Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What if...

What if it was Montreal that got booted from the playoffs last night in a spectacular let down by the best goalie of all time? What if NJ and MTL had switched places this year?

Habs fans are pretty upset right now, and wondering what their team is gonna be come September next year -- all the way from ownership to backup goalie!

Imagine if you will, if we had Martin Brodeur on our side: and we had finished tops in our conference, and had league leading goal scorers... only to be ousted in the first round, in possibly the most painful way possible.

The press would be calling to trade Brodeur! He was as bad as Carey Price in his 4 losses. Fire Sutter! He couldn't motivate the team after Marty's 551st win. Trade Elias! One good season after so many disappointments, get rid of him. Retire Madden and Pandalfo!! Too old. Where was Gionta? Parise? Zajac? Rip the C off Langenbrunner's chest!!

You better believe that there would be blood on the ice in Montreal if they befell the fate of NJ last night. The 'passionate' fans (read: psychotic) would be head hunting and blaming everyone from the janitor to the accounting department... wait... just like they are now!

I'll admit the fans might be a bit more forgiving had MTL had the success NJ has seen in the last decade... but not that much more.

But you know what NJ is gonna do? Almost nothing. They might make a few minor "tweaks" to their club -- and be back again next year doing what they've been doing for the last 10 years -- winning.

Maybe the Habs have that foundation right now and maybe they don't -- but we'll never know if we keep tearing things apart before the primer dries on the canvas.

Playoffs, Round 2 -- FIGHT!

Well maybe now that we are into the second round the fighting will subside a little.

I was absolutely stunned by the Carolina Hurricanes comeback yesterday; even to tie it up was a miracle. I went and got my laptop, a snack, and was all ready to settle in for some game 7 OT (which I have never seen before...) when Stall scored? What? Really? Its over! So long NJ! So Long Brodeur and Shanahan!

As it dawned on me, that I had just witnessed a miracle, I also began celebrating because I think the matchups are now way better in the East! So here are my thoughts:

Washington Capitals v. Pittsburgh Penguins
Pens in 5
A bold prediction perhaps. I would much prefer the Washington Capitals to go through; I love the way they are playing right now! And I know the Caps have won most of the regular season meetings between the pair. The difference will be playoff composure. The Penguins went to the finals last year; they know what it takes. Their defence and goaltending is solid right now, and obviously there is the Crosby / Malkin scoring factor. The Capitals just went 7 games; they had trouble containing Gomez/Avery/Antropov, and they still have a rookie goalie (and a rattled veteran). This is gonna be an awesome series -- and I'd love for the Caps to go through, but I think Pittsburgh is too prepared. The games will be close, but Black-and-Gold will win most of them. Enjoy this series!

Boston Bruins v. Carolina Hurricanes
Bruins in 6
Boston is gonna get surprised. They really didn't have a first round, rolling over an already dead carcass. They have had a bunch of time off. They might think they aren't even in the playoffs at this point, having not played hockey in May in ... 10 years! Carolina, on the other hand, is rocking. Ward is playing great, Staal and Whitney are clicking, and they are ready to play a tough series and will not be pushed around. Think Anaheim v. Sharks. I do believe, however, that Boston will sort itself out -- put Chara on Staal, get a good power play, tell Savard to shoot more... and eventually the Bruins will move on, as the Canes sputter out.

Vancouver Canucks v. Chicago Blackhawks
I dunno! Lungo v. Krappyboolin? Toews / Sharp / Kane v. Se(un)dins? I think this has the makings of another great series!! But I think it will be done in five or six; I can't see it going the distance. Neither of these teams have the testicular fortitude to rally from being down a couple games... but this is gonna be a good one to watch. I can't even decide who I want to win, as I would like to see a Canadian team go further, but watching the young up-starts in Chicago, backed by a revitalized Boolin would be fun to see also. Coin toss!

Detroit Redwings v. Anaheim (once mighty) Ducks
Wings in 6
Upsetting the top ranked team is very exciting and fulfilling. Further, the Ducks are playing the same game they played when they won the cup; tough hockey, stiffling, with a vicious counter attack. They are like Cobras; tightly coiled in a defensive position, tough to get, and strike quickly and deadly. If they were playing Chicago or Vancouver, I'd give the series to them. And if anyone can upset Detroit, its Anaheim... but... Detroit has seen this beast before. They are an all round team that can quickly adjust to any opponent. They won't fall into the trap of chainging their game to meet Anaheim on their own terms; they'll play their game, eventually break the rookie goaltender, and the Ducks, content in their first round upset, will call it a season.

Its almost better that my team isn't involved; these playoffs are shaping up to be awesome! Enjoy the games everyone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jack Todd on Carey Price

Not that Carey Price should care about what people are saying about him -- but I felt this assessment was pretty accurate:

It’s not merely that Price’s play has been so shaky so often. It’s more that he just doesn’t seem to get it. From that plethora of web photos showing him with a drink in hand to the 30 pounds he put on during his rookie season to that dismally inappropriate yuk-yuk interview with the Cabbie, Carey Price appears to be a young man who thinks it will all come to him without effort.

It won’t. The really great ones in every sport – Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Patrick Roy – start with more talent than everyone else, and then they work harder. They win because they want it so badly, they refuse to lose.

Price has to decide what’s more important. Does he want to be the best goalie of his time? Does he want those Stanley Cup rings? Or is it more important to go on behaving like he’s just too cool for school?

This is from Jack Todd in the Gazette. Sometimes right, mostly an ass, Jack is a perfect example of the finicky, unrealistic head in the clouds Habs fans. But like Don Cherry (whom he passionately dislikes, probably because good ol' DC has a TV contract) I love his excitement and attitude to say what he thinks, right or wrong.

As for Price, I can't figure him out, but I'd love to see some edge in the kid. I'd love to see him attack and eat pucks, instead of waiting for them to hit him. Or something, I dunno -- he's just missing an edge that I watch real competitive goalies play with. This year anyhow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

2009/2010 Habs: if I were GM

Not that I'd want the job; oh-no. What a crazy mess that would be. But before the experts get cracking on taping the shambles back together and seeing if they can strike gold, let me have a crack!

