Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Well I Woke Up Sunday Morning

It’s Sunday morning and although the grass needs cutting, I can’t get out there and do it because a little baby is sleeping. What a fantastic excuse!

Nathan Beaulieu has signed a two-year contact with the Habs, at a million per. Great to  have this done, it doesn’t break the bank, and it should inspire the young fellow to be all he can be and ink a whopper in a few years.

It seems like only yesterday that we debated the idea of who would win a full-time job first, Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi, but Beaulieu came through with his skating, puckhandling and poise, while Tinordi lagged behind because of his tentativeness with the puck. But we can’t give up on the big fellow, mainly because he’s a big fellow.

And regarding Beaulieu and his dad’s assault charge in 2013, it came to light only recently that the two had heard someone at a party saying Kane’s blog sucked and they naturally took matters into their own hands. “Nobody says that and gets away with it,” said papa Jacques Beaulieu.

The Leafs have signed former Leaf Wally Stanowski to a one-year deal. Stanowski, 96, says he’s anxious to suit up as it’s been awhile, and if someone can help him onto the ice and then off again, he feels he should be at least as mobile as Dion Phaneuf, and probably a better fighter.

Below, Wally at a recent press conference. “With Montreal inking Beaulieu, we felt this signing was necessary to keep pace,” said Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “All we ask is that he quits smoking.”

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Other tidits: The Chicago Blackhawks have taken a 3-2 series over Tampa Bay, the Arizona Coyotes are in building lease trouble, