a big fan of the guy. I wanted Marc Crawford. And supposedly it was right down to the wire between both Therrien and Crawford. But this time, it was supposedly his previous stint with the club that was his advantage. That he could handle it, now that he knows what to expect.

There may be some logic to that.

But just like Therrien, I'm older now too. I'm more able to put my ego aside and look at the bright side of things.

For one,  he's now an experienced coach. He's no rookie.

That's good.

Two, he coached arguably the best hockey player in the world, Sidney Crosby.

That's good too. And supposedly the man himself gave his old coach a call today, wishing him his congratulations.

And along with Crosby, Therrien coached a bunch of other young players in Pittsburgh, like Malkin, Stahl, Dupuis, Fleury, Kennedy.

And you know, I like Marc Bergevin. I get a good vibe from him. So I'm willing to give this a shot. After all, what choice do we have?

Fans have been shouting their complaints all day today and I say, I can't blame them. Even my brother came up with a good one: Therrien -- means "the nothing" in english, haha. Let's hope this isn't the case.

But the French media, they've been eating this up. Loving it! Everyone's been chirping in. Everyone except, strangely enough, that old bag Bertrand Raymond who bastes everyone who isn't French. Maybe Raymond doesn't like Therrien!?

Gee, maybe our new head coach isn't so bad after all. :)

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THE KINGS KOURT? THERE'S NO WAY ANYONE SAW THIS COMING.

15-2?
10-0 on the road?
First team to knock off the 1-2-3 seeds on their conference?
First 8th seed to go all the way?

Yeah! The L.A. Kings are going to win the Stanley Cup for crying out loud!?

When the playoffs began, Vegas put them at 75-1. Whoda thunk it?

But like I said in a post last month, this team is different than other cinderella stories of the past. They've been dominant in each round. Opportunistic. Timely scoring. They're getting great goaltending. Game after game, a new hero emerges. In the end, they're just too strong for the New Jersey Devils. And Jonathan Quick? He's your 2012 Conn Smythe winner. Congrats Kings. I might as well say it now... even Wayne Gretzky couldn't bring the cup home to you. Well earned. Much more of a championship-worthy team than those goonish Booins. Good for you.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE ALFRED E. NEUMAN OF HOCKEY: Yesterday on Yahoo! sports there was a story outlining the top 10 Sports Illustrated NHL playoff covers of all-time. While I didn't agree with all of Puck Daddy's selections, there were two Canadiens-related covers: Larry Robinson barging through a Flyers player during the Canadiens' '75-76 run to the Cup; the other showing Mathieu Schneider upending Tomas Sandstrom during the '93 finals.

"What, me worry!?" Keith Magnuson's SI cover captures that era of NHL hockey perfectly. He is the Alfred E. Neuman of hockey, 1970. Pic: Sports Ilustrated

But ultimately the list made me think of my all-time fav SI NHL cover, that of the late Keith Magnuson in 1970, all sweaty and toothless and grinning looking like the Alfred E. Neuman of hockey. Really captures the era. So I posted a comment stating exactly that. And it was nice to see that other readers agreed -- which is nice.

I got the coveted "5 thumbs up" -- which is actually now 6. I'll take it.
Yahoo!
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You said: "The best all-time SI NHL cover has to be the one with Keith Magnusson when he played for the Blackhawks, cheshire cat grinnned toothless smile makes him look like Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman. Totally captures the... more"

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Then again, even if it's not hockey related, this one of a young Terry Bradshaw might even be better.

L.A. KINGS TRAIN KEEPS ON CHOOGLIN': 10-1 in the playoffs? Undefeated on the road going seven straight without a loss? Waah? The L.A. Kings are two wins away from the first finals appearance since '93 when they lost to the Habs. This time, they have a better unit and much, much better goaltending. Kelly Hrudey -- you're no Jonathan Quick.

Man I like this team and they've totally befuddled the 'Yotes and their frustrations are getting the better of them, as symbolized in the Doan and Hanzal hits, the latter getting a one-game suspension on his hit from behind to Conn Smythe candidate Dustin Brown.

Let's also keep in mind, no eighth seed has ever gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Or should we say, not yet!?

Game 3 is tonight in Los Angeles.

RANGERS AREN'T PLAYING LIKE A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM: Everyone pretty much picked the Rangers to beat the Devils, but really -- are they playing the kind of game that wins championships? John Torterella can mope and yell all he wants, but this team is playing like it's already in the bag, and even if they squeak it out and get to the finals, I can't see them beating the Kings the way that team is playing.

Last night's 3-2 loss to the Devils handed New Jersey home ice advantage. Can the Devils take it to them? They were able to get pucks by Lundqvist through tips and top shelf. That's the way to do it. And even if I picked the Rangers to win, I'm rooting for the Devils. After all, Marty Brodeur, he's doing it for Gary. Gary Carter that is :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Kings are Different

The L.A. Kings... in the Stanley Cup Western final?

Yes you're reading correctly. I didn't even have this team making the playoffs, let alone going 8-1 in two playoff rounds so far, calmly and collectively knocking out the #1 and #2 seeds in the Western Conference -- the first time that has ever been done.

Should the Phoenix Coyotes defeat the Nashville Predators, the Kings will have the chance to run the table 1-2-3 in the West.

Impressive stuff.

Since the lockout, each year there always seems to be a 7th or 8th seed that makes a deep run, whether it be the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, our beloved Montreal Canadiens and this year, the Los Angeles Kings -- a team that stamped its ticket to the postseason after its 81st game of the season.

The thing is, no matter their terrific playoff runs, ultimately each team fell short. But this year could be different.

Dustin Brown congratulates Jonathan Quick after winning their second round series 4-0 against the St. Blues. Pic: AP

This is a team that looked pathetic at times this season. Aside from goaltender Jonathan Quick, most of the team underwhelmed for the better part of the season. Defensively they were pretty good, but they just couldn't put the puck into the net. The Mike Richards addition made a big splash last summer, but didn't really produce any major results.

Even worse, Wayne Simmonds, who came over to Philadelphia in the deal, emerged as a strong power forward this year and made Holmgren and the Flyers look like the winners in that deal (they still are, in my opinion).

Then Dean Lombardi fired coach Terry Murray, bringing in Darryl Sutter and the team still had trouble finding its identity -- and scoring goals. Dustin Penner was a write-off, getting more publicity for his marital problems and the now infamous "pancake incident;" and Captain Dustin Brown was rumoured to be on the trade block after Lombardi picked up another underachiever with a heavy contract, Jeff Carter.

Looked like the ship was going down.

But Dustin Brown took a long look in the mirror and decided he wanted to be a difference maker from that point on. And he has been. The Kings made the playoffs, and are now 8 wins away from what even the Great One couldn't accomplish, win the Stanley Cup in Los Angeles.

Now it's still a long ways away, but I have to tell you, I'm jumping on that Kings' bandwagon.

Why? Because they're playing the kind of playoff hockey that wins Stanley Cups.

Hey, I'm no expert (so the experts tell me) but I've been watching hockey my entire life. And I'm telling you, this team seems to have the right things in place:

1) Great goaltending: Jonathan Quick had an All-Star year and is playing superb. He makes the key saves at the key moments.
2) Dustin Brown is leading by example: the guy gets under opposition players' skins (and not in the Brad Marchand manner), he plays a gritty, physical game, and is scoring those big goals when needed.
3) Dustin Penner: with the pancakes finally digested, he seems to have shaken off his sleepiness and all of a sudden is the kind of power forward that the Kings thought they were getting when they picked him up from the Oilers last year at the deadline. Remember, this is a guy who I wanted the  Habs to pick up last year. He's large and in charge. He's going to the net. He's making plays. He's skating hard. He's taking the lead from Brown.
4) The Grinders are grinding: you may get to the dance with the big names, but it's the 3rd and 4th liners who need to contribute to go all the way and win the big prize. From Maxime Talbot with Pittsburgh in '09, to Brad Marchand for the Bruins, to Travis Moen who scored the cup clinching goal for the Ducks a few years back, you need depth scoring to win it all. The Kings are getting it. Jordan Nolan scored yesterday's first goal and they're getting contributions throughout their lineup.
5) They play as a unit: Backchecking, sweat, sacrifice, do what needs to be done, from everyone. Anze Kopitar saved the tying goal late in the 3rd yesterday.

