Category Archives: Paul Byron

Game One Shootout Win!

Last year the Canadiens were 9 wins and a shootout loss to start the season, and the year before it was 9 straight wins out of the gate.

But overall, they weren’t very good, you know that. They were gone after 6 playoff games last year, and were so bad without Carey Price two years ago, me and the gang playing road hockey on Elmer Ave. in Orillia (photo above), might have given them a run for their money.

This year, in Montreal’s season opener in Buffalo, it was a 3-2 shootout win for the good guys, in a game that was surprisingly entertaining for the first of the year. Sometimes a first game can be almost preseason-like, but not this one, and good for Sabres fan who paid the big bucks and kinda got their money’s worth.

Two points in the bank, to be withdrawn sometime down the road when they’re on shaky footing. Maybe they’ll start with 9 straight again this year, whatever it means.

The first period gave us a good look at new Habs rearguard Victor Mete, who won’t turn 20 until June. The young fellow, straight out of junior with the London Knights, is a terrific skater and plays with poise. Hopefully he’ll still be playing with poise when the going gets tough.

The Sabres opened the scoring on a power play, and although the Habs started well, it was the Sabres who came on strong as the period wore on. But with just over two minutes left, a bang bang play – Gally to Jonathan Drouin to Max – and the game was tied.

That was the first period, and now, during intermission, I’d like to show you the vintage pedal car I bought in Revelstoke a few months ago. It was made in the late-50s I think, but resembles a Quadricycle from the late-1890s. Henry Ford used to bomb around in a Quadricycle before he started his company in 1903.

But enough about that.

The second period saw Buffalo’s Jason Pominville notch his second of the evening just 22 seconds in to give his team a 2-1 lead, and the hosts had the edge in play to this point. But the Sabres enjoyed back- to-back power plays and couldn’t get it done, which, if they care enough, could cause a restless sleep tonight. But maybe they’ll sleep soundly. They still get paid, and they got a point.

The second period ended, and during this intermission I’d like to mention that Lucy and I spend three great weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia this summer. We just got back about a month ago.

In the third, Philip Danault shoved home a wraparound at the 8.01 mark, the game was tied, and would remain so into overtime, where no goals were scored even though it was fire-wagon, back and forth hockey.

Really exciting. Really unusual for game one, as I said.

Before the shootout, I’d like to mention that my old pal from Orillia, Kerry Baker, a guy I lost track of more than 40 years ago, came to visit with his lovely Jacquie. We had connected on Facebook about a year ago and finally met up a few weeks ago. He’s a great guy with a great woman, and we had a mighty fine couple of days eating and drinking and drinking and eating.

Jonathan Drouin, showing lovely hands, was the lone scorer in the shootout after parking a backhand into the top of the net past Sabres netminder Robin Lehner. Drouin’s a great player, a difference maker, and he’ll look just dandy holding the Cup high next June.

I also visited my daughter and grandkids in Nelson this summer, and here we are wondering how the team will do this year.

So far, so good.

Random Notes:

In the shootout, Paul Byron rang one off the post before Drouin made his magic.

Sabres outshot the Canadiens 45-40 during this lively affair.

Buffalo was 1-5 of the pp, while the Habs went 0-4.

Next up – Saturday in Washington at 7:00 pm ET.

My website is 10 years old now.

 

Game 5 Bummer

The Canadiens fall 3-2 to the Rangers in overtime, and now it’s gonna take them seven games to win the series instead of six.

I’m okay with that, because I have faith. But they’re testing my faith. And my patience. Bastards.

For much of the game, the Rangers were the better team, and that’s unacceptable, especially at the Bell Centre where noisy fans provided the atmosphere, but fans can’t put the puck in the net. That’s where the team is supposed to chip in.

It was a sickening sight to see the puck get past Carey Price in overtime, because as dominate as the Rangers were in OT, it was always possible that a lucky break could see the Canadiens end up winning the thing.

It never happened, and now the series resumes once again on Saturday in New York. And it’ll have to be all hands on deck for that one, because no-shows aren’t welcome. Never have been, never will. Especially no-shows that wear the CH.

I still feel that Montreal is the better team. It’s just how I feel. They weren’t tonight, and they weren’t on Tuesday. Or game 1 for that matter. So maybe they’re not.

This one hurts.

From my notes:

In the first minute of the game, Carey Price made a huge save on Mats Zuccarello, and I thought maybe Pricer was gonna be a hero on this night.

Andrew Shaw and the much bigger Brendan Smith dropped the gloves, Shaw got in several fine rights, and he looked good as he swung away. It was just the beginning of a rough and tumble, hard hitting, testy kind of a night.

