Not As Much Fun In ’80-81

The late 1970s were fine years for Habs fans of course, as the Canadiens chalked up four straight Stanley Cup wins and all was well in this crazy, mixed up world.

Even after the run finished, the 1979-80 campaign saw the boys finish first in the Norris Division with 107 points, but cracks and unrest had begun to show.

Unhappy coach Scotty Bowman had left town for Buffalo after the 1978-79 season , where he assumed the role of coach and general manager after being denied GM duties in Montreal.

And as Bowman bolted, aging stars Jacques Lemaire, Ken Dryden, and Yvon Cournoyer retired.

In 1980-81, any semblance of a powerhouse team was gone and it was very sad. We were used to much better.

Difficult to stomach was the gang being swept in ’80-81 by the upstart Edmonton Oilers, with a skinny kid named Wayne Gretzky emerging as a freak of nature in the Oiler’s lineup.

Shortly after the disappointing sweep, Montreal coach Claude Ruel resigned and was replaced by the unsuccessful Bob Berry (14 different coaches have followed since).

Berry, between his three years as coach of the L.A. Kings and almost three in Montreal, would never get his teams past the first round of the playoffs, and 63 games into year three, Jacques Lemaire took over the helm.

It just wasn’t a rosy time for all concerned.

These were the days that saw a New York Islanders dynasty rise, with Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Brian Trottier, Billy Smith and company winning their own four straight.

By then, the idea of the Habs winning four in a row as they once had was only laughable. It had become painfully obvious that the dynasty wasn’t just on life support, it was officially over.

The Flower’s greatest years were behind him, his 50-goal seasons would come no more. Goaltending was shaky, and Patrick Roy was still several years away.

Steve Shutt was the team’s leading point-getter in the 1980-81 season, recording 35 goals and 38 assists for 73 points. Mark Napier was next with 71 points, while Lafleur was third with 70 points.

The goaltending duties were shared by four guys that season – Richard Sevigny, Michel Larocque, Denis Herron, and Rick Wamsley.

Doug Wickenheiser, the Habs first-overall pick, chosen over fan favourite Denis Savard, suited up in this 1980-81 season and turned out to be not quite the player the organization and fans thought they were getting.

The much maligned (and initially much heralded) centreman recorded just 7 goals and 8 assists, and often found himself a healthy scratch.

Wickenheiser had been a huge star in junior with the Regina Pats and his big body at centre ice had folks wondering if they might have a new Jean Beliveau on their hands. But he never managed to become a major impact player (115 points in 202 games in Montreal), and was finally dealt to St. Louis.

And to add salt to everyone’s wounds, including Wickenheiser’s, the shifty and bilingual Quebecer from Pointe Gatineau, Denis Savard, had become the toast of the town in Chicago.

Rough times after those glorious late-1970s, and it would be five more years after ’80-81 before the Canadiens would become champs once again.

At that time, a handful of years in Montreal without Lord Stanley was unacceptable.

Now of course, it’s a bit more than a handful.

Three Straight!

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Six points from a line on fire, and the Canadiens rack up their third straight win by beating a solid Tampa Bay Lightning squad 4-2.

Tomas Plekanec, who came to life last Saturday against Edmonton when he notched a four-point night, once again rocked and rolled against Tampa, and ended the evening with a pair of goals and a helper.

Linemates Brendan Gallagher collected a goal and an assist and Alex Galchenyuk an assist, and it doesn’t take a brilliant rocket scientist like P.J. Stock to know that when the guns come alive, the team will thrive.

Just a bit more from a few others would be nice. But this a big breakthrough regardless. Three wins in a row beats three wins in a whole month, as they managed in sad fashion in both December and January.

But that was then, this is now. And it just feels a whole lot better. I’m so alive I find myself with a little extra bounce in my step during those dozen or so trips to the bathroom to pee.

Maybe it’s too late to play playoff spot catch-up, or maybe not. It’d be nice to see Boston, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey, the teams in front of the Canadiens, do the nosedive shuffle. (Boston was bombed 9-2 tonight by L.A., which is downright hilarious, don’t you think?).

To see the team put together a handful of wins makes my heart soar. Really soar. You’d be surprised how much it’s soaring.

I like to think that Nathan Beaulieu’s pounding of Cedric Paquette early in the first period put things on track, as a fight will do sometimes.

They’re rare to see now, but really, what’s wrong with a good old fist to face with blood sprayed all over the place? It’s another thing that makes my heart soar.

Brendan Gallagher would soon after open the scoring, while in the second, after Tampa had scored just 40 seconds in, Pleks would weave his magic the first of two times.

And with only 8 seconds remaining in the middle frame, PK Subban twisted and turned and sent the puck in off Devante Smith-Pelly to give the Habs a solid 3-1 lead.

In the third, Pleks faked out a confused d-man and Ben Bishop to widen the gap to 4-1, and although Tampa would score another, that was it. A big win to keep hopes and dreams alive.

And it all started with Nathan Beaulieu delivering a couple of nasty rights to the face of Cedric Paquette.

Random Notes:

Ben Scrivens, in net for all three wins, was once again excellent.

Both Beaulieu and Brian Flynn left the game in the second period, never to return. Beaulieu was hurt blocking a shot, while Flynn appeared to do major damage to his leg.

Tampa outshot Montreal 39-27.

Next up – Friday, when the boys visit beautiful downtown Buffalo.

 

 

Sweater Season

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It’s a smaller house, so baby Lyla is forced to sleep in this room with vintage Habs sweaters and hockey coins on the wall. Plus a whack of other stuff, of course.

She doesn’t mind. She’s a big fan.

Lyla’s only 15 months old, but soon she’ll need a girl’s room, so at some point in the near future, I’m going to start selling most of my collection so she’ll have it.

 

Habs In Shootout

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It was a win, and wins are good I suppose.

The Canadiens edged Carolina 2-1, but it took a shootout to do it, and without Ben Scrivens flapping around like a fish on a line, it would’ve been just another loss in this long, heartbreaking season.

Because the team in front of him, as usual, lacked fire.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. It’s two straight for the boys, which is something we haven’t seen since late November when they put together four in a row, and which seems as miraculous as can be now.

But two wins still doesn’t sit right. Not for me, anyway. Not the way they won today.

I’ve tried to stay upbeat and as positive as possible throughout this ridiculous campaign. But this is a team that on most nights disappoints, even with a rare win, and I’m tired of being disappointed.

Real life can be disappointing enough. I don’t need more from my friggin’ hockey team. But maybe I’m selfish. I’ve been alive for 18 Montreal Canadien Stanley Cup wins, so I shouldn’t be greedy.

And reality tells me I probably won’t see 19.

And this year, not even playoff action.

Although the 3-on-3 overtime gave us good old fire wagon hockey that had fans oohing and aahing, we saw the Canadiens be the second best team for the three regular periods. Like they’ve been so often.

It’s a win, but whatever. They didn’t play well.

Random Notes:

Carolina outshot Montreal 35-34.

Max, with his 20th, tied thing at one apiece in the second period.

Galchenyuk, Flynn, Max, and Eller failed miserably in the shootout, but Andrighetto came through.

Next up – Tuesday, when it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning in town.

 

 

Canadiens Come Up Big

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I’ll try to contain myself. But it was the Habs’ finest game since they pasted the Boston Bruins 5-1 at the Winter Classic on January 1st.

On this day, it was a 5-1 blasting of the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre!I almost felt like singing the obnoxious Olé song, but not quite.

The win gives me quivers down my backbone. I’m not shakin’ all over, but I feel faint hope. I feel like deep in the innards of the slump beast sits a good team.

And all we can do is wait until tomorrow (2:30 ET) to see if the boys can keep it going, or if they come up flat once again like they’ve been so good at doing. But for now, Go Habs Go!

Their losing has always been a matter of players relied upon not being relied upon. If key guys were on their game more often, they wouldn’t be in this pickle.

Today, Tomas Plekanec stepped out of his season-long slumber (although he does have the team’s second highest point tally – 39, which isn’t saying much), and supplied a goal and three assists.

The Czech enigma displayed some serious life, and maybe the rust and dust has been shaken free and we’ll see more from this key guy.

The team has needed Pleks during dark days and he hasn’t been there, but today he was the Plekanec of old. Maybe he remembered the tips I gave him last year in Montreal at an autograph signing.

Now it’s time for Max Pacioretty to shake his hangover and come through for us on more of a regular basis. And Galchenyuk and Weise and DD and on and on.

Guys need to show up like Pleks did today. Four-point nights might be asking too much, but regardless.

Fine goaltending from Ben Scrivens, who recorded his first win as a Hab in five starts, and goals from Gallagher, Eller, Pleks, PK, and Tom Gilbert of all people (his first of the season), and the boys were too much for Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

A beautiful sight. A clobbering of the team that had rolled over Ottawa 7-2 the night before, by a team in the midst of a struggle to recover from the most gruesome of slumps.

Today, it was the team we’ve been looking for after two months of pure mediocrity. They showed fire, but like I said, I need to contain myself. Tomorrow’s another day, but if they look good against Carolina, I just might be whoopin’ and hollerin’.

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Edmonton 35-24.

It’ll be interesting to see if Scrivens plays on Sunday after his fine showing today.

Connor McDavid is some kind of young player. Imagine if he wore the CH?

Below –  Prust, me, and Plekanec, last year in Montreal. Gallagher and Max were there too. Sadly, their wives and girlfriends weren’t.

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The Canadiens Helped The Smoke Eaters

It all started when I saw an old clip on YouTube of the 1960 Chatham Maroons playing the U.S.S.R. on Russian television.

Even though the T.V. screen in that video below says 1963, it was actually Nov. 26, 1960 when the Maroons senior squad met Moscow Select in Russia and were bombed 11-2 by the home team.

