All posts by Dennis Kane

Habs Strangle Sens

A Shea Weber blast in the first period, two rockets  from Andrei Markov in the second, and the Canadiens, with their 3-1 win, down the Ottawa Senators for the third time in a week.

Montreal’s pathetic showings against Detroit and Carolina earlier this week is now ancient history. The Canadiens win a big one, they once again widen the gap to three points in the Atlantic Division fight for first, and they looked decent doing it.

They’re back in our good books, thanks to Markov with his pair of goals and a helper, Carey Price coming up big when called upon, and a clock-punching, hardworking, hard-skating  effort by everyone.

They make me proud when they play well and win when it really counts. This is a team we can’t always predict. Sometimes they play like fat reefers were handed around at the morning meeting.

But when they’re angry, focused, and determined, they play as a team. Like a contender. Like tonight.

And through it all, through both good and bad, even when I’m mad at them for sometimes playing like they’re still trying to remember the grocery list, I love them.

I love them like me and my buddy loved hula dancers.

Random Notes:

Ottawa outshot the Canadiens 32-24 and were 2/4 on the power play.

A fine example of looking good: In the first period, Ottawa’s feisty Alex Burrows high-sticked Alex Galchenyuk in the face, and a few seconds later, Andrew Shaw tuned Burrows up. I thought it was a fine moment. Teammate helping teammate. Far too often in the past this wouldn’t happen, and it was always embarrassing. Seeing a tougher team is pure joy.

Next up – Tuesday, when the Dallas Stars pay a visit to beautiful downtown Montreal.

 

 

 

Habs Clipped By Wings

It’s a loser point so it’s still okay I suppose, but definitely not something to do handstands over.

Not that I could do a handstand. But whatever. Maybe a pushup.

The Canadiens, in falling 2-1 to the visiting Detroit Red Wings, reminded us of too many times this season when they looked flat throughout.

Boring, confused, out of sorts. Weird and a bit baffling. The season’s winding down and they played like they were on tour in northern Saskatchewan.

And in overtime, when they had a chance to win it, Detroit had the puck most of the time.

Oh well. Not that big a deal. Unless they play like that on Thursday against Carolina. Would two lousy games be a hiccup, or the beginning of the end?

I’m remaining optimistic. Not a good night for the Habs and fans, but it was a point and I suppose they can’t always play like gangbusters.

I just think that management needs to get the wives out of town until June. How many times do I have to say this? It’s obvious.

I can take about five of them at my house in Powell River, and I’ll cash in an RRSP to put the rest up at the hotel down the street.

Random Notes:

Al Montoya was in nets, and the last time he was, on March 9th in Calgary, he and the boys lost 5-0. Tonight, it took most of another full game before his team would score for him, thanks to Artturi Lehkonen with 2:29 left in the third.

Do they play a different, more hesitant game when Al is in the nets? If they do, they shouldn’t.

Anthony Mantha’s overtime goal came with just 50 seconds left, with Alex Galchenyuk being walked around like he was Dion Phaneuf or Mike Komisarek.

Chucky isn’t a complete player yet. Maybe next year. Maybe not. Maybe never.

Shots on goal were even at 36.

The Canadiens are still 3 big points ahead of Ottawa, who beat the Bruins 3-2 tonight in Boston.

 

Once Again – Big Game, Big Win!

Wins on Saturday in Ottawa and Sunday in Montreal, and the Canadiens sizzle while the Senators fizzle.

Sunday it was 4-1 Canadiens, with the boys dominating often throughout, forcing turnovers that led to several partial breakaways, playing tough along the boards and in the crease, taking no shit in scrums late in the game, and making Sens goalie Craig Anderson look ordinary while Carey Price looked his brilliant self.

Price, with an amazing toe save on Kyle Turris in the second period when it was still a 2-1 game, demonstrated exactly how unreal goaltending can win games or change momentum.

A key stop at a key time. Just another day at the office for our main man.

Ten games left for the bleu, blanc et rouge before the real stuff begins. And to me at least, they’re rounding into form at the perfect time.

I’m feeling sad for Ottawa fans. They were pumped for the back-to-back series that would see their team catapult over Montreal and into first place in the Atlantic Division.

But it didn’t happen. And how sad do I feel?

To see the Canadiens win both, the second one handily, makes my heart soar like a bird flying high in the Chinese sky!

But I’m not one to gloat or be biased.  No way. It’s not polite and I don’t want that reputation. It’s not my fault that the Sens suck.

Random Notes:

Tomas Plekanec, scoreless in twenty games or so, got his team rolling at the 28-second mark of the first period, and after Ottawa evened things, Jordie Benn put the gang in front after his long shot deflected off a Senator D-man’s stick.

