Sunday, May 23, 2010

Phili Frustration

Its one thing to lose. Its another to get embarrassed.

In games 1 and 2, the Canadiens were embarrassed. Chased out of Philidelphia without a goal, mocked, beaten and left for dead, this Montreal Miracle team looked about as tough as a brown paper bag left out in the rain.

But they gave us their best in game 3. You could say Phili played poorly; I say the Canadiens played great! They dug deep and brought out the fire -- one last time it seems. By the end of game 3 you could tell the lads were running out of juice.

Come game 4: still a do-or-die. It's a sleepy Saturday afternoon, the ice is soft and the puck is rolling. And the Canadiens needed to bring the fire -- but all they had left was smoke. A cautious start turned to the Flyer's favour as the Orange built momentum, and the Bleu Blanc Rouge burned out.

There was no reason to get frustrated after Giroux's goal. The Flyers were bound to score; but Subban's attempt at 'getting something going' was just simmered in wrong sauce, and no one was left to catch Leino (?!) whose's breakaway move was "be taller than the goalie, and fall on him." (seriously though, it was a good playoff style goal.) Subban had an aweful afternoon. But he's new; the veterans on and behind the bench should have been able to settle him down.

The Habs generated their pressure with 10 minutes left in the game; far too late against a shick brit house like the Flyers.

The keys to victory sound simple: get to the puck first, make them pay for every inch on defence. But it seems that the Habs burned up the last of their fumes on Thursday. It wasn't a bad game on Saturday, despite the score, but certainly nothing that is gonna make Philidephia think twice.

And now our brave soldiers have to go back to the Dungeon to be tied to a rack and torn limb from limb by crazed Flyers fans, frothing at the mouth. A tough way to go for a team that battled so well.

Here's hoping they find a reserve tank. Here's hoping there is some fight left in this warrior. Here's hoping we can get 1 more game at the Bell Centre, to properly thank these players for such a wonderful playoffs.

Go Habs Go!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Call it Payback, call it Serendipity, call it what you will, but now Habs fans know how Capitals and Penguins fans feel. You have all these high expectations for your team, and they come out flat as a crepe.

The Canadiens came out scared; scared to take a hit, scared to miss a pass, scared to lose. As a result they were tight as a rusty engine bolt on a 76 Chevy, and couldn't do anything right.  This wasn't the team that earned their place in the Eastern Finals, this was the team that scraped their way into the playoffs ... with a stick up their arse.

Leighton was never challenged. Everything was kept to the outside. Always second to the puck, or no puck support on the turnovers. And stupid retaliation penalties. A very frustrating game to watch, and no doubt play.

Philadelphia sat back, caused quick turnovers in their zone, and punished when they got their chances - just like Montreal did in the first 2 rounds. Except Leighton, looking like a slug in net, never had to bail out his team.

Martin was right to pull Halak - he had no help out there, no point in frustrating him. Price couldn't stop anything, but it sure is tough walking into a game like that.

So on to the next game! Too bad we dropped one, but there is still lots of hockey to play. And the score doesn't matter; only the W's do.

How do we beat them?
  1. Play hockey. Don't be afraid of the puck, don't take cheap shots. You can't intimidate Phily with late hits or wayward slashes; so stop trying. Stop worrying about it and play the game.
  2. Loosen up, but stay focused. Get the determination back to not let Phily have their game, or have their shots. Keep it simple, and take advantage when Phily finally cracks.
  3. Get over it. Phily is gonna hit you. They are gonna crash the net. They are gonna play like a bunch of brick-shit-houses. Stop trying to out-cheap-shot them, focus on your game style that got you to the finals, and drive it home.
  4. No Fear. These guys are not the Monster Under the Bed. They are just a hockey team. Stop buying into their marketing brochure. 

Go Habs Go.

One More Thing...

A yes, a couple days ago I did a writeup on The Challenges To Winning Round 3; and I forgot one major point.
If we do manage to win the Conference or the League Final, who will accept the cup from Bettman?
We have no Captain. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but that has to be some kinda first. And it might be another reason my Hockey Fate to Frown upon our plucky squad of shot blockers

After a Game 7 Canadiens victory, Bettman asks who the Captain is... the response from the bench is a sheepesh look from the coaching staff -- "we don't have one..." at which point Bettman shrugs his shoulders and announces the Philidelphia Flyers the victor.


Go Habs Go.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting Into The Rink Against A Pitbull

Well we have quite the unlikely matchup; seeds 7 and 8 duking it out for a shot at the title. This seems more like a 'Consolation Final' than the real deal, but rest assured, its as real as that lump on the back of my neck. (small joke)

So we have 'The Homer Simpsons' vs. The Pitbulls. The team that takes it in the teeth until the opposition gets tired, then pushes them over, against the team that doesn't get tired. I have to give the advantage to Philly on this one -- which pains me so deeply, because the thought of Philly getting to the finals just makes me so sad.

I know most Habs fans wanted Boston to roll into town. Nostalgia and all that jazz; I mean, are the playoffs even really valid if Montreal doesn't play Boston? But considering 1993, most Habs fans probably wanted to see Toronto roll into town instead of Wayne Gretzky the Kings... and look how that turned out.

Well, let the fans do all the worrying so the team can play hockey. Another big angry mountain to climb, this time with more hidden dangers than obvious ones.  I'm glad we have such cool headed players as we do... because I'm freakin' out over here.

Go Habs Go.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Challenges For Round 3

The Montreal Canadiens have pulled off 2 major upsets. Now they will have another major challenge in round 3 -- keeping the momentum going. The following are some of the challenges Le Grand CH will face in the 3rd round...
  1. Playing as a favourite to win. Without home ice advantage. Although the regular season still has the team sitting in 8th, they are definitely a favourite to win the third round. You don't knock off 1st place team in the east and the Stanley Cup champs and not come out as a favourite to win. Expectations are high, and Boston or Philly (the 3rd is about to start for that game as of this writing)  are gonna come in as underdogs, ready to upset "the miracle team".
  2. Playing a team of similar style. The last 2 rounds they had to shut down lethal offences and finish their limited chances. Now they'll be playing a team that grinds their goals in; plays a similar style of stiffling defence first, and a quick dirty counter attack to punish. Will our Big D be able to maintain their focus? Will they be able to frustrate players who are used to not being relied upon to score? How does the defensive system change when there is no go-to goal scorer to bury? If the opposition sits on Cammileri and Gionta, do we have the depth to respond?
  3. The Hockey Gods hate riots. Even since 1993, the Canadiens have not won a series after they riot. There were no shenanigans after the Washington win, and the Gods stuck around to help. After the garbage on Wednesday (and I know its not hockey fans) the Hockey Gods might once again look the other way...
  4. Job done? I don't think anyone in Blue Blanc Rouge is currently feeling that their job is done... but maybe if they end up down 3-2 in games, hard fought frustrating grinding games... up against an equaly hot goalie as Halak... maybe these guys will quietly take pride in what they've done and go home? 
Ok, I doubt that last one. There is a lot of pride on this crazy Montreal squad, no way they'll quit. But the game has changed for them now -- if they start reading their own press and forget what got them where they are, then all will be for not.

A third round exit means you win nothing. And although I am extremely proud of this team and what they have so far accomplished, I would be sad if all their efforts ended without a reward. The Boys deserve it!

Go Habs Go. Stay Thirsty My Friends. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winning Game 7

Out-scoring the most lethal offense in the league.
More composure than the Stanley Cup champs.


For the first 30 minutes, I have never seen Pittsburgh play worse hockey. The Canadiens played well; they were aggressive and certainly finished their chances. But Pittsburgh was completely weak on defence; bad passing, scared to shoot... they came out so flat, its incredible! I had Pittsburgh winning this series, and even this game... but I certainly did not count on Malkin, Gonchar and everyone else in Black to come out so slow and flat. In the second half, the Habs were tired ans spent, so... Queue Halak! Amazing saves!

A little story for you. I was worrying about this game all day -- completely convinced Pittsburgh would win, but I couldn't help but start thinking 'what if...'  Then at lunch, I paid for my $8 lunch with a $10, and got back a Montreal Canadiens Centennial loonie. This is only the second one I have ever seen in Toronto.

Its as if the fates were saying -- don't worry, you Twit, everything will be Ok....

So. We're 1/2 way there, and we have got to be the favourites to take the East, despite not ever having home ice advantage. The next series will be much different... and I hope our boys are up to it.


Go Habs Go!

PS: did anyone see Syd's post-game interview? I feel bad for him. Obviously upset at the loss, he really came off as a sore loser. I clicked over to another channel to watch the whole thing and he certainly composed himself later on... but dang! Complaining about the refereeing? Critisism about the Habs "gameplan" and Halak's play? Never heard that from a player before, especially a Captain.  But then I don't think its fair to jam a mic in a guy's face after a game, so you can toss the whole thing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Win...

There is an old recipe to winning playoff series...
  1. Your stars have to win one for you
  2. Your grinders have to grind one out for you
  3. Your goalie has to steal one
  4. You gotta get lucky
I'd say, after Game 4, that Pittsburgh had gotten 1&2 covered. They won game one by goals from their 3rd line, while Crosby and Malkin were held off the score sheet. Game 3 Pittsburgh and Montreal played a very similar style, rushing defence, and Malkin was the difference.

Montreal, on the other hand, had 3&4 covered. In game 2 Halak played an amazing game to get the victory (note that the defence has to be a big part of a goalies steal.) Then game 4 the Habs got 2 lucky goals for the win... So they got that covered.

Game 5 - well, I thought Fleury finally stepped up and made some outstanding saves to earn the victory. So Pittsburgh has all the requirements to win the series.

