Category Archives: Chicago Blackhawks

Dusting Off The Crystal Ball. Let The Games Begin.

The Hockey Barn asked me to write down my predictions for the opening round of the playoffs, and although predictions are for gypsies, as Toe Blake used to say, I’m giving it a shot.

Anything can happen come playoff time. Every team is just one small injury or one bouncing puck away from sinking like the Titanic. Surprises are the order of the day. Overwhelming favourites stink the joint out. Journeymen rise, at least for a few weeks, to stardom. Cheers and tears abound. Pencils are sharpened for playoff pools.

And in the end, after it’s all been sorted out, the team with the will, talent, luck, endurance, and great goaltending emerges from the pack and hoists the Stanley Cup while champagne is poured over interviewers’ heads, and there’s wild celebration and dancing in the street. It’s a beautiful thing. Trust me, non-hockey fans.

In the east, Montreal and Boston will lock horns for the 32nd time. Washington will play the Rangers. New Jersey meets Carolina, and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia fight it out.

Who will emerge?

This is the playoffs, not the regular season, so throw out the window Boston’s marvelous regular season record where they ended up first over-all. It wouldn’t be the first time the first place team fell to the eighth place squad. Montreal’s the solid underdog, no one with any sense at all gives them a chance. And for that reason alone, I’m picking Montreal in seven.

Washington’s too good, I think, for New York, with the great Alex Ovechkin to cause fits. But also add star defenceman Mike Green to the mix and it proves too much for the Rangers, who have the dubious honour of having Sean Avery on the team. So, who would you pick, a team with Ovechkin and Green, or a team with Avery? Washington in six. I’d say five but New York has one thing going for them, a solid goaltender named Henrik Lundqvist. And we know what goaltending can do in the playoffs.

New Jersey ended high in the eastern standings, but Carolina came on strong late in the year. This is a close one to pick, but I’m saying New Jersey in seven, only because they have a winner in goal named Martin Brodeur. Although he’s old. But so were Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower in 1967.

In the Battle of Pennsylvania, Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and company should outlast the Flyers. I’ve got a personal Habs-related grudge against the Flyers, and the Kate Smith magic vanished years ago. Penguins in six.

In the west, first place  San Jose takes on Anaheim, Detroit meets Columbus, Vancouver and St. Louis will battle, as will Chicago and Calgary.

San Jose should have no problem whatsoever with Anaheim. I think it’s going to be short and sweet. Sharks in five. Of course, I may be way out in left field about this one, but I’m sticking with short and sweet.

Same for Detroit over Columbus. Detroit, the defending champions, just have too much artillery, and although Columbus played well this year, they should prove no match for the Wings. Detroit in six.

You never know what you’re going to get from Vancouver. How many times can they disappoint their fans in the playoffs? They have possibly the best goaltender in the league, a good, solid defence, and some great forwards like Ryan Kessler and Alex Burrows. (Should I mention Mats Sundin, who scored nine goals in 41 games?) So, with Luongo and the Sedins and Burrows etc, my prediction is – St. Louis in seven.

I really want Calgary to beat Chicago, but I don’t think it’ll happen. The Flames are not going into the playoffs in playoff form, they’re injured, and Chicago has had Calgary’s number this year. Although it would be fun to see, there should be no upset here. Chicago in six. Sorry Calgary. I hope I’m wrong.

Without Paul Masnick, There’s No Famous Photo.

002 I’ve added another Habs’ Group Two (1944-64)  Bee Hive photo, Paul Masnick, to my collection. All I’ve got to do now is find George Robertson, Frank King, Vern Kaiser and a few others, but it’s tough. The players who skated in the shadows of stars, the non-stars, are the rare and expensive ones when it comes to Bee Hives.

And who is Paul Masnick, you ask? He was a journeyman centre who played in Montreal from 1950 to 1954 before going to Chicago and then Toronto. I can tell you the number on his Habs sweater was 11 from ’51 to ’53, and 8 during the 1953-54 season and I can also tell you he totalled 13 goals and 31 assists during his stint with the Canadiens which didn’t exactly set the league on fire.

In total, he played 161 games with Montreal. And it was because of him, indirectly, that there is a famous photograph.

In game six of the 1952 semi finals, it was Masnick who scored the winner on Sugar Jim Henry off a Doug Harvey rebound. This led to game seven, when the Rocket, coming back on the ice after being bloodied and knocked unconscious, scored the big goal which eliminated Boston and got Montreal into the finals against Detroit.

And it was after this Boston series that Masnick helped win, that the famous photo was taken of Richard and Sugar Jim Henry shaking hands.

henry

Price Is Priceless As Canadiens Shoot Down Hawks.

Again, Carey Price played like the Carey Price we all know and love in Tuesday’s huge 4-1 win over the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, which means life is good in Habsland, for now, at least. The young goalie came within 12 minutes of grabbing a shutout, he stopped 28 of 29 shots, and he came through in a big way, just like he did before his cave-in of the last few months. All’s well now, it seems. Price’s confidence has returned, and in return, he’s giving his teammates confidence. The timing couldn’t be better.

Montreal is now picking up steam as the regular season nears the end, and although Florida won in Ottawa and stays close, the Habs retain the final eastern playoff spot. So if you add things up, you have a team with a first line going great guns, grinders grinding, a goaltender who has finally found his game which he’d somehow misplaced for awhile, and the playoffs coming up fast. It means if the Canadiens can indeed get in, they can do damage. Major damage. It’s amazing what a red-hot first line and a top-notch goalie finding his game can do in a playoff situation.

This is why it’s good to be a Habs fan. Anything’s possible when the crunch is on.

Random Notes:

Kovalev notched a goal and an assist, and linemate Saku Koivu had an assist, so the first line continues their torrid pace. Guillaume Latendresse, Andre Markov, who turned in yet another stellar performance, and Mathieu Schneider scored the others.

Florida won in Ottawa, so the Habs have yet to open up some breathing room. Just a word to the Senators. Can’t you do anything right? Can’t even be a decent spoiler?

Upcoming and final games of the regular season for the good guys:

Thursday against the Islanders.

Saturday in Toronto.

Monday at home to meet the Senators.

Tuesday in New York to visit the Rangers.

Thursday in Boston.

And Saturday, Canadiens end it off at home with the Penguins.

All big games. Of course.

Canadiens Lose To The Sabres. But Everything’s Fine.

A loss is never a good thing. It kind of goes without saying. So Montreal losing 4-3 to Buffalo in a shootout isn’t a good thing.

But fans at the Bell Centre sure got their money’s worth. There was on-ice nastiness, hard hits, chirping, and good goaltending, especially by Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. Montreal’s big line of Koivu, Kovalev, and Tanguay had lots of chances once again. There was a big scrap between ex-Hab Craig Rivet and Tom Kostopoulos. And there was lots of shots – 37 by the Sabres to 35 by the Habs. And for the rest of us watching on RDS, we also saw a lovely lady behind the net in a low-cut red dress, and a little boy about two years old having a moment with Youppi.

Carey Price also showed he can perform in a shootout, and this is just another big sign his confidence is returning.

So I’m not treating this as the end of the world. The team got a point at least. They managed 35 shots on Miller, which is nice to see. They showed grit and played well. In fact, for me anyway, they played as well as I’ve seen them in a long time.

Random Notes:

Patrice Brisebois has had a good, long career. Over a thousand games, with a Stanley Cup ring in 1993. You can’t ask for more than that. He’s been making good money for years and probably has a nice big nest egg. Now I think it’s time he retired and carry on racing cars and doing the other things he loves.

I think I finally became convinced about this when he and Roman Hamrlik both backed in with an incoming Sabre swooping down, and Breezer, for whatever reason, slid over to Hamrik’s side and the opposing player simply skated in free as a bird. Or maybe it’s been a combination of all those passes up the middle that get intercepted on a nightly basis. Or possibly, it’s those times when he gets outskated. I like the guy, he’s personable, and so I’m only saying quietly that maybe the end is near now.

Anyway.

Alex Kovalev had two goals, while linemates Alex Tanguay added two assists and Saku Koivu managed one helper. Chris Higgins had the other goal. Canadiens were down 2-0 but stormed back and took the lead. But in the end…..

Tuesday, Chicago’s in town.

A Hockey Story

I didn’t write the following. I don’t know who did. But my son sent it to me and I think it’s a really nice story.

In the middle of a grueling six game road trip where a very young hockey team is away from home, the third game of the trip ends late on a cold Canadian Saturday night. This is the only break on the trip and the three days between games allow them the only break to get back home in their own beds for a couple of days before going back on the road. A scheduled commercial flight waits for them at Toronto ‘s International Airport for the short flight home. They could be home by midnight. This plane departs on schedule, but without a single member of the hockey team on board.