Kings / Rangers final? First-ever coast to coast Stanley Cup final? Could be. But much hockey to play. The thing that makes the Kings different from the other magical darkhorse runs from the past is the way they are winning. Take the Habs of 2010. They won both of their series in 7 games. The Kings? They beat the Canucks in 5 and the Blues in 4 straight. They're not eking it out by a goal that could've gone either way -- they're dominating.

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HABS COACHING UPDATE: grumblings around the league. Looks like Rick Dudley is coming in to be Bergevin's assistant GM, especially for his draft knowledge. But Brian Burke, Dudley's current employer, doesn't want to let him go until after the draft. This could get fun.

Meanwhile Elliotte Friedman broke a rumour on the CBC last night that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is on the outs with Chicago GM Stan Bowman, and might be in line for the Montreal job. I dunno, his french, n'est pas tres good.

Other rumours have Marc Crawford on the short-list. Could be a "what did I tell you!?" moment. I've had his name out there since the fall. He at least speaks French even if it's rusty, and his wife is French.

Both are cup winners at least. I like that.

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AND FINALLY: This just off the boards. Claude Giroux has been suspended one game for his hit to the head on New Jersey's Dainius Zubrus. Oh oh Flyers. Oh oh!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bergevin New GM, Gomez a Goner

The Canadiens are holding a press conference at 2pm today to introduce their new General Manager, Marc Bergevin.

Montrealer. Former player. Bilingual.

Seems to meet the baseline criteria.

Bergevin spent the past season as assistant GM in Chicago for the Blackhawks, working with GM Stan Bowman and obviously rubbing elbows with Scotty Bowman.

He's spent the last 7 seasons with the Hawks as a scout and as director of player personnel and we can trust he has an eye for talent, given Chicago's draft record of recent years (Toews, Kane, Keith). And he knows what it takes to win in the post-lockout NHL.

Bergevin spent 20 years as a defenseman in the NHL most notably with the Blackhawks, Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.

All I can say is, good luck! You have much work ahead of you.

Pierre McGuire and Julien Brisebois were shortlisted but ultimately it's Bergevin who won the coveted position. Supposedly he's a bit of a hybrid between McGuire's encyclopedic player knowledge and Brisebois' number-crunching prowess.

Now, we find a coach...

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And probably Bergevin's first order of business? Buying out Scott Gomez. The underperforming pivot

This is the cap hit against the team if his contract is bought out:

2012-13: $3,523,810
2013-14: $4,523,810
2014-15: $1,666,667
2015-16: $1,666,667

Hard to imagine he'd report to the AHL team, so unless Bergevin could find a dance partner for a trade, this is the only option, barring he stays with the team to have another "bounce back" year.

Gomez is only 32.

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P.K. sidelined and back in Montreal. Unfortunately our young stud d-man hurt his knee and will now miss the entire World Championships. Reports say it's minor; Subban himself didn't seem too concerned when interviewed the other day, but hey, we have a recent track record of the team underselling the severity of knee injuries. Let's hope for the best.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Chipchura Finds His Role

I'm always paying special attention to former Habs to see how they're doing. Most of the time I'm actually rooting for them, too (Benoit Pouliot does not apply). Believe it or not, I was happy for Michael Ryder last year, caff caff.

This year has its fair share of former Habs still playing for the big honours including the Kostitsyn brothers, Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon -- all with the Nashville Predators.

But today I'd like to focus on the unheralded Kyle Chipchura, a guy who hasn't had it easy per se but who seems to have finally found his place on the 4th line for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Chipchura fit in well with the group during his time with the Canadiens but never quite found his spot on the ice. Injuries, a lack of playing time (and a lack of confidence) added with the fact he may have been enjoying the finer side of Montreal just a bit too much, resulted in the rugged center being shipped out to Anaheim during the 2009-10 season.

Now after a few seasons of so-so play with the Ducks, he seems to be playing the 4th line role well with the 'Yotes. And good for him.

For a second there, I didn't even recognize him. He came into the playoffs with an already advanced beard, and looks like a grizzled veteran at the relatively young age of 26.

Kyle Chipchura hammering the last nail in the Chicago Blackhawks' season during a 4-0 win last week. Pic: Getty Images

His line is chipping in and is one of the main reasons why Phoenix is up 2-0 in their series against the Preds, and why they upset the Blackhawks in the opening round. Chipchura also showed some nice hands with a great pass out to Gilbert Brule for a goal, then scored one of his own in the series clinching game against Chicago. He's winning puck battles along the boards, he's going to the dirty areas of the ice, and he's taking the hit to make the play.

All in all Kyle, you are playing the kind of game that all teams need this time of year. Keep it up man and salut from all your friends and fans this side of the border.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back to Normalcy

I awoke to a better world this morning.

A world that is back in sync; one where things feel and look like I remember them.

A world, namely, which does not include the Boston Bruins as Stanley Cup Champions.

You may have noticed my radio silence during this opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

This was not completely intentional.

I needed a bit of a break but also, since I was behind in posting my first round predictions I decided to let things unfold before chiming in.

Now I can...

Sometime after 10pm in my home last night, it was if the Stanley Cup had been won. But indeed it had been lost, and was as much of a victory for me as anything.

The Boston Bruins are now relegated to that spot where they can only watch who will take the trophy away from them, like an outgoing Prime Minister who's lost the election, or a Richard Nixon watching his foe in JFK taking the oath from another Nixon foe, Chief Justice Earl Warren (I'm reading his bio now, thus the reference).

Timmy Thomas didn't do his usual race off the ice after losing in overtime bit. This time, all he could do is watch. Caps beat the Bruins 2-1 in OT to win the series 4-3. Thank you.

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bruins lose, Bruins lose. Hey Jack Edwards, what do you say!!!???

It has been quite the interesting first round: Nashville's Shea Weber taking Zetterberg's head in hand and whacking it against the boards; the Raffi Torres hit; the OT's; the crazy (read: crap) goaltending in the Philly/Pittsburgh series; the Torres suspension; the lack of suspension to Weber; and now the Caps taking out the Bruins. There's more.

LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh that deafening silence in Boston when Joel Ward slipped that rebound past a sprawling and finally not-so-lucky Timmy Thomas. Beautiful.

You got to love the irony, that it's Washington to beat the Bruins, after the now infamous snub of President Obama by Thomas when the team visited the White House. God Bless America, Timmy!

It's kind of funny that Ward scored the winning goal. I was thinking last night how clutch he was last year in the playoffs for Nashville and then signed a juicy contract with the Caps based on that performance. And this year? Disappointing to say the least.

But then he goes and redeems himself with the biggest goal of his career -- and for me, the biggest goal of the year!!!!!!!!!!

The playoffs make strange bedfellows. I found it somewhat odd rooting for a Capitals team that I so often have despised, especially in 2010 vs. the Habs. But there I was, sweating along with every play as if it were Carey Price in nets instead of the upstart rook Holtby.

Can he pull a Kenny Dryden and take the Caps all the way!?

Why not!? Even more possible if the Senators stay keep with the programme so far and knock out the Eastern Conference top seed New York Rangers.

And of course you know I was rooting for the L.A. Kings against Vancouver--a team I'll never root for again after letting the Bruins win the Cup.

Once it's set, second round predictions will be posted -- I promise.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This is the End, Beautiful Friend...

Habs host the Leafs tonight at the Bell Centre for the final game of the regular season.

Normally this would be a supercharged game.

Normally the Habs would be playing for playoff position, while the Leafs would come in and play spoiler.

Neither applies this year.

The Habs are assured a third-worst in the league this year and could even finish second-worst if they lose in regulation and the Oilers beat the Canucks tonight. I wouldn't mind.

If the Leafs can beat the Habs, they'll also finish out of a lottery pick. I wouldn't mind that either.

This has been a tough, rough, difficult sh%t show of a year for the Montreal Canadiens.

Not fun for the fans, not fun for the team's revolving coaching staff, not fun for the players or the media.

Back in January when I officially gave up on the team and began preaching for losses in order to get one of those coveted draft lottery picks, I was just trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

And as we near the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, my disgust in the year's results grows. Watching the playoffs just isn't the same without the Habs. Sure I'll watch the playoffs and even root along for some teams, especially whoever plays against the Bruins.

Jean Beliveau with the Stanley Cup. Who will be the next captain to raise the cup for the Habs!? It probably won't be Brian Gionta.

But it won't have that same heart-thumping-against-my-chest energy and excitement that only having an emotional attachment provides. I love that feeling, when the Habs are up or down by a goal late, every play scutinized, uncer the microscope, when it's all on the line.

Well, here it comes: "There's always next year."

Team President Geoff Molson has been lauded by the press by firing Mr. Gauthier when he did, giving fans and players alike hope, while saying what we all so desperately needed to hear: that failure is not an option.

So as they sort out the GM and Head Coach issues, I will focus on Tuesday night's draft lottery, because it's always fun to dream. Hey the Habs have a shot at the number one pick overall! Probably not going to happen, but it'd be nice. And even if they don't get it, a 2nd or 3rd pick will be nice too.

Will the Habs finally get that elusive big centre who can put the puck into the net with consistency?

Will the Habs finally get that goal scoring superstar, the type of player the team hasn't seen since Guy Lafleur????

I hope so :)

So ultimately I'm taking away all I can that's positive this season, that the Habs will put the kind of management / coaching staff in place to succeed; that they'll get a top pick who can make an impact very soon; and that the team needs to learn how to lose, before they learn how to win. Throw in both Cole and Paccioretty reaching the 30 goal plateau, and I'll say I'm happy... for now.

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Baseball bat click of the cleats out to CRO!!! That's right, Warren Cromartie former Expo and famous gap-toothed grinner. Yes after the outpouring of emotion with Gary Carter's death in February, baseball is being resuscitated in Montreal with the MONTREAL BASEBALL PROJECT. Cromartie was in Montreal recently speaking of the group's plans to put action into reality and get pro baseball back in Montreal, whether it's the MLB or what. Gotta start somewhere, so they're holding a rally in June and a golf outing with the '81 Division Champs team. Man I'm going to be unavailable that weekend, but hope lots of people go!! More on this in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gilmour Sighting and The Game

So one of our brethren Habs Fan in LeafLand sent me this story: last week he and his party were waiting for their table at a nice restaurant here in Toronto and the folks who were just leaving included one Dougie Gilmour. Yes that Doug Gilmour, the one who starred with the Flames and Leafs, before playing (somewhat admirably even if he bleeds blue and white) with the Habs.

As Gilmour is leaving, someone asks him: "Hey didn't you play for the Leafs?"

He smiles and utters some friendly thank yous through some burps...

Anonymous Habs Fan in LeafLand: "Wait! You also played for the Habs too!"

Gilmour: "Errr, yeah."

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Last night, yours truly went to the Leafs/Sabres game at the ACC with Riva. It was her first game here in Toronto. Actually she's never even been to ACC, not even for a concert. So I'm happy to report she had a great time and really appreciated the entertainment value that MLSE puts on for their overpaying customers.

Big shout out to Billy M. for supplying the tix.

And guess what? The Leafs, who hadn't won at home for the past 10 games, finally got a win -- with their AHL goalie to boot -- defeating the Sabres 4-3. Good game actually, because really for most of it the Leafs were dominated by a Buffalo team that had a lot riding on the 2 points; yet the Leafs were opportunistic and managed to eke it out.

Habs Fan in LeafLand at last night's game. The Leafs won their first home game since early February, beating the Sabres 4-3. Pic by Riva.

Up 3-1 entering the 3rd after scoring with .6 seconds on the clock to end the second period, the Leafs almost blew it. This one might really hurt the Sabres though since we know the Caps took 2 points from the Canadiens in Washington last night and Ottawa also won.

The Sens also won today, officially stamping their ticket to the postseason. 

The Leafs win was also important for the Habs to make sure Montreal finishes under the Leafs for the higher draft pick. It's looking more and more like the Habs will finish 3rd worst in the league, but they still have a chance at 2nd worst if Edmonton can win a few this week.

Speaking of which, good on the Canadiens to at least come back from a 2-0 deficit last night with goals from Erik Cole and Tommy Plekanec. I know Plekanec has had an off year, but he's still managed 16 goals -- and I gotta give the guy credit. He's had a clusterf@#k year playing with Cammellari and practically everyone else yet still finds ways to contribute. Hopefully he'll have a bounce back season next year playing with a healthy Brian Gionta.

Another shoot out loss. Wow. The Habs have 15 combined OT and shoot out losses this year. Something they definitely have to improve on next year.

This is the last week of the regular season folks. So we're out of the playoff dance, but take solace in the fact that it'll be a fun offseason :)


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thee Axen Hath Fallen

Not much of a surprise, really.

Except we would have guessed that heads would have rolled upon season's end.

No matter. The important thing is, it's done.

Pierre Gauthier was shown the door today by Geoff Molson, bringing this annus horribilis to an end.

It hasn't been all bad, mind you: Pacioretty, Cole and Desharnais' collective success; Leblanc looking like he belongs; Eller's 4 goal game and evolution; me meeting Riva. But I digress...

So the line goes, Gauthier was fired, Gainey stepped aside. Makes sense.

And thus the Gillette-Gainey-Gauthier era officially comes to an end.

I like Bob Gainey, loved him as a player and I'm not going to bad mouth him. He made mistakes but who doesn't?? For me, though the Gomez deal looms quite large, his biggest was letting Marc Streit go.

But Gainey's big blowup in 09-10, where he brought in Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta among others, resulted in the team reaching the conference finals. It's just too bad they couldn't build from there and take it to the next level.

Instead, Perry Pearn -- gone. Jacques Martin -- gone. Playoff heros Halak and Cammalleri -- goom bye! Andrei K? See ya!!

But it must be remembered, Bob Gainey inherited an absolute horror show from former GM Rejean Houle, who set the franchise back years.

So Geoff Molson begins to put his stamp on the Montreal Canadiens and looking to proven veterans for help in the guise of Serge Savard. Smart move. Gee, if they do hire Patrick Roy as head coach, it'll be just like that episode in "Dallas" when Pamela wakes up to find Bobby in the shower: "It was all a dream." It will be as if everything since '93 never happened!!!

So now we wait to see who gets the job. The line on the street is that Julien Brisebois will get it, but we'll see what happens. The question of who will attend the NHL draft lottery in Toronto is yet to be answered.

And the fact that I chose to discuss Gainey rather than Gauthier says it all...

In the end, when the off-ice activities are more entertaining than the on-ice play, you know we have a problem.

The road to salvation may be long and hard, but at least we're on our way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Paging Dr. Recchi...Dr. Mark Recchi

Paging Dr. Recchi. Dr. Mark Recchi: This is great. I love it when telecasts have a sense of humour. And I also love the fact that this nickname is following the ex-Habs player into his retirement.

For sure, my anger towards Mark Recchi has diminished somewhat from last year after his completely offside comments about Max Paccioretty's injury -- something I'm sure (well I hope) he now regrets. After all, at the time he was coccooned within the warm and goonish confines of the Boston Bruins. Ultimately, I like you Mark Recchi. You were good player for the Canadiens and had an excellent, probably Hall of Fame-worthy career in the NHL, picking up three cups with three different teams. Nice.

Still this is terrific stuff and I'm sorry that this is how you may come to be remembered, but ultimately and I'm sure it's what makes it sting that much more... you only have yourself to blame.

Btw, will anyone ever break Dougie Jarvis' iron man record? I think not.

Enjoy this clip:



Scotty Gomez, say it ain't so: Rumour has it that Scott Gomez is already telling his posse that he does not expect to be in Montreal next year and that his contract will be bought out. But wait!? I thought this was to be your bounce-back year Gomer!? So much for that. Now he wants to go back to New Jersey. No shit. Nothing personal, but we can only hope it's true Scotty G.


Saint-Patrick signs deal to coach the Canadiens!? Beh non!! Yes now that the Habs are resigned to the fact that they will not be in this year's postseason dance, the rumour mill is beginning to pick up speed.

That means the weekly (soon to be daily) rumouring that Patrick Roy will be anointed the Montreal Canadiens' new head coach. Some say he's too hot-headed and unpredictable (namely, me) and others feel he might be a better fit in some sort of managerial role (obviously Pierre Gauthier wouldn't agree).

In fact, this rumour even stated that he's already signed a contract, which he quickly denied, but also didn't deny the fact that he'd be interested in the job if he was approached. Remember, this is a guy who turned down the head coaching job with the Avalanche a few years back. That takes guts.

In any case, I know there's a lot of folks out there who'd like to see this. I personally discussed the possibility with some when Martin looked done and indicated that I didn't think this year was right. That it wasn't a good situation for him to come into. That he deserved to start the year fresh, brand new slate and all.

So now given the options and the special requirements for this job, Patrick Roy could indeed be a terrific head coach for the Montreal Canadiens. He's a winner. He's a Habs alum. He's got passion up the wazzoo. He's perfectly bilingual. He's got a great head of hair. What more do you want?

Well Larry Robinson would be nice... if he were crazy enough to take this job. Think about how good he'd be with our young defense corps.

But seriously, though I still do believe Marc Crawford would be another good choice in this dossier (and he's also another hair boy) Roy knows the Montreal landscape and would not only be a crowd favourite, but a media darling as well. Us fans deserve it after the year we've been subjected to. There will be more on this, pho sho!!

L'arret incroyable!!! What a save!! Holy moly as a goalie I can really appreciate the skill involved to do this kind of thing. Sure flashing the leather always makes for good replays, but this truly is amazing. Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars just robbing the Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson in OT.

Funny enough, I just happened to catch this live. Originally I thought Ekman-Larsson missed the net or hit the post. Nope.



Stick tap to the dude behind the net wearing the old school Minnesota North Stars jersey. My fav of all-time (other than the Habs, of course).

And finally. I couldn't resist. Sorry Leaf fans:


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Markov, Draft and Laffs

So the Habs as a team have decided they do have pride, they do care, they do want to win. And it actually looks like they're having fun again. Better late than never I guess.

How else do you describe 7 points out of a possible 8 when the season is gone gone gone... I mean lost!?

I'm so happy to see Pacioretty get to the 30 goal mark and Erik Cole now with 27 and closing in fast.

It seems lately they're the only ones that score, along with Desharnais and Subban.

I'm a bit concerned though. Now the Canadiens have 67 points and are tied with Carolina and Long Island, but only remain last in the Eastern Conference because those two teams have a game in hand which they use tonight. It looks like our best chance to pick up Grigorenko over the summer is to finish 3rd last but this might be tough now, with the team playing for pride and now even the lowly Maple Leafs, on a death spiral unmatched by any other team in the league this year, are only 1 point up on the Habs.

Oh yeah? Speaking of Cole's goal in last night's 3-2 SO win over the Senators, he officially takes the cake for one of the funnier moments for the Canadiens this year by high-fiving the referee after scoring:



Sigh. What can't this guy do??? He scores, makes us laugh. His 27 goals this year tops his 26 scored last year for the Hurricanes. Great job Erik!

---------------------------------------------
It was like a dream this past Saturday night. I'm on my couch, game glow from tv washing my face in the dark. I turn to my dog to see him licking himself when I first hear it: "Markov over to Subban..."

Wait a sec! This can't be real. I must be dreaming. I turn back to the tv: "Markov makes a terrific outlet pass to Eller, he's in all alone!!!"

I swear, I felt like crying. I've done enough of that lately with the death of Gary and all, but this was a great moment. It was like looking into the past. It didn't seem real. But it was. And boy did it ever feel good to see that no-look, one-time touch pass from Markov right into Subban's wheelhouse for a goal on the powerplay. Markov jumped into P.K.'s arms. Good for him.

Andrei Markov makes his return to action in his first game since November 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks this Saturday. The Habs won 4-1. Pic: Rich Lam/Getty Images.

I wish you all the best Andrei. Stay well. Your skill and poise makes me wonder what the year might have looked like had you come back in November as originally advertised. I'm sure Jacques Martin is thinking the same thing right now.

Markov's return brings to mind another key figure absent from the ice: Brian Gionta. Oh yeah, remember him?

-------------------------------------

The Laffs. Death spiral. What was I singing last year!? "Freefalling" by Tom Petty? Yeah, that's right. The Maple Leafs, no playoffs for you. But you know what really makes me laugh!? It's the way the team has been covered all season by the local press. "The Leafs" have turned the corner." "The Leafs are on their way to the playoffs." "The Leafs need to rest Reimer for the playoffs" blah blah blah.

What a joke!

How can it be that I was the only one to see how that Maple Leafs team led by Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were seriously overachieving for the first half of the season!? That the team's good start was only going to make their fall that much greater by season's end. I mean, the team was scoring as if it were going out of style. Did you really think Kessel was going to score 70 goals? It's one thing to win games by 6-5 or 5-4 scores like they were earlier in the season, but the thing that was completely overlooked by Leafs Nation was that they had to shore up the defense otherwise, they were doomed. And now, they're doomed.

And that's exactly it. The Leafs were doomed because secondary scoring has been streaky, Kessel and Lupul came back down to earth, and the goaltending didn't change. That is, whoever is in nets is letting in 3 goals plus per game. Not gonna cut it.

And I blame now former coach Ron Wilson 100% for mismanaging the goaltenders. All along they were like "If it wasn't for Gustavsson, we'd be out of it." But then he goes and starts Reimer, the eager yet technically-flawed "real deal" goaltender who -- let's face it -- is having a terrible season. What message does that send to Gustavsson?

True Reimer had that concussion which certainly could account for his play upon returning to action. But look at Ryan Miller. After fighting his own concussion issues he's now playing lights-out hockey. But Reimer has been over-valued. He's not that good. His technique is flawed. He's often out of position. He swims around his crease. He plays too far back. He crouches too low.

He needs help. And now they've fried Gustavsson who for sure has let in more than his share of stinkers this year. But I know goaltending is a tough mental position and when your coach praises you then starts the other guy, tough to play your best. At least Randy Carlysle recognized this and played Gustavsson for the last five games or so. Even if he did lose all but one, that one being against the Habs.

Got to wonder about Burke's decisions as GM for this team. Signs Colby Armstrong -- hurt more than he's played. Signed Matthew Lombardi -- disappointment. Signed Connolly -- disappointment. Signed Reimer to a big contract in the offseason after putting up decent numbers last year when no pressure was on him -- major disappointment. And of course -- and there are others -- trades away the team's 1st round draft pick in 2010 to the Bruins for Phil Kessel. That pick became Tyler Seguin, who is making a name for himself around the league, has tremendous speed, great hands, good head on his shoulders, and best of all, is a Leafs-killer. Phil Kessel? Sure, 30 plus goals. But 20 of those were scored before the end of December... and now Damien Cox is writing that now's a good time to trade him. Yah!? If only they can find a dance partner. Good luck with that.

So check out this great video parody, if Hitler were a Leafs fan!! I gotta start doing some things like this. Next year folks, get ready for HabsFan in Leafland taking it to the next level this summer.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Meet (I Hope) Your 2012 First Round Pick: Mikhail Grigorenko

Lose lose lose, lose lose lose
All the Habs do is lose lose lose.

Even at home against the hapless Leafs who had to resort to a coaching change to try to salvage their playoff hopes, the Habs couldn't come up with a win.

No matter, I was rooting for the Leafs on that night.

If you read this blog, I don't have to tell you why.

The Habs are solidly the 3rd worst team in the NHL right now, ahead (behind) of Edmonton and Columbus. Now the Habs would probably have to lose the rest of their games to finish lower than the Blue Jackets, but they might have a chance at finishing 2nd worst if the Oilers can put a string of wins together.

The consensus around the hockey world is that Nail Yakupov, the Sarnia Sting winger of the Ontario Hockey League, is the "head and shoulders above the rest" Number 1 choice to go first overall in this year's NHL draft.

Yakupov is a talented, highly skilled Ovechkin-type player who stands at only 5"11 but has a knack for putting the puck in the net.

Mikhail Grigorenko. At 6"3 he's exactly what the Habs need up the middle. He's already playing in Quebec City for Patrick Roy's Remparts. If the team picks him at this year's draft, could that pave the way for Roy as head coach? Compelling stuff for sure...

By many other accounts, Mikhail Grigorenko -- another Russian -- will go second. So why am I so confident the Canadiens will nab him? Because the commonly-known word on the street is that the Oilers, who after picking talented forwards in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in previous drafts, now need to go after a top defense prospect. And according to TSN's Bob McKenzie, there's plenty of options in that regard.

Grigorenko is being compared to Evgeni Malkin: an extremely talented centre with great hands. And at 6"3, just what the Habs have been lacking up front for years. The fact that he's playing for Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts makes him that much more appealing. Ovechkin is faltering, Malkin is leading the league in points and is a strong candidate for the Art Ross trophy this year. And all this without Sidney Crosby. Who would you choose?

You know the P.A. announcer Michel Lecroix would have a field day calling out his name after a Canadiens goal.

But McKenzie puts some interesting twists into the mix. What if Columbus decides to go with Grigorenko instead, because they end up keeping Rick Nash and could finally give the star winger a centreman who can get him the puck? What if Edmonton goes against logic and picks him after Yakupov? What if Montreal Canadiens head of scouting Trevor Timmins doesn't get his head out of his arse? All important considerations...

Even with Timmins, the Habs would be hard pressed NOT to get a top player this summer who can hopefully make an immediate impact with the team in the coming season. Whoever it ends up being.

But those I've talked to like the idea of a Malkin-esque type player on the Canadiens and I too have to agree. Maybe the Habs don't risk it, and trade up a spot to assure their choice!? Could be a possibility... of the course the lottery might change things.

For now, let the Canadiens continue to lose lose lose and it'll work itself out in the end.

--------------------------------------------

Olympic Stadium. Concrete. Yes you know, slabs of concrete, falling...AGAIN!!

This is how we can get the money to build a new stadium to get our beloved Expos back: hold a lottery at $20 a ticket, and the winner gets the unique opportunity to push the detonation plunger to implode the Big O. What a sight that would be eh?

Hey if you build a statue of Gary Carter at at the Big O, please make sure there's no concrete within falling distance.  Thanks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

AK46 Hab No More

Andrei Kostitsyn, the one Habs forward who could pull us all out of our seats with his offensive flair, is a Hab no more.

Today he's being reunited with his brother Sergei in Nashville, exchanged for a 2nd rounder in 2013 and the conditional fifth round pick the Habs gave to the Preds in the Gill trade the other week.

In other words, not much eh?

Bye bye Andrei. Another victim of our miss the playoffs kind of year. You were fun to watch. I'll miss you. Pic: Getty

Now I'm an Andrei Kostitsyn fan, and sure he's definitely in one of his patented slumps right now, but why we'd trade a guy like this who is just entering his prime is beyond me. Why we'd let another head coach essentially write out players from their lineups -- Carbonneau and Michael Ryder for example -- is also beyond me, especially when the head coach is a temp.

Kostitsyn isn't setting the world on fire this year, with 12 goals and 12 assists in 53 games.

I would be more happy if we got something of substance for this guy but a measly 2nd rounder is a bit disappointing, if you ask me.

In the end, the deal turns out to be a salary dump for more important Carey Price and P.K. Subban contracts in the quicker than most would like to admit is coming" offseason.

But who can blame  him? This guy has been playing 3rd and 4th line minutes. He should be playing on the first two lines, in my opinion, for him to thrive. Last night he was playing with Ryan White for godssake.

Good luck Andrei it was fun. Now the guy we picked instead of Kopitar isn't around anymore to remind of that fact. I'm sure you'll do well in Nashville.

DO I SMELL TOP 3 PICK!!?? The Habs are well on their way especially after losing last night to Florida, and I'm fine with that. Let's see if the team makes a few more moves before the end of the afternoon today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Gary...

Carey Price during the pregame warmup wearing Carter's #8.

The Canadiens honoured Gary Carter before the game against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night and as per form, it was first class all the way. The players wore Carter's iconic number 8 on their jerseys for pre-game warmup, which will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to The Gary Carter Foundation. They also sported #8 on their helmets, and Youppi! wore his old Expos cap and jersey, with Carter's name and number.

He then returned later sporting a Habs jersey, also with a #8. It was nice to see ol' Youppi! in his former threads, even under such circumstances.

Great tribute to the music of the Eagle's "New Kid in Town."

I cried, as I'm sure many others did. I still can't believe it.
Anyhow here's the tribute if you haven't seen it:



Now if only the team could have picked up the win for "The Kid."

I kind of spent the entire weekend thinking about Gary Carter.

Yeah! Gary Carter in his trademark pose, showing the ump the ball after he tagged out a runner at home. Way to go Gary!!! Pic courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

In retrospect, I think the passing of Gary Carter was a bit emotional for me for a variety of reasons: it made me think of my late father, who also passed away before his time at age 51 from cancer in 1980 -- as Carter was entering his prime; it also made me think about all the great memories I had of the Expos and specifically of Gary; and especially made me sad about how much I really, really miss the Expos. No matter how bad their record may have been, no matter how bad a place the Olympic Stadium is to see a game -- it's better to have a team to not have one at all.

Here's a great recap of Carter's career more focused on his prime with the Expos:


It also made me realize that Gary Carter represented something more to us. He represented a sense of optimism, a sense of passion, of winning and hopefulness that used to exist in Montreal that is no longer there. That is very sad too. With the clusterf@#$ season we're having with the Canadiens this year and the, some may say, mismanaging of the team, it makes me wonder how this has gone terribly wrong? Where are our standards of sports excellence that once permeated through everything that was done in the Montreal sports scene? At one time, the Expos were getting to be contenders, the Canadiens were Stanley Cup champs, and the Alouettes were Grey Cup champs.

How times have changed...

I'm also sad because Carter truly was one of the good ones. We're so lucky to have had him in our lives one way or the other.

"The Kid" with ever-present smile, congratulates Steve Rogers after a win during the '81 run. Pic courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

THANK YOU GARY!!!!!!!!!!! Mow 'em down trying to steal second in the Field of Dreams.

------------------------

On a hockey note, the Habs plays the Dallas Stars tonight. Unbelievably, the Habs are still only 6 points out of the playoffs, but just to bring you back to reality, no team has made up such an amount of points to make the playoffs at this time of the year (post lockout). Good luck.

