Category Archives: Tampa Bay Lightning

Bell Number Eight?

Hard to believe that seeing a game at the Bell Centre only ranks number 8 behind Minnesota, Washington, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, but that’s what the Stadium Journey people have decided in their new 2014 rankings.

I was sure there was no better experience than being at the Bell. In fact I’m still sure, regardless of what they say. Number 8 definitely beats Ottawa though, which comes in at a dismal 29th.

Here’s the link with new ratings for all the barns – Stadium Journey Arena Rankings.

Chick Webster

Yes, yes, he’s wearing a Rangers uniform. Please don’t hold that against him.

Chick

Over the past few months I’ve chatted and exchanged emails with 93-year old John “Chick” Webster and his son Rob, both of whom live up in the North Bay area. Serious hockey country. Cold winters.

Chick played just 14 games in the NHL, all with the Rangers during the 1949-50 season, but was a solid minor leaguer in the EHL, AHL, PCHL, and WHL.

An example of a fine player who couldn’t crack the bigs because in those days, only 120 could.

Real nice fellow, who says he’s not like so many others of his generation who insist the game was better way back when. It’s great now and he enjoys watching, he says. But if he and others shot the puck in the way they do now, they’d be benched. “We had to carry it in, there was none of that”.

A guy who played hockey when the pay was low and you didn’t shoot it in.

Chick was playing for Baltimore in the Eastern Hockey League in 1940-41 and decided to enlist. “I figured the war would go on for a few months, maybe a year, and then I’d come right back and carry on.

Five years later he finally got back to Baltimore.

Chick also played for the notorious Eddie Shore while with Syracuse, and says he was a terrible boss, which is also what anyone who ever played for Shore says. “Shore said we should never take time off, and if there was no ice available, we were supposed to practice on the streets. I ended up quitting.”

He would soon have a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks of the old Western Hockey League, and ended up playing senior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie of the Northern Ontario Hockey league.

It’s also a family affair. Chick’s brother Don played for the Leafs in 1943-44. Rob’s nephew Jason Lafreniere was a Nordiques, a Ranger, and a Tampa Bay Lightning. And Jason’s dad helped win the Memorial Cup for the Hamilton Red Wings back in 1962.

Good people, these Websters. I should ask Chick who he’s cheering for in the Habs-Rangers series.

 

Dear Wife

The title was supposed to be Dear Lucy and not Dear Wife, but I thought people might think it was about Lucic and we can’t have that.

My wife Lucy is in a Russia right now and she’s a huge Habs fan who happens to be missing this dramatic little thing we call the Habs-Bruins series.

She’s missed a lot, don’t you think?

Dear Lucy,

Game six was a beauty. Your favourite player Pleks was great. Your other favourite player Max came through in a big way. Your other favourite player P.K. carries on in his superstar ways. And one of your new favourite players Dale Weise flexed his muscles in front of Milan Lucic, mocking the thug for his actions in game five.

The boys skated and never stopped working, and your favourite player Carey Price, who reminds you of your son Denis, shut the door. And I’m happy to report that your favourite blond-haired player Lars, who you want to mother, has continued to shine.

I also want you to know that your favourite Russians (aside from your sons of course), Andrei and Alexei are crunching bones, giving Carey a hand around the crease, and making sweet passes, just like you knew they would.

You’d be so proud of the whole bunch of them.

The Bruins of course are oily greaseballs as you know, and they don’t represent normal North American humans, as you also know. More like those annoying Ottomans from a few centuries back that your ancestors disagreed with.

You really need to get up at 3 am and watch if you can find a channel showing it. Or have recorded Putin speeches and clips of him playing beer league hockey preempted everything else?

I know you’d be a nervous wreck and maybe it’s a good thing you’re in Russia right now and not watching it. And with you being away, the cat’s eardrums are finally healing after being near you when the Canadiens scored big ones in the Tampa series.

I just wish you were here so you could have seen how well they played in game six, and experience the excellent atmosphere around Montreal right now. It’s like the Bolshevik Revolution, only bigger and more important.

Could you also cook me some lasagna and mail it?