Again with this guy? Yes. I love this player. And his big star power is what the city needs. Lets get him! But at what price? There's the rub. What would it take to pluck the feather in TB's hat, after they out-bid us 2 years ago when VL was a UFA? I say give him Halak, Plekanecs, maybe Hamrlik or Gorges. 3-for-1 deal, a capable goalie (which they are desperate for) and some D-help. Hamrlik started in TB I think, so send him back. More on Gorges and Pleks later...

Sign Komisarek if you can. Yeah, Lucic treated him like a hump-pillow this year, and he kinda lost his mojo there for a while... but I think a good summer off will make him stronger and more focused. He is fast enough to keep up with the "new NHL" -- but mean enough to punish the other teams top lines. Anyhow, a tough year only makes you stronger.

Tommy K
Trade 'im. Honestly, he has a solid heart and soul, plays hard, great work ethic. Trade him. Not because I don't like any of these things -- but we have other players with the same talents. And when the chips were down, he didn't step up. He is not a leader, he is not a gritty goal scorer, and not even the kind of forechecker that creates chances. If we can wrap him up with some of the other trade bait, we gotta move him. If not, well, he certainly isn't going to hurt the 3rd line...

Higgins, Lapierre, Latendresse
Keep 'em! These guys are starting to come into their own. They've all got some scoring talent, aren't afraid to grind out the puck, and love to compete. I hope Higgins stays, and they stop trade rumours around the guy.

D'Agostini, Max Pac, Weber, Stewart
Again, great young talent coming up through the ranks, keep them around and play them. Through 82 games, try and give them spots on different lines and roles to see where they excel. Combined with the other sophmores / young guys on the team, there is a good core here to rebuild that winning culture. But really, they have to be given the chance to score and contribute.

Halak, Plekanecs, O'Byrne, Gorges
I have no particular issues with any of these guys (except O'Byrne, he sucks so far). Since the UFA market is thin, these are the victims you can trade to make the team better. Halak is a god goalie, when he gets to play. Plekanecs can be deadly on the PK, and has proven he is a speedy forward. Gorges is certainly becoming a good defenceman... sell this to a team who needs it, and try and make some blockbuster trade happen. Please don't give them away for lesser or equal value; Halak for Telqvist or something. That doesn't help anyone.

Don't get me wrong, I like these guys; but I can certainly live without them if it means getting some real big names or talent into the lineup.

The UFAs: Lang, Tanguay, Kovalev, Koivu
We'll never win with Koivu as a first line center. If he can use that massive heart of his to become a great 3rd line center, then we should keep him. If we can land a youner superstar first line center, then he might survive as a 2nd line center. As for Lang, he played really well, but is one year older, and I have questions about his leadership qualities and resolve. Do we really have room for another aging center? Tanguay can be brilliant, but after 10 games he has a tendency to disappear. Kovalev is a mystery. When he plays well he can sure make a game interesting... when he doesn't want to play there is nothing more frustrating. Can Kostitsyn fill his goal scoring shoes?

Not to mention the fact maybe we go get Bowmeester, Beachemin, Afiniganov, Cole, Havlat, Hossa (ha!), Gaborik, Gionta, Madden, or the Sedins (haha!).

Talking time is over. My 2009/2010 Montreal Canadiens would be:
Lecavellier / Higgins/ Kostitsyn / Latendress / Lapierre / D'Agostini / Max Pac / Stewart / Koivu / UFA point-getter / Tommy K with hands / old-and-crusty.
(Can round this out with Metropolit and I guess Laraque, although I'd never play him).

on D:
Markov / Komisarek / Boullion / Gorges / Schneider / Dandenault / Weber

in Net:
Price / Denis (or some version of Mauge / Huet / Hackett)

And we'd win one million Stanley Cups!

2009/2010 Habs; what should we look for?

Over the next few months, the Montreal Canadiens will begin to paint the picture of what the 101st team will look like. Then it will be very quiet, then a host of activity before training camp.

What the Canadiens need is a culture, an identity, and a core of players who own the team and define it. Other players will then fit, or definitely not fit, and can find a new place to play. Take for example the 2007/2008 season: the culture was most definitely founded by the Russians -- Russians and Rookies I used to say -- Kovalev leads the team by example, scoring timely goals and dictating a playmaking style. Markov lead by quiet example, and players like the Kostitsyns, Plekanecs, and Mark Streit bought into it. Higgins and Komisarek and Smolinksi filled their roles as need be, to support the core: Ryder, on the other hand, fell to the wayside.

I think Carbo recognised who was leading the team, and went with it. It goes back to their public feud over not calling timeouts in close games, etc... The coach coaches, the players respond and play from there. in 2007/2008, it all worked. In 2008/2009, it fell completely apart.

This year Lang and Tanguay were brought in to the fold, and the leadership and culture were in doubt. Tanguay and Koivu were suddenly the scoring line: Lang was the go-to guy, breaking games open for the team. Komisarek made Associate Captain... but who owned the room? not Carbo, he got fired. Not Kovalev; he went to bed and never got up. Its tough for the new guys to take over...

Koivu? Get real. Great guy, nice guy, but as far as I can tell (from my comfy seat in Toronto) he has never owned this team. He can inspire them, but not own them. He can get them past the first round of the playoffs, but not past the second.

So who, or what, will define this team? Do we go the Higgins / Lapierre / Latendresse / Komisarek route, and rebuild while they develope into leaders? Or do we go back to the Kovalev well and try and get him back in line? Or perhaps we scrap Kovalev and find a new set of leaders; putting our hopes in a new core to inspire the younger talent, until they are ready to take over?

Tough call. Hard job -- rebuilding a family that has just been ripped apart and left in tatters.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obituary: Montreal Canadiens

The oldest and most decorated of the professional hockey franchises passed away last night. The Montreal Canadiens were in their 100th year. Doctors report he died from heart failure.

The Montreal Canadiens had an up-and-down start to their life, at times winning gallantly, and at other times failing terribly, like so many of the other hockey franchises. It wasn't until their 50th year that they really fell into their own and began to dominate the league, with 6 championships. The trend continued into the 60s with another 4, and the 1970s: where the hockey team, and indeed the town, was on top of the world; another 6 championships.