Still in the first, Artturi Lehkonen fooled with Marc Staal and ended up swooping around the net and sending the puck past Henny Lunny to give the boys a 1-0 lead.

Still in the period, Jesper Fast scored a shorthanded marker after Alex Galchenyuk coughed up the puck, and the game was tied.

Galchenyuk’s been mediocre at best in this series. Maybe he doesn’t want to be a Hab anymore.

Just 25 seconds later, on the same power play, Brendan Gallagher fooled Henny from 15 feet out and the good guys took the lead again.

In the second period, Zuccarello highsticked Paul Byron, catching him in the eye area. Somebody needs to tune the Norwegian in once and for all.

With just 1:32 left in the 2nd, the Rangers tied it up, and it was after this that the strength of my ticker was firmly tested.

Sixteen seconds in, Gally took a slashing penalty when his little love tap knocked the stick out of the hands of a weak-wristed Blueshirt. A cheap call indeed, but NY failed to score.

Gally’s only 5’9″, 184 pounds, but he’s the toughest son of a gun on the ice.

Also in the third, Phillip Danault hit the post while the team was shorthanded, and Max couldn’t solve Henny on a clear-cut breakaway.

Max is in a slump at the wrong time of year. But you already know that.

In overtime it was all Rangers.

One Lousy Random Note:

Game 6 on Saturday in New York is an 8pm ET start. Or 5pm where I live.

 

 

 

Once Again – Big Game, Big Win!

Wins on Saturday in Ottawa and Sunday in Montreal, and the Canadiens sizzle while the Senators fizzle.

Sunday it was 4-1 Canadiens, with the boys dominating often throughout, forcing turnovers that led to several partial breakaways, playing tough along the boards and in the crease, taking no shit in scrums late in the game, and making Sens goalie Craig Anderson look ordinary while Carey Price looked his brilliant self.

Price, with an amazing toe save on Kyle Turris in the second period when it was still a 2-1 game, demonstrated exactly how unreal goaltending can win games or change momentum.

A key stop at a key time. Just another day at the office for our main man.

Ten games left for the bleu, blanc et rouge before the real stuff begins. And to me at least, they’re rounding into form at the perfect time.

I’m feeling sad for Ottawa fans. They were pumped for the back-to-back series that would see their team catapult over Montreal and into first place in the Atlantic Division.

But it didn’t happen. And how sad do I feel?

To see the Canadiens win both, the second one handily, makes my heart soar like a bird flying high in the Chinese sky!

But I’m not one to gloat or be biased.  No way. It’s not polite and I don’t want that reputation. It’s not my fault that the Sens suck.

Random Notes:

Tomas Plekanec, scoreless in twenty games or so, got his team rolling at the 28-second mark of the first period, and after Ottawa evened things, Jordie Benn put the gang in front after his long shot deflected off a Senator D-man’s stick.

No lamps lit through the second, but the Canadiens broke it open in the third when Paul Byron, with his 20th, and Nathan Beaulieu on the power play, put the game out of reach.

Ain’t hockey great when your favourite team deflates a rival that’s trying to catch them? It’s good for the soul. It makes hockey fun again. It makes me forget the negatives, like another possible lockout down the road for example.

It makes it all good. At the expense of the Ottawa Senators and their fans!

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Ottawa 37-30.

Montreal sits at 6 wins and 2 losses so far in March. Or if you want to go back further, they’ve lost just three times in their last thirteen games.

Next up – Tuesday, when it’s Detroit paying a visit.

Thursday they host Carolina, and then it’s the Ottawa Senators once again. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. For now, I’m just going to sit here and feel bad for Sens fans.

 

 

Big Game, Big Win

The Ottawa Senators and their fans could almost taste first place in the Atlantic Division, and indeed, it almost happened.

Almost.

Settled in overtime on goals from Paul Byron and Alex Radulov, the Canadiens stretch their lead slightly over Ottawa to two points, and if Montreal can do it  again on Sunday against those same Sens, it’ll be a fine four-point lead, with the best part being the mind game part.

The part that says the Habs know perfectly well that they can handle this red-hot bunch from . And for the Sens, it’s the sobering thought that maybe they can’t beat the Canadiens when the going gets tough.

Back and forth the two teams went in a game that was much less boring than most this season, with Andrew Shaw giving his team the lead in the second period before Ottawa would score a couple to take the lead into the third.

The final frame saw Philip Danault tie it up, and 31 seconds later, Brendan Gallagher would fire one from a bad angle to give the boys the lead again.

