Category Archives: Brandon Prust

It’s Time

Finally it begins, 198 days from that dark October 1st evening when the Canadiens would lose 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

Through highs and lows they took us, from four and five-game winning streaks to three and four-game losing streaks. But they always kept pace, always stayed in the hunt from start to finish.

Up and down we went, and in the end, when the long 82-game regular season finally drew to a close, we found our team finishing fourth in the east, a  fine100-point season to be proud of, with a goalie at the top of his game and a team that slowly but surely created chemistry within its ranks and a new and forceful first line in place.

Tampa’s number one goaltender Ben Bishop won’t start and we don’t know if he’ll even finish. Brandon Prust seems ready to go. The penalty killing has been spectacular. And our goaltender backstopped Team Canada to gold at Sochi and carries on now as the best in the business.

I’m not going to try and dissect the lines and matchups, or who’s dressing and who isn’t. I prefer to see how everything unfolds. Criticism can wait until it’s well-deserved.

For now, for me at least, it’s time to get excited, nervous and more than hopeful, and embrace the Montreal Canadiens as they attempt to give us and themselves what we last saw in 1993.

It’s time once again to bring out Annakin Slayd’s “Feels Like ’93″.

Success In Beantown!

What a valiant, gutsy, never-quit effort by the Canadiens in Boston as the team ends the Bruins 12-game win streak with an incredible 2-1 shootout win with Alex Galchenyuk doing the deed.

Just a gigantic effort from a team that lost two thirds of its fourth line early when Dale Weise was slammed into the boards and hurt his shoulder or arm, and Travis Moen in defence of Weise fought Kevan Miller, took a punch to the head, and was helped off with obvious concussion symptoms.

Peter Budaj was as solid as a rock, and it’s funny about this guy. We’ve seen him mediocre at times, but not always. Sometimes he great, like tonight, when he stopped all but one deflection and was a wall in the shootout.

As much as I get nervous when I learn Budaj’s starting, tonight he showed that when he’s on, he’s an excellent net custodian.

Alexei Emelin had a big night, scoring the lone regulation time goal for his team, and he threw his weight around, including a beauty Bob Baun-like clean check on Milan Lucic, which of course the Bruins took offense to. Zdeno Chara was ridiculous in his reaction.

The Bruins are whiners that way. Clean checks shouldn’t cause nastiness and scrums. But with that team, it’s part of the agenda.

Mike Weaver was awesome, thumping and blocking and making the right plays and hitting a post, and when Marc Bergevin said after acquiring this guy last month that they’d been trying to get him for awhile, I’m now starting to understand why.

The Canadiens in the third took four straight penalties, and without whining about a couple of others, I’d like to say here and now that that the holding call on Brendan Gallagher was absolute bullshit.

And it was just three seconds left in the Habs fourth penalty, a high stick from Francis Bouillon (which was deserved), when the Bruins tied it up on a deflection which ultimately sent it to the shootout where the Habs joyfully burst the Bruins’ bubble.

What a gutsy showing from the Canadiens. They were outplayed for much of the first half, but they held their ground, held their lead, and Budaj stood his ground. And slowly but surely they began to get more shots, play slowly increased in the Bruins end, and they made a great game out of one that could’ve easily gone south quickly.

Yes the Bruins look good. They’re a great team and could go far in the post season. But one thing’s for sure. The Habs can beat them.

Like tonight, with two important guys gone early. With the back up in nets.

A tense game ending in a win for the Canadiens and putting a happy halt to that 12-game Bruins streak.

I truly love when Bruins fans go home miserable. Oh how they must hate the Habs!

Random Notes:

Brad Marchand had a chance to put his team ahead in the shootout and I cringed as he skated in. How gross would that have been to see The Nose win it. But he didn’t. And Galchenyuk did!

Shots on goal – Boston 29, Habs 22

Dale Weise and Travis Moen appeared to have suffered some serious stuff, it certainly didn’t look good, and with Brandon Prust and Lars Eller already out, we don’t have a fourth line anymore.

