All posts by Dennis Kane

Looking At The Standings Because It’s Interesting

Now that the dust has sort of settled on getting the season underway, it’s a little disturbing to see the Buffalo Sabres playing so well. They have the same record as Montreal – 4 wins and a shootout loss for nine points, for goodness sakes. Even with those George Jetson jerseys.

 

The Sabres will come back down to earth shortly. I’m sure they will.

 

There’s good news, though, and the good news is that the Philadelphia Flyers, the team Steve Downey plays for, hasn’t won yet in five games. It doesn’t get much better than that!

 

The Florida Panthers are in Montreal Monday night to play the Habs. I know I say every game that the two points that night are extra important for the Canadiens,  so I’ll just say it again. These two points are extra important for the Canadiens. Gotta catch those Rangers.

 

Florida should be in Hamilton. Or Halifax, or Winnipeg, or Saskatoon, or Quebec City.

 

Why is there hockey in Miami, Florida?

 

I know there’s lots of snowbirds in Florida who are big hockey fans, but that’s not good enough. The team’s drawing only around 12,000 a game, and so now they’re giving away a pair of free tickets as long as you can show a Florida driving license. Miami people need to be at dog races and jai alai tournaments. Not hockey games.

 

Also interesting in the standings is Tampa Bay’s start. They’re winless after five games. And this with two new owners, the firing of coach John Tortorella, and the hiring of Barry Melrose. So it’s not going well for all concerned except Tortorella, who’s now providing reasonable thoughts on TSN. (Except for his prediction of who will win the Cup.)

 

Montreal sits in second place in the east with those bastard Buffalonians, with the Rangers leading with 13. But New York has played several more games than anyone else so the standings are slightly cockeyed. And there’s a handful of teams just behind Montreal and Buffalo, like New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

 

San Jose’s leading the west with St. Louis, Minnesota, and Edmonton hot on the trail. Both Edmonton and Minnesota are undefeated at 4-0.

 

And John Tortorella thinks San Jose will win the Cup.

 

 

Alex Tanguay Shines And Big Georges Flexes His Muscles Against The Not-So-Nice Phoenix Coyotes

It was so much more than just a nice 4-1 win for the Habs over the Phoenix Coyotes. It was good, it was bad, it was ugly. And because of the bad and the ugly, big Georges Laraque saw more ice time than he probably expected.

 

Andre Kostitsyn was leveled in the second period by someone named Kurt Sauer, and lay on the ice in obvious bad shape for an uncomfortable length of time. But in the end, he refused a stretcher and skated off with the help of his teammates. It wasn’t a nice situation, and younger brother Sergei was surely the most unhappy and concerned person in the rink. So far there’s been no word on how Andrei is, at least that I’m aware of.

 

That was the bad and ugly part.

 

The good parts were many. Tom Kostopoulos tangled with the bigger Sauer because Tom Kostopoulos does this. He sticks up for his teammates. And that’s why I think he’s one of the most important guys on the team.

 

And Georges Laraque was sent on, on an almost regular basis after the Kostitsyn incident, and after Alex Kovalev took a stick in the face, and big Georges did was he was brought to the Canadiens to do. He showed these goons that if you mess around with the stars, you have to fight him.

 

And who wants to fight Georges Laraque?

 

Teams will learn this quickly, starting tonight. Screw around and meet Georges.

 

Oh, the good stuff doesn’t end here. There was a goal and two assists for an apparently rejuvenated Saku Koivu. Carey Price was once again great. Guillaume Latendresse continues his good play and had an assist.

 

And last, but not least, there’s Alex Tanguay. This guy was born to play for the Habs. He scored two goals, this after scoring the shootout winner against Boston on Wednesday. He looks happy. He plays a good two-way game with the accent on finesse. It’s hard to imagine that he was such an non-entity in Calgary.

 

And not only that, but Tanguay is what Daniel Briere could have been in Montreal. He’s fast becoming the toast of the town, a good Quebec boy who’s fit in in Montreal like we’d hoped he would. He’s going to be a huge name as the season goes on, and he’s got a big smile on his face.