Earlier, back in the locker room, a vote was taken after the game and a unanimous decision is made by this young team to skip this flight and stay one more day. They make arrangements to check back in the hotel and on a frozen Sunday morning charter two buses that have no heat and begin a journey two hours straight north into a sparsely inhabited Canada , but where hockey is its passion.

They arrive at their destination to the surprise of the team’s general manager who is there attending his father’s wake. After a few emotional hours, this team boards the buses and head back for a two hour trip back to Toronto . On the way they ask the bus drivers to stop in a tiny Canadian town because they are hungry.

To the shock of the patrons and workers at this small hockey town McDonald’s, a professional team walks out of two rickety buses and into the restaurant, which just happens to have pictures of two members of this team on its wall. The patrons know every single one of these players by sight being fanatic fans of hockey in these parts. One can only imagine their amazement of the locals seeing an entire professional hockey team sit down and have a meal in their tiny little town in the middle of a hockey season.

After a while they board the buses and catch their same flight, 24 hours later, giving one day of their time to their general manager.

This a true story of the Chicago Blackhawks one Saturday night when they decided to attend Dale Tallon’s father’s funeral.

Three In A Row After Taking Out The Broad Street Broads

I’m not going into great detail about numbers. I’m too tired for that. It’s better to leave that to the beat writers at the Gazette and La Presse and the Philadelphia Inquirer who get paid to go into great detail. And really, the only numbers worth mentioning is the score, a Canadiens 4-3 overtime win over Philadelphia, and how this score has changed the landscape ever so slightly in the eastern division.

As we all know, Montreal has been hanging on to fifth or sixth place by the skin of their teeth lately. Any false move and they catapult themselves right out of a playoff spot. It’s that close. But this win now lets the Habs breathe short breaths instead of being choked by a giant pair of hands.

Have a look at all this breathing space. And considering how tight it’s been lately, this looks like we should almost be doing cartwheels. Montreal now has 73 points, with Florida and the Rangers miles back with a measly 70. And Buffalo and Carolina aren’t even on the same planet with a lousy 69 points. And Pittsburgh – they’re way over on the dark side of the moon with a piddly 68.

Random Notes:

When was the last time Montreal actually outshot the other team? Was it this year?

Alex Kovalev, the new Alex Kovalev, had three assists tonight.

Jaroslav Halak was great again. Without him, the team would’ve dug a hole so deep they’d be ordering chicken nuts and dumplings from a Beijing restaurant.

Mathieu Schneider scored the overtime winner. With Schneider coming in and playing so well with the team, now we know for sure just how much Mark Streit was missed.

Glen Metropolit didn’t play a lot but showed signs he’ll be a good addition. He had an early-game breakaway but didn’t score, and even came close in OT. Metropolit began the day as a Flyer and ended as a Hab. In another unusual but unrelated occurrence, years ago, Billy Reay realized he was fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks when Bill Wirtz had the pink slip put under Reay’s hotel room door on Christmas Eve. 

Patrice Brisebois only gave the puck away once tonight. Unfortunately, it resulted in a breakaway for Simon Gagne who promptly tied the game.

The Canadiens once again took way too many penalties. But I have to say, a lot of penalties throughout the year, for every team, have been silly, chintzy, absolutely borderline calls. Referees call the slightest thing. It’s like getting a speeding ticket for going one lousy kilometre over the speed limit. I say we take to the streets and protest against chintzy calls by the officials.

I’m going on a trip tomorrow and I’m pretty darn excited. More about that later.

Stan Fischler Tells Us About Chris Chelios And Other Habs In 1988

I pulled this book from my bookcase because it was there and I was bored. It’s called Breakaway 88-89. written by Stan and Shirley Fischler, and it’s billed on the front cover as “The Essential Viewer’s Guide to the NHL.”

 

“I wouldn’t think of broadcasting a game without consulting Breakaway” gushes John Davidson. “If it’s not in my briefcase on a road trip, I’m in trouble.”

 

Don Cherry adds, “Everything anyone would want to know about the 1988-89 season.”

 

Here’s some of what Fischler wrote. Just keep in mind that it was Fischler who said Carey Price is a bum.

