Category Archives: Serge Savard

Chewed By Panthers

It took six skaters from each team in the shootout before it was decided, and in the end, the Florida Panthers managed to make both Habs fans and Bruins fan unhappy at the same time.

It seems a truly unnatural act – Habs and Bruins fan on the same page. Doesn’t seem right and I never want it to happen again.

The Panthers left town with a 3-2 win over the Habs, with their two points putting them within spitting distance of the Boston Bruins and the final wild card slot in the East. The Canadiens hang onto first place in the East by a thread, tied with the Islanders, who thumped Nashville 5-2 on this same night, but our boys have a game in hand.

It was going so well too. Carey Price was once again allowing nothing. Brendan Gallagher had his team up 2-0 with a couple of nice goals from close in.

But soon after, the walls came tumbling down. Shortly after Gally’s second marker, Florida narrowed it to 2-1. And in the third frame, a shot from Price’s side blew by him and the game was tied.

The Canadiens had two great chances in overtime, first by Tomas Plekanec who swooped in and was promptly denied, and then Max, in the dying seconds, was also in close but couldn’t get a handle on it.

So that’s that. So far in February the boys are five wins and five losses, the first .500 month this season. Although there are still four games left in the month and maybe they can fix that number in a big way.

A couple of players to mention. Jiri Sekac, after being a healthy scratch lately, was a force to be reckoned with. He skated miles, made great plays and had fine chances, and in my mind was his team’s best player. It was much like the last time he returned after being scratched (remember that? His dad was pissed).

Maybe that’s the key with this first-year fellow. Sit him in the press box every so often. Do it again with a few games left before the playoffs start and have him raring to go when it really counts.

P.K. Subban was a bit of a P.K. Most of us have whined at times about our guy not being able to freewheel like he can, and tonight he was full steam ahead. But he also lost the puck on occasion, made some poor decisions, and kept things slightly uneasy and unorganized as he did his dancing and zipping around.

I don’t know what I want from the poor guy. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. All I can say is, I’ll take clever over cute, and PK was a bit too cute on this night.

Canadiens outshot the Floridians 39-21, which should’ve translated to a convincing win don’t you think?

Random Notes:

Brendan Gallagher’s first goal of the night marked his 100th NHL point.

Alex Galchenyuk was out with the flu.

Jarred Tinordi found himself in a scrap with Alex Petrovic after Tinordi had sideswiped Tomas Fleischmann.

Word is Alexei Emelin is gone for six weeks or so. I know some Habs fans won’t miss him at all. But I will.

Former Hab Eric Desjardins was inducted into the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame tonight. Fine player, Desjardins. Traded, along with John Leclair and Gilbert Dionne, to Philly in 1995 for Mark Recchi and a draft pick. Not GM Serge Savard’s finest moment.

Are Mad Dog Kelly, Dave Schultz, and Don Saleski in the Flyers HOF?

Next game for the Canadiens – Saturday, when Columbus pays a visit. Once again, time to right the ship.

And one last thing. Even though I mentioned that I might explain my ongoing personal situation, after thinking about it all day, I realize I’m not able to. It’s too sensitive and could affect others, and there’s just no way to write it properly.

 

Sekac Outstanding In Habs Win

Sekac

Lapointe

It began with an emotional ceremony that saw Guy Lapointe’s number 5 raised to the rafters between his buddies Savard and Robinson.

And the game began like so many others, with the Canadiens not scoring and looking befuddled in the process, relying on Carey Price to keep them in it once again.

But in the second and third they were the team we’ve been craving to see. A team that suddenly found cohesion and speed, with the top three lines dangling and creating chances, and the fourth line punching the clock and sometimes coming close to adding to the festivities, as in Dale Weise ringing one off the crossbar.

And as much as it was a night for Guy Lapointe and a big win that just might boot this group out of the doldrums (I said “might”), it was a coming out party for Jiri Sekac, a healthy scratch for the last seven games, who scored a goal and added an assist and named first star of the night.

If this is what we’re going to see instead of the usual Rene Bourque effort, maybe we could buy Bourque the odd coffee and hot dog as our way of saying thank you for the great games he last played. Last spring.