But with just 4:57 left, Ottawa tied it to the cheers of the four thousand Sens fans at the Canadian Tire Centre, and after a scoreless overtime, the Byron/Radu combo stole the show to the cheers of the fifteen thousand Habs fans.

A fine outing for Montreal, aside from a whack of giveaways and blunders mostly early on. And if Alexei Emelin, who was a healthy scratch on this night, has become your favourite whipping boy, maybe you could share some of your wrath now for Jeff Petry, who wasn’t any better on this night than Emelin was the previous game. Why should Emelin take all the blame?

But I really don’t want you to have a favourite whipping boy. We’re all in this together, management, players, and fans. It’s time to support our team and everyone on it, with the playoffs just around the corner.

And that includes pulling for guys who have off nights.

The Canadiens won a huge game, and makes my heart soar like birds at the fishing hole.

Random Notes:

Carey Price held the fort for the most part, and although Sunday’s game means back-to-back, we need him between the pipes for that one too.

Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry.

On this day in 1892, Lord Stanley announced that he was donating his cup to hockey. Here it is here.

Habs Vs Hawks – Close But No Cigar

Dick Irvin Sr, who played for the Hawks in the late-’20s before his coaching career, which included Montreal, began. Dick would be 124 if he was still around (125 in July).

The Canadiens couldn’t quite get it done, falling 4-2 to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, and if you like your glass half-full you could say Montreal sits at 8-3 in their last 11 games.

But if you’re a half-empty type of person, you might say they’ve lost two of their last three.

And the kind of person I am? Mostly a half-full kind of guy except when I’m not. And as I’ve said many times, the regular season will be long forgotten when pucks are dropped to begin the postseason.

Tuesday night in snowy Montreal, the home team fell behind 3-0 in the third frame, but red-hot Paul Byron banged home a rebound to ruin Corey Crawford’s shutout, and soon after, Shea Weber blasted one from the blueline to narrow it to 3-2.

A great comeback by the Habs. Exciting. Tense. Stressful. Stirring. And then Jonathan Toews found the empty net to salt it away for Chicago and ruin all that’s pure and good.

It was an ‘almost’ type of thing. Corey Crawford stood on his head throughout, as the Canadiens outshot the Hawks 39-24, but try as they may, Montreal skaters as a whole are snakebitten. They have a tough time scoring. But again, the playoffs are a different ball of wax completely. The scoring will probably start then!

There’s the half-full thing again.

I’d say that the boys miss the net way too much but they probably know that.  But the fierce rally late in the game that would sadly fall short for Montreal made my heart soar like a clown or a duck or something, flying around with an umbrella.

Random Notes:

A couple of big games coming up the Habs, as they meet the Sens in Ottawa on Saturday and then host those same Ottawans on Sunday. Yes, as much as the regular season will be forgotten come playoff time, these are huge games for both teams. Time to kick some sand in the faces of Sens players and their fans.

And one last thing. I’m guessing that Alexei Emelin will be an easy target now, considering how he was out of position on a couple of Chicago’s goals.

But I’m sticking up for him because I think the pros outweigh the cons for Mr. Emelin. He lets loose thunderous hits, he’s a bone-crunching bummer for players racing down the side with him waiting, and he has a good shot from the point. I like his old-time hockey style and I appreciate anyone on the Canadiens, including him, who plays a rugged game.

He reminds me of Gilles Marotte, who dished out Emelin-like checks for Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, and St. Louis in the 1960s and ’70s,

The problem is, quite often the lights are on but nobody’s home for the Russian rearguard.

 

Habs Roll Against Rangers

It’s five in a row now for the Montreal Canadiens after taking out the Rangers 4-1 in Manhattan, and it makes my heart soar like a blue-footed booby.

This one’s getting ready to soar.

Definitely a sight for sore eyes to see a big, bruising, and hardworking Habs team that was flying for the most part, and when they weren’t flying, Carey Price was there to shut the door.

What a combination – big, flying, and Price. That’s a playoff formula if there ever was one.

Sixteen games left folks, and then the real wars start. It’s good to see what’s developing.

It seems like a team coming together at the right time, and all it took was a coaching change and four rough and tough guys added after a couple of small ones were subtracted.

How big is this team now? Only five are under six feet – Nesterov, Mitchell, Shaw and Plekanec at 5’11”, and Byron and Gallagher at 5’9″. That makes 17 guys at least six feet tall, and that’s why my heart is soaring like a booby after all the whining I’ve done over the years about too-small Habs teams.

The idea is to make the opposition not enjoy themselves one bit when they play Montreal, and finally it seems the case. There’s nothing worse than seeing a team lined up at the blueline and half of them look like Danny DeVito.

So a big shout-out to the big guys, including the new Norwegian, Andreas Martinsen, who used his 6’3″, 220 lb frame to rattle bones all evening.

Shea Weber would score the game’s lone goal in the first period after a fine faceoff win by new guy Steve Ott, while in the second, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw would bulge the twine and make things a healthy 3-0.

In the third, arch-enemy Chris Kreider would narrow it to 3-1, but Jordie Benn’s shot from the blueline found it’s way past Henrik Lundqvist, and it ended as a mighty fine Habs road win and a beauty of a five-game winning streak.

All in all, an impressive showing by the Canadiens who now shift focus to their trip west, beginning with Vancouver on Tuesday.

Six straight would be nice.

 

Habs Ruin Old Friend’s Party

It may have been a PK Subban love-in at the Bell, but it never meant the Canadiens would fold up the tent just because they’re gracious hosts.

And although the visitors mostly smothered the bleu, blanc et rouge for much of the night, it was a never-say-die, never stop working display by the Habs, and two guys mired in horrendous slumps, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron, finally came through in a huge way.

Now, regardless of a slew of players still not producing, the team has found a way to win their last four, and teams behind them in the standings hoping to catch up, might now realize that it might not happen after all.

Three overtime wins and a regulation win decided with nine seconds left in the third period. You want a character team? I’d say there’s been plenty of character shown lately.

It certainly wasn’t easy against Subban and his Nashville Predators. There was simply no room to move for the home team, and if the Canadiens were going to win, they knew it could take a lucky break to kick start it, which is what happened.

Hard work behind the Preds net resulted in Gally coming out and wrapping around, with the puck bouncing in off a Preds skate, and suddenly, in almost shocking fashion considering the way the night had gone, the game was tied.

Then, with the clock ticking down and overtime looming, Paul Byron fired up the burners, raced in from outside the blueline, and the puck found it’s way past Pekka Rinne with just nine seconds left.

Four straight, with half the team slumping in a big way. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but whatever.

Random Notes:

The pre-game video ceremony in tribute to PK Subban was touching, and tears rolled down his face. Now, is it possible for fans to finally embrace Shea Weber and move on? We’ve got a Cup to win.

Habs outshot the Preds 26-25.

The Canadiens have scored only179 goals so far, with 17 games remaining. Last season, the one we don’t really want to talk about, they scored a total of 221 over 82 games, which was also lousy.

So out with the trusty calculator, which shows they’ll need to score 42 more goals to tie last season’s effort, which comes to almost 2.50 goals per game. The way they’ve been going lately, it doesn’t seem possible. But who knows?

Next up – Saturday in New York to tackle the Rangers.

 

Habs Almost Score!

The Canadiens were blanked 3-0 by the New York Islanders on a balmy Thursday night in Montreal, and although they lost for the eighth time in ten games this month, there were plenty of great things to rave about.

There was that time when one of their passes went tape to tape. That was a fine moment. I remember once when somebody outraced an Islander for the puck, which was awe-inspiring. And those few seconds when they seemed interested touched my heart.

They’ve only been shutout four times in these ten games, which of course is fantastic, and the new addition at centre, Homer de la Thorn, could very well be the missing piece of the puzzle!

So many great things indeed. They make my heart soar like a squealing, constipated seagull at the local dump.

Now the Leafs have to face our mean, lean machine on Saturday. It’s gonna be magnificent. Poor Leafs.

Hopefully we’ll see another tape to tape pass at least once, and at one point in the game I’m expecting somebody, Paul Byron probably, to outrace a guy in blue. And because they’re in Toronto, they could possibly look interested for at least a minute. Maybe two.

It’s all so darn exciting. Go Habs.

 

 

Habs Rock Rangers

The Canadiens rebound from a 7-1 trouncing on Thursday in Minnesota to edge the visiting New York Rangers 5-4 at the Bell on Saturday night, and church bells ring throughout the land.

So if you hear church bells on Saturday night or Sunday morning, it’s because the Habs won. What else could it be?

Not only did they win but they did it by scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to do it. It’s almost religious.

The first period saw Andrew Shaw, returning from concussion, interfere in the crease which caused Phillip Danault’s goal to be called back,  the team was scored upon with Shaw in the box, and to cap off the night for the returning not-so-bright forward, he blindsided Jesper Fast and received a five minute major and game misconduct.

Too much energy and adrenaline for Shaw, and not enough brain cells turned on. But whatever. The team won. And regardless of the lack of brain cells, at least Shaw plays with an edge.

I’ve been whining that the Canadiens have been too full of peace and love for a decade. Time to be mean assholes. But probably a bit smarter than Shaw on this night.