Miss and love you,

Dennis

Keep The Ball Rolling

No one says it’ll be easy, but if Carey Price can be outstanding in every game, the power play clicks, the team stays away from the after-the-whistle nonsense (as Max said), and all four lines contribute like they did against Tampa Bay, the Canadiens, underdogs for sure, can beat the Bruins.

Take them out and move on.

The dream never dies.

Go Habs!

Second Round Coming Up!

At a loss for words here but I’ll give it the old college try.

Max, with 43 seconds left, sends our Montreal Canadiens into the second round and I’m numb and left exhausted. And it’s only the first round.

A sweep over the pesky Tampa Bay Lightning. Two periods of perfect hockey where the team would take a nice 3-1 lead, then a slight letdown in the third and the Lightning would tie it.

But Max, who couldn’t buy a goal for the past week or two, shoved it under Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis for the winner and all’s well in Habsland.

What a sport hockey is. Especially when the good guys give us an incredibly serious bang for the buck so to speak.

The agony and the ecstasy.

Moving on to round two.

A team playing with passion and drive.

Rene Bourque coming alive and again a supreme force. He never lived up to expectations after coming over in the Cammalleri trade. Until now. And in a big way.

Lars Eller, criticized frequently this season, especially on talk radio, coming through again and being the smooth and effective forward we’d only seen glimpses of this season.

Daniel Briere proving he’s a big time money player.

Everyone contributing, all the way down the line, with tonight’s goals from Briere, Eller, Gally, and then Max, which is a goal from each of the four lines.

And although the Vanek, DD, Max line was on the quiet side, Vanek would assist (along with P.K.) on Max’s winner. So the points from the line came anyway.

Imagine how proud papa Ray Pacioretty, sitting in the stands, must be.

The team was unreal in the first and second period, creating rush after rush, skating like the wind, checking Tampa to a standstill, clearing the net, making the right passes, doing all the right things.

I watched them play like that and I saw a real team. A team that takes a back seat to no one.

Now it’s a week’s wait. That’s fine. It’s going to take me that long to recuperate.

Random Notes:

Canadiens outshot the Bolts 37-23.

 

 

 

 

Finish It Tonight Please

Bury them tonight and be done with it.

Because even though Tampa’s chances of winning this series are slim to none, coming back from being down 3 games has been done before – Toronto over Detroit in 1942 to win the Cup, the Islanders in 1975 over Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals, and Philadelphia over Boston in the Eastern semifinals.

But I like our chances in so many ways. And a nice rest while other teams pound each other means healing wounds, working on the power play, and not getting injured.

As they say, why wait for Christmas, do it now.

Christmas

 

 

Canadiens Push Tampa To The Edge

Whew. That was stressful. But the boys prevailed, edge the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2, take a 3-0 lead in the series, and I’ll bet the bars and restaurants in downtown Montreal were rockin’ afterwards.

Of course, more will be said about a controversial non-goal by the Lightning than the fact that the Canadiens never panicked and held the fort when Tampa picked it up a few notches in the second and third period.

Frankly, the disallowed goal was a tough judgement call, there was some interference with Carey Price, although it might have had nothing to do with the puck going in.

The bottom line for me is, the Canadiens have their fair share of calls go against them in games over the years. Every team has. It’s hockey, the game is over, the boys won, we feel good, and that’s that.

It was a barnburner for sure. From the pre-game light show that began with the Stanley Cup banners lighting up one by one, to the amazing display on the ice of past and present players and voices, of Rocket hugging the Cup, Beliveau celebrating, Lafleur charging up the ice, and guys on the present team going full-tilt.

There was the kid wearing number 9, lighting things up with the torch. And legendary Ginette Reno belting out Oh Canada.

It’s the kind of thing only Montreal can do. With Habs haters grudgingly admitting it’s done well here, although complaining about the Cup banners and Habs fans stuck in the glory days sort of thing I suppose.

Just eleven seconds in, after Madame Reno had belted out the anthem and the puck was dropped, Rene Bourque burst in and beat Anders Lindback and it was 1-0.

Pre-game goosebumps and an early goal that latecomers missed because they had one extra beer at the Peel Pub.

Bourque once again played a fine game, used his size and great skating ability, and was dangerous often. It only took him 83 games to wake up. Is that an NHL record?

Every year the playoffs produce an unsuspecting star, one we would never predict in a million years.

So far in this series it’s been Rene Bourque, the one many of us wanted out of town on the next stagecoach. He’s gone from dreadfully ineffective to hugely effective. Who knew?

The biggest problem on the night was the Canadiens inability to bulge the twine on a big four-minute power play in the first frame, although they looked good and moved the puck around well.

Looking good and moving the puck around doesn’t guarantee goals though. But it kind of bodes well for the future.

They couldn’t score on that four-minute power play, and in the second, Tampa, newly-invigorated and playing with desperation, would tie it up. And it was after that that the controversial no-goal decision was made that would have given the visitors a 2-1 lead but didn’t.

P.K. Subban then dazzled with a rush that brought him around the back of Tampa’s goal, sent the puck over to Brendan Gallagher, and it was a 2-1 Habs lead instead of the other way around.

Absolutely exciting period, edge of the seat type stuff, and the third would be too.

Tomas Plekanec would send his team into a two-goal lead but a Tampa long shot flew by a screened Carey Price, which made for a seriously nerve-wracking finish, ending with a sigh of relief for everyone except Lightning fans as the Canadiens squeeze it out 3-2, and the noose is tightened.

The vibes around Montreal today were extraordinary, even in St. Hubert. Hockey was in the air. The flags were flying. I can only imagine what it’ll be like leading up to Tuesday’s game four.

A  stranglehold on the series. Finish it off in four and practice the power play. It’s the one achilles’ heel on a team that is playing well overall. The Canadiens went 0-5 in this game, which is just about the norm nowadays.

Random Notes:

Canadiens outshot TB 31-29.

Max had some great chances to break out of his scoring drought, but remains snakebitten. It’s coming though. We know how it works with him. Often it’s a flukey goal that lights the fuse.

Injured Alex Galchenyuk must surely be wishing he was out there being a part of this.

 

 

 

 

 

Weise Ends It

Dale Weise would score at 19:08 of of the first overtime frame to give his and our Montreal Canadiens a 5-4 win and and a nice one-game lead in what should be an outstanding series.

Fast paced, close, tense, some bad blood, and the right team winning. Now that’s hockey!

The Canadiens easily could have lost though, especially after allowing four goals on just fourteen shots. But thanks to some timely goals and Weise pulling the trigger, all’s well in Habsland.

Carey Price wasn’t particularly sharp, but the Canadiens were still able to get it done, even with him being slightly shaky, and the boys on this night outplayed Tampa for most of the first period, much of the second and third, and most of the overtime.

It was one of those nights that whenever play moved into Montreal’s end, the possibility was there that things could go south quickly. And four times it did.

But the Canadiens never let things get out of hand, they scored some timely goals, and that big first game is won by the team that should have and did.

Tampa had opened the scoring in the first period but just nineteen seconds later, Tomas Plekanec wired it home and the teams went to their rooms all even, although Montreal had outshot the Floridians 14-4.

In the second frame, not long after Brendan Gallagher took a puck in the throat from an Alexei Emelin shot from the blueline, Steven Stamkos would notch his first of two on the night and put his team ahead 2-1. Gallagher would return thankfully. But he might not be happy with Emelin.

Back and forth it went, playoff hockey at its finest, fans everywhere on the edge of their seats and couches I’m sure, and in the midst of scrums and battles, Brian Gionta would take a nice pass from Lars Eller and score a big shorthanded marker that caused Luci and I to yell and once again scare the cat that has happened far too often this year.

It’s going to be a long series for the cat.

The Canadiens would take the lead in the third period after Brian Gionta had corralled the puck at his blueline and got it to Lars Eller who danced up the ice and found the back of the net. A beautiful goal, and the Eller, Gionta and Bourque line skated well and created chances all evening. Hell, all the lines skated well I thought.