Next up – Buffalo Tuesday evening. Carey Price should start, although it’s still a bit of a mystery how hurt he actually is. Talk about his shoulder came up on TSN 690 this afternoon, and he was already nursing a lower body injury. So we’ll see.

Vanek And Gang Come Through

Win one for Patrick was the rallying cry for the Colorado Avalanche. His team was going to play a big offensive game, promised Patrick.

And they lost 6-3.

It’s one of my happiest moments in this long season. A huge win and two more big points.

They did it with energy and lots of time in the Avs’ end. And Thomas Vanek finally broke through in dramatic fashion by scoring three times.

Two wins on the weekend and a huge mother of a win tonight. Patrick loses, Habs win, Vanek breaks out, and it’s just a feel good story all round.

It looked dire in the beginning though, with 18-year old Nathan McKinnon opening the scoring, and then it became 2-1 Colorado in the second after Vanek had previously tied it.

But the second period also saw the puck often in the Avs’ end, the Canadiens showed lots of energy, and when Travis Moen took a pass from a sprawling Brandon Prust, wheeled in reverse and backhanded it home to tie the thing at two, it was game on.

Everyone in the building – fans, both teams, Patrick, all knew that the Avs weren’t about to have their way.

This was a game that had playoff vibes. It was important. And the Canadiens came through.

Prust blasted one home in the third, the Avs tied it, but then the Canadiens power play, and in particular Vanek, went to work and just like that, it was 5-3 for the good guys.

Dale Weise, who was involved in a scrap in the first, salted it away with an empty netter as the clock wound down.

Most impressive was the fact that the Canadiens never sat back, didn’t go into their defensive shell, and kept things interesting in the Colorado end all night.

That’s what we need to see from the boys. They’re a skating team, and when they’re flying they can get things done. Forget the New Jersey-style. Put the pedal to the metal.

Prust ended with a goal, an assist, and second star.  First star Vanek with three and his linemates DD and Max each collected two assists. Moen scored his beauty, Emelin had two assists, and Weise was an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick.

Just a great night. A wonderful night. Unless you’re Patrick Roy, that is.

Random Notes:

Maybe the miracle on Saturday night really did light a fire.

Shots on goal – Habs 36, Avs 28.

Montreal went 2/3 on the power play, and this is the Vanek factor at work.

Next up – Columbus Blue Jackets in town on Thursday. Once again, can’t wait.

 

 

 

Bust Those Bruins

Game day, with the Bruins in town and Carey Price still not ready. Although Brandon Prust apparently is.

If Peter Budaj is in goal, we’re going to need a slightly better outing from him than what we’ve seen recently. Budaj lost his last three starts and often looked shaky in the process. I hope his confidence isn’t wavering.

If it’s Tokarski, he looked good in his team’s 4-3 shootout win in Anaheim, and there’s no reason why he can’t stone the Bs too.

Whoever’s in goal needs help in front of him. Things have to be tighter. And there’ll be no Josh Gorges blocking shots, as the Dairy Queen mogul is gone for a month with broken bones in his hand.

Mike Weaver should pick up the slack nicely. He plays a similar game to Gorges.

I guess it should be mentioned too that the boys in front of Budaj scored a total of three goals in those three games he just lost, so it goes without saying that that needs some serious improving on.

Canadiens handled the Bruins in their two games played so far. A 2-1 win on Dec. 5 with Price in nets, and a 4-1 thrashing on Jan. 30 with Budaj between the pipes and which saw Tuukka Rask get yanked in the second period.

More of the same is in order for tonight. It would also be nice to see Thomas Vanek make a fine impression.

And Rene Bourque deserves to be a healthy scratch. At this stage of the game, giving 50% doesn’t cut it.

Could’ve But Didn’t

Bell

Luci and I were at the Bell Centre today to see the Canadiens drop a 2-1 overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and as you can see, we were up fairly high.

But having said that, it was still way closer than most seats at NHL outdoor games.

And not only that, we got to see two goals down at our end. Daniel Briere’s in the the third period that tied the game at one, and P.K. Subban’s deflection in the second that put the Lightning up by one in the first place.

On a Habs power play no less.