The hockey world then began to change; expand, and spread. Montreal Canadiens would enjoy only 1 championship in each of the next 2 decades, and one extra apperance in the finals -- but as the franchise held on to its glorious past, the rest of the league moved on. No longer did Montreal have the best pick of French players; a fresh vein of talent emerged over-seas, and no longer could they hold on to their aging talent, as new franchises threw money at the foundations which made the Canadiens great; luring them away. Most left to build new Empires.

The Montreal Canadiens truly declined in his 90s, suffering interntal termoil, unable to afford the help he needed, and unwilling to admit that his old ways would not still win the day.

In his 99th year, Montreal Canadiens showed that he still had some old magic left; and managed to capture the Eastern Conference title one last time, although the tired franchise could not last long in the playoffs.

For his 100th year, he began training for a marathon; to capture his 25th Stanley Cup. Few thought he could actually acheive the goal, but he showed signs early. Unfortunately a pre-marathon celebration was too costly on the old fella, and he was never the same after. Injury, scandal, all took their toll. And although he did manage to start the marathon he so hoped to win, he limped off the start line, struggled a few paces, and then fell dead on the pavement -- a spent and drained shell of what once was the greatest of them all.

Thanks for an amazing 100 years, Montreal Canadiens.... may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Montreal Canadiens is survived by younger brothers Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Redwings, New York Rangers, and apparently Toronto Maple Leafs (although no one has heard from them in years), cousins Flyer, Islanders, Canucks, Kings, Penguins, Blues, and Capitals - great-grand-nefew the Ottawa Senators, Whalers, Nordiques, Jets and Stars -- and a host of young upstarts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Game 1 recap

It'll be short and sweet:

Yes, we lost 3(+EN) - 2. We are down 1-0 in the series. Then why is Bob Gainey grinning like a lemur? You could shove that smile off his face at the end of the game, or during his press conference...

I guess its because although we lost, everything else went well; Canadiens came back to tie it up, Price played a good game, and the Canadiens let it be known they will not go quietly. They are gonna force Boston to beat them, and beat them bad if they want to challenge for the cup.

Most Habs fans are probably feeling pretty good today, despite the loss. Since there are no expectations, we just want to see good hockey games -- and for the most part, thats what we got!

Why was Laraque playing on the top line when we were 1 goal down? Its not because Gainey wanted to throw the game; but he knows its a war, not a battle. He made sure his no. 1 line was protected, and he kept a few aces off the table, to be drawn out later in the series, after this "getting started" enthusiasm settles.

It might not work; and his Aces might turn out to be Jokers; but the point is the Habs aren't going easy, are giving up, and are here to put on a solid show for what might be their only round.

I fear no Bruin.

Go Habs Go!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Caps and Rangers

I was expecting the Caps / Rangers series to be hot, and yesterday, by far, it was the best game to watch. Tons of antics, chicanery, action, shots, goals, hits... everything a good hockey games needs.

I'm pissed the Rangers won; I now downright hate that team. And that's good for playoff hockey watching; you want to hate a team! Cheer for the good guys! etc... It would be nice for Jose to recover; I'd live to see the Caps continue to play.

As for the other games, Vancouver and St Louis was as predicted: boring. StL shot themselves in the foot with all their penalties. Philly and Pitts was a bit of a surprise, in that I thougt Philly would be ready to play. They weren't. Boring 1-sided game. And who cares about NJ / Car. Seriously. Just have the rangers/caps play again in the second round! Best of 14! Or something.

Tonight I will watch what the Habs have been cooking for the last few days. I am not nervous at all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quick Look At The Other Series

There are other series?

Sure. Notwithstanding the inevitable tantrums I'll be having for the Habs / Bruins, I am a hockey fan, and will be watching the entire playoffs. A quick view:

Associassion Ouest:

San Jose v. Anaheim
: I think this series will be pretty awesome: opposites collide, and anyone can win. Personally I say Anaheim will take it if they get goaltending, but it should be fun even if it only lasts 4 game.

Detroit v. Columbus: Go Colimbus! Crazy young 'tender, talent up front and poised for an upset. Again, should be fun to watch either way.

Vancouver v. St Louis: Who cares. Sedins, pff. Sundin? pff. Oshie? pff. Boring.

Chicago v. Calgary: Could be interesting, could be a dud. Depends how the young Hawks deals with the experienced Flames -- I suspect they'll crumble. And if they crumble too fast, the outcome will be inevitable.

L'Associassion Est:

Boston v. Montreal: enough about this already.

Washington v. New York Rangers: Ovechkin and Avery, Green and Gomez, Thoedore and Lunqvist... Go Washington! I hate the Rangers, but this should be a good series; it won't be easy for either side.

New Jersey v. Carolina: bboooooorrrrriiinnnnnggggg. I don't care who wins; its too bad someone has to. Carolina's size I think will dominate NJ, but never count out Brodeur. Anyhow, I won't even watch the highlights; because there won't be any.

Pittsbugh v. Philidelphia: Go Flyers! I am not a Pens fan, as they seem to be loaded with talent and expect the world handed to them. One line does not a team make. Philly, on the other hand, is full of Canadian talent and plays prett hard -- I think this will be a good series. Really, good luck to both teams! They'll both need it!

Ok, thats it. Let me know if I should be watching something I'm not.

Hey, Wait A Minute...

In writing my article last night, I discovered a disturbing fact: I could not find a single member of the sports media that thought the Canadiens might be able to upset the Bruins. Not TSN, CBC, ESPN, PuckDaddy blogs, not even Maggi the Macak or the ESPN Dog!!

Really? No one is on our side?

You know, I'm allowed to criticize because I'm like family; I've been with them through good and bad for most of my life! But all these hockey media jockies crapping on the team too?

Well now its ON!

I'm breaking out the 1993 playoff hat, the jersey, the beach towel; I'm gonna paint my house BLEU-BLANC-and motherf***ing ROUGE and eat nothing but Poutine and drink Molson Ex -- I'll wash my hands with Habs soap, clean my toilet with the Montreal Canadiens themed toilet brush, pay for everything I buy with centennial loonies, and generally be the most obnoxious fan the world has ever seen... so that when the Habs win, I will stand triumphant on the pile of skulls that is the Hockey Media and feast on the gelatinous goo which they once claimed as their brains....