Montreal, on the other hand, has run out of tricks. They need a game where Cammelari and Gionta et al. get out there and score their goals, same as in Game 2. And they need Moore and Moen and Laps to have a stellar game and steal one from Pittsburgh. in both these scenarios the rest of the team has to playing as hard as they have been to date.

Pittsburgh just has to play their game, and maybe get lucky to win. But if the Canadiens don't find some offence, if they don't bury that puck, then all things being even Pittsburgh will win.

Oh well, never know what's gonna happen. The Canadiens haven't won if I haven't been watching, I missed the game on Saturday for a wedding and won't see the game Monday because of my own hockey game -- so I am expecting the worst but hoping for the best!

Go Habs Go! Go Bell Centre Go! If Monday is our last game, let's make it a game no one will soon forget!! 

Thursday, May 6, 2010


There is no questioning the Ref's were playing for Pittsburgh tonight. Sometimes Canadiens fans can get a blinded; its part of the 'passion' that goes with the team. Sometimes the crowd freaks out over nothing, and sometimes the crowd freaks out over a missed call, but the refs are playing loose; so fairs fair.

Tonight was not that. There was a missed tripping/interference call on Subban for the first goal, and a couple non-calls on the Kunitz goal. I saw it, the Bell Centre saw it, the announcers saw it, the dog outside saw it. And its really frustrating to be an under-dog and not get a fair game from the refs.

In the 3rd things changed a bit, the Habs got a few make up calls and the Refs stopped calling all the Pen's dives... and the hockey Gods did the rest.

Did the Habs get lucky? You bet. The first goal was lucky. The winning goal was definitely lucky. But the Pens couldn't beat the Habs fairly, so the only legitimate goal won the game!

So: series back on! I still think Pens are the better team -- if they beat us clean, so be it. But the Habs are giving them a hell of a go, and let's hope we get at least 2 more great games!!

Go Habs Go!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two Can Play At That Game

Well, everyone was wondering how Pittsburgh would respond to Montreal's stifling tactics... would they come out screaming? Score 100 goals? Would Malkin and Crosby continue to play frustrated and stand out of the way?

No -- Pittsburgh answered the call in the best way possible. They decided to play the same game: tight, stifling Defence, hard in the corners and in front of the net, and wait to get a Power-Play to finally score a goal, forcing the other team to open up.

They had the patience to say: Hell, we'll go to overtime 0-0 with 15 shots a side if need be; we are the better team, and can beat you at any game you want to play.

And so now the tactics get a little more interesting. Do Martin and Muller stick to their game plan, realising they managed to frustrate the Pens for 40 mins before Malkin's goal? The "fight" with Gionta woke Malkin up, but who knows how long that will last. Or is it now up to the Canadiens coaching staff to come up with a different game plan?

I'm not sure the Habs can develop another game plan -- they have to stick with the one they have (trap-n-pray?) and hope next time the posts are a little more accommodating.  I suspect the Habs will be able to win 1 more game; but now that Pittsburgh has got the confidence in their game-plan, I see them taking the series without much difficulty.

Had the Pens lost tonight, playing the style they did, there may have been a sliver of hope. But Pittsburgh adjusted where Washington could not; and the Habs might not have any other tricks to counter with.

But this is why we watch the Playoffs! Let's see what Thursday brings!

and, of course, Go Habs Go.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Now That's... Hockey?

The Canadiens continue to impress/frustrate in these playoffs. I'm getting phone calls at home from friends calling to 'congratulate' me on the win (like I had anything to do with it...) and talking about how they are starting to get on the Habs bandwagon. These are guys who are excited for the underdog, like watching the super-stars get frustrated, and are enjoying the excitement of watching Les Boys hang on by their fingernails for unlikely victories.

Then I am getting angry emails and and text messages from (ex?) friends (just kidding) who enjoyed watching Washington get ousted, but are now frustrated that the Gong Show that is Le Bleu Blanc Rouge is getting away with this against another big-time contender. They wanted to see the best teams compete, not some wet blanket "fromage" their way forward.

I gotta admit, these games are exciting for a Habs fan to watch! I'm enjoying the tension, the effort from my underdogs, the great performances by guys like Cammi and Gill and Gorges and Sabban and the others who are making this all work... but I am also fully aware that what I am watching is not exactly great hockey as they say. I mean, in Sunday's win, I started cheering every time the Habs cleared the blue line -- because it seems that's all they wanted to do.

I also have no illusions. The Canadiens have not gotten out of the second round in 17 years. Pittsburgh is the NHL's golden child, and the refs will not put up with these shenanigans much more. Habs will just start getting penalties called against them until the Pens win. This is why I hate the Penguins so damn much -- but it doesn't matter. Pittsburgh has to much talent and too many expectations from the League head office to fail. And besides, this style of game is really hard on the goalies and defence... how long can they last?

But until that happens, I yell a big GO HABS GO! And am pulling for them all the way... play hard, stay mean, and make Pittsburgh pay for every inch lads! Your fans are behind you!!

And besides, the playoffs aren't official until Boston and Montreal have a series... right?

Lest go les boys!!