I’m not mad at P.K. for that big Lightning goal in a game that featured almost no scoring. We’ve seen goals like that over the years from different players.

It’s a natural instinct to stick the stick out when the puck’s near the goal.

As long as he never does it again. Once, maybe twice, in a career is enough thank you very much.

It just wasn’t a barn burner, which is what one hopes for when going to a game. Montreal got chances only here and there, and I found myself glancing often at the scoreboard that showed cute babies in little Habs jerseys asleep in mom or dad’s arms.

I wanted to see a madhouse, people all around me yelling and screaming, but it wasn’t to be. The team just didn’t provide enough incentive to raise the roof.

The Lightning had more opportunities, but Carey Price, who was awarded the Molson Cup for January beforehand, was sparkling often.

The Canadiens still could’ve won it though, it they’d created more chances. But as has been the case so often, the hammer wasn’t down a lot. Maybe one of those little kid’s hammers, but not the big honkin’ workingman’s hammer.

After Briere’s goal in the third, the boys picked it up a notch or two and went hard in overtime. P.K. Subban weaved and wove like he was on a mission to correct his own-net goal, but although we oohed and aahhed, nothing much came to pass.

And  it was all for naught, because with 24 seconds left in overtime, the puck found its way behind Price and that was it.

They got a point and we made our way to Ste-Catherines where we drowned our sorrows with smoked meat at Reuben’s.

Random Notes:

Brandon Prust was in a scrap with Jean-Philippe Cote early in the first, and then late in the second, he and Lightning goalie Ben Bishop had a slight disagreement, as it appeared Bishop didn’t appreciate Prust telling him his mother wears army boots.

Carey Price skated up to get a closer looked and was given a penalty for leaving the crease.

Christian Thomas saw some action for the Habs in just his second NHL game and was given 8:16 seconds of ice time, just 25 seconds less than Briere.

A kid sat beside P.A. announcer Michel Lacroix and read the Habs starting lineup.

I have a beef here. A serious beef. I’ve been trying for more than 50 years to be stick boy for one game. And some kid who’s been a Habs fan for only a couple of years gets to read the lineup?

Michel Lacroix has an excellent voice. For me, he’s as good as Claude Mouton was.

Shots on goal TB 36, Habs 29.

Next up – Sunday at 1 pm again, only this time it’s the Winnipeg Jets.

 

Canadiens Respond

They pretty well had to win. We demanded it. And how could they say no to us?

Canadiens shut down the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0, led by some great netminding by Carey Price, who surely must have been as fed up as anyone with the four-goal games and losses lately.

The cowboy played a big part in stopping the madness and lassoing a big win.

And although it wasn’t exactly a great game by the home team, it was a solid effort, as they came out more determined, more aggressive, harder on the puck instead of soft and lackadaisical.

You could see they were alive and on a mission, even though it wasn’t a classic. But it was a darn sight better effort than what we’ve seen lately, and that’s all we can ask.

A nice change, and it’s a step in the right direction. Now they’ve got the Bruins in Boston on Thursday, and if they liked the sweet taste of victory on Tuesday, imagine the taste buds on Thursday if they can whup those Beantowners?

But I’m not getting ahead of myself. It’s a win right now and it’s good. Carey Price played like he has for most of the season aside from the past six disasters. He was in form, often spectacular, and the boys blocked shots, a few posts got hit, and they got the puck out and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Brandon Prust opened the scoring in the first period, he played with vim and vigour in that first frame, and Brendan Gallagher in a scramble in the crease made it 2-0 before the siren to end the first was sounded. Max Pacioretty widened it to 3-0 in the second, that was all they needed.

Hard work and Carey Price took care of the rest.

Price held the fort when called upon, and the boys have the heat taken off them for a brief time. They just have to play well on Thursday to keep the mood light.  And to keep themselves from falling further down the standings.

And of course to keep us happy, which is the most important thing.

It’s a time for us to enjoy a fine win by the boys. Lord knows we deserve it.

Random Notes:

Canadiens went 0/2 on the power play, but only took three penalties, all in the second, which is mighty fine discipline if you ask me. But they have to get that power play going.