 

Briere wanted no part of this special limelight and chose Philadelphia. But that’s good. Because we’ve got Tanguay now.

 

And one last thing about Tanguay that I found really funny. He said the other day that he had no idea of the history of the Montreal Canadiens, except what went on in the last ten or fifteen years or so.

 

I suppose many players nowadays have no idea about the great past of the Habs, but when I think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised. These guys are young. Tanguay was born in November, 1979, so even when the Habs won the Cup in 1986, he was only six years old. (Is my math right?)

 

And I think he paid more attention to the Quebec Nordiques when he was a kid.

 

GAME NOTES:

 

I’m still having a little trouble getting used to not seeing the two big CH’s at centre ice at the Bell Centre. The big 100’s painted there are fine, but the CH’s are being missed by me.

 

The other new addition to the club, Robert Lang, has also fit in really well and notched an unassisted goal tonight. Bob Gainey made some nice decisions by bringing in Lang, Tanguay, and Laraque.

 

NEXT UP:

 

The Florida Panthers are in town Monday. This is another team I would move to Canada if I was the Supreme Ruler.

 

Canadiens Host The Phoenix Coyotes – The Illegitimate Child Of The Winnipeg Jets

Wayne Gretzky’s Phoenix Coyotes are at the Bell Centre Saturday night for a tilt with the Canadiens, and I mention Wayne Gretzky because other than him and Kyle Turris, there’s not a whole lot to say about the Coyotes.

 

Maybe I could say that the Coyotes were originally the Winnipeg Jets and maybe should be again. Or I could say that Kyle Turris has a good chance to be a big star in the NHL. Or I could say that hockey in the desert just doesn’t seem right. Or I could say that the official average attendance in Phoenix for a Coyotes’ game is about 14,000, but in reality it’s probably less than that. Or I could say that legendary Russian taskmaster Viktor Tikhonov’s grandson Viktor is on the Coyotes roster. Or I could say that both Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski are good Canadian boys and it must be weird for them to be playing in such a non-hockey market.

 

Whatever. I could say anything. But as long as the Habs win, collect their two points, and no one gets injured, who cares what anyone says?

The Alexei Cherepanov Tragedy Shows That Vladislav Tretiak Is Dreaming

Vladislav Tretiak, the great Russian goalie who gave fits to Team Canada in 1972 and the Montreal Canadiens on New Year’s Eve, 1975, is a proud Russian, and as President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, desparately wants his country to be a real hockey country.

 In fact, he’s predicting the new Russian league, the Continental Hockey League (KHL), will soon be as good as the NHL in all aspects. The money’s there, Jaromir Jagr’s there, and the crowds are sort of there.

 What’s not there, it seems, are ambulances and parametics. And without crucial intangibles like that, the KHL doesn’t stand a chance in hell of ever been the equal of the National Hockey League.

The incredible tragedy of 19 year old Russian star Alexei Cherepanov only points out that the Russians may never really get it. The night his heart stopped while sitting on the bench of his team Avangard Omsk, the parametics had already left the building and had to be called back, which of course meant they took too long.

 How come they left? Was it break time?

 There was no defibrillator in the arena. Nobody had thought that maybe there should be. And papers are saying that the emergency doctors who finally got around to taking Cherepanov to the hospital were later assaulted and beaten up by thugs. What’s that all about?

 It’s all very sinister. And a young fellow with major talent, with his whole life ahead of him, who was going to be the next Pavel Bure or Alex Ovechkin, died. It’s not only incredibly sad, but unforgivable the way the situation was handled.

 I’ve been to several games in Russia involving Moscow Red Army, St. Petersburg SKA, and other Super League teams, and it’s definitely not the NHL over there. I don’t know what the KHL looks like, but it can’t be a whole lot different than what I saw. And what I saw didn’t even come close to the NHL. Not by a country mile. It didn’t even come close to a major Junior A game.