No lamps lit through the second, but the Canadiens broke it open in the third when Paul Byron, with his 20th, and Nathan Beaulieu on the power play, put the game out of reach.

Ain’t hockey great when your favourite team deflates a rival that’s trying to catch them? It’s good for the soul. It makes hockey fun again. It makes me forget the negatives, like another possible lockout down the road for example.

It makes it all good. At the expense of the Ottawa Senators and their fans!

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Ottawa 37-30.

Montreal sits at 6 wins and 2 losses so far in March. Or if you want to go back further, they’ve lost just three times in their last thirteen games.

Next up – Tuesday, when it’s Detroit paying a visit.

Thursday they host Carolina, and then it’s the Ottawa Senators once again. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. For now, I’m just going to sit here and feel bad for Sens fans.

 

 

Big Game, Big Win

The Ottawa Senators and their fans could almost taste first place in the Atlantic Division, and indeed, it almost happened.

Almost.

Settled in overtime on goals from Paul Byron and Alex Radulov, the Canadiens stretch their lead slightly over Ottawa to two points, and if Montreal can do it  again on Sunday against those same Sens, it’ll be a fine four-point lead, with the best part being the mind game part.

The part that says the Habs know perfectly well that they can handle this red-hot bunch from . And for the Sens, it’s the sobering thought that maybe they can’t beat the Canadiens when the going gets tough.

Back and forth the two teams went in a game that was much less boring than most this season, with Andrew Shaw giving his team the lead in the second period before Ottawa would score a couple to take the lead into the third.

The final frame saw Philip Danault tie it up, and 31 seconds later, Brendan Gallagher would fire one from a bad angle to give the boys the lead again.

But with just 4:57 left, Ottawa tied it to the cheers of the four thousand Sens fans at the Canadian Tire Centre, and after a scoreless overtime, the Byron/Radu combo stole the show to the cheers of the fifteen thousand Habs fans.

A fine outing for Montreal, aside from a whack of giveaways and blunders mostly early on. And if Alexei Emelin, who was a healthy scratch on this night, has become your favourite whipping boy, maybe you could share some of your wrath now for Jeff Petry, who wasn’t any better on this night than Emelin was the previous game. Why should Emelin take all the blame?

But I really don’t want you to have a favourite whipping boy. We’re all in this together, management, players, and fans. It’s time to support our team and everyone on it, with the playoffs just around the corner.

And that includes pulling for guys who have off nights.

The Canadiens won a huge game, and makes my heart soar like birds at the fishing hole.

Random Notes:

Carey Price held the fort for the most part, and although Sunday’s game means back-to-back, we need him between the pipes for that one too.

Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry.

On this day in 1892, Lord Stanley announced that he was donating his cup to hockey. Here it is here.

Habs Vs Hawks – Close But No Cigar

Dick Irvin Sr, who played for the Hawks in the late-’20s before his coaching career, which included Montreal, began. Dick would be 124 if he was still around (125 in July).

The Canadiens couldn’t quite get it done, falling 4-2 to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, and if you like your glass half-full you could say Montreal sits at 8-3 in their last 11 games.

But if you’re a half-empty type of person, you might say they’ve lost two of their last three.

And the kind of person I am? Mostly a half-full kind of guy except when I’m not. And as I’ve said many times, the regular season will be long forgotten when pucks are dropped to begin the postseason.

Tuesday night in snowy Montreal, the home team fell behind 3-0 in the third frame, but red-hot Paul Byron banged home a rebound to ruin Corey Crawford’s shutout, and soon after, Shea Weber blasted one from the blueline to narrow it to 3-2.

A great comeback by the Habs. Exciting. Tense. Stressful. Stirring. And then Jonathan Toews found the empty net to salt it away for Chicago and ruin all that’s pure and good.

It was an ‘almost’ type of thing. Corey Crawford stood on his head throughout, as the Canadiens outshot the Hawks 39-24, but try as they may, Montreal skaters as a whole are snakebitten. They have a tough time scoring. But again, the playoffs are a different ball of wax completely. The scoring will probably start then!

There’s the half-full thing again.

I’d say that the boys miss the net way too much but they probably know that.  But the fierce rally late in the game that would sadly fall short for Montreal made my heart soar like a clown or a duck or something, flying around with an umbrella.

Random Notes:

A couple of big games coming up the Habs, as they meet the Sens in Ottawa on Saturday and then host those same Ottawans on Sunday. Yes, as much as the regular season will be forgotten come playoff time, these are huge games for both teams. Time to kick some sand in the faces of Sens players and their fans.

And one last thing. I’m guessing that Alexei Emelin will be an easy target now, considering how he was out of position on a couple of Chicago’s goals.

