Category Archives: Tampa Bay Lightning

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.

 

Murray Gets Three

I like his size and his presence, it’s just his skating and puck handling that leaves much to be desired.

The size, presence, and lack of skating and puck-handling talent will be absent for a bit, as Douglas Murray has been suspended for three games for his elbow to the head of Michael Kostka during Tuesday’s Tampa Bay game.

Maybe now we’ll see more of Jarred Tinordi, or even Nathan Beaulieu or Greg Pateryn.

Toppled In Tampa Bay

Not great this one. Blatant giveaways, a rash of penalties, a Lightning shorthanded goal.

3-1 Tampa Bay, ending the Canadiens five game winning streak. A solid game by them and far from solid from the visitors.

Except for one guy, Carey Price, who was unreal all night, diving and sprawling and throwing his glove and pads out and taking sure goals from the likes of Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell and a host of others.

Price kept it close and made it deceiving. The Canadiens were out of sorts and the score could’ve been embarrassing. So maybe we should close the book on this one and throw it in the fireplace.

More than anything it was the parade to the penalty box, with some deserved and some not, which is what you get when Chris Lee is working and the Habs are involved.

Lee’s dad is or must’ve been a hardcore Bruins or Leafs fan. Can there be any other explanation?

And those giveaways. Every period we saw loosey goosey puck handling that ended up with Price coming to the rescue. Except the time when David Deshanais gave the puck away on a power play, which ultimately was the winning goal for the Bolts.

Now we’re faced with a suspension, compliments of Douglas Murray landing a vicious elbow into the face of Michael Kostka, which brought the stretcher out but thankfully wasn’t needed.

Just one of those games where the Canadiens were often outplayed, they shot themselves in the foot a bunch of times, and the one saving grace from this is that the Lightning are probably slightly spooked by Price and he’ll be in their heads come playoff time.

The Habs are now officially in the playoffs, thanks to Washington and New Jersey losing, but it was only a matter of time anyway so no need to shout or sing ole.

Random Notes:

Habs lone goal was scored by Brendan Gallagher, his 19th of the season. Sure wish he would’ve slipped the puck over to Galchenyuk on that two-on-one late in the game though.

Tampa outshot the Canadiens 33-26, but it didn’t seem like a 33-26 game to me. Ben Bishop could’ve read The Hockey News for long stretches when his team was peppering Price.

Andrei Markov was hurt in the third and went to the room.

Next up – Friday in Ottawa to meet a team that still has a faint chance of making the postseason. So they’ll be hungry and the gang can’t let up because home ice advantage against the Lightning is still in question.

 

Could Be Tight In Tampa

TB 1

TB 2

Habs in a big game tonight in Tampa Bay, and I thank Mike McKim for taking these pics and sending them along when he saw the Canadiens there earlier in the season.

The Lightning have won two of three games this year against the Habs, and all three have been tight affairs. And identical scores.

Tampa won 2-1 in a shootout in Montreal on Nov. 12, Montreal would top the Lightning 2-1 on December 28 in a shootout. And the Lightning would score with just 24 seconds left in overtime to win 2-1 in Montreal.

I’m going to predict a 2-1 game tonight.

Canadiens can clinch with a win.

 

Price And Big Line Just Too Much

A period and a half of magic from the Desharnais, Max, Vanek line and solid netminding throughout from Carey Price added up to a 4-1 win over the Panthers in Florida, and the team just keeps rolling along.

A five-game game winning streak to end the month of March. Eight wins in nine games.

Just amazing what’s transpired. And in my book, more than anything it’s been Thomas Vanek who’s lit the fire.

The DD, Vanek, Max line combined for all four goals and seven points on the night, and so important is the fact that the team is finally getting serious close-in chances now, led mostly by Vanek.

Until he showed up, play seemed far too often on the perimeter, except for most nights when Brendan Gallagher crashed the net two or three times.

Now things are different. Play is down low on a more regular basis. And the power play, which often had been so feeble, has become much more of threat even when the lamp isn’t always lit.

Vanek knows what to do with the puck, the chemistry with his linemates is a sight to behold, and a dangerous line like that, combined with solid work and contributions from the other three lines, gives us a team transformed.

And yes, it was mostly all Panthers in the second half, outshooting the Canadiens 15-3 in the third period, but no matter, the Habs held a 3-1 lead before the empty netter, and they played to protect the lead, not pad it.

According to all sorts of folks, the Canadiens were supposed to fade in the stretch. And the opposite happened.