Ok, too far?

Sorry, it happens. Its why the playoffs are not really a good time for me. A lot of yelling.

Anyhow, I'm pulling for the Habs all the way. Even if we go down 3 early; I'll look the the 4 game sweep. I fear no Bruin. no one tells me my team has no chance in Hell. Not even myself!

I'll sweeten the karmic pot: and I encourage all Habs fans to join! If the Montreal Canadiens win this series, I will donate $100 to the Heart and Stroke foundation (in the hopes they can cure all my heart attacks and strokes incured during the series). If they lose, Karma gets nothing.

Who's with me? How much woould you give to see this most glorious and stunning of victories?!

Add your pledge to the comments section!!

Ah crap, it happened, I've lost my mind. I promised myself I wouldn't, this year would be different... and here I am...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Playoff Prediction

I have put this off long enough: my super awesome playoff prediction!!

Boston Bruins (1st) vs Montreal Canadiens (8th)

Game 1: Bruins excitement and momentum overwhelms the Canadiens. Bruins 5-2
Game 2: Kovalev scores early, and it becomes a tough game; but the talent of the Bruins wins through. Bruins by 1 goal (3-2 or 4-3).
Game 3: Montreal gets a chance to turn the tables a bit, and bring some of their own emotion. Fans push the team to a new level. Montreal wins in OT.
Game 4: Bruins play a "perfect" away game, playing a strong, patient defencive system and scoring on the rush; exposing the pinching Montreal defence. Bruins win 4-1
Game 5: Back home, the Bruins are ready to go and the Canadiens are on the ropes. Normally I would say jitters get the better of the home team; but since the Canadiens have failed to play with any composure when needed, I say Boston perseveres. Bruins win by at least 2.

So there you have it: now you don't have to watch the games.

Of course, this could all go out the window if the Canadiens steal one in Boston. Maybe Gainey gets them ready; maybe the entire team comes to play. Maybe the slumping goal scoreres find their touch, and Thomas collapses. NO ONE is gunning for the Habs right now (except the failthful) -- not even Maggy the Macak on TSN, or the Dog on ESPN.

If the Canadiens want to win, they have to become "hard to play against" -- keep shots to the outside, kill the momentum, and punish punish punish on their chances. Short-handed, long passes, ugly goals... whatever -- score when you get any chance. Upsets happen, but they are a result of an underdog frustrating the momentum of the better team. And a big part of that is the goaltender: they have to stop a lot of pucks.

reference: Zednik/Audette/Gilmour and Theodore in 2002, Zednik/Kovalev and Theodore in 2004

Komisarek and Schneider are gonna get hammered. So the entire team better be ready for war. Laraque, if he plays, better stop just picking a fight and calling it a night; he better be swinging every shift (not necessarily a full on scrap, but lots of shoving!). No nice-guy pugilist.

The Montreal Canadiens are capable of winning this series; but they are going to have to shed a pound of flesh from the regular season and be a different team: a better team. And even then they'll need 7 games.

God Speed, little doodle. It sure would be nice to get those ghosts to show up. Everything else "typical" of this team has happened this year: fire the coach, wild antics... why not go for the trifecta of beating the Bruins?

Other valued input...

I haven't yet crafted my playoff prediction for the upcoming 1st round; I'll share a couple posts by other bloggers which I think are very accurate:

The first post does a nice talent / depth comparison, giving it all to the Bruins (as it should, this year).

The second outlines what the Habs need to do to beat the talent / depth currently dressed in black-n-yellow; problem is, every aspect of the Canadiens game seemingly needs to improve. It would have been nicer if there were just a few tweaks here and there required.

I'm still mulling over my Pre-Series analysis. Early preview: Bruins in 5.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Habs Centennial Regular Season - RIP

The regular season is over, and what better way to immortalize the most passionate and melodramatic team in hockey history than with a Centenial filled with enough stories to fill a university library.

Instead of a triumphant winning season, of course.

I knew the team would not get first place again, but I didn't realise they'd sacrifice hockey for off-ice theatrics. But I should have: because if there is one thing this team is known for, if only not for its passed success, its the Show.

2008 itself was relatively quiet; we win a lot of games, but not in any serious convincing style. Then the injuries hit: Komisarek, Higgins and Price all go down early -- then Tanguay and Lang get knocked out... we start to see players not performing their best (Kovalev and Pleks not scoring... Missing Mark Streit...) The tower was about to topple just before the All-Star Break...

Then of course there is this Massive celebration as the hockey world comes to celebrate everything awesome and Montreal and Canadiens, and our biggest superstar plays an amazing game... A ginormous hockey orgasm in the town where hockey is born...

And as the confetti and empty cups and cigarette butts get swept up and tossed in the trash, so goes the Montreal Canadiens 2008/2009 hockey team.

Oh My God! We are getting murdered out West; the goalies are broken! Same thing that ruined Theodore's career here...

Oh My God! We desperately need Help! Boone yelling "Doo Something"!!

Oh My God! We lose Begin and get some guy named Metropolit...

Hooray? Mathieu Schneider joins the team! PP solved! defensive woes not so much...

Oh My God! Kovalev gets BENCHED!

Oh My God! The Kostitsyns are hanging with gangsters and crack-heads and whores!

Oh My F*** God!! Carbonneau is fired?

Hooray? Halak is playing awesome, maybe we have a chance...

Oh My God! Halak got the flu! Price has to play again...

Hooray? Tanguay is back, and we're scoring goals!

Oh My God! What if the coach can't speak French?

Hooray? Price is playing alright, looks like he's found his form...

Oh My God! Price got the flu! Halak is back in...

Oh My God! We can't beat any team in playoff contention!

Oh My God! Our top 2 defencemen got injured for the SEASON & PLAYOFFS?

Oh My God! We are gonna lose our playoff spot!

Hooray? Schneider is gonna be a hero and play?

Oh My GOD... we actually made the playoffs despite losing every game this week.

Man, that was exhausting just typing it.

In short, this year has been the most emo, melodramatic high-school musical panic fest in recent memory. So the 100th season has certianly been memorable, and representitive of this franchise. We just need a riot to shut down the city for a while, and we'd be all set!

As for the hockey, if we must talk about that... the nature of the team changed from young and hard work, to old and talented (Lang scored timely goals to win, how nice!). Then the talent got hurt, and no one stepped up. The young talent had no one to turn to for guidence; last year's leader (Kovalev) was nowhere to be seen, and Koivu went quiet. The 3rd /4th liners tried to inspire the team, but goals are what talk, not just a strong forecheck.

Everytime this team was "tested" to come up with a big team game in a game that really mattered, 2 or 3 guys would play, the rest would spin around like table-hockey players, or tethered racoons too scared to gnaw their own leg off.

Not once in 2009 has this team put in a solid 60 minute effort, scored timely goals, stopped game breaking shots, or done what's necessary to win hard games. It has been a really frustrating team to watch; because the fans know this team can do better, but it seems like they simply refused to -- or the centennial poop has distracted them to their core.

The Leafs were supposed to suck -- the Sens were a surprise -- this team should have been able to hold on to 4th or 5th place. Thank goodness this season is over.

Except, isn't, technically, next year the centennial? 1909/1910 ?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

PIT v MTL - LOSS 3-1 Summary

Well, as expected one team brought their playoff ready performance, and one dragged their sorry carcasses around for 60 minutes... And the Penguins showed why they will once again be a Stanley Cup favourite.

The Habs didn't play that badly. Their shot total was not indicative of their number of chances (shots gone wide, off the post, or blocked). I thought the game was actually pretty even, and wow oh wow did Price play a great game. He slipped up on Malkin's goal, but maybe you shouldn't leave a guy with 113 points in the crease completely alone with a chance at a rebound. Price then came up with spectacular saves in the 2nd, going coast-to-coast TWICE to keep the Pens from running away with the game. Honestly, I haven't seen Price play so well all year. If fans wanted to see Price ready to steal a game, this was it.

So what happened? The team let him down, quite simply. When you're goalie bails you out time after time, you have got to score for him. The Canadiens had their chances, but no finishing touch. Then they disrespect his performance with a shorty 2-on-0 (Schneider made a desperate play and missed... problem was, Weber was down by the hashmarks, instead of covering the line like Markov). On that chance the Pens score... making it 2-1. Price might have dropped his shoulders a bit, but again, the team has got to score! Then they let Krsi F&^king LeTang go end to end, and have all day to wind up at the hashmarks?

The Gazette seems to think Price should've had that LeTang shot. Hogwash. Even in slow motion you can't see that black blur of the puck; it didn't slow down until it his 3 diffferent parts of the net. I'm surprised it didn't break the sound barrier. No goalie playing today would have stopped that; perhaps Price gave up the angle, which is his only fault (he probably played the pass instead of the shot).

This was my biggest issue with the Habs performance. Their goalie played like he was on fire; ready to steal them a game and make a difference; and the team could not do anything with his effort. I know Tanguay was out and Laraque (with 4 quality chances and only 2 shots) in, but how would you expect a young goalie to react when he plays his best game of the year, and you can only score 1 stinking goal?

Mason in Columbus won games, because his team would score timely goals. Brodeur has been doing this his whole career; playing well, and his team shows respect by scoring on their chances. Patrick Roy let in 3 goals a game -- but his team would show him respect and score goals in order to win.

Price has got to be feeling like: what else do they want?

I'm pretty mad at the Canadiens right now, and at the press for once again claiming Price let them down. You can't win games scoring 1 damn goal. You can't win the Stanley cup losing 4 games in a row, and claiming goaltending is the problem when you can't score on empty nets.

I'll have a playoff peak later in the week. Most of me wishes that this year was over.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PIT v MTL - Predictions

Hard to predict what's going on in this one; both teams are pretty much set for the post-season dance. Montreal would be nuts if they wanted to try and get to Washington instead of Boston, considering their success against the hated Bruins.

Pittsburgh is in a 3 way lock; and can go anywhere from Home Advantage against Carolina (or Philly) or staying where they are and taking on New Jersey in the first round. For them, it would be silly to buy their plane tickets early, so they should just focus on winning their last game.

Crosby always likes coming to town, and although the Habs have managed to shut them down in the past, they are a different team today, with everyone healthy. Fact is, the Habs should just focus on staying healthy and having a good game also; bringing the same intensity they had in Boston.

I'm not sure where the team's head is really at; but I suspect they'll be torn between being happy this season is over, and wanting to give their fans a nice going away present.

Habs inside/out is reporting Tanguay will sit, and they'll have Laraque and Stewart playing. Or they could just be giving those big guys some practice ice and resting Tanguay before the game, who knows.

Who cares?

We're in the playoffs, and a loss changes nothing. Look forward to an open-ended game today; not a lot of trapping, but a lot of shots.

  • Habs LOSE 5-3
  • Both teams get over 30 shots
Wouldn't be surprised if...
  • Both team dial it in tonight, and its a pretty low intensity affair

Enjoy the last game of the 100th season everyone! A win would sure be a nice way to kiss this bullsh*t season good-bye!

Friday, April 10, 2009

MTL v BOS - LOSS 5-4 Summary

Well, I was expecting a close game, a physical game, and for Phil Kessel to hurt us. But I was also expecting a low scoring affair -- 5-4? Wow, it sure was an exciting game!

I never counted our team out of this one; even down 3-1. The reason? They were playing with too much composure. They were fighting for the puck, making smart plays, and putting in a solid team effort. Mike Boone will tell you all about it. And I really like our new guy Weber.

And once again the Canadiens have managed to win by losing. With the tie game, they have guaranteed that neither Buffalo nor Florida can't catch them in the standings. Except Florida; who, with a win, will have 93 points and 41 wins; the same as Montreal. But the second tie breaker goes to Montreal, whatever it may be.

So bring on the Playoffs! ... Really? Do you really want to watch this team lose in the playoffs? Get matched up against a team that is prepared, eager to go and looking to win? I don't. I'm tired of watching my team stink it up while other teams run over us like a prairie dog on the Trans Canada. Take this wounded, broken animal and put a bullet in its head, and lets start fresh for next year...
  • Price isn't gonna steal us any games.
  • The Defence is still easily pushed aside. Think they won't send someone to finish Schneider if the Habs have won 3 games?
  • Koivu and Kovalev don't have the longevity to get us deeper than the first round, if even that
  • Too many other players are still MIA, and one game doesn't change that.
What we saw last night was Tim Thomas get rattled. Not sure how we did it, but we did. But more importantly, what we saw was Tim Thomas shut the door; he washed off the second period, and shut us out in the third, and power-play OT, to win the game. That is what a winning goalie needs to do: shut the damn door. So what that means is in the playoffs, even when the Habs are winning, we'll still be able to lose. Because this year, Tim Thomas is ready to win.

What we've managed to do, is in this elustrious 100th year, give our most hated of enemies and bitterest of rivals a clear and direct shot at cutting our jugular, and pissing in our punch bowl.

After 100 years, Boston will have their sweet revenge. As Will Hunting said: "How do you like them apples?"

And even if if if we manage to beat Boston, which would be glorious and awesome, I doubt this Habs team will be able to beat anyone else -- because they game they brought last night was sure not the game they bring to other rinks.

A win v. Pittsburgh gives us a shot at playing Washington first round. I'll wait until see it, before I tell that story :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

MTL v BOS - Predictions

Every time I predict the Team will step up, play a solid team game and earn a hard-fought win, they fail miserably and play aweful. On the other hand, every time I have predicted them getting crushed by a massively superior opponent (Detroit, San Jose, Chicago?) they come out all guns firing and steal one.

So I dunno what to predict tonight when Montreal visits Boston. But I'll try anyhow :)

  • Habs LOSE a close one; maybe even a shootout.
  • Low scoring afair; like 2-1 or 3-2.
  • Boston's big players shut down our "skill"
  • Kessel, who only shows up when he feels like it, will probably feel like it today.
Wouldn't be surprised if...
  • Habs get crushed. Boston smells blood and weakness, and will want to make a statement before the playoffs.
  • Florida beats Atlanta tonight.

Surprise me, Les Boys!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MTL v NYR - LOSS 3-1 Summary

Once again the team was faced with a high pressure game, and once again only a couple players showed up.

This loss had a lot of fans upset; once again pulling out their hair and looking for answers. Blaming goaltending, coaching, and in my case, the socks I was wearing. Fact of the matter was, we sent boys and sensitive artistes to war, and they got run over by soldiers.

The veterans were aweful, and the kids were not capable of dealing with the momentous task at hand. Why? Why is it that our young talent can't find their game? Why are the veterans afraid to lead? Why does the team show up scared to play hockey on nights they need to play well?

Doesn't matter. The injuries to this team have turned out to be vital. The team was obviously still on the recovery trail, and not ready to face this kind of setback. I dunno what team would really; Anaheim without Neidermayer and Pronger... Detroit without Linstrom and Rafalski... Pittsburgh without Gonchar and Whitney.

Tonight we needed stellar goaltending; we got good* goaltending. We needed strong centers to help shoulder the defensive load, win faceoffs... we got floaters and poke checkers. We needed big shots and stinky goals... we hit posts. We needed veterans to lead the way; our best players were those with typically the least amount of icetime. We needed defence, and got Komisarek's jock. (it saved a goal in the third, after Price went spinning out of the net.)

* sometimes not so good

Wash it off boys, 2 games to play, and we need 1 point to get our tickets to Boston. If we even want to prolong this massive 4 month long punch in the stomach.

The Good
Higgins, Metro and Dandenault played great. Lapierre and Latender did alright. D'Agostini had a lot of harmless shots. Price made 41 saves. Komisarek hit Avery pretty good, then his jock saved a goal.

The Bad
Hamrlik and Brisebois were painfully lacking. Koivu was aweful tonight, although he did hit the post with 2 minutes to go (far too little too late). That line had 1 official shot, from Kovalev. Pleks and AK46 were nowhere to be seen.

The Ugly
Poor Josh Gorges had a terrible game. He was at least as responsible for the 2nd goal, as he should have given Price either the pass option sooner, or made sure Avery didn't hit the goalie. In defensive zone coverage, he spent most of his time turning it over and falling down, or spinning around on the spot. There was little to no backcheck by the Big Lines early in the game, hanging the weakened D out to dry.

2 more games: either we get a point (unlikely) or maybe Florida will drop one (unlikely, they play loser teams) but we we can still get those tickets to Boston.

It would be an Epic limp into the playoffs.

MTL v NYR - Predictions

I'll try and keep this short. I believe the Rangers are very beatable, even without Markov and Schneider. And no, I haven't been smoking anything interesting lately.

If Markov and Schneider were playing, I would be very confident of a win; along the lines of 4-2. Without them, our defence obviously suffers, and our offense suffers also -- from break-outs to offensive pressure. So how are the Habs going to overcome?

I get the impression that Price is gonna out-play Lundqvist, and our big line is gonna pay off. Kovalev, Higgins and Komisarek all like playing in NY, but haven't had much luck there lately. So they are do! And I think they'll be able to spark Plekanec tonight.

  • Habs win a close one. If it goes to a shootout again, well, coin-toss.
  • Price has a big game.
Wouldn't be surprised if...
  • Avery draws a couple penalties out of Koivu and Komisarek. Neither seem to have much patience for bull-sh!t lately.
  • If the Canadiens don't focus on containment, then NYR will end up punisheing them. All five players have to work on limiting the quality shots, and one-timers from the slots!
I hope the Canadiens can bring their game tonight. Yesterday was disappointing, and they are all still probably a bit dazed by losing their big D line. A couple playershave to play more minutes then they are used too; and back-to back no less. This is not an easy challenge; but Rangers have to win, so playing a solid defensive game and keeping it close will play to the Habs favour.

Lets see if Gainey can truly prepare his team for this challenge; I think they are up for it.

go habs go, etc....

Panic! Panic! Panic! Not really.

Although I only watched part of the game last night, I did catch the highlights on NHL on the fly, so I saw the goals.

It looks as though Halak did not have a strong game, and the defence couldn't handle Heatly.

The news of Markov and Schneider being out for the year absolutely floored me. I didn't see the action at the end of the Maple Leafs game (like I mentioned, I was out at a TO bar and they all but killed the game in the third) but when I saw the highlights I just felt terrible.