Carolina outshot the gang 36-30, but Price didn’t get that first star for nothing.

So nice not to hear sarcastic boos because of lack of shots. Canadiens got 10 shots in the first, 11 in the second, and just nine in the third, but they only allowed 8 Carolina shots in the final frame.

Nathan Beaulieu seemed to play with confidence and skated well. A great skating, puck moving defenceman is a beautiful thing and hopefully Beaulieu continues on this upward path.

 

Live From Toronto, It’s Saturday Night

It’s nothing new to see and hear Hockey Night in Canada announcers pronounce their undying love for the Maple Leafs. It’s a bit sickening but it’s nothing new.

In fact, it’s been going on since Don Cherry was young and possibly humble.

On Saturday night, broadcasters Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson, whom I thought were generally fair-minded up until then, might as well have waved Leafs flags as they called the action below.

Throughout the night they praised the Leafs so much, I started wondering how far up Yonge Street the Stanley Cup parade will go.

One of the two said something about how Brandon Prust must be afraid of Dion Phaneuf, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It had to be a joke. Everyone knows Phaneuf fights like Ron Maclean.

And I’ve been sick so maybe I was hallucinating and just thought I heard it.

Glenn Healy down at ice level mentioned that the Leafs can’t let Montreal get a point so it better not go to overtime. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt too and say he was just stating a fact. But it sounded terrible.

There were lots of examples. Unfortunately, I didn’t write them down.

How about P.J Stock, the Einstein of the airwaves. Carey Price was fantastic in Ottawa, it was said to him. But he did let in four goals, squawked P.J., and which is nonsensical.

The guy can barely talk, and yet he’s a HNIC analyst.

I checked Wikipedia and this was said about P.J. when he was on CHOM FM’s morning show in 2010. “He brought a comedic element to the show by attempting to interview his family’s hamster, Richard Gere.”

Must have been fine and outstanding humour.

Ron Maclean in Lloydminster for Hockey Day in Canada was his usual hokey self. Maclean became a HNIC star years ago because he was able to come up with quick thinking little puns on a regular basis when he and Don Cherry would sign off Coach’s Corner.

He’s rode the coattails of that one particular talent for years.

Cherry, also in Lloydminster, arrived at the rink in a chauffeur-driven car with a slew of mounties waiting to escort him into the arena. Like a king. King of the world.

Announced by Maclean as “Coach of the Year in the American Hockey League. Coach of the Year in the NHL. Seventh all-time most popular Canadian.”

And then Cherry kind of elbowed aside a woman when he was about to walk the red carpet, where he strolled along blessing the faithful.

Cherry, during Coach’s Corner, talked about P.K. Subban’s celebration after scoring the game-winner in overtime in Ottawa, and how P.K. shouldn’t do that. Others, including Sens goaltender Craig Anderson, have whined about the same thing.

They’re all put out about this. But there was certainly a good reason for P.K’s exuberance, which doesn’t seem to be mentioned.

The Canadiens were badly outplayed in Ottawa. They’d blown a 3-0 lead. It was only Carey Price keeping them in it, and in the third period, they tied the game on a flukey goal. A flukey goal that kept them in it even though they should’ve been losing by a country mile.

And then P.K. won it in overtime. A most unlikely win if there ever was one.

That wasn’t a goal to be cool and calm about. It was a huge mother of a goal, he saved the day for his team in dramatic fashion, and the celebration was justified.

Personally, though, I want to thank the original HNIC crew for being so pro-Leafs. Because of that reason, they made me what I am today – a Habs fan. I think I owe Foster Hewit and his cronies a sincere debt of gratitude.

Growing up in Orillia, an hour and a half north of Toronto, it was only Leafs games we would get on TV. My dad would constantly moan and groan about the biased announcing of Hewitt and about the men in the Hot Stove Lounge who would go on and on about the Leafs and barely mention other teams.

We were bombarded by all things Leafs. Way too much to take.

Meanwhile in Montreal, the team was winning five straight Stanley Cups with larger than life names like Richard, Beliveau, Plante, Harvey et al. The Leafs just didn’t seem to have the class and aura the Canadiens did. They weren’t in the same league.

My dad hated the HNIC Leafs love-fest in Toronto (you see, nothing’s changed) and turned up his cheering for the Canadiens by several notches.

And of course I did too. Stupid Leafs, we’d both say. It became easy to hate them, and so easy to love the Habs.

So thanks HNIC. You helped make me a Habs fan. If you weren’t such ridiculous homers, I might have been a Leafs fan.

Geez what a thought.

 

 

 

 

Futility In Philly

Another tough one to watch. It’s hard to know where to start.

The Canadiens drop a 3-1 decision to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Wednesday, and on paper at least, a 3-1 score looks almost respectable. There’s been 3-1 scores for a hundred years.

But this was no barnburner, no close game with close calls, no “it could have gone either way” game.

It was the Flyers night for sixty minutes. The Canadiens might as well have stayed home and talked football.

How bad were the boys on this night? How about nine shots in the first period, six in the second, and five in the third.

It had to be the airplane food. Or the Philadelphia cheese steaks.

Or maybe about twelve of them are still sulking because they didn’t make an Olympic team, while the eight that did were deciding, when the game was on, how many suits to bring to Sochi.

What’s with this team? Deader than a Texas salad bar. Some nights they’re so completely out of sorts. Uninterested. Boring. I could go on.

If you have a job that pays six or seven figures, being uninterested isn’t an option.

Maybe it’s a subtle form of mutiny against the coach. Or maybe the captain isn’t good at rallying the troops.

And for added enjoyment, when they desperately needed some kind of oomph in the third period, Michel Therrien decided to sit P.K. Subban for several shifts. Did Therrien think Daniel Briere and Rene Bourque and the likes up front would probably get it done? Or maybe the high-powered Subban-less defence?

That’s seven straight losses for the Canadiens in The City of Brotherly Love. It’s ten straight wins for the Flyers. It’s all so very depressing.

With all my heart I hope for a shakeup. A trade. Maybe a Tinordi and Beaulieu call-up. Maybe even, and I know it’s as farfetched as can be and ridiculous to even wish for – a goal or two, and a great game, from Rene Bourque.

Random Notes:

Total shots on goal – Flyers 27, Habs 20. Not a huge margin, but if you saw the game, you know it was.

Peter Budaj in nets came up big several times, which is good. But he’s lost his last three starts, which is bad. Budaj’s record now stands at five wins, five losses, and a shared loss with Carey Price, which is mediocre.

Tomas Plekanec, on a nice pass from Brian Gionta, broke the shutout and gave us hope. But most of his teammates were in a coma and so it was a hopeless hope.

Brandon Prust pummelled Zac Rinaldo in the second period, which could have got things going, but on this night, Angelina Jolie could’ve dance the hula naked at centre ice and the boys still wouldn’t have woken up.

Next up – Oh goody, it’s only the Chicago Blackhawks to contend with on Saturday. Should be no problem there.

 

 

Habs Nip Cats

The Canadiens overcame a pesky Florida Panthers team to win 2-1 and make us not quite so testy about things.

And although the boys scored only twice, if they could have figured out Tim Thomas a bit better, it might even have been a lopsided deal. Because the chances were definitely there.

Montreal outshot the Panthers 13-5 in the first period, swarming the Florida net constantly, coming in in waves, looking like a million bucks. And all was right with the world when David Desharnais found the back of the net after first fanning, and then relying on his back hand to get the job done.

They were playing well. Another small yet fine step after a dismal November, added to a better first few games of December.

But things changed when Florida tied it up late in the frame, and suddenly the jump, the coming in in waves, suddenly calmed down and the visitors picked things up a notch. One goal and Montreal’s first period vim and vigour went out the window somewhat.

Was it a sign of an unsure or fragile team, when the foot is suddenly off the pedal like that? Or orders from the guy behind the bench, telling them to never mind the fancy stuff and tighten up?

Tomas Plekanec was flying on this night, both ways, showing the offensive and defensive skill throughout. Pleks will make a fine captain of the Czech Republic squad. A quiet guy leading by example.