Random Notes:

Max’s two goals gives him 35 on the season, which is a tremendous season to be sure. Would love to see him reach 40, but with just six games to go, it’ll be tough but not impossible.

Plenty of high sticks to the face from the Panthers. More than what we’d normally see on most nights.

Panthers outshot Montreal 37-19.

The Eggs played well in the early going, but like most of the team, weren’t exactly burning things up later on. But that’s fine. The end justifies the means.

Scott Gomez played tonight for the Panthers. Hard to watch the guy. He triggers so many bad memories.

HNIC three stars went to Price, Max, and Vanek.

Tuesday, the guys head across state to visit the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it goes without saying that this is a big one. The team Montreal will meet in the opening round. The team they’re fighting it out with for home ice advantage in that round. And a win would make a solid statement for things to come.

Toronto lost to Detroit Saturday night, their eighth straight. Just an amazing meltdown by Toronto at the most important time in the season.  So glad I didn’t grow up a Leafs fan.

 

 

 

Toker Stones Ducks

Dustin Tokarski, in nets for the Canadiens for his very first time, came up big in stopping 39 of 42 shots as the boys beat the quackers 4-3 in a shootout and grab a massive two points and a ton of confidence.

Tokarski had previously seen big time duty in the NHL when he was between the pipes for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009-10  for two games and then another five in 2011-12, but he played like a seasoned pro in what must have been a nerve-wracking experience last night.

How great is it when your gold-medalist goes down, backup Budaj, fills in nicely, and then Budaj’s backup, Tokarski, also does his job in fine fashion.

It’s very satisfying for all concerned. Except for other teams and people who hate the Habs of course.

Montreal came out flying and took a big 2-0 lead on goals by Brian Gionta and Max with his 30th of the season (which is a fine season indeed).

Max has been playing on another level since returning from the Olympics. More fire, more jump, more confidence. At the perfect time of the year.

Things got slightly dismal in the second frame when a puck got behind a screened Tokarski, another hit a glass support and caromed in while Toker was preparing to corral it around the boards, and then after a terrible and confused Habs power play, the Ducks took the lead.

At this point, it all could have fallen apart like a great party raided by the cops, but credit to the Canadiens, they never gave up, and in the last minute of the second period, Brendan Gallagher banged it home and game was tied.

The game was scoreless in the third period and overtime, but in the shootout, Desharnais, Briere, and finally Andrei Markov beat Jonas Hiller and it made my heart soar like a Himalayan Snowcock.

This was a Habs team with good legs, with jump (aside from their zero for five power play attempts), and the many Habs fans at Anaheim’s Honda Center certainly must have enjoyed themselves.

I know I did, from the friendly confines of my apartment the morning after. I tried to stay up last night but my eyelids felt like they had pucks stapled to them.

Random Notes:

Shots on goal – Ducks 42, Habs 31

Lars Eller was a healthy scratch, and George Parros was given a small tribute on the screen, in which he gave a heartfelt response. George spent six seasons as a Duck.

A huge win. A road trip like this, against some of the league’s elite, seemed daunting, and although they lost a tight one (2-1) the other night in L.A., they came out with jump against the league leading Ducks, played well, and won the thing.

This has to be great for their confidence, and with Weaver and Vanek poised to join their new team, who knows? Maybe a great march onwards and upwards is in the making.

Coyotes on the agenda tonight (9:00 pm ET), and we’re expecting the same jump and character as we just saw. So c’mon boys, keep it up.

 

Again, a 2-1Loss At Home

Two goals for the Habs in their two games played this weekend is a bit on the feeble side, wouldn’t you say?

A 2-1 overtime loss to Tampa Bay, and a 2-1 regulation time loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

And at the risk of stretching it a bit, before Montreal’s previous two games in beating Boston and Carolina, they had lost games by the scores of 5-0, 4-1, 5-1, and 5-3.

Yes, a bit on the feeble side. But that’s what this season is and will probably remain. Some fine games and a whack of lousy ones.

The problem is, they’re slowly inching closer to being out of the playoffs. So the whack of lousy ones needs to be less than a whack.

It’s imperative that they get their asses in gear.

We need to be patient, says Marc Bergevin. But Bergevin’s only been the GM for a short while. General managers before him told us in different ways that we needed to be patient too.

I hate the patient thing. I don’t know how to fix it quickly but I hate it anyway. Patience and bad moves isn’t supposed to mean two decades.

Being patient is for disciples of the Dali Lama. Bad moves is me on the dance floor.

And speaking of bad moves….. there was Bob Gainey, who once said “”We are extremely pleased to have acquired a player of the caliber of Scott Gomez.  Scott is an elite player who will certainly contribute to the success of our team for years to come.”

The beat goes on, on and off the ice. Don’t worry, front office. We fully expect to see a powerhouse in the next few years. Until we don’t, because we need to wait just a little bit longer than a few years.

And when a few years come and go, we’ll wait a few more.

The Canadiens started slow in the first period on Sunday, which not only happens often, but just seems to me to be inexcusable.

Start slow? How come? I prefer the rarely tested “starting fast” idea.

But they did pick up steam, and in the second period, after the Jets had made it 1-0, Brian Gionta first rang one off the post and shortly after, bulged the twine to give us all hope.

But lo and behold, in the third frame, Carey Price misplayed a puck near the crease and the Winnipeggers grabbed the lead and that was that.

PK scored on his own net yesterday, and Price fumbled the ball today.

Two days, two miscues, two 2-1 losses.

Just not a good time. And now is a chance to use a tremendously creative cliche I’ve just made up and one you’ve never heard before – “we’ll take it one game at a time”.

Because on Tuesday when it’s the Flames in town, the gang might be sensational.

In fact, they might be so good, they could even score three goals.

How great would that be?

Random Notes:

Brendan Gallagher played his heart out, worked like nobody’s business, and tussled often with Mark Stuart, who’s listed at 6’2, 213 lbs.

Some players have an abundance of heart like Gally. Others, like…….., don’t.

Flames on Tuesday, Canucks on Thursday, Carolina Saturday. Then it’s the Olympic break.

 

Could’ve But Didn’t

Bell

Luci and I were at the Bell Centre today to see the Canadiens drop a 2-1 overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and as you can see, we were up fairly high.

But having said that, it was still way closer than most seats at NHL outdoor games.

And not only that, we got to see two goals down at our end. Daniel Briere’s in the the third period that tied the game at one, and P.K. Subban’s deflection in the second that put the Lightning up by one in the first place.

On a Habs power play no less.

I’m not mad at P.K. for that big Lightning goal in a game that featured almost no scoring. We’ve seen goals like that over the years from different players.

It’s a natural instinct to stick the stick out when the puck’s near the goal.

As long as he never does it again. Once, maybe twice, in a career is enough thank you very much.

It just wasn’t a barn burner, which is what one hopes for when going to a game. Montreal got chances only here and there, and I found myself glancing often at the scoreboard that showed cute babies in little Habs jerseys asleep in mom or dad’s arms.

I wanted to see a madhouse, people all around me yelling and screaming, but it wasn’t to be. The team just didn’t provide enough incentive to raise the roof.

The Lightning had more opportunities, but Carey Price, who was awarded the Molson Cup for January beforehand, was sparkling often.

The Canadiens still could’ve won it though, it they’d created more chances. But as has been the case so often, the hammer wasn’t down a lot. Maybe one of those little kid’s hammers, but not the big honkin’ workingman’s hammer.

After Briere’s goal in the third, the boys picked it up a notch or two and went hard in overtime. P.K. Subban weaved and wove like he was on a mission to correct his own-net goal, but although we oohed and aahhed, nothing much came to pass.

And  it was all for naught, because with 24 seconds left in overtime, the puck found its way behind Price and that was it.

They got a point and we made our way to Ste-Catherines where we drowned our sorrows with smoked meat at Reuben’s.

Random Notes:

Brandon Prust was in a scrap with Jean-Philippe Cote early in the first, and then late in the second, he and Lightning goalie Ben Bishop had a slight disagreement, as it appeared Bishop didn’t appreciate Prust telling him his mother wears army boots.

Carey Price skated up to get a closer looked and was given a penalty for leaving the crease.

Christian Thomas saw some action for the Habs in just his second NHL game and was given 8:16 seconds of ice time, just 25 seconds less than Briere.

A kid sat beside P.A. announcer Michel Lacroix and read the Habs starting lineup.

I have a beef here. A serious beef. I’ve been trying for more than 50 years to be stick boy for one game. And some kid who’s been a Habs fan for only a couple of years gets to read the lineup?

Michel Lacroix has an excellent voice. For me, he’s as good as Claude Mouton was.

Shots on goal TB 36, Habs 29.

Next up – Sunday at 1 pm again, only this time it’s the Winnipeg Jets.