And the thrill that was Hal Gill is no more, off to Nashville for a draft pick and two prospects including Blake Geoffrion, the grandson of former Habs great Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion. No pressure Blake...

Gee, we're sure cornering the market on players with French names that donm't speak a lick of French, eh? Rene Bourque, prospect Nathan Beaulieu, coach Randy Ladouceur, now Blake Geoffrion.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Give 'Em Credit

I'm proud of myself.

Yes. Proud of myself for not getting sucked into the hoopla and faux-hope of the Canadiens making the playoffs this year after they won four straight last week. Reality... it crashes right into your face. How's that for "...just the perfect amount of pepper?"
 
And now that I'm approaching the season with this new-found attitude, I'm actually enjoying it more. So back to that draft pick...

And maybe some trades? One point out of four is certainly not enough -- even if the Habs currently sit 6 points out of a playoff spot as I write this (Toronto is up 2-1 against Edmonton right now).

Up, up and away!? Even Dave Van Horne wouldn't have made that call on Pacioretty. Habs lost 4-3 in a shootout. 

After a missed opportunity to keep the ball rolling against the Hurricanes the other night give the Canadiens credit as they came back in the third period tonight to squeeze a point out against the Bruins before losing in the shootout. Ho hum. Price was beaten stick side. What else is new!? Most definitely the scouting report on him. "Psst: Go stick side on Pricer. Works everytime." Krejci did. Hit the post. Seguin made it count and the odd combination of Bourque-Pacioretty-Eller came up firing blanks.

Good to see Ryan White in the lineup at least. And he got in the middle of things with a scrap. Welcome back!!

Time is-a-tickin' on the 2011-2012 season, and that's a good thing at this point. Personally I'm ready to play golf. So who's gonna be dealt??

Everyone is saying Hal Gill and Travis Moen. Now Kostitsyn is in the mix but he always was. Now really, what are we going to get for a malcontent? A fifth rounder??? And I think at this point, we'll take a bag of stinky sox from anyone who wants to take Scotty Gomez. To quote Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff from earlier this season: "It's a joke."

Which is a great segway to my conclusion. Brad Marchand. Clipping. Again!!! The guy is going to get his some day. At least Chara took a puck to the face tonight... Like I said "It's a joke."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

False Hope? Who Cares!?

Nothing better.

That's right folks. When the Habs win and the Leafs lose on the same night, that's always a good thing. And when it happens as a result of the Habs beating the Leafs, there's nothing better. Okay maybe when the Habs beat the Bruins, but last night's 5-0 blowout on Mats Sundin night couldn't have come at a better time for the Habs.

Tying a season-high fourth win a row, the Canadiens gave the Leafs a third loss in a row and kept their extremely slim playoff hopes alive. I dunno, I still want them to get a top pick, but you know if they can keep on winning I guess anything is possible. 

If anything at least the team is putting on a better show for its fans and that's what matters. Carey Price is playing really well and they're getting production from all four lines. 

Mathieu Darche scores the Canadiens' fifth goal last night in the Habs' 5-0 blowout against the Leafs in LeafLand last night. Ahh, that feels good. Pic: Claus Andersen/Getty Images. 

Even Scotty Gomez broke his year-long drought in this latest and all too rare win span. And although Scotty G. has steadfastly maintained his mantra that winning is more important that his personal stats, you have to think the guy must be relieved to have touched the twine for the first time since February 5, 2011.

In Long Island on Thursday night, Gomez got the game winner in a game that saw Max Pacioretty score his first career shutout. Leave it to Gomez to steal Pacioretty's thunder, but MaxPac didn't seem to mind. When Gomer scored, it was like the Habs just scored a Game 7 OT winner. RDS's Pierre Houde exclaimed with added gusto "Et le but....SCOTT GOMEZ!!!!!!!!"

The Habs bench rose like they won the cup. Gomez was hugged enthusiastically. And poor Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The guy looked up, saw that it was Gomez who scored then looked skyward as if to say "Oh no why me!?" -- rubbing salt in the wound that he was the goalie to let numero 11 break his goal scoring slump.

Turned out to be winning goal. Just goes to show you, Gomez's lack of offensive production is one of the keys to the Habs' off year.

Mazel tov Scotty G. It's over mon vieux. Now you can maybe start earning your keep? Pic: Jim MacIsaac/Getty Images.

So is it too late for this year's team!? Just when I throw in the towel and figure that they might as well give it up for the year and focus on getting that top pick, they start to play as a group and win games as a result.


I'm just going to keep on going with the reverse psychology. Lose Habs, lose!

And back to last night's game, I just love the way Ron Wilson calls out his goalie and his team -- no wonder players voted him the coach they'd least like to play for:

“Carey Price made all the stops and we didn’t get very many, so it made for a difficult night.”
Yeesh. When are you going to realize that James Reimer is totally overrated, plays too deep in his net, and on more nights than not, gets lucky!? Imagine, people have said Price is overrated. Haha.
As a HabFan in LeafLand, you gotta love the fact that in the pre-game Sundin ceremonies, it was all love and applauds for him and the Leafs. 40 game minutes later, the team was being booed off the ice from the same Toronto faithful.




Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shootout Win!? Oh Joy...

I enjoyed last night's game for once.  Not just because the Habs got 2 points against the Penguins. It was a good entertaining game regardless.

Both teams got good scoring chances and both goalies made great saves yet also let in ones they'd like back. There was good back and forth action and I liked the pace overall.

Of course entering the shootout, I expected the Habs to lose as has been the familiar refrain this year. All I asked for was for someone, anyone, to get at least one past Marc-Andre Fleury in defeat.

Tommy Plekanec scored the shootout winner and was last night's first star. Here he thanks Carey Price for following his advice and shooting to Fleury's stick side. 

And my wish was realized in the form of Rene Bourque who sniped a shot past Fleury's glove hand to give the Canadiens the lead. But then in the 2nd round, Evgeni (I'm money) Malkin pulled a spin-o-rama of his own to tie it all up.

Eventually, Lars Eller put the puck in. Then Chris Kunitz tied it up. Finally, in the 8th round, Tomas Plekanec -- who was stopped earlier in the game on a breakaway, put the puck home and Carey Price made the last save to give the Habs the 3-2 shootout win.

Wow!

The funny thing of course is that ultimately -- dare I say it -- I want the Canadiens to lose.

Yes. Lose. Lose big even.

Because I want that top draft pick. I want it, want it, want it!!!!

Finish in the bottom five in the league. Please!!!!!! We're not going to make the playoffs. Please do not pull a Leafs-style late season run only to finish a few points short.

Of course you know now that I mentioned it, they'll probably do just that.

Habs visit the Islanders on Long Island tomorrow night.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Groundhog Day Habs Style

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. How fitting was that given the Canadiens did what they seem to be good at doing this year, over and over... and over? That is of course, losing a game where on 2 separate occasions they were up by 2 goals.


Punxsutawney Phil. This cute and well fed little critter saw his shadow yesterday. We saw the Habs's season go straight to the devil based on another repeat performance.

When will this stop? Certainly not this year. Yes, it's all about next year folks. I'm fine with it too. Sure I wanted to be bold and brash and be the first to predict a cup for our Canadiens this year, but hey, I'm not perfect. I'm the most American-Canadian you'll find. I sometimes shoot then ask questions. I like bourbon. And I don't like the winter...

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow when he crawled out of his burrow yesterday. Isn't he cuddly? He certainly looks well fed. Anyhow that means six more weeks of winter!!! Which might be a good thing for the Habs, they need all the help they can get because their summers are fast approaching.

But as I've written previously, a top-five pick is terrific news, especially since this team isn't that far off. Yes, I really believe that. Hey, just because things don't seem to be working doesn't mean it's blow-up time. A car can be in perfect working order but if a tire is flat it won't go anywhere.