Alex Galchenyuk, back from sick bay after more than a month, tied the game with a deflection, but quickly the visitors went ahead after Alexei Emelin took the man but forgot the puck, and Rick Nash banged it home.

But….I don’t understand.

Kevin Hayes barged in, wrapped his skate behind Carey Price’s pad, and dragged the poor bastard out of the crease, thereby giving Nash the open net. The play was reviewed and the goal stood.

How come? Please tell me. Maybe Kerry Fraser can explain. I’ll watch for it.

Things were heating up, and the Bell Centre patrons sat up. Brian Flynn would shove it home to tie the game at 2-2, but tragically, our man Chucky would lose the puck along the boards, reliable old Shea Weber was beaten cleanly, it was 3-2 Rangers, and life wasn’t worth living.

Until it was.

The third frame saw Alexei Emelin fire a wrist shot home from the blueline to put things at 3-3, then Max would outrace two d-men to put the boys ahead 4-3, and Paul Byron would give them a beauty of two goal, 5-3 lead.

The Rangers would make it 5-4 with 5:07 left, but that was the best the Broadway Blueshirts could do.

Habs win 5-4. And please don’t fret about Carey Price’s mediocre play lately, or cracks in defence, or this or that. This is the regular season, where we only have to be concerned about them making the playoffs, which they will.

The regular season is only a rehearsal, a fine-tuning, a time to get the gang ready for opening night – the playoffs. I’m sure Marlon Brando was an asshole sometimes before the cameras rolled, and then rallied to give the performance of his life.

That’s the Habs. Ups, downs, fine tuning, readying for the curtain to rise.

Random Notes:

The Rangers outshot Montreal 33-32. Price came up big a bunch of times.

Next up – two tough games on the horizon. Detroit on Monday, and at home to greet Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Habs Burn Leafs

Just when the young and smug Toronto Maple Leafs and their giddy fans thought the team was rockin’ and rollin’ toward new and amazing heights, they came up against the gritty Montreal Canadiens.

Suddenly, all isn’t so fantastic in Leafland, as the visiting Habs, finishing off a seven-game road trip that took them to winter wonderlands like Miami, Tampa, Dallas, Nashville etc, waltzed into Toronto and won 5-3 in solid fashion over the Toronto Kadris.

Alexander Radulov was sensational, as was Carey Price, but for me the real hero was Shea Weber, who pounced and trounced Zach Hyman after the Leaf forward flew into Price and sent him sprawling. Then, as the second period came to an end, Weber once again sought out Hyman and made his point even clearer.

That’s what we want, and it’s what I knew we’d get from Weber when he came over from Nashville. This is is a guy respected by all, he’s a big brother to some and a leader to all, and he needed to bend Hyman’s nose to say it loud and clear in Toronto and around the league that Carey Price is not to be messed with.

The team will protect Price, and the corner was abruptly turned after New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri ran Price a month ago and Price took matters into his own hands. His teammates were embarrassed and criticized, but sometimes a team in the midst of gelling needs to learn a solid lesson.

And the Canadiens have.

Habs

Leafs

Three wins in their first three games of January. Last season, the boys won just three in the entire month. I’m proud of these crazy bunch of beautiful bastards. A team held together with band aids, and they won’t break.

Just a tremendous showing in front of smug Leaf fans.

Random Notes

Habs were outshot by the Leafs 36-31, and were 2/5 on the power play (Scherbak and Radulov).

Nikita Scherbak, in his very first NHL game, scored his first NHL goal with just one second left in the first period to give the boys a 3-2 lead.

Max Pacioretty had opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the game, and Artturi Lehkonen added another befor e the Leafs stormed back to tie it.

Radu scored his power play marker in the second frame to widen the gap to 4-2, but the Leafs would soon make it a 4-3 game.

In the third period, Michael McCarron salted it away by bouncing the biscuit off Leafs goaltender Frederik Anderson, who was quite shitty on the night. Anderson is keeping up the fine tradition of mediocre backstopping in Cabbagetown. It goes back many decades.

No sense naming the Montreal injury list. It’s old news.

But if you haven’t heard, it’s Gally, Chucky, DD, Pateryn, Markov, Byron, and Shaw.

Next up – Habs at home on Monday to battle the Washington Capitals, then it’s back on the road to Winnipeg and Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday. The wives must be lonely. (And if you are, my number is 604-555-1212. Call me.)

Photos – First – the art was done by me in grade two. Second – one of my old ads from crumbling newspapers. Third – My hockey coin collection. I have the other four teams complete as well. Fourth – the iconic Maclean’s magazine cover, with added script created by my friend Ed in Ottawa.