 Atmosphere, the hockey, the cheerleaders, whatever. Not even close.

 If Tretiak thinks the league there will compete with the NHL, he and the rest have a lot of work to do.

 In the meantime, maybe they should think a little harder about having medical staff on hand when thousands of people are in the stands, and players are playing a physical game.

 It makes sense to most of us. Why didn’t it to the Russians?

The Boston Bruins And Some Lousy Boards Almost Ruin A Great Party.

If it wasn’t for Carey Price, the Boston Bruins would’ve fought back from more than a 3-0 deficit. They almost overcame a bunch of Hab greats in the building, an anxious dropping-of-the-puck by Elmer Lach and Emile ‘Butch’ Bouchard that had me a little worried for Butch, a fired-up crowd, and the rest of us in TV land who only had eyes on the Canadiens.

 

And the Montreal Canadiens got no help at all from the supposedly state-of-the-art Bell Centre.

 

It began like a Disney movie. The interviews with Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, the old players introduced – Henri Richard, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and many others, the vintage photos and films, the lavish praise from hockey analysts, and most importantly, three big goals in the first period by Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, and Maxim Lapierre.

 

It was a perfect script. Better start drawing up the parade route plans.

 

But then, disturbingly, the Canadiens adrenaline, for whatever reason, dried up half-way through, and little by little, only Price was there to keep it close. So much for the classic third-period team I talked about yesterday. Montreal proved that first-period hockey absolutely isn’t good enough.

 

Shamefully, it was a construction flaw that almost turned a great night into a complete disaster. An innocent shoot-in that hit an obvious seam in the boards that fooled Price, banged in by the Bruins’ Marc Savard, and with only 47 seconds to go, the game was tied.

 

It’s unacceptable for the boards to have this flaw. Montreal brass better have a good long talk with the maintenance foreman.

 

In the end, Alex Tanguay scored the shootout winner and the night was salvaged. But it’s not good. Montreal has to play a full sixty minutes. Thankfully it’s early in the season and they can learn a big lesson from this.

 

This is how the Canadiens almost lost the opening round series to Boston in last year’s playoff, by not keeping the pedal to the metal.

 

So there’s still some fine-tuning to be done.

 

But it’s two points. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

GAME NOTE:

 

Georges Laraque, in his first game in a Habs uniform, in the first two and a half minutes of the game, had a good scrap with Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. And although it was fairly even, Laraque made his presence felt, which I’m sure is what he wanted to do.

 

The crowd started to boo Guillaume Latendresse a little tonight. He has to pick it up a little.

 

Next up – The Phoenix Coyotes visit the Bell Centre Saturday. You can bet the boards will be fixed by then.

 

 

Do You Think The Boston Bruins Will Appreciate The Moment?

When I decided to move out west in 1990, one of the things I thought about was that I may never see the Habs play live again. I was used to seeing them several times a year, as I lived in Ottawa and various other places within driving distance of Montreal, and the Forum was only a couple of hours or so away.

 

I saw them play a few times in Calgary, and once each in Edmonton and Vancouver, but I’ve never been back to Montreal, where the atmosphere and magic of watching hockey certainly must be in a league of its own.

 

I was at a playoff game at the Forum once when the boys stormed back from being behind and beat Boston. The crowd was in a frenzy, the noise was deafening, and it felt like the roof was going to blow off the Forum and scatter pieces down Ste. Catherines Street.

 

I miss this type of thing so much.

 

And Wednesday night, with the Bruins in town, the Bell Centre will have it’s own electricity, as the Habs open the season with a team that could win it all, and I feel that diehard fans haven’t been this excited in years.

 

I know I haven’t been.

 

I wish I could be there, to soak it all up, to watch my team, and to relive old and glorious memories.

 

And to see the Canadiens beat the shit out of the Boston Bruins. 

Canadiens Find Their Legs In The Third And Send A Message To The Flyers

One thing’s for sure. Being a third-period hockey team is better than being a first or second-period hockey team.