So that's that. On the bright side, Louis Leblanc was called up last night and had a good game. All in all it was a bit of a strange one though. Bourque's shot hit Desharnais off his head for the first goal. Puck stopped right on the line for Price on a Kovalchuk backhand in the first period and somehow stayed out. Elias hit Blunden from behind and got fined today $2500. Blunden will probably be out awhile. P.K. Subban just drilled and I mean pasted Larsson and sent him back to his childhood. Price let in a total stinker that even I could've saved. Then the refs decided they had enough and didn't want to go to OT, so they ignored a blatant hooking call when Cole tried to clear the puck out of his zone which led to Parise's game winner.

Well at least Ryan White and Travis Moen are about ready to come back to action. Don't expect Markov to play this year.

Ho hum, c'est la vie. And that's the season folks. So now... who should we pick in the 2012 draft with our top 5 pick? More on that to come.

NEXT GAME MARKS ONE FULL YEAR SINCE SCOTT GOMEZ SCORED A GOAL!!! Absolutely terrible and unacceptable...HE'S THE TEAM'S HIGHEST PAID PLAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top 5 Pick, Here We Come!!

Wasted!

No I'm not talking about me... well maybe a little bit. It's true. I'm wasted for having wasted my time watching last night's 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

What I mean is wasted (i.e. opportunity)... again! The Habs continue to waste any opportunities they have to crawl back into the playoff hunt.

Pricer had a solid outing for his team, but geez! Score some goals for the guy. Pic: Dario Ayala, The Gazette

Here they are, at home and fresh from the All-Star break. Everyone's happy and feeling good coming after 2 solid wins with the last being the 7-2 drubbing of the Red Wings. The team had an energetic practice, things were looking up. And then the game arrives...

What happened?

Well the Habs came out strong and took a 1-0 lead but then fell completely flat through the second period and gave up chance after chance until the Sabres were able to take the lead in the 3rd period and  never looked back.

Lack of intensity and desperation, Price says. Too many players playing from the sidelines.

But does this surprise anyone who's been following the team this year? You know what bothers me most? We're wasting terrific seasons from Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty. These guys have been great. MaxPac needs to work on his consistency but remember, just his first full year. Cole's signing was lambasted by many in the press and after a slow start, they looked right. But the guy has been pretty much Mnsr. Consistency from then on, and has also become the team's leader both on and off the ice. The guy tries hard. Where's that work effort from the rest of the team?

One of my fellow HabsFan in LeafLanders and I had a small agreement yesterday before the game: Habs win, they're going to make the playoffs. Habs lose, Habsnots!!!

My unfortunate yet precise prediction was that the Habs would indeed lose, just because each time this year they've had some momentum, then had a bit of a break, they've come out really flat to lose that next game. It's why they can't get on any sort of run. Everyone was saying after the Detroit win, too bad they had the All-Star break, just stalls their momentum. But you can't make excuses. Come on, the Sabres!? They're on a free-fall. They won only 1 of their last 8 away games for crying out loud. Tell you what. We're on a free-fall!!

But I don't think we need to blow up the team just because it finds itself in the bottom 5 of the league.

Good I say. But it is time for President Geoff Molson to enter the picture. Forget about the delusion of the playoffs. We can find our fun in watching the Leafs blow 4-1 leads like they did last night to the Pens and lose out on the playoffs by one point.

Yes Mr. Molson, you may just receive that letter I promised awhile back. Time to get things in order for the draft. That means letting Mr. Gauthier go and putting an able-bodied GM in his place.

Jeff Carter wants out of Columbus. Columbus wants out of the Jeff Carter contract. Let's take the chance and get rid of Gomez at the same time. Yah it's another silly contract -- but if you throw in that juicy number one pick this summer, it could be worth it.

Let's get that top 5 pick. The draft is going to be a good one, so why not? Even Director of Scouting Trevor Timmins probably wouldn't be able to botch that one up.

In the meantime, how about another trade? I got one for you: Let's swap a problem for a problem. Look we need to get rid of Scotty Gomez, right? Who by the way has a couple more kicks at the can before he can celebrate a full calendar year without scoring a goal. Columbus needs to get rid of party-boy and injury prone Jeff Carter, a guy who has offensive upside when he's engaged and healthy. So why not Gomez, Kaberle and Kostitsyn for Carter (who's currently hurt) and Columbus' 1st round pick in this summer's draft??? Which for all intent and purpose will either be 1 or 2.

Yes you heard me right, trade Kostitsyn. Look I love the guy, you all know that. But I don't want to see him leave for nothing. Carter's contract bites, but you know, it could be a gamble that pays off for the Habs, conditional on getting that 1st rounder.

Never happen you say? Just watch...

I deleted the "...me" above. Too Trudeau-esque.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Enjoy It!!

Montreal, Quebec. Was that your 2012 Canadiens or the 1977 flying Frenchmen??
A resounding 7-2 victory over the NHL-tops Detroit Red Wings does the Habs body good.

This really was a classic Original Six matchup. The Habs clobbered the Wings just like dem old times!

Bourque opened the scoring with a good ol' dirty goal, driving the net hard while the rejuvenated but still goal-less Scotty Gomez showed some speed and fed the puck into the crease before bouncing off of Bourque's leg.

Alexei Emelin congratulated by his teammates after scoring his first NHL goal against the Detroit Red Wings. Habs won the game 7-2.

And just in case you weren't paying attention, because you know I am:

Rene Bourque:
5 GP; 2 G; 1 A; +1; 5 PIM (for fighting)

Michael Cammalleri
5 GP; 1 G; 0 A; -4; 4 PIM

So who got the player in that recent deal, Mr. PuckDaddy???

Desharnais scored two nice goals while Cole and Pacioretty each had one for the line that just keeps on clicking. Tommy Plekanec got one, and Alexei Emelin scored his first in the NHL. Well deserved Alexei. Both Lars Eller and Andrei Kostitsyn also had strong outings.


Desharnais and Pacioretty have serious chemistry together -- something they've put on display since playing together in Hamilton.

Habs now enter the All-Star break on a high and feeling a bit better about themselves, 8 points out of the last playoff spot in the East. At least we can have something to talk about other than P.K. Subban. 3-0-2 in their last five games is good with the clock ticking this team needs all the points it can get.

Two wins in a row is nice. Ten would be better.

Your Habs need to get on a roll. A serious roll, if they want to make the playoffs. It's still not impossible. Nobody is giving up... yet.

Et tu, Markov?

PS: Love Mike Babcock and love his loyalty and allegiance to McGill University -- my alma mater too. Always sports the McGill club tie when he coaches against the Habs. Now wouldn't he look good wearing that behind the Habs bench someday!? What would it take to get the man to coach the Canadiens????

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Familiar Refrain

Everyone all together now:

One-two-three, Habs take the lead.

Four-five-six, their opponents tie it late.

Seven-eight-nine, nothing in overtime.

Ten-eleven-twelve, Habs in shootout hell.

Scotty Gomez getting rubbed out along the boards. He's good at that.

Peter Budaj made the start in Pittsburgh last night and even with two separate two goal leads, the result was the same. The Penguins tied the game with less than 3 minutes left and we could all predict the final result from there.

I for one was hoping the team would press hard in the five minute OT period to do anything to avoid going to a shootout.

Another shorthanded goal allowed, another lead in a game the team should have won, another shootout loss. Another lost opportunity.

In a week of games where the Habs couldn't afford to end with less than four points out of a possible six, the Habs have one point in four as they prepare for their game against the Leafs here in Toronto tonight.