After this up-and-down season, to have 2 key pins pulled on the Montreal Canadiens grenade is just so disappointing. It seems like just when the Habs battle back from their setbacks, they get knocked back down the hill.

So are we done? No playoffs? No run? Out in 4 if we make it in?

I dunno. Honestly, the Bleu Blanc Rouge were do for a loss; its OK. They were riding a big high, and had to get knocked back a bit. Like I said; they weren't going to win the next 4. So technically the loss yesterday was not really a major setback.

Problem is, against a beatable team, the Habs played like they missed their 2 best defenceman. Not in that the goals were stinkers -- goals go in, its a fact of life -- but the team seemed a bit tentative and reluctant out there. Halak especially looked nervous. After the game Komisarek was still bitching about Grabovski's hit. Problem is, its over. Nothing can be done; so once again the Canadiens need to find a way to win despite being given a terrible poker hand.

I still think the Habs can surprise one of the three teams they play this week; I have a feeling Price will be ready to take control of the game and help out his defencive core.

Gotta start by beating the Rangers tonight. Florida has an easy ride in, so be prepared for them to get points. Expect a split with Philidelphia and NYR. Its real easy for the Habs to pack up and go home now... but by the same token if they stop thinking about must wins and missing players, focus on the ice and the game, I am sure they'll sneak one out.

What a fascinating twist to this already insane season!

Monday, April 6, 2009

OTT v MTL - Predictions

And so here we are, in the last week of the season. How exciting! By Sunday morning, we'll know if the Habs have managed to totally bork their 100 yr anniversary, or succeed in their quest to challenge for the cup. We'll know who they'll be playing, where, and when. And it might be a celebrity golf tournament at Tremblant, or home ice advantage against the Phillidelphia Flyers... wild!

Unfortunately the Sens were not able to beat Florida last week; so the Habs can't call a mulligan on this one, even with their top 2 defenseman out. They won't win all the games this week, but neither will the Rangers or Florida. Still, this is the Montreal Canadiens' game in hand; this is the card up their sleeve; the one separating them from the other teams in the race. One "extra" game against a bottom dwelling team.

Win this one, and the playoffs are almost assured. Lose, and you'r back in Coach class eating stale peanuts and watching bad chick flicks with broken earphones.

  • Habs surprise everyone with a win tonight. Say, 4-3.
  • Kovalev is gonna have trouble on the powerplay today, being the only major shooting threat.
Wouldn't be surprised if....
  • Hamrlik and Brisebois are a -3 tonight
  • Top line for the Sens comes out singing, after getting slapped by Murray on Friday.
I will not be able to tweeet the game, as I have a hockey game of mine own to play. That's 3 games in a row! Zut. I'll be ready for tomorrow against the Rangers though.

Spezza is still a wankus.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

MTL v TOR - WIN 6-2 Summary

Well its all smile and sunshine in Montreal again today. Reading Mike Boone's post today you'd think that the last few months were equivalent to a 3 game losing streak on the road; instead of 6 weeks of desperate pleas, crying, hair pulling, more crying, head smashing, nail biting, etc... I can go on.

All is right in the world; the Montreal Canadiens beat the tar out of the weaker Toronto Maple Leafs, and not only avoided embarrassment, yet again, but looked like a team that could compete in the playoffs.

I was out at the bar last night, here in Toronto, but I was the only one watching the game. After the first period, the bar dimmed the sound for the game, and slowly put the music back on. By the time the Leafs scored their second, you couldn't even hear the horn... But it didn't matter. I saw my team play a great game, and make up for those last 2 meetings that caused so much grief.

So: one week to go, and Habs are flying high -- except they got some real teams to play. Ottawa can still sting us, but never mind that: the least 3 games are against playoff teams. Remember Buffalo? They aren't in the playoffs, and played like they should be. Pittsburgh and Boston are playing well, and those will be real games. Let's see how we hold up then!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine, Canadiens fans!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

MTL v TOR - Predictions

I am drawing a blank on what is going to happen tonight, but I am excited for the game.

Its a blustery day here in TO, a cold wind rolls in... is it the wind of change? Or is it a frigid gust that will freeze the Canadiens in their march towards the playoffs? I have no idea.

For the Canadiens:
A couple big wins, solid team efforts, and a no. 1 line that is getting the job done. A goalie back in form, and defense that is starting take control of the danger areas. A fragile opponent coming off a back-to-back game. Not to mention the hunger for vengeance.

For the Leafs:
A home game on Saturday Night, stung pride from getting thumped, and a proven ability to score goals. They might be losing, but the Leafs are rarely shut out. Not to mention they aren't ready to roll over and die like the Islanders, and they sure do love beating the Habs -- especially this year.

For the Canadiens to win, they are gonna have to finish their chances; no missing open nets, flubbing break-aways and staying on the outside on the power play. Since the Leafs can score, even late in a game, Montreal has simply got to punish the Leafs when they fumble. And they WILL fumble.

No predictions on this one, its too close to home. I really want the Habs to win, and not sure if they can :)

Good luck! Go Habs Go!

May not have the tweets tonight, might be out watching the game.

Friday, April 3, 2009

MTL v NYI - WIN 5-1 Summary

Again, an apology for not being able to tweet the game last night; I had visitors over and had to entertain.

I did manage to watch most of the game, and saw all the goals. I loved being wrong in my prediction: the Islanders were simply not ready to win. They did not hammer the Habs, frustrate Kovalev, or really show up at all. The Canadiens were allowed to run as free as a hippy's child in a field of daisies; after Danis let in a few softies, the Isles just wanted to go home; and the Habs continued their strong play to complete the domination.

I mean, Mike Komisarek scored. He goes back to playing strong defense, and ends up getting a goal. Hopefully he gets the message: strong defense pays off :)

The Good
It was nice to see Les Boys play a strong game against a physical opponent. Last night, their speed and determination payed off, and players were playing with their heads again. Halak made some great saves, and the team was generally flying high.

The Bad
I didn't see much "bad" out there... everytime I looked up I saw the Canadiens celebrating a goal.

The Ugly
Tommy K's penalty shot. I love the guy, he's just not a penalty-shot kinda player. He tried to go back-hand, and had the open net if he got it, but Danis saw it coming all the way. Its just not nice to get a dude's hopes up, is all.