 

“There is so much conflict inside the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing year after year that one sometimes gets the feeling that the United Nations’ Security Council should be convened to handle the matter of who’s right and who’s wrong with the Habs. Consider:

 

-On a trip to Chicago, Chris Chelios engaged coach Jean Perron in a public argument on the team bench at Chicago Stadium.

 

-A mutiny threatened when Chelios accused teammate Chris Nilan of telling young defenceman Mike Lalor that the other backliners planned to convince Perron to employ only five defencemen – excluding Lalor.

 

-Perron angered French-speaking players on his team by declaring that some francophone Canadiens tend to think they’re big shots and need to be cut down to size.

 

-Nilan openly criticized Perron, asked to be traded and was dealt to the New York Rangers.

 

-Veteran defenceman Larry Robinson told friends he was tired of all the politics on the team and also took Perron to task. Eventually, Perron was fired.

 

Smartest Hab – Bobby Smith

Most entertaining/quotable – Craig Ludwig

Most overrated – Chris Chelios

 

Patrick Roy: He often falls prey to the inherent drawback of that style – flopping is not a precise science (as opposed to playing the angles), which makes it tough for him to duplicate his success.

A Couple Of Thoughts About The Winter Classic At Wrigley

The Bridgestone Winter Classic took place on New Year’s Day at Wrigley Field in Chicago between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

 

You already know this.

 

But were you at all wondering how the Bridgestone tire company got it’s name? Probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Founder Shojiro Ishibashi’s last name translates as “bridge of stone.”

 

Those folks in some of parts of the bleachers were so far away, they needed a telescope, not binoculars, to see what was going on.

 

What actually happens if the weather doesn’t co-operate? What if unexpected warm weather arrived and the ice started to melt? Or the game got a foot of snow dumped on it? Ot winds picked up and the players couldn’t skate against them? Or freezing rain fell? What would happen? Is it re-scheduled? And what if it was and the weather didn’t co-operate again? So far they’ve dodged the bullet in Edmonton, although it was freezing cold; in Buffalo, where it snowed; and now Chicago. But can they dodge a bullet forever?

 

Why don’t they think about planning one of these things for an area where there’s no NHL hockey. Like Saskatchewan? Or Yellowknife? Or on Lake Couchiching in Orillia.

 

Bobby Hull and Ted Lindsay dropped the ceremonial pucks. Hull wore really girly leopard skin earmuffs.

 

What if one of the players gets his tongue stuck to the goalpost?

 

In sub-zero weather, is cold beer still eight bucks or do they lower the price?

 

 

Canucks Fans Everywhere Say Thanks To Trevor Linden

   Seeing Trevor Linden play in Long Island, Montreal, and Washington was like seeing Bobby Orr in Chicago, or Dickie Moore in Toronto, or Jacques Plante in Boston. It just didn’t seem right. Because for whatever reason, Linden was born to be a Canuck.

 

Of course he didn’t last long in these foreign cities, only from 1998 to 2001, and in the end, he was brought back to Vancouver where he was meant to be, where he is a bonafide hero, and where he probably never has to pay for a meal in a restaurant for the rest of his life.

 

Last night his number 16 was retired, and of course it’s rightfully so. Linden was more than just a solid player. He’s one of those chosen few who is a man of the people, a decent and regular guy who happened to have a talent, and one who wants to spend much of his time in hospitals hanging out with sick kids.  He’s a giver, a guy with a heart, a nice guy, and is popular with his teammates.

 

Pretty well the exact opposite of Sean Avery.

 

When I lived in Calgary my son played on a peewee team, and there was a really nice couple whose two boys played on the same team. My wife and I became friends with this couple, and the woman, Edy, happened to be Trevor Linden’s aunt, his mother’s sister. She said she used to babysit Trevor back in Medicine Hat.

 

A couple of years later, Edy, still a young woman, died of cancer and it was one of those things we just couldn’t believe. She was too nice, too good a person. And there were more people at her funeral than I’d ever seen before.. The church and parking lot were overflowing, and I saw that she was loved by hundreds and hundreds of friends.

 

So the kindness Trevor has, the popularity, the love of many, runs in the family.

 

Linden is certainly the most beloved Canuck of all time. If his sweater never got raised in Vancouver, then no sweater should ever be raised there.

 

The Vancouver Canucks finally have a real hero, one for the ages.

 

No one is more fitting than Trevor Linden.