And because Pleks was motoring, his linemates Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere found themselves with jump and opportunities, and it was Gionta who would notch the winner late in the second.

It was a swell two points, even with Andrei Markov and partner Alexei Emelin being on the ice for the Panthers marker, making it another night, especially for Emelin, of being in the minus column.

Markov struggled more than normal, best illustrated, for me at least, when a Panther player simply slid the puck through Markov’s open legs and the biscuit ended up in the back of the net.

Not the kind of play expected from a wily veteran.

And Emelin has been spending a lot of time getting confused instead of rattling bones and making the smart, quick play. But he’ll rebound. Hopefully before spring.

At least it was two big points against a team who had previously handed our boys a couple of dismal defeats. And although the original swarming of the net subsided after the first, the team still managed to get lots of chances, outshooting Florida 12-6 in the second before being outshot 16-10 in the third.

Carey Price kept them in it, Thomas at the other end did too, and the low scoring affair was still a win for the good guys, no matter how you slice it.

Final shots on net Montreal 35, Florida 27. Great to see lots of shots by the home team.

Random Notes:

Rene Bourque found himself in close with chances as well, and seemed to have some zip to his game. What an important guy Bourque could be if he came to play every night. He’s got the tools, but the tools seem mostly rusty or seized up.

Three times it seemed we were about to lose key guys, with Brendan Gallagher, Brandon Prust, and PK Subban all experiencing some sort of injury that thankfully didn’t keep them out of the game. Imagine if PK was seriously hurt on the eve of the Olympic roster decision.

And imagine a Montreal Canadiens team without P.K. for a long period of time. Whew.

Next up – Wednesday, with the guys in Philadelphia. No sense in saying the obvious about how a win is a must.

Panthers Chew Habs

Canadiens scored three goals Sunday in Sunrise. Unfortunately, only one counted as the gang that can’t shoot straight falls 4-1 to the Florida Panthers.

Florida opened the scoring in the first when Mac Pacioretty’s hard shot missed the net and the home team burst down and converted.

It was one of those things on a night when the hockey gods decided they liked the Florida Panthers better than the Montreal Canadiens. Must be the sun hockey gods.

Gods with tans.

Bad things happen when good chances are ruined by missing the net. It often leads to a turnover. Guys are caught out of position. There’s no rebound. And of course there’s no goal.

I had a friend years ago who consistently asked why so many NHLers miss the net. Because they’re going for miniscule openings, is the answer.

But I’m tired of that reasoning. Just blast away and try to break the goalie’s mask or jock strap.

The Canadiens tied it for a brief second after Brian Gionta fed Rene Bourque, but it was deemed a high stick by Gionta and was called off. So two guys who haven’t been doing much almost did but ultimately didn’t.

The second period was truly a dismal one for the Canadiens, although Brandon Prust scored to tie the game at one for a brief time. But soon enough it became 3-1, and it was good when the period ended. It was when one might say to oneself – the Habs have played some lousy hockey lately.

In the third, Daniel Briere scored to make it 3-2 and we came alive. For a second or two. The goal was disallowed because the officials decided Alex Galchenyuk had pushed the goalie.

On the replay, we saw that Galchenyuk had been pushed into the goalie. It’s a big difference.

So it remained 3-1 until an empty-netter which made it 4-1.

Two of a possible four points in the state of Florida. It falls short of expectations.

Random Notes:

Officials get it wrong from time to time in all sports. Games are fast and decisions are made quickly. Some get obvious calls wrong. There was a call at second base in this year’s World Series that was mind-boggling, but at least it was overturned when the umps got together and talked about it.

The Canadiens might have grabbed a point or two if the correct calls were made. But honestly, if this would’ve happened to Florida and not Montreal, I wouldn’t even be talking about it. I just want them to play better, whether they’re getting the calls or not.

Shots on goal – Florida 25, Montreal -22. Peter Budaj was in nets and was fine I suppose, although he couldn’t corral a rebound which put Florida up 2-1 at the time.

One more game in December. Raleigh on New Year’s Eve to tackle the Hurricane.