Category Archives: Montreal Canadiens

Life In The Russian League Would Be A Good Life For players Like Grabovski

When recently called-up forward Mikhail Grabovski got his shorts in a knot about not playing and ran into the arms of his agent, it possibly marked the beginning of the end for the young Belarus centreman as far as becoming a real player for the Montreal Canadiens. After his hissy-fit, coach Carbonneau did absolutely the right thing by not dressing him for the LA game.

But surprisingly enough, at the time at least, the young guy played the next night in Anaheim. And as it happens, he set up Alex Kovalev for a really nice goal, and also lost nine of ten faceoff draws. But it turns out he only played because Tomas Plekanec had the flu.

And next year, he could see lots of ice time in the Russian Super League.  

You see, here’s the thing about this Russian league. I’ve been to a handfull of games in Russia since 1991, and back then, players’ yearly salaries there amounted to what Ryan O’Byrne and the other rookies left as a tip in Tampa Bay. It was mostly bus rides, not planes, silly old Soviet hotels, and not much in the way of adulation from fans. And not only that, when the games ended, players from both teams hung around centre ice and shot the shit, which I found really bizarre.

But it’s different now by a country mile. And not just hockey, but Russia in general. Gone are lineups into little food shops for some cheese and a loaf of bread. Now it’s modern malls with food courts, and fast food, fast cars, and fat cats abound. Someone who’d been away from Russia since 1991 and just came back wouldn’t recognize it.

And so it’s filtered down into hockey. Players now in the Russian League who were making $200 a week not that long ago, are now signing million dollar contracts. Where once they were living in old and decrepid Soviet housing, they now have swanky condo’s.

So for guys like Grabovski and other young players from Eastern Europe, playing near home, knowing the language, eating food they grew up with, is a wonderful alternative to the NHL.

Don’t be surprised to see the number of Russian players and those of nearby countries slowly dwindle from the NHL as life in the old country continues to improve.

Maybe it’s best for Mikhail Grabovski. Although he’s small, he’s got lots of raw talent, but to play in the NHL, your head has to be screwed on properly.  Not being happy about not playing is one thing, and is actually appreciated by coaches and teammates. It shows you need to play, to help the team. It sucks not to play. 

But when you bolt the team and run to your agent, it’s different.

It also really bugs me about the “agent-father-figure” thing. Am I wrong to believe that these agents are there for the money, the healthy cut of the player’s salary, not because they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart?

Like Toe Blake Said, “Predictions Are For Gypsys.”

As the team comes home to Montreal after their sort-of good, two wins, two losses, California and Phoenix roadtrip, they only have a day and a half before they clash with the New Jersey Devils. So while they’re getting massages from their wives, helping with the kids’ homework, and resting those weary bones, it gives us a little time to ponder the future.

Have a look at the standings and see if we can kind of figure out just who might play who in the playoffs, which are coming up fast. First though, notice how many goals Montreal has scored? It’s fire wagon hockey! (Cont’d after stats)

GP W OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 New Jersey Devils* 69 40 23 6 86 180 159 22-12-1 18-11-5 7-2-1
2 Montréal Canadiens* 70 38 23 85 223 197 16-12-5 22-11-4 6-4-0
3 Carolina Hurricanes* 71 37 29 79 216 221 21-12-3 16-17-2 7-2-1
4 Pittsburgh Penguins 70 39 24 85 206 192 19-10-5 20-14-2 5-3-2
5 Ottawa Senators 70 38 25 83 223 209 20-12-3 18-13-4 3-5-2
6 New York Rangers 69 36 24 81 183 169 22-13-1 14-11-8 8-0-2
7 Boston Bruins 69 36 25 80 183 191 18-13-4 18-12-4 6-2-2
8 Philadelphia Flyers 69 35 26 78 212 197 16-13-4 19-13-2 5-2-3
9 Buffalo Sabres 69 32 27 10  74 209 201 17-13-4 15-14-6 4-4-2
10 Washington Capitals 70 32 30 72 203 209 17-15-3 15-15-5 4-4-2
11 Florida Panthers 71 32 31 72 190 200 14-13-7 18-18-1 5-3-2
12 New York Islanders 70 32 31 71 170 204 17-16-3 15-15-4 4-6-0
13 Toronto Maple Leafs 70 30 30 10  70 196 216 16-14-5 14-16-5 6-3-1
14 Atlanta Thrashers 70 30 32 68 186 230 17-15-3 13-17-5 1-5-4
15 Tampa Bay Lightning

Anyway, if New Jersey, for example, keeps playing stingy hockey and Martin Brodeur continues his great goaltending, they stand a good chance to finish first. If Montreal finishes second, they’d play Boston.

However, Boston’s been faltering lately and Philadelphia could overtake them.  Pittsburgh’s coming on strong. The Rangers are heating up. Montreal, of course, is in the thick of it, could very possibly end up in first, and I’m mighty proud. Ottawa could get back on track at any time.

So what this means is, I know absolutely nothing about who’s going to play who. Even Buffalo, now out of the race, could find themselves back in it if Philly slumps and the Sabres put together a decent winning streak.

So as much as I wanted it to look like I knew how this was going to play out, I don’t know a thing. It’s too tricky, too unsure. You just never know. Toe Blake was right.

I’m going back to sleep.

The Ducks Looked Like The “75 New Years Eve Habs. And The Habs Looked Like Red Army

Too many penalties (8), too many shots allowed (37), and a shorthanded goal spelled a 3-1 loss for our Montreal Canadiens this Sunday night. This game sort of reminded me of the 1975 New Year’s Eve game between Montreal and Red Army. But tonight, Anaheim was the ’75 Habs, and Montreal was Red Army.  ticket.jpg

In a nutshell, Montreal was outplayed but still made it a game, just like Red Army, who were outplayed but still managed a 3-3 tie. 

The Habs were widely outshot, 37-21, but Carey Price was great in nets or it could’ve been worse. Just like Tretiak all those years ago.

But how long is this giving up almost 40 shots a game going to continue? They can’t be doing this in the playoffs, that’s for sure.

And there’s another problem on the horizon. The team flies back to Montreal just in time to take on the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night. And Ottawa’s in town Thursday.

Gotta tighten up, boys.

Taking Care Of The Kings. Now Down The Road To Disneyland To Meet The Ducks. Plus: Grabovski Sulks

The Canadiens won the game in LA and got their two points, which is great because I’m a greedy bastard. But again, as has been the case the last little while, they played way too loosey-goosey, giving up 35 shots (39 in Phoenix Thursday night), and as the self-appointed west-coast Red Fisher, I’m not happy about this.

Anyway, they won and got their two points, like I said.

Carbonneau played Jaroslav Halak in goal and he was fine, and I realize it’s his style and all that, but he does the butterfly or flops on his knees whenever the puck’s within 10 feet. He reminds me of Cristobal Huet. And you can see he’s borrowed  from Patrick Roy.

I just feel more confident when the goalie stays a little more on his feet. But he won, AND AGAIN, WE GOT THE TWO POINTS WHICH IS GOOD BECAUSE I’M A GREEDY BASTARD.

Sunday evening, the team moves over to Anaheim to take on the Ducks (Quackers), once known regally as “The Mighty Ducks!”  They’re a fine team and got finer when Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne rejoined the club.  ducks1.jpg

But Montreal has the team to whip these Quackers. I mean, why not? They’ve got 85 points, and Anaheim 83. The only ones who wouldn’t give the Habs a chance are TSN and several CBC hockey analysts. In their eyes, the Ducks are the finest ensemble to ever lace on skates, and the Habs are a bunch of house-league slugs who don’t belong in the same league.

But what do they know. They wear makeup.

IN OTHER NEWS:  Habs rookie call-up Mikhail Grabovski left the team early in Phoenix after he found out he wasn’t playing, and ran crying into the arms of his LA-based agent. Grabovski is a rookie trying to crack the lineup, and this little move doesn’t help him one bit. Pay your dues, be patient, work hard, and be ready when called. Until then, shut up and quit sulking.

Carbonneau and Bob Gainey sat down with the young fellow and gave him the facts of life. Then, in a great move, Carbonneau sat him out for the Kings game also.

There’s A Lot Of LA Kings Fans Out There: But I’ve Only Met One

Last year while at the airport in Frankfurt, I got talking to a Russian father and son who now live in Los Angeles but were traveling back to the old country for a visit. The son, who was about 16, didn’t want to talk about Russia at all though. All he wanted to talk about was his favourite team, the Los Angeles Kings.

And you know what struck me? The fact that unless you live in California, there are probably very few LA Kings fans out there. I’m pretty sure about this. This kid was going on about his favourite player, Alexander Frolov, and it just seemed slightly odd, that’s all.

The Kings were in the very first group of six teams in the 1967-68 expansion that saw the league double from six to twelve teams. They were joined by the California Seals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues.   kings1.jpg

Along the way, there’s been some sorts of interest involving this team. In the late ’70’s, early’80’s, the line of Marcel Dionne, Charley Simmer, and Dave Taylor were a top line in the league. In 1988, Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to LA, which sparked interest in hockey in southern California. And later on, owner Bruce McNall did time in prison for shady business deals.