Sidenote: P.K. Stock said we have one good line and the other three suck. Just so you know.

One of my big dreams is to be rich enough so I could have spare TVs and whenever Stock comes on, I shoot the TV out the way Elvis used to.

Again the pesky Lightning would reply after a turnover, and the way Price was looking in nets, I experienced one of those strong sinking feelings that I’m really not crazy about.

Things would perk up though after Thomas Vanek converted a great pass from David Desharnais, but Steven Stamkos wasn’t through on the night as his second goal would even things at four apiece. Tampa’s captain is dangerous. Therrien’s gonna have to come up with a plan to calm this guy down down.

Sadly, Montreal’s power play continues to shoot blanks, and when they were given a power play with just 2:01 left in the third, the chance to win it was there on a silver platter. But again…..

Montreal’s man advantage at this stage of the year is confused and non-threatening. Throw out the power play drills they recently did in practice and come up with some new ones. Ask PJ Stock. Maybe he can help.

Overtime almost ended quickly when Max rang one off the post, and usually after something like that happens, the other teams scores. But Tampa didn’t, Dale Weise did, and at that point, I breathed a sigh of relief and now my heart is soaring like a Tawny-Headed Mountain-Finch.

Game two on Friday. Without sounding like a greedy bastard, another win would be good.

Habs outshot Tampa 44-25 on the night.

It’s Time

Finally it begins, 198 days from that dark October 1st evening when the Canadiens would lose 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre.

Through highs and lows they took us, from four and five-game winning streaks to three and four-game losing streaks. But they always kept pace, always stayed in the hunt from start to finish.

Up and down we went, and in the end, when the long 82-game regular season finally drew to a close, we found our team finishing fourth in the east, a  fine100-point season to be proud of, with a goalie at the top of his game and a team that slowly but surely created chemistry within its ranks and a new and forceful first line in place.

Tampa’s number one goaltender Ben Bishop won’t start and we don’t know if he’ll even finish. Brandon Prust seems ready to go. The penalty killing has been spectacular. And our goaltender backstopped Team Canada to gold at Sochi and carries on now as the best in the business.

I’m not going to try and dissect the lines and matchups, or who’s dressing and who isn’t. I prefer to see how everything unfolds. Criticism can wait until it’s well-deserved.

For now, for me at least, it’s time to get excited, nervous and more than hopeful, and embrace the Montreal Canadiens as they attempt to give us and themselves what we last saw in 1993.

It’s time once again to bring out Annakin Slayd’s “Feels Like ’93”.

It’s Their Own Fault

Tampa won the game they had to win, a 1-0 shootout over Washington, and the Canadiens couldn’t solve a New York Islanders team they should have easily beaten.

Thus, the Canadiens lose home ice advantage.

It’s their own fault. The playoffs are hard enough without handing home ice to the other team but they made their bed. The best thing to do now is win in less than seven so Tampa’s home ice is all for naught.

It’s also very interesting to see how a couple of things play out Tampa Bay-wise.

Will Ben Bishop suit up in the series? And what’s going to happen to Ryan Malone, who was busted early Saturday on a DUI and possession of a gram and a half of cocaine? One would have to think he’s in a heap of trouble.

In 1977 Rangers forward Don Murdoch was busted at the Toronto airport with 4.5 grams of coke and was suspended by the league for an entire season, although it was lifted after 40 games.

If Ryan Malone laces up in the playoffs, it won’t seem right. I’m anxious to hear what happens. Will the league put the hammer down on this? And will they do it right away?

Malone’s also a bit of a dirty player who cold-cocked Chris Campoli back in 2011 (no suspension), and head-hunted Alexei Emelin in a game in 2012 after Emelin had leveled him with an old-time cruncher that was clean as a whistle.

This time around, it’s not an-ice problem. Cocaine and a DUI is a mighty serious combo, terrible for the Lightning and the NHL. The rep takes a hit. Not exactly role model type of stuff for kids to read and hear about.

Bishop on the other hand is a different story. He’s injured but if he’s healthy and plays, that’s fine. But if he doesn’t play, them’s the breaks.