But I’m sticking up for him because I think the pros outweigh the cons for Mr. Emelin. He lets loose thunderous hits, he’s a bone-crunching bummer for players racing down the side with him waiting, and he has a good shot from the point. I like his old-time hockey style and I appreciate anyone on the Canadiens, including him, who plays a rugged game.

He reminds me of Gilles Marotte, who dished out Emelin-like checks for Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, and St. Louis in the 1960s and ’70s,

The problem is, quite often the lights are on but nobody’s home for the Russian rearguard.

 

Habs Roll Against Rangers

It’s five in a row now for the Montreal Canadiens after taking out the Rangers 4-1 in Manhattan, and it makes my heart soar like a blue-footed booby.

This one’s getting ready to soar.

Definitely a sight for sore eyes to see a big, bruising, and hardworking Habs team that was flying for the most part, and when they weren’t flying, Carey Price was there to shut the door.

What a combination – big, flying, and Price. That’s a playoff formula if there ever was one.

Sixteen games left folks, and then the real wars start. It’s good to see what’s developing.

It seems like a team coming together at the right time, and all it took was a coaching change and four rough and tough guys added after a couple of small ones were subtracted.

How big is this team now? Only five are under six feet – Nesterov, Mitchell, Shaw and Plekanec at 5’11”, and Byron and Gallagher at 5’9″. That makes 17 guys at least six feet tall, and that’s why my heart is soaring like a booby after all the whining I’ve done over the years about too-small Habs teams.

The idea is to make the opposition not enjoy themselves one bit when they play Montreal, and finally it seems the case. There’s nothing worse than seeing a team lined up at the blueline and half of them look like Danny DeVito.

So a big shout-out to the big guys, including the new Norwegian, Andreas Martinsen, who used his 6’3″, 220 lb frame to rattle bones all evening.

Shea Weber would score the game’s lone goal in the first period after a fine faceoff win by new guy Steve Ott, while in the second, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw would bulge the twine and make things a healthy 3-0.

In the third, arch-enemy Chris Kreider would narrow it to 3-1, but Jordie Benn’s shot from the blueline found it’s way past Henrik Lundqvist, and it ended as a mighty fine Habs road win and a beauty of a five-game winning streak.

All in all, an impressive showing by the Canadiens who now shift focus to their trip west, beginning with Vancouver on Tuesday.

Six straight would be nice.

 

Habs Ruin Old Friend’s Party

It may have been a PK Subban love-in at the Bell, but it never meant the Canadiens would fold up the tent just because they’re gracious hosts.

And although the visitors mostly smothered the bleu, blanc et rouge for much of the night, it was a never-say-die, never stop working display by the Habs, and two guys mired in horrendous slumps, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron, finally came through in a huge way.

Now, regardless of a slew of players still not producing, the team has found a way to win their last four, and teams behind them in the standings hoping to catch up, might now realize that it might not happen after all.

Three overtime wins and a regulation win decided with nine seconds left in the third period. You want a character team? I’d say there’s been plenty of character shown lately.

It certainly wasn’t easy against Subban and his Nashville Predators. There was simply no room to move for the home team, and if the Canadiens were going to win, they knew it could take a lucky break to kick start it, which is what happened.

Hard work behind the Preds net resulted in Gally coming out and wrapping around, with the puck bouncing in off a Preds skate, and suddenly, in almost shocking fashion considering the way the night had gone, the game was tied.

Then, with the clock ticking down and overtime looming, Paul Byron fired up the burners, raced in from outside the blueline, and the puck found it’s way past Pekka Rinne with just nine seconds left.

Four straight, with half the team slumping in a big way. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but whatever.

Random Notes:

The pre-game video ceremony in tribute to PK Subban was touching, and tears rolled down his face. Now, is it possible for fans to finally embrace Shea Weber and move on? We’ve got a Cup to win.

Habs outshot the Preds 26-25.

The Canadiens have scored only179 goals so far, with 17 games remaining. Last season, the one we don’t really want to talk about, they scored a total of 221 over 82 games, which was also lousy.

So out with the trusty calculator, which shows they’ll need to score 42 more goals to tie last season’s effort, which comes to almost 2.50 goals per game. The way they’ve been going lately, it doesn’t seem possible. But who knows?

Next up – Saturday in New York to tackle the Rangers.

 

Canadiens Nail Leafs

A sweet pass from Tomas Plekanec to Andrew Shaw in overtime, and the Habs skate off with a 3-2 win in Toronto, thus ending Leaf fans and the HNIC crew’s dream of their beloved team crawling within two points of the boys from Quebec.

If only they could’ve won, sighed Leaf fans as they left bars or turned off the lights at home and tried to sleep, and the HNIC crew wrapped things up at the rink and sadly shook their heads and looked broken.

It was a back and forth game, one that had extra purpose considering the standings and the built-in rivalry, and for a change, one that probably kept many fans on the edge of their chairs and couches throughout.

Of course I don’t know for sure about the edge of chairs and couches. I’m only guessing.

A fast-paced affair which could’ve gone either way, and I could say that folks got their money’s worth at the ACC, except a bunch of lower seats probably went for a grand or so, so maybe the people sitting there didn’t exactly.

Depends on what a grand means to them I guess.

But it went Montreal’s way for a change, they keep their distance from a bunch of pretenders, including the Torontonians, after two sharpshooters and one Shaw raked the Leafs into the ditch.

A struggling team gets it done against a good young Toronto team that gets TV announcers’ libidos doing the watusi.

The Leafs would open the scoring in the first period when Habs rearguard Nikita Nesterov not only had the puck go in off him, but played his man in front so softly it was like he was up against Betty White.

Greg Pateryn sat while Nesterov dressed. Next game, in New Jersey on Monday, maybe that’ll change. Softness isn’t cool, unless it’s toilet paper and a few other things, like women.

In the second frame, with the man advantage, Max would bury a beauty pass from Alex Galchenyuk, and nine minutes later, Galchenyuk would bulge the twine with a great shot that gave the boys a 2-1 lead.

In the third, again with poor defensive coverage (this time by Alexei Emelin), Leafs super-rookie Auston Mathews would tie things and send it into overtime.

And that’s where Pleks and Shaw worked their magic.

This final photo shows the Rocket scoring his final goal, his 626th, on April 12, 1960 during the Stanley Cup Finals against the Leafs. I wrote to a Toronto paper after it happened, asking if they’d send me a photo, and they did.

Habs Almost Score!

The Canadiens were blanked 3-0 by the New York Islanders on a balmy Thursday night in Montreal, and although they lost for the eighth time in ten games this month, there were plenty of great things to rave about.

There was that time when one of their passes went tape to tape. That was a fine moment. I remember once when somebody outraced an Islander for the puck, which was awe-inspiring. And those few seconds when they seemed interested touched my heart.

They’ve only been shutout four times in these ten games, which of course is fantastic, and the new addition at centre, Homer de la Thorn, could very well be the missing piece of the puzzle!

So many great things indeed. They make my heart soar like a squealing, constipated seagull at the local dump.

Now the Leafs have to face our mean, lean machine on Saturday. It’s gonna be magnificent. Poor Leafs.

Hopefully we’ll see another tape to tape pass at least once, and at one point in the game I’m expecting somebody, Paul Byron probably, to outrace a guy in blue. And because they’re in Toronto, they could possibly look interested for at least a minute. Maybe two.

It’s all so darn exciting. Go Habs.

 

 

The Dismal Beat Goes On

Late-’80s Claude Julien.

The wild and crazy Montreal Canadiens were rusty and sloppy in Claude Julien’s 2017 coaching debut, and their 3-1 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Jets ruined what could have been a fun breakout party for the new Blind River bench boss.

Probably rusty because they had five days off. And sloppy, regardless of who’s behind the bench. Nothing new about their sloppiness. They’d probably be a mess if Toe Blake was behind them.

Was any part of this loss Julien’s fault?

If he was Kreskin, he might have plunked Nathan Beaulieu into the press box pre-game, before this mediocre defenceman could think he was Bobby Orr during a second period power play, and which quickly showed he’s no Bobby Orr.

Or Gaston Gingras for that matter.

Beaulieu decided to do some fancy stickhanding and was promptly stripped of the puck by Joel Armia, who walked in and tied it.

And because Julien didn’t have his skates on, he couldn’t be on the ice at 1:16 of the third when Emelin, Weber, Plekanec, Danault and Max decided to show their soft and tender side as Big Buff muscled his way in from the right side and found Mathieu Perreault, who notched the winner easy as pie.

Winnipeg’s third goal was an empty-netter, so I guess Julien can’t be blamed for that one either.

Wasn’t Carey Price’s fault either, as the big fellow snagged shots left and right, including lightning-quick glove hand robbery on rookie star Patrick Laine’s laser in the first period and then again in the third, plus coming up big a plethora of other times throughout.

Price was his old self, which is a good thing. So were his teammates, which is a bad thing.

Gump Worsley, manning the pipes for the New York Rangers in the late-’50s, was asked what team gave him the most trouble. Gump answered, “the Rangers”.

Price can say exactly the same thing about his teammates. Coverage means more than just car and house insurance, boys.

Random Notes:

Jets outshot the Habs 33-20.

Either the Sens or Leafs will win tonight, considering they play each other. Which means if the Sens win they’ll be within two points of Montreal, and if the Leafs pull it out, they’ll be just five back. Both teams also have games in hand on the Canadiens.