Chatham had won the Allan Cup the previous spring by taking out the Trail Smoke Eaters in four of five games, and the Ontario squad played two exhibition games months later in Moscow, winning the first contest 5-3 before this 11-2 slaughter.

Unfortunately, Chatham opted out of representing Canada in the 1961 World Championships in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland due to lack of funds, and were replaced by the runner-up Smoke Eaters, who would end up winning the gold medal and gaining legendary status in the process.

I also discovered more to this story, after chatting with the daughter of the then-Smoke Eaters president, who was also the high school principal in Trail at the time.

The Smoke Eaters worked hard to go to the Worlds after Chatham bowed out. Players took out personal loans, and the team wrote to all six NHL teams hoping for some sort of financial help.

But it was only Montreal that stepped up to the plate, with the Molson family, owners of the Canadiens, giving Trail $1000, which was a fair amount of coin in 1961 (equal to $8000 today), and the Habs providing some serious hockey equipment.

The other teams, the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Black Hawks, were cheap bastards.

Topping it all off was Cominco, the gigantic smelter plant in Trail where most or all of the Smoke Eaters worked, who gave the players’ families weekly stipends while the team was in Europe.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled Habs slump.

Below, Chatham in Russia against Moscow Select, and below that, the final game of the 1961 Worlds, when the Trail Smoke Eaters blasted the Soviet National Team 5-1.

Trail

Beaten By Buffalo

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Canadiens lose 4-2 to the visiting Buffalo Sabres after blowing a 2-1 second period lead.

More importantly, when the season kicks off in early May,  it’ll mark the 95th year for the Powell River Lawn Bowling Association.

I’m hoping to get out and watch some of the action.

In cricket play, England is on fire after Jos Buttler tallied 399 in game one against South Africa.

I have no idea how many games these two teams play, or what the series is about, or when they play, or what the rules are, but I’m excited anyway. And how bout that Buttler!

The English Tiddlywinks Association (ETA) informs us that the first adult version of the game began in 1958, so I truly feel I was there from the beginning and should be labelled a pioneer of the sport.

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Buffalo 34-32.

I’m hoping you noticed how long it took for the trainer to grab a stick from the bench for Torrey Mitchell. Some of you are aware that I’ve been lobbying the Canadiens about the stick boy job for a long time, and without bragging, I would’ve had a stick for Mitchell much quicker.

Next up – Saturday, when Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers pay a visit.

Once Again, Habs……

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It was sure nice to have a week off during the All-Star break.

The John Scott Extravaganza was up and running, so the Habs’ magnificent Slide Into Hell was forced to stop for a breather. No turnovers, no missed nets, no silent guns, no night with no points.

Nice.

But I’ll admit, after a week off, it was good to see the boys up and at ’em and lose another.

This time it happened in Philadelphia, where they fell 4-2, although they came back from being down 2-0 to tie things at one point, which sort of gave us the silly notion that they could actually win.

There was a glorious chance to even things late, after big lunk Radko Gudas clipped Lucas Lessio with just over seven minutes remaining, and was given five minutes and a game misconduct for his dastardly deed.

But the five-minute power play that Montreal went on because of the clipping simply ticked away like we knew it would, with the boys of course not scoring, and in not doing so, they’ve probably blown their season in solid Linda Lovelace fashion.

On the bright side, it’s only the team’s third straight loss and not five or six like we’ve seen in previous months. Although they should reach these marks soon of course.

I don’t want to talk about what now amounts to one win in 9 games, which is their most recent pathetic contribution to join all the other pathetic contributions. The beat goes on. The longest lousy drum solo on record.

I never know what to say anymore. I dread game nights now. What am I supposed to write about when every game is just a slight variation of all the others?

I miss the ongoing circus, CNN’s Race For the White House, for this %$*&^?

Once upon a time I thought the 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens were good. What was wrong with me?

Random Notes:

Philly out the Canadiens 36-32.

The power play? 1/4.

Habs scorers were Andrei Markov, with his third of the season, and Jeff Petry with his fifth.

Quite a start for Lessio. His first game with the Habs after being called up from St. John’s, and he’s helped off the ice with what may be a serious knee injury. Fingers crossed on this one.

It’s the first time this season the Canadiens haven’t won the first game of a month, which makes it sound like they’ve been good or something. But it’s worth mentioning I suppose.

Next Up – Wednesday, with the Buffalo Sabres paying a visit to the Bell Centre. This is the first of four games at home, for what it’s worth.

 

 

 

Ticket Please

It’s not a complete ticket stub collection. For instance, I don’t have my Led Zeppelin stub, or Hollies, or Ten Years After, or Stevie Ray Vaughn, or Dylan and the Band’s 1974 concert at the Montreal Forum, or the first time I saw Bruce Springsteen in 1976 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and so on.

But I managed to hold on to a bunch anyway.

I’m posting this because I’ve got nothing to say about the NHL All-Star Game.  Or those crazy Habs.

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Atlantic City

 

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