A big, important, and impressive win on Guy Lapointe night. Imagine if the Canadiens were embarrassed on this special occasion. But they weren’t, and it was a happy night at the Bell for the home team, the hometown fans, and hopefully Mr. Lapointe, who happens to be a scout for the Wild.

The Canadiens got on the scoreboard first, something not often seen, when Gally wired one over the shoulder of Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, and after the Wild had evened things up, Lars Eller, with 50 seconds left in the period put the boys ahead again.

In the third, it was Sekac and then Max, and Minnesota was done like dinner.

Two goals in the second, two in the third. A great forty minutes. Now if they can only start scoring in the first. And if they can continue what they started.

Random Notes:

The Sekac, Eller and Prust line combined for 6 points  РSekac a goal and an assist, Eller a goal and an assist, and Prust, who was outstanding in this game, adding 2 assists.

Other point-getters – Gally and Max with a goal each, and Pleky, Parenteau, and DD with assists.

Next up – Tuesday, when Winnipeg pays a visit.

 

Ahoy Captain

It’s big stuff, this talk of the next Habs captain now that Brian Gionta has gone back to his home state.

The fact is, I don’t think anyone right now has what it takes for the role. Kind of sad, but in a few years, it’ll probably all become clear.

Of course, if someone is chosen this year, please forget that you ever saw this.

The names are tossed around. There’s Markov and Subban, and Plekanec and sometimes Max, and for some unknown reason, Brendan Gallagher keeps coming up. I don’t know why. But more about that later.

A captain’s not there just to make the fans happy that there is one. He has to have big time respect and admiration from teammates. They have to look up to him and learn from him. He has to lead by example. That’s why you never saw Howie Young or Sean Avery or Sergei Kostitsyn wear the C on any team.

A Canadiens captain needs to take Rene Bourque aside when Bourque is comatose and give him verbal smelling salts. He needs to tell P.K. to sometimes calm down, or chat now and again with Michel Therrien and politely mention that embarrassing P.K. in public might not be the coolest thing.

A leader of men. Classy, smart, and distinguished. The opposite of me.

The coaches rely on him to talk to teammates and guide and advise. He has to be great with the media and fans. He has to get along in fine fashion with the on-ice officials. Ask the zebras about the wife and kids. Explain politely that Brendan Prust’s fist into someone’s face was a natural reaction caused by the other player saying something uncalled for about the referee’s wife.

It would be great if the players voted on the wearer of the C but chances are it won’t be like that. Which could also lead to the delicate situation of the player being a bit of a brown noser, one of management’s pipelines. That sort of thing is for losers.

Of course that only happens with other teams, not the Habs. This is a team that rises above the nuttiness. There’s never nuttiness in Montreal, you know that.

Andrei Markov leads by example, that’s for sure, and the players, I think, truly respect him. He’s a hard worker, which a captain needs to be, and he’s been around since he paired with Sprague Cleghorn. But when it comes to the microphone or the PR stuff, it’s just doesn’t seem to be in him.

I know a bunch of his fellow countrymen, and most are cut from the same cloth. Reserved and not all great around anything remotely¬† resembling public attention. Except Lucy’s son Denis in St. Petersburg, who loves to ham it up when the camera’s out. But I think he’s an anomaly.

As much as I admire Markov, he’s not completely captain’s material. At least not in my book. But you might have a different book.

Same with Tomas Plekanec. Not great in front of the camera. Kind of a quiet guy I think. Not one to take a rookie aside and tell him to lay off the booze and broads. Or maybe he does, but surely not the way a Mark Messier or the Rocket would have handled it.

And if you say that’s old time, that this is now, so what? Because leaders are leaders, whether it’s 1914 or 2014.

As much as I like Pleks, and as much as Brad Marchand dislikes him, which is a definite bonus, he, like Markov, doesn’t have the makeup to be a true captain.

P.K. Subban will be a fine captain some day. He leads by example, he struts in public, and he’s fired up to win. He’s perfect in many ways. We don’t want a laid back captain. We just had one. But P.K. still has a bit of goofiness in him, probably what a captain shouldn’t have.

As much as P.K. is liked by his teammates, do they look up to him at this point the way young players in Chicago look up to Jonathan Toews, or in Anaheim to Ryan Getzlaf, or Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh?