 

The Montreal Canadiens are a classic third period team, which is good and bad. Sometimes, an exciting late comeback can be too little, too late. But other times, they pull it out in magnificent fashion. 

 

Like tonight.

 

It’s a beautiful thing. Waltz into Philadelphia to meet the enemy for the first time since getting bounced by this team last spring, and skate away with a tidy 5-3 win. A nice two points.

 

But it was hit and miss for awhile.

 

Too many penalties by Montreal in the first two periods disrupted any flow they might have had. A couple of goalposts were hit by Alex Kovalev. They killed a big two-man short penalty late in the first. Carey Price was solid on way too many Flyers chances. Mike Komisarek threw his weight around. Maxim Lapierre got into it with the obnoxious Steve Downey. And scuffles occurred periodically throughout the entire game.

 

A typical Montreal-Philadelphia game.

 

But they got it together in the third. It makes me proud.

 

The Canadiens went into the third period losing 2-1, but Roman Hamrlik, on a beauty of a play by Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Kovalev, tied it up.

 

Then Mike Komisarek and Robert Lang scored to make it 4-2. The third-period team had come alive. Philadelphia got close again, but Steve Begin iced it into the empty net for the fifth goal.

 

Such a nice win. Every Habs fan should be in a great frame of mind right now.

 

I’ve just one little concern. Why is Saku Koivu so quiet? Is his foot still sore?

 

Next Up!

The Canadiens home opener on Wednesday at the Bell Centre against the Boston Bruins. This will be exciting. The atmosphere will be amazing. And when you see those rotten kids in Habs uniforms on the ice with the flags, remember, that could’ve been me.

 

It just doesn’t seem right.

 

Game Note:

The Kostitsyn boys were impressive once again. Both these guys are all-stars.

Montreal Travels To Philadelphia, And I’m Sure They Haven’t Forgotten

With the Canadiens in Philadelphia Monday night, the memories come swirling back to last spring.

 

Montreal had taken out Boston in the opening round in a hard-fought series, then met the Flyers in round two, and it didn’t go the way it was supposed to.

 

Alex Kovalev, Tom Plekanec, Chris Higgins, and many other Habs somehow lost their edge, while RJ Umberger for the Flyers played like Mario Lemieux, and goalie Daniel Biron and his goalposts got the job done for the bad guys.

 

And Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen laughed in Tom Kostopoulos’ face. Remember that?

 

Most unsettling for Montreal and their fans was that Carey Price, who had been so terrific as a rookie goalie all through the year, seemed tired and let in goals he wouldn’t have let in a month prior.  The Flyers had everything going for them, and Montreal had hit a wall and were on the golf course sooner than hoped.

 

Flyers fans took it upon themselves to comment in droves on this site, berating me, berating the Canadiens, laughing at Price, making jokes about Canadian women, the flag, our weather, and in general, really taking it to me. When the series finished, I’m sure they carried on with their creativity in Penguins’ blogs.

 

The bottom line, though, behind all the fun and games, was that Montreal didn’t get the job done and the Flyers did. 

 

Now they meet again Monday night. The Flyers still have a good team like last year. Just ask Pierre McGuire. He says it’ll be the Flyers in the Stanley Cup final, not Montreal. Umberger’s gone, but it’s a team built around big guns Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Biron.

 

It won’t like playing the Leafs Monday night. It’s going to be tough.

 

Time for a little payback, boys. I know you haven’t forgotten. 

 

 

Habs Slam Dunk The Leafs.

It was one of those long nights Toronto Maple Leaf coach Ron Wilson and GM Cliff Fletcher predicted would happen this year as the Leafs are in the early stages of struggling and rebuilding. Not to mention they’re a team made up of unknowns.

 

And the best thing is, this long night was against the Montreal Canadiens, who rolled over the hapless Leafs 6-1 in front of a less-than- happy Leaf crowd. (with dozens of Habs jerseys sprinkled about).

