Category Archives: Edmonton Oilers

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.

 

 

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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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.

Habs Drenched By Hurricanes

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I think it takes a special talent for a team sitting at the top of the heap to lose to a team at the very bottom and look tremendously mediocre while doing so.

Yes, those wild and crazy Montreal Canadiens, bowing to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in Raleigh, a team 20-some points behind them.

They can’t be feeling good about this. If Jean Beliveau was captaining this team, he’d politely and respectfully give them all a mighty fine and gentlemanly dressing room tune up.

But the Canadiens have that special talent to play down, having also lost to the 28th place Oilers, the 25th place Avs, and the 22nd place Canucks (and were bombed 6-1 by the Avs and 5-1 by the Oilers in the process).

The only good that came from this night was Daniel Carr, called up from St. John’s in place of Devante Smith-Pelly, who notched a wraparound goal in his very first shift of his first NHL game. That’s the kind of thing I’ve dreamed about doing off and on for about five decades or more.

It’s with great pride to announce that Carr played the 2009-10 season here in Powell River, at the barn not far from my house. However, I didn’t go to one game in 2009-10, so that’s the end of this feel-good story.

But I would like to say one thing. The BCHL is an underrated league, with lots of talent like Carr winding up in the NHL. You’d be surprised by some of the names, like Brett Hull, Paul Kariya, and even Carey Price for a season before heading to the WHL.

There’s been a whack of them. Even Scott Gomez for those three Gomez fans out there.

Carr’s goal in the first period got things rolling, but the Canes would even it up on the power play on a smooth finish by Jeff Skinner who simply flipped it over a sprawling Mike Condon.

In the second, Sven Andrighetto would give Montreal the lead after converting a nice pass by Jeff Petry, but two minutes later Joakim Nordstrom tied things up again, and into the third we went.

Carolina would take the lead briefly, but Michel Therrien’s coach’s challenge saw the goal ruled no-goal because of goalie interference. Whew, we thought. But it made no difference, because the Canes would score another anyway.

Later on, with Tom Gilbert in the box for tripping, Skinner, with his second of the night, won it for the home team.

It’s not the first time Gilbert watched a nightmare unfold from the sinbin. There was that fathers trip recently when he did the same sort of thing. Now, whenever Gilbert goes home during the off season, he’s grounded.

The Canadiens lose their second straight, or 3 of 4 if you want to go that route. And they sleek off into the night, hoping they don’t get beer pored on them by drunken and disgruntled Habs fans because they couldn’t play well enough to beat the team tied with Calgary and Edmonton as league’s worst.

Random Notes:

Eric Staal hit several posts, missed several open nets, and scored the goal that was called back. This is the guy who’s the subject of trade rumours, with Montreal being a possible destination.

Staal would be a nice addition, although we already have plenty of guys who can’t hit wide open nets.

And speaking of Staal. he was sent to the box with just over three minutes remaining for flipping the puck over the glass, but the Canadiens, with Condon pulled and enjoying a two-man advantage, still couldn’t get it done.

And because of that very thing, they didn’t deserve to win this thing.

Shots on goal – Habs 38, Canes 29. The previous game against Washington, which was also a 3-2 loss, they had 35 shots to the Caps 19.

Next up – Wednesday, when the Bruins show up at the Bell.

 

 

 

Rebounding In Fine Fashion

A white dry erase board with shiny metal frame and the words To Do List - Win on it

Much better when the boys win. And on this Halloween Eve, a 6-2 trouncing of the Flames in Calgary makes things right again.

A character win after a couple of embarrassing losses.

A big night for Dale Weise, who netted three in his team’s 6-2 win in Calgary. A fine night for backup goalie Mike Condon, winning his third in three starts this season. And an emotional night for ex-Flame Paul Byron, who inflicted serious damage on the team who said they didn’t love him anymore.

A Habs team back on track, going home without losing that lovin’ feeling. Taking it to the Flames, with a big win to close out October. Ten wins and two losses. Losses we don’t want to talk about.

I’m feeling so good about this rebound win, I can’t decide if my heart soars more like a flock of Fan-Tailed Berrypeckers, or a single Crested Shrike-Tit.

Fifteen minutes in, Weise struck first, with a long shot that Flames goalie Joni Ortiz, who showed absolutely no resemblance to Mike Vernon or Miikka Kiprusoff, let go through his legs.

Joni Ortiz. There’s always Google.

An early lead, but we know how leads can sometimes work out.

In the second frame, the Flames tied it just 27 seconds in, but a couple of minutes later, while on the power play, Nathan Beaulieu’s blast put his team in front once again.

Love those power play goals, and little by little, the team is gaining in power play respectability, sitting tenth or so overall. Much better than 20th or 25th or whatever it was not so long ago.

After the Flames had once again evened things up, the Weise and Byron Show cranked it up.

First with Weise firing a fine wrist shot past Ortiz. Then Bryon, in his second game replacing healthy scratch Alex Semin, sending the puck across in beautiful fashion to set up Devante Smith-Pelly for S-P’s first goal of the season.

And in the third period, Byron breaking free while shorthanded to make it 5-2 before Weise notched his third after some stylish play from linemate Tomas Fleischmann, who’s proving to be a key guy.

A solid 6-2 thumping of the Calgary Flames, although this is a team with just two wins so far this season. Which means if the Habs lost on this night, things would’ve sucked after an already suckified Western Canada jamboree.

But they didn’t suck, they looked just fine, and they remain best of all 30 teams. Already I’ve forgotten about Vancouver and Edmonton.

Random Notes:

Flames outshot Montreal 32-31.

Next up – Sunday, when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre.

 

 

Collapse In Edmonton

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This was going to be the night they’d get back on track. It was the plan, and it was a fine plan.

They’d stunk up the joint in Vancouver on Tuesday when they got mugged 5-1, and although they beat the Leafs just prior to this Western Canada jaunt, they were outshot 52-27 in the process. Enough was enough, we said.

In Edmonton they were going to redeem themselves. Be that team the hockey world was talking about after winning nine straight out of the gate.

And indeed, they jumped out to a 3-0  first period lead against the Oilers in Edmonton, and things were good. It was gonna be a big night. A great night. Edmonton fans would see what all the fuss was about. It might even be a slaughter!

Then it all came tumbling down, like Kim Kardashian’s boobs when she’s in her 60s.

In the second period, Alexei Emelin would play handball with a bouncing puck behind Carey Price, and video replay showed the puck clearing the line by an inch or so.

A game of inches. And it happened with a mere 52 seconds left in the frame, and which gave the Oilers the life they needed.

In the third frame, a screened long shot that beat Price made it 3-2, and I’m betting that every single Habs fan on the planet who was watching or listening felt that familiar and quite sickening feeling of the jig being possibly up.

And the jig was up soon after when young stud Connor McDavid shoved the puck past Andrei Markov at the blueline and sent Benoit Pouliot in alone, and suddenly, in horrifying fashion, the game was tied and the boys were in a heap of trouble.

Yes, Benoit Pouilot. A bum when he was a Hab, and one of the league’s dirtiest players. Doesn’t fight and isn’t tough, but prefers to shove his stick in guts and faces. And it had to be him.

The final blow? With just 1:02 left in the third period, David Desharnais was stripped of the puck behind Price, the little black biscuit was sent out to rookie Leon Draisaitl, and that was that.

Oilers with four unanswered goals.

As we used to say when we were kids when a game ended, “game deodorant”, and although it was always a fairly stupid thing to say, the game smelled so it’s fitting.

Random Notes:

Habs scorers – Brendan Gallagher deflecting a PK wrist shot from the point on the power play; Torrey Mitchell after nice work by Devante Smith-Pelly; and Alex Galchenyuk converting a beautiful pass across the crease from Andrei Markov.

Oilers outshot the Habs 27-21, the fifth straight game in which Montreal has been outshot.

Canadiens power play was 1/2.

Carey Price has allowed 12 goals in his last three games, after previously being on a run that saw him average just one a game.

Next up – Friday night in Cowtown. This is the game where they’re going to redeem themselves. This is going to be the night. Enough is enough etc.