Maybe after this season, after P.K. buys a few rounds, wins another Norris, and is voted Most Popular Guy on the Team by his teammates, then it’ll be time to put the C on him. He’s almost there. Just not quite.

The head scratcher for me is why Brendan Gallagher’s name comes up. As great a player he is, with a heart as big as can be, and a guy who would lead by example as a captain should, he’s still a kid. It’s obvious by the one minute interviews we see. He still talks like a kid. He was like a son to Josh Gorges and his wife when Gally rented a room at the Gorges resident.

Of course you could say Sidney Crosby roomed at Mario Lemieux’s house and was a captain at just 19, but these are two different personalities. I’m sure Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was also 19 when given the C, is a man/boy too. There are guys like that. I once had a teammate when I was about 15 who had to shave every day and had this serious man strength. He looked older than the coaches.

Imagine if everyone had his same burning desire as Gallagher. But he’s not captain material because he’s a kid and I don’t understand why it keeps coming up.

Max Pacioretty might make a fine captain, but it seems he gets into areas when he has to re-screw his head back on from time to time. He’s kind of like me in this regard only I probably take longer to recover. It’s not a knock on Max for having his up and down moments. It’s about a captain not having those moments. One who could help Max along when he’s feeling out of sorts.

A captain has to be a big brother. Jean Beliveau was good like this. He knew how to handle all sorts of egos in the dressing room. Max doesn’t seem to have this in his genes, nor does Markov, Plekanec, Gallagher, and P.K., although at least it seems that way to a guy who only watches them on TV and has never been in the room except during the Bell Centre tour.

The captain situation sort of mirrors the team situation. Getting there, but just not quite. I think it’ll be Subban wearing the C in the 2015-16 campaign if he doesn’t screw it up in the meantime by making his teammates want to throttle him.

It’ll interesting to see how this captain thing unfolds. Just wish we had an obvious choice.

 

 

Finally Lapointe

The news that Guy Lapointe’s number 5 will join Bernie Geoffrion’s in the rafters is terrific and overdue.

Guy Lapointe was one of the greatest defencemen to ever wear the CH. He was part of the “The Big Three” with Serge Savard and Larry Robinson in those 1970s glory years when no other team came close to having such a trio, combining skill and muscle to help win games and take no nonsense from the Broad St. Bullies or anyone else who might have tried.

Add the smart, great skating, hard shooting Lapointe to the mix of big farmboy Robinson, who could skate, dominate and was physically intimidating, and Savard, who swooped, swirled, and made the right play like poetry in motion, and you’ve got “The Big Three”, a threesome other teams knew they were in deep against.

Serge Savard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986 and his number 18 was retired in 2006.

Larry Robinson was inducted into the Hall in 1995 and his number 19 sent to the rafters in 2007.

Guy Lapointe was inducted in 1993 and his sweater will soon join his fellow blueliners. So deserved.

0075The Globe and Mail called Ken Dryden’s The Game, “the sports book of the year, or maybe the decade, or maybe the century.” Dryden took us into the inner circle of the late 1970’s Montreal Canadiens, when they were the best team in hockey, poised to win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup. It’s a great book, written with humility and intelligence, and I know many of you have already read it. I just wanted to share a few things that I really like.

I’m sure Ken Dryden had a little smile on his face as he wrote about Lapointe, affectionately know as “Pointu”, who Dryden says in the early to mid-1970’s, except for Bobby Orr, was the best defenceman in the NHL.

0014

Here’s some excerpts from “The Game” regarding Guy Lapointe”

“In the shower, (Yvon) Lambert is singing. Lapointe grabs a bucket and tiptoes to the bathroom sink like a cartoon spy. He fills the bucket with cold water, and peers around the corner of the shower. Lambert is still singing. Lapointe winds up; we hear a scream. Lapointe dashes back into the room and quickly out again, dropping his bucket. Lambert, still lathered up, races after him, screaming threats. Losing his trail, Lambert stops to pick up the bucket, fills it, and resumes his search. Finally he finds Lapointe hiding in a toilet stall; he backs him into the room. Naked, sobbing, pleading pathetically, Lapointe falls to his knees, his hands clutched in front of him. Lambert winds up to throw the water, then stops: in Lapointe’s hands are Lambert’s clothes.”

“The laces to my skates have been shredded into macaroni-size pieces too small for knots to hold together. I look up at a roomful of blank faces. Before I can say his name, Lapointe, who cuts my laces twenty or twenty-five times a year, though I have never seen him do it, gives me an injured look. “Hey, get the right guy,” he shouts.”

“Hey Reggie (Houle),” he shouts, “That was a helluva play ya made last night.” Houle goes silent; we begin to laugh. “Yup,” Robinson continues slowly, drawing out each word, “not often ya see a guy on a breakaway put it in the crowd.” Lapointe snaps down his newspaper. “Don’t let it bother ya, Reggie,” he says sympathetically. “No harm done.” Surprised, we all look up. “The goalie just woulda stopped ya anyway,” he says, and we all laugh harder.

“Ah, I’m full,” Lapointe announces, wiping his face with napkin. “Anybody want my ice cream?” Shaking their heads, murmuring, everyone says no. Finally, after looking around, certain that no one else wants it, “Um, yeah sure,” I say tentatively, ya sure ya don’t want it?” Lapointe shakes his head, and hands it to me. I take a bite. Before I can taste what I’ve eaten, the room explodes with laughter – sour cream with chocolate sauce.

“Calisse, now I done it,” he groans. “Kenny, who’s a good lawyer? I need some help.” He looks genuinely worried this time.
“Call a guy named Ackerman,” I tell him earnestly.
“What?” he says. “Ackerman,” I repeat louder, and suddenly I know what’s coming next. “I’m not deaf,” he says indignantly, and walks away laughing.

Meeting Serge

Savard

Serge Savard was at my workplace yesterday to sign a bunch of stuff, and because he was quite busy I really didn’t want to interrupt him. But I managed to chat with him a bit anyway.

I told him that not only did I follow his career through his many years as a Hab, but also during the 1972 Summit Series when he was a member of Team Canada.

He was friendly and more than happy to talk a bit about the Summit Series, mentioning that he wore number 23 in the series instead of his usual #18 because Jean Ratelle had seniority.

Serge didn’t play game one in Montreal when the Soviets shocked almost everyone with their 7-3 win, but Serge said he wasn’t surprised, he’d played against Russian teams as a junior, and he knew they were good. And he still disagrees about not dressing for that big game one.

“They decided to go with some slower guys like Don Awrey, who was conservative and would be down often from blocking shots, when I think a guy like me who was a bit more offensive should have played. I knew they were fast, and I would’ve been a better fit.”

Serge also brought up a point he seemed pretty darn proud of, and I don’t blame him. “Every game I played we didn’t lose. Four wins and a tie. I didn’t play in game one, had a bad foot for game four in Vancouver, and they rested me in Moscow for game five. But then I played the last three over there.”

I asked him about the magnificent Valeri Kharlamov. “One of the best ever,” said Serge. “I even got him into the Hall of Fame”! (Serge is an inductee selector). He also thinks Alexander Yakushev should be in the Hall.

It was cool to chat with a guy who has his name on eight Stanley Cups as a player and twice as Habs GM in ’86 and ’93, and who also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1969, was GM of the Habs in the mid-1980s, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986, and was awarded the Order of Canada.

He also wears a big honkin’ Stanley Cup ring on his finger.

That was it. A handshake and I was off to give my usual 187% again. I went back down later and he was gone.

I also found out that on my day off last Friday, Serge’s teammate on the Habs and Team Canada, HOFer Guy Lapointe, was in the office.

Plus – A Joke Serge Played on John Ferguson

After game 8 in Moscow in 1972, Fergie, who was Team Canada’s assistant coach, went around the dressing room and had all the players sign a stick that he planned on mounting in his den when he got home.

When the team got back to Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau was there to meet them and Fergie followed Savard through the reception line. Trudeau and Serge shook hands, and then Serge said to Trudeau, “By the way, Mr. Prime Minister, look what John Ferguson has brought you from Moscow – an autographed stick.”

Savard took the stick from Fergie’s hand and gave it to Trudeau.

Fergie never got it back, although Trudeau’s office called him after hearing about the joke and offered it back. But Fergie said Trudeau could keep it.