 

Montreal dominated in every aspect, from Jaroslav Halak playing solid in goal, to a deadly power play (3 for 8), to Alex Tanguay having a goal and three assist night, to Sergei Kostitsyn chipping in with two goals and an assist, and Guillaume Latendresse helping out with a goal and two assists. 

 

What a far cry from Fridays spotty effort in Buffalo when the Habs dropped a 2-1 shootout loss. And the big question is – how did the Detroit Red Wings lose to the Leafs a couple of nights ago?

 

Montreal showed all the signs Habs fans have been looking for, especially the potent power play, firewagon hockey, a cavalcade of chances, and the way newcomers Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang have come through so far.

 

The Leafs, to their credit, hit three or four goalposts, but Montreal also hit a few, and they had enough chances to make this a 10-1 game, which wouldn’t have sit well with Don Cherry.

 

Don didn’t like the idea that the Canadiens kept pouring it on late in the game with the score 6-1. I say pour it on. Help Kostitsyn get his hattrick. Pad the stats of the power play with a couple more. Let Kovalev pop another because for the Habs to be successful Kovalev has to be as good or better than last year, and that’s a big order.

 

Hell, let everyone pad their stats. It’s a long year, with dry spells along the way. Get em while the gettins good. The hell with the Leafs and Don Cherry. This is a business, not a San Francisco love-in.

 

Cherry had another rant on Coach’s Corner when he went on with another classic but somewhat tired bit about European kids taking Canadian kids’ jobs. Basically, I agree with a lot of what Don says. Not all, but a lot. But I think it’s all starting to get a bit old now. Maybe him and Bob Cole should join a lawn bowling league.

 

On Monday the Canadiens are in Philadelphia, and this will be a huge test. For those with short memories, it was the Flyers who knocked Montreal out of the playoffs last year. And TSN hippie Pierre McGuire predicts Philadelphia, not Montreal, to win the Eastern Conference and challenge Detroit for the Stanley Cup.

 

So there’s big motivation for the Canadiens to win on Monday. And it’s always good when McGuire is proved wrong.

 

GAME NOTE: Montreal starts the season off with three points out of four.

SURPRISING TEAM OUT OF THE GATE:  Vancouver Canucks

 

Okay, That Sucked. I Hope The Habs Are Happy They Made Sabres Fans Happy

Through the din in the bar in downtown Courtenay, I saw the game. The sound was turned off, AC DC and Carrie Underwood warbled in the background, the guy beside me and his girlfriend talked for almost two hours on their cellphone to someone about good deals on cars, then I heard him say goodbye mom, and a guy playing pool almost broke his back falling over when he won 25 bucks on pull tabs.

 

But I saw the game and I take back everything nice I said about Buffalo and the Buffalo Sabres. From here on in, it’s war with the Buffalo Sabres. 

 

Montreal played sloppy. They took stupid penalties (hello Steve Begin), couldn’t finish quality scoring plays, and the Sabres bumped them around more than the Canadiens bumped the Sabres around.

 

And they may as well not even shown up for the shootout.

 

So now it’s up the road to Toronto to play the team that just beat the Detroit Red Wings.

 

It’s gonna be no problem. As long as there’s no stupid penalties, better passing, more quality scoring chances, and more toughness from big guys like Ryan O’Byrne. And as long as Toronto stinks like they’re supposed to stink.

 

And I know Saku Koivu played because I saw him. I’m pretty sure it was him, at least someone wearing number 11. Whoever it was, he looked like me when I played after dropping some purple microdot acid. 

 

I saw flashes of nice play from the Canadiens, a touch of firewagon hockey here and there, but the Habs just looked out of sorts. Buts it’s only game one. Although, how come the Sabres didn’t look as out of sorts as they did? Must have been the home crowd.

 

The team seemed physically outmatched. Looks to me like we need Dangerous Goods Laraque to get back as soon as possible.

 

I’ll be back in my living room tomorrow night for the Leafs game. It’s only the beginning of the season and  I’m already running out of patience.

 

At least they got a point out it.