I'm not sure if I understand Coach Cunneyworth's shootout lineup which is seemingly adding to the problem. Just go with our strongest players: Pacioretty-Cole-Plekanec. Done. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Fine substitute with Desharnais or Kostitsyn, but don't deviate. We're going to win with our best players. The Canadiens just can't seem to score on the shootout. Desharnais made a nice move a la Mats Naslund but Fleury made the save. Kostitsyn broke his stick as he was about to shoot -- pretty much sums up the season so far. And Scott Gomez? A guy who hasn't scored in almost a year? He couldn't touch the twine. Websites are even popping up waiting to celebrate the anniversary of his last goal on February 5, 2011. Yippee! The countdown is on.

The Canadiens got goals from Lars Eller, Cole, Pacioretty and Kostitsyn on the powerplay. Earlier that day, I told two different people how I thought the Canadiens needed to station someone in the high slot on the powerplay -- a spot that was often manned by Andrei K. in the past. And where did he score his goal from? The high slot.

Coach Cunneyworth, call me. No excuses because you're in town -- it won't even be long-distance.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Caps, Flaps & Rickety

CAPS AT BELL CENTRE FOR WEDNESDAY NIGHT TILT: Ovechkin et al in Montreal tonight. Should be interesting since the Capitals got blanked 3-0 last night by the lowly Isles and the Habs are desperate to get on some sort of roll. The game marks the return of the much-maligned Dale Hunter, now Washington's head coach, a guy who is, let's say... somewhat disliked in Montreal. With the recent comparisons of Boston's Brad Marchand to Ken "the rat" Linseman and Brian Burke's "rats" rant of the other week, who was a better representation of the NHL's league of rats than Dale Hunter!? I hated him as a kid when he played for the Nordiques. But he was an effective player, no doubt about that.

And the other main storyline for tonight's game centres around Rene Bourque, who faces the Caps for the first time since his elbow to Nicklas Backstrom's head. Looking forward to seeing what comes of that.

FLAPS: Did you see what happened to poor Taylor Hall last night??? Helmet-less, he falls in the warmup, takes out two of his teammates, crashes his head into the boards, and gets cut in the face by his teammate's skate. Now that could've been real bad. Thankfully he's alright and just needed stitches, but as GM Steve Tambellini said after the game, moving forward "Taylor will probably wear a helmet walking around Edmonton's streets, just in case".

RICKETY: In my ongoing mission to improve this blog and provide you with interesting, pertinent hockey reads, I'm preparing a bunch of story outlines, with one focused on current, injury-prone players. Through my research, I found a great Sports Illustrated photo essay on Rick "Rickety" DiPietro who literally cannot deal with the weight and expectations of his crazy, 15 year contract. He's out for the season, again. Let's hope that Taylor Hall doesn't end up making the list.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Out of Four Not Bad

The Canadiens surprised the New York Rangers last night and were able to come out of this weekend's action with three of a possible four points. Not bad. But they still didn't gain any ground in the standings.
Too bad they couldn't squeeze out a full four after losing in a shootout to the Sens on Saturday. But on a positive note, the team was good to even get that single point by scoring late to tie the game and send it to OT.

Camma who? Rene Bourque made his Habs debut on Sunday night. He actually has Kovalev's old number 27. Pic: Habs Fan in HabsLand, Gary Rothstein.

It's starting to get kind of tiring, this losing in a shootout thing. If only the team had a winning record in the shootout this year. Currently after 45 games played the team has 17 wins, 20 losses and 8 losses in OT/SO. They're 1-6 in shootouts after losing to Ottawa on Saturday.

If they were 4-3 instead, their record would be 20 wins, 20 losses and 5 OT/SO losses for a total of 45 points. Marginally better, true. But psychology factors into this and being at least even in wins/regulation losses can give a struggling team a bit more jump. In any case, they're leaving a lot of points on the table.

Unfortunately, the Habs remain in 12th place, still 8 points out of 8th. This week however could be an opportunity for the proverbial glimmer of hope, as the Habs play three of the teams they're chasing if they want to even think about the playoffs: Washington, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Good luck:
"We can't be satisfied when we're sitting in the 12th seed. Ask me again in a month and a half when we're fighting for a playoff spot."—Montreal right winger Erik Cole on whether he was satisfied with taking three of a possible four points in weekend games against Ottawa and the New York Rangers.  
Rene Bourque played his first game as a Hab last night and came as advertised: he hit, he was hard along the boards and he got a few good shots on net. He has some good speed for a man his size and is reminiscent of Erik Cole in that way. Bourque had a nice rush early in the game when he used his speed to barge into the Rangers' zone, only to have his backhand shot stopped by King Lundqvist who, by the way, is more of a pauper when he comes to Montreal. The Rangers have now lost 6 straight at the Bell Centre and Lundqvist now has a  4-5-1 record at the Bell Centre, including a goals-against average of 3.86 and a .887 save percentage entering the game.

Well at least we play good against one team at home.

It was also positive for the Habs to score first and win the game. And goaltender Peter Budaj -- who got the start -- finally got his first win in front of the Bell Centre faithful.

The weekend also saw the return of Scott Gomez to the Canadiens' lineup. Pretty much absent against Ottawa, the Alaskan-born forward always seems to play well against his former team the Rangers. He made a nice pass on Blunden's goal in the second period and made his presence known much more than on the previous night.

Michael Cammalleri scored the only goal in Calgary's 4-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. How about that "losing mentality" in Calgary, eh Mike!?

 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Deal Done

Well that didn't take long, did it?

Leave it to the Montreal Canadiens to make last night's 2-1 loss to the Bruins an afterthought to what was going on off the ice last night.

Mike Cammalleri back in the days when he showed some emotion. Let's see if he's able to reignite that flame again in Calgary reloaded. Pic: Calgary Herald.

Of course if you believe Mr. Gauthier, it was in the works for over a month. Which I certainly hope is true because if he is a GM of any worth, he should have been shopping Mr. Cammalleri around the league for some time now.

The only thing about last night's trade of Michael Cammalleri to Calgary for Rene Bourque that strikes me as odd is its timing. Why the team didn't sit him if this trade was in the works is a mystery to me!? I can understand removing him from the game once the trade was made to avoid injury, but it still is a bit shocking and somewhat unprofessional.

Then again, so were Cammy's previous comments about the team -- in my view at least. Other pundits, like Yahoo's PuckDaddy, seem to think otherwise:
Cammalleri's frustration is expected. This isn't some ham-and-egger whining about a demotion from the third or the fourth line. This is a guy who has stepped up offensively when others have disappeared in the postseason, a player who worked his ass off to overcome physical limitations to succeed in the NHL.

If he wants out, fine; he wouldn't be the first to trade in his Habs sweater. But if he's being crucified for candor, it's an injustice.
Today, PuckDaddy even had the audacity to call the trade mid-game a calamity on the same scale as Patrick Roy's shipping to Colorado back in the '90's. Now that really is funny.

What Mr. PuckDaddy doesn't seem to realize is that Rene Bourque has more goals in the last 2 seasons than the supposedly "clutch" Cammalleri and frees up another 3 million bucks in cap space for the Habs to sign their more important -- and more professional -- players like Carey Price. Okay Pricey still has a lot of growing up to do but at least he takes responsibility for his play. Cammalleri returns to Iginla and hopes to reignite that flame. Good luck and enjoy the rodeo Mike.

Rene Bourque gives the Habs puck battling ability along the boards and the ability to score some dirty goals. Pic: Getty Images.

The Habs get a big, gritty forward who will win puck battles along the boards and give us additional net presence. He'll also take some pressure off of Max Pacioretty to perform in that way.

Sure it's not a blockbuster deal, but I'll come out and say it: I like this deal. We gave up Karri Ramo who was never going to play nets for the Habs anyway and a fifth rounder in return for the prospect Patrick Holland and Calgary's 2013 2nd round pick. And if Calgary tanks next year, that pick could be mighty high.

So we lose out by giving up a clutch playoff performer??? Well Jay Feaster's Flames will need to make the playoffs first to find out.

And you can bet that's not going to happen.