I hope the team settles down from this big (easy?) win and prepares for war on Saturday. Leafs deserve some payback...

I love the player's names on the Islanders; Bentivoglio and Rechlicz take the cake!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

MTL v NYI - Predictions

The Canadiens have shown that matched speed versus speed, youth versus youth, they can win big games. They have beaten Detroit, San Jose and Chicago; and they are 2-1 against Pittsburgh.

The problem is teams that play big and tough; instead of trying to out-race, they counter speed with size, and to date the bigger team has won. The Montreal Canadiens are easily "separated from the puck" as McGuire likes to say; and there is no secondary puck support. The passing hasn't been strong enough to break the traps, and the result is loss after frustrating loss.

Tonight they play the Islanders; same ones that beat us a couple weeks ago. And they haven't shrunk any. Yes, the Isle got some ugly goals that maybe Price should have stopped... but it doesn't really matter. Right now the Double-EWS matter: and the Habs have got to stop letting teams get ugly and scoring goals.

Otherwise, if they make the playoffs, they'll be easy meat.

  • Habs WIN a close one; 2-1 or 3-2
  • Isles ugly play causes many an offensive zone turnover, and Habs forecheck will be woefully lacking.
Wouldn't be surprised if...
  • After a big win at home, Habs come out flat and bewildered.
  • Kovalev turns it over repeatedly in the first, then disappears.

Nothing has changed: we still need to win and improve. We ahve one the test of speed; anow we need to win the test of strength. Then we can see about the test of nerves, in Toronto :)

Update: Price is out as starting goalie, gonna have some Halak-attacks tonight! This does not change the prediction; I expect Halak to have a strong game. Despite not playing much recently.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where to be for the playoffs...

Not so much as "where to watch the Playoffs" but more on teams getting to the playoffs, and being in the right mindset.

The Montreal Canadiens seem to be a bit resurgent lately; playing good hockey and getting better with each game. This is a good thing; they have had their let-down, and have found a way to recover. In the playoffs, this is an essential experience to have. If after a bad couple games against a team, you can look around the room and know that your team-mates are gonna pull together and rally, you have a strong team.

Which brings us to today's topic; what is the best place to be entering the playoffs?

I say 4th or 5th. Middle of the pack.

3rd is always reserved for the loser division: the one where they get home ice advantage, despite the fact they are 10 points back from the team in 8th place. And they get home ice for the entire playoff run. Its the biggest piece of bullsh!t the NHL has today -- never mind all that instigator or toe in the crease crap.

Teams that walk in 1st place have usually had an outstanding season, without much adversity. They have been able to beat teams on single nights, have generally avoided injury, and also avoided structured counter-plans from other teams. They usually have a late season let down, and assume they can bring the same winning game plan to the table in the playoffs. I dare say that only very experienced teams, like New Jersey and Detroit, can pull of a Stanley Cup victory and a President's Trophy win.

Teams that fight and claw and struggle their way in to the post-season dance are usually prepared for the grind of the opening rounds -- but having already gone through weeks of "must win games" its very difficult to maintain that energy level for the 16-wins needed for a victory. Edmonton and Calgary managed to pull it off, but their system was to sit back in a defensive shell and frustrate the other team, then punish when the chance arose. Since there is little expectation on 7/8th place teams, they usually have a brutal and bloody first round which leaves both teams battered and spent.

Middle of the pack teams are usually the ones who have played well enough to win, have good skill and goaltending, but have gone through some pain in their season. They have had to gut-check, to adjust their playing style, and adapt to different circumstances. They have lost a bunch of games, and (hopefully) understand why they lost -- what they did wrong. On the other hand, they didn't burn out scratching and clawing their way in; instead they usually are prepared to shift their play style in order to win. Which, in a 7-game series vs. the same team, is essential.

Home ice advantage is usually pretty nice; but if there are any upsets in the first round, even a 5th place team can find themselves with home ice for the rest of the run.

The Montreal Canadiens had 4th place, and promptly lost it to more deserving teams. They are now on the outside fighting to stay in. Lately they have shown signs of recovery; and since the playoffs are "a new season" its possible that players hit their stride at precisely the right time -- wouldn't that be cool.

Considering the Habs have beaten anyone in the playoffs except Boston in the last 10 years, you can expect riots, but no parades. They might get out of the first round, but even now there are not many signs they have the endurance or tenacity to get past the second.

CHI v MTL - WIN 4-1 Summary

The Canadiens did not wear their CAC jerseys, instead opting for the more civilized CA jerseys (from 1914-15, I think). The switch 1/2 worked: we won the game (yay!) but we lost 2 players to injury (booo!)

Huet played a good game, but the Habs got lucky- lucky bounces, lucky breaks, lucky (non-icing) calls. And since we had been so un-lucky lately, it was nice to take one.

Luck doesn't have everything to do with it: Carey Price played a fantastic game in his old style, and Markov / Schneider scored the 2 goals we deserved (Schneider's actually went off Higgins, details details). Tanguay had a bunch of steals but failed to finish, and Andre Kostitsyn benefited from Higgins sending him breakout passes once Higgy took Sergei's place in the lineup.

With Hamrlik and Sergei getting hurt, Metro was the odd man out, where Higgins went to play on the line with Pleks and AK, and Dandineault played some defense.

The story here, though, is that despite the lucky goals and strong finish, it was Chicago that controlled the play. Chicago had the majority of the puck possession, and looked to be the better team. The Habs were successful in limiting their chances in close pushing the young 'Hawks to the outside, and of course Price played beautifully. Once they were up, they prevented Chicago from getting started with lots of whistles; either icing, offside, out of bounds, whatever; the game slowed to a crawl. A great way to crush a young, fast, puck-possession team.

By the end of the game, the Blackhawks wanted to just move on to their next game, or get to Chez Pare, or whatever.

And I can't help bu wonder if when the Bell Centre starts taunting Huet, he thinks to himself: "Ah, the only rink in the league where they get my name right..."

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly...
Price was stellar, the injuries suck and we need better puck possession, Koivu needs to bury his open-net chances, and the ugly were the first 2 goals -- but they cemented the game for the Habs, so can't complain! All that matters is the big W!