 

 

Boys Bombed In Game 10

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They were never in it but the Canucks were, and the streak ends at nine as the Canadiens are bombed 5-1 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Carey Price allowed five goals in this one-sided fiasco after giving up a total of just nine in his seven other starts. And for the first time this season, the gang allowed a first period goal. Three in fact.

Now they have to start a new streak, beginning Thursday in Edmonton.

I knew I shouldn’t have had the team up to Powell River yesterday for beer, karaoke, and magic mushrooms.

Random Notes:

The Canucks outshot Montreal 28-26.

Habs power play – 0/2

Torrey Mitchell scored the long Habs goal.

Brandon Prust recorded two assists for his new team, and then did what appeared to be serious damage to his foot or ankle while crashing into the boards. Hopefully this fine ex-Hab is okay.

It’s late. Ten o’clock here on the coast. Past my bedtime. Back east, where it’s 1 or 2 am (2:30 in Newfoundland), many are sawing logs and oblivious to this slaughter. Lucky bastards.

Live, From The Edmonton Gardens

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Neat old 4-page program I came across years ago, featuring the visiting New York Rangers playing the minor pro WHL Edmonton Flyers in an exhibition game prior to the 1955-56 season.

It’s actually a yellow program, but my camera gives it a bluish tint.

The Rangers lineup is packed with familiar names, including future HOFers Gump Worsley, Harry Howell, Bill Gadsby, and Andy Bathgate.

But the Edmonton Flyers has its share of names too, with Al Arbour, Jerry Melnyk, Bill Dea and a handful of others, plus #17 Aggie Kukulowicz, who, along with playing four games with the Rangers between 1952 and ’54, acted as a translator for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.

The Flyers, which existed from 1940 to 1963, were a Detroit Red Wings farm club, and also shows Johnny McCormack, who played for the Canadiens from 1951 to ’54, in the lineup.

Players on the Rangers who would don the Canadiens sweater at one time or another include the Gumper from 1963-64 to 1969-70; Ivan Irvin, who skated with the Habs for 4 games in the 1952-53 season; Lou Fontinato, with117 Habs games under his belt in 1961-62 and ’62-63; Jean-Guy Gendron, who was a Canadien for 43 games in 1960-61; and Bronco Horvath, who wore the CH for one game in1956-57;

And coach Phil Watson, who laced ’em up with the Habs for 44 games during the 1943-44 campaign.

I hope I haven’t missed anybody.  If I have, feel free to mention it.

The Edmonton Gardens, where this game took place, was built in 1913 and demolished in 1982, although years before the demolition, in 1974, the WHA Oilers moved over to the new Northlands Coliseum.

 

Canadiens Add A Couple

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The Canadiens gave up a second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-rounder (which will become a third-rounder after the team marches toward the Finals), and pry defenceman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers.

In a blink of an eye, the 27-year old Petry goes from the basement to the penthouse. He’s gotta like that.

I’d say the Canadiens are definitely set on the blueline, but I’m not going to bullshit you here, I have no idea how good or bad this guy is. The Globe and Mail calls him a smooth-skating puck-mover who will probably pair up with Nathan Beaulieu, and apparently he was Edmonton’s best d-man, but I’m not sure that says a lot.

Petry’s a righthanded shot with nice size – 6’3″, 200 lbs or so, and giving up draft picks seems a fair enough price to pay if the blueline is now set for a long run. He also becomes an unrestricted free agent soon so he won’t be looking to buy one of those new downtown Montreal condos just yet.

The Canadiens have also grabbed centre Brian Flynn, 26, from the Buffalo Sabres for a 5th-round draft pick, but this is no high-scoring impact player to solve the team’s scoring and power play woes. It’s simply a move to add either depth or become part of something Mr. Bergevin has up his sleeve before trade deadline draws to a close.

I wish The Amazing Kreskin was my buddy. I’d have all the inside scoops before they happened. What a blog it would be.

So far so good, but we still wait for a big and skilled forward to come aboard and give up next to nothing in return. We’ll see. The TV talking heads say Bergevin’s still not done and hopefully not, as long as the team’s  great chemistry isn’t affected in a big way.