But no Stanley Cups. Just a lot of sunburns, golfing, Hollywood parties, and pretty darn good crowds at the Staples Center, or Fabulous Forum, or whatever name they’ve used over the years.

Now today, March 8th, the Habs are in town for a game which is big for them but not so much for the Kings, who don’t have a sniff at a playoff spot. Hopefully though, the young Russian fellow will have his ticket and cheer like crazy for his team.

Watching In Style As Montreal Wins In Phoenix

Three big things happened in the last little while. Montreal beat Phoenix 4-2, they grabbed first place in the east again because of this win, and I watched the game on my brand new TV.

And not only did I watch the game on my new TV, but I also watched it on RDS French which shows every Habs game but you need a a box or digital cable to get it, which I now have.

And even though I don’t speak a lot of French, it’s no problem watching hockey on a French network. The players names are the same, and the puck does the same thing. Any hockey fan worth his or her salt can enjoy a game even if they don’t understand the announcers.

So it was interesting to see a game in Phoenix. I’m not sure if I ever have before, and the big thing that sticks out is there were a serious number of Habs fans there, with Montreal jerseys all over the place. Phoenix, of course, gets a lot of snowbirds, so the rink was packed with Canadians seeing their Canadiens.

I also thought Wayne Gretzky had a pretty expensive-looking suit with snazzy cream- coloured tie.

It wasn’t good that the Habs gave up 39 shots, but it seems like Carey Price rebounded just fine from his weak performance in San Jose. However, I’m really hoping Carbonneau plays Halak in Los Angeles on Saturday so the guy can get some work under his belt.  

After Los Angeles on Saturday, the boys get a real test Sunday in Anaheim against the Ducks. (Isn’t ‘Ducks’ a really stupid name?)

But for now anyway, the team’s in first place in the east and my new TV, which is way bigger than my old TV, is pretty darn fantastic.

Remembering Doug Harvey

The following is my column in the Powell River Peak, published March 3, 2008. doug.jpg                           

Unless you’re very young, or have never paid particular attention to hockey, you probably know who Doug Harvey is. You might know only that he was a hockey player a long time ago. But maybe you know he’s rated as the sixth greatest player of all time, and it’s between him and Bobby Orr as the game’s best defenceman ever.

He played for the Montreal Canadiens alongside Rocket Richard, Jean Beliveau, and the rest of the cast of iconic 1950’s characters, and he was, with the Rocket, my boyhood hero. When I was a kid, my dad even corralled coach Toe Blake one night at Maple leaf Gardens in Toronto to go into the dressing room and get Harvey’s autograph for me.

Doug Harvey’s gone now, but I still think about him, so a few weeks ago, I did what I had to do. I phoned his son in the Maritimes.

Doug Harvey Jr. is 57 years old, is proud of his dad, and he was happy to talk about him. What was it like, I asked, being the son of such a star? “It was probably just like you and your dad,” he said. “We were just a family like everyone else. Kids at school didn’t treat me any different, and when I played hockey, there were no names on the sweaters, so no one gave me a hard time at the rink. “I guess one thing that might be different was that players would come over to the house quite often – Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, the Rocket a few times. When dad was building our house, most of the team helped him.”Even the kids of the Montreal Canadiens found a connection, probably because they had so much in common. “We lived near a lot of the players,” continued Doug Jr., “and I was a good buddy with Toe Blake’s son. And it’s funny too, my brother has been dating Dickie Moore’s daughter for a few years now, and dad and Dickie were best friends.”Doug Jr. remembers too how sometimes his dad’s job interfered with a family trying to have a normal life. “My mom would get upset with dad because we’d go to games on schools nights from time to time, and for an eight o’clock game, he’d be at the old Forum at 5:30 and stay for a couple of hours afterward signing autographs for people. We wouldn’t get home until after midnight and we had to get up in the morning for school.”

Doug Harvey was a genuine free spirit, a practical joker, a fun-loving guy, a kind-hearted person, and a supremely gifted hockey player. He dominated on the ice in the old ‘original six’ NHL, controlling the game, slowing it down or speeding it up, making precise passes, setting the pace, and was a leader among men.

He was a general on the ice, and won the Norris trophy for best defenceman a remarkable seven times.

Slowly though, over the years, his health began to fail, and then, in 1989, at 65 years of age, the great Doug Harvey passed away.

“I remember visiting him in the hospital and he was usually in good spirits,” said Doug Jr. “One time I was in the corridor and I heard laughter coming from his room. Inside, Bobby Orr and Don Cherry were there cheering up my dad.”

And I’m sure, after all I’ve read, and after talking to Doug Jr., the man with the big heart was cheering them up too.

We’re Not All Part Of Leaf Nation: Especially Habs Fans

Since I started this blog, the following topic has been bugging me, especially since I don’t have any specialty channels to see the Habs more often. It alway seems like the Leafs are the priority.  William Houston of the Globe and Mail does a nice job saying just what I was thinking. Here’s his fine column.  

  We don’t all live in Leaf Nation you know

From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

With a month remaining in the NHL’s regular season, Hockey Night in Canada should be moving to increase its coverage of the Canadian teams outside the centre of the hockey universe.Leading up to last Saturday, the two leading NHL stories in this country were the dismissal of John Paddock as coach of the Ottawa Senators and the surprising success of the Montreal Canadiens, who gave the starting goaltending job to rookie Carey Price, who won his first two games.Despite the cheery optimism of Mats Sundin & Co., the Toronto Maple Leafs are unlikely to make the playoffs.Still, the conversation on the most recent Hockey Night focused almost entirely on the Leafs, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

The first intermission Coach’s Corner: Not a word about a Canadian team outside Toronto. Heavy discussion about Leafs rookie Jeremy Williams and Sundin’s decision to stay in Toronto.

Second intermission Hotstove panel: More talk about the Leafs — speculation about Sundin and the next Leafs general manager. Nothing about Ottawa, Montreal or the other NHL teams in Canada, except Vancouver, which was mentioned in passing as perhaps a destination for unsigned Swedish star Fabian Brunnstrom.

To be fair, Hockey Night aired a feature on the Canadiens during its afternoon Pittsburgh Penguins-Senators telecast. And the pregame show carried reports on Ottawa and Montreal.

However, in the important slot of 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (ET), when one million-plus viewers tune into the CBC, the Leafs dominated the conversation.

This seems self-defeating, because when the playoffs start, Hockey Night will be hoping that one million or more viewers become interested in, and watch, the Senators and the Canadiens, as well as the Calgary Flames and the Canucks, assuming they make the playoffs.

Don Cherry controls the subject matter of Coach’s Corner, but Hockey Night has the ability to increase the relevancy of the Hotstove outside Toronto.

Montreal-based P.J. Stock makes the occasional appearance, but on most Saturdays the three commentators are from Toronto. The programming mandate for Hotstove is originality and that is accomplished by the Toronto panel some of the time, but a good amount of the content also consists of speculation or information that has been touched on elsewhere.

Hockey Night made the right move last week when it increased the distribution of the New Jersey Devils-Canadiens game to include Manitoba-West as well as Quebec. But a bolder statement would have been to place the Habs in Atlantic Canada as well, limiting Leafs-Washington Capitals to Ontario.

The CBC will decide later this week on the distribution of the two 7 p.m. games for this Saturday, Devils-Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes-Senators.

If Toronto picks up two wins this week, perhaps placing Devils-Leafs in most of the country makes sense. If not, Coyotes-Senators would be the better choice.

Making Things Right. Talking About The Vancouver Canucks. You’re Welcome, Lawrence.

In Lawrence’s comment today, he asked, because he’s on some sort of west coast hallucinatory drug, that I mention the Vancouver Canucks. Normally I prefer to write about only important things, but because Lawrence needs to read about the Canucks, I’ll try.

The Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL in 1970-71. Since then, they’ve only missed the playoffs 15 times. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals once, in 1994. Lawrence likes to dwell a lot on 1994. They didn’t win of course, but Lawrence, it seems, doesn’t mind just coming close.

The Canucks are known for their, uh, milkwagon hockey. They have one jersey retired, Stan Smyl’s number 12. Stan Smyl had 262 goals in 14 seasons there. That’s an average of 18 goals a year. He’s the best player in Canucks history, this 18 goal a year guy.

Of course there’s been other stars over the years for Vancouver. Todd Bertuzzi, for one, who every Canucks’ fan, including Lawrence, should be mighty proud of. There’s Darcy Rota, Doug Lidster, Ron Sedlbauer, Larry Gould. Legends all. Players who made fans jump out of their seats. Milkwagon hockey! And there’s more, lots more –   Jeff  Rohlicek, Garth Rizzuto, Roman Oksiuta, Jim Nill. The list is endless.

And last but not least, Lawrence’s all time favourite, Trevor Linden. Trevor will be in the Hall of Fame some day. All it’ll cost him is the $9.95 ticket to get through the door. 

Lawrence was right. I’ve neglected all this time to mention the Vancouver Canucks. But I hope I’ve made up for it now. 

I just don’t know what got into me. 

A Loss Like This To The San Jose Sharks Means There’s Still Work To Be Done

It’s not so much the loss tonight in San Jose that bothers me. Teams lose, whether they’re the 1958 Montreal Canadiens, the 1985 Edmonton Oilers, or the 1979 Soviet National team. No team can go forever without losing. It’s impossible, like robbing bank after bank and never getting caught.

But Monday night in San Jose, Montreal didn’t just lose, they lost ugly. They lost by giving up 39 shots and 6 goals, which is unacceptable in anyone’s books. Ordained number one goalie Carey Price, coming into tonight’s game, had given up a stingy four goals in three games. Now tonight, it’s six. Hopefully this one game won’t blow his recently regained confidence.

39 shots on goal is not at all what the doctor ordered. Granted, the team kept it close all night, staying within a goal for most of it, but in the end this 6-4 loss is a loss is a loss. 

At least Ottawa fell to the Anaheim Ducks on this same night, losing 3-1 and stays behind Montreal in the eastern standings.

So now it’s time to rebound. It’s time to get stingy again, to tighten up, to score more on the power play, to win big.

Thursday night in Phoenix, let’s show Wayne Gretzky and those desert dogs that the Montreal Canadiens mean business. 

GP W L   OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 Pittsburgh Penguins* 67 37 23   7 81 198 185 19-10-5 18-13-2 5-3-2
2 Montréal Canadiens* 67 36 22   9 81 213 190 16-12-5 20-10-4 7-3-0
3 Carolina Hurricanes* 68 34 29   5 73 203 213 19-12-3 15-17-2 7-2-1
4 New Jersey Devils 66 37 23   6 80 172 156 21-12-1 16-11-5 6-2-2
5 Ottawa Senators 67 37 24   6 80 217 202 20-12-3 17-12-3 3-5-2
6 Boston Bruins 65 35 24   6 76 179 180 17-12-3 18-12-3 7-2-1
7 New York Rangers 66 34 24   8 76 175 164 21-13-0 13-11-8 7-1-2
8 Philadelphia Flyers 66 33 25   8 74 203 189 14-12-6 19-13-2 3-4-3
9 Buffalo Sabres 66 31 26   9 71 200 192 17-12-4 14-14-5 4-5-1
10 Washington Capitals 67 31 28   8 70 197 202 17-14-3 14-14-5 4-3-3
11 New York Islanders 67 31 29   7 69 164 193 17-15-3 14-14-4 6-4-0
12 Toronto Maple Leafs 67 29 28   10 68 186 208 16-12-5 13-16-5 6-3-1
13 Florida Panthers 68 29 31   8 66 181 196 12-13-7 17-18-1 3-4-3
14 Atlanta Thrashers 67 29 31   7 65 178 219 16-14-3 13-17-4 3-4-3
15 Tampa Bay Lightning 65 26 32   7 59 183 213 16-16-2 10-16-5 3-5-2
Western Conference
Rank GP W L   OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 Detroit Red Wings* 67 43 18   6 92 209 150 21-8-2 22-10-4 2-7-1
2 Dallas Stars* 69 41 23   5 87 207 171 21-11-2 20-12-3 7-3-0
3 Minnesota Wild* 66 37 24   5 79 179 177 19-10-3 18-14-2 5-4-1
4 Anaheim Ducks 68 38 23   7 83 173 165 22-8-4 16-15-3 9-1-0
5 San Jose Sharks 66 37 21   8 82 176 159 15-13-5 22-8-3 6-4-0
6 Calgary Flames 66 34 23   9 77 186 185 16-10-8 18-13-1 6-3-1
7 Vancouver Canucks 65 32 23   10 74 172 167 17-11-5 15-12-5 5-2-3
8 Colorado Avalanche 66 34 26   6 74 183 180 19-11-2 15-15-4 4-5-1
9 Nashville Predators 66 33 25   8 74 193 190 20-10-4 13-15-4 5-3-2
10 Phoenix Coyotes 66 33 28   5 71 176 176 14-15-3 19-13-2 5-4-1
11 Columbus Blue Jackets 67 30 27   10 70 164 176 16-10-6 14-17-4 4-4-2
12 Chicago Blackhawks 65 31 28   6 68 187 188 17-13-1 14-15-5 7-3-0
13 Edmonton Oilers 66 31 30   5 67 182 200 19-14-1 12-16-4 6-4-0
14 St Louis Blues 65 28 27   10 66 161 180 18-13-5 10-14-5 3-5-2
15 Los Angeles Kings 67 26 36   5 57 193 224 14-17-2 12-19-3 3-5-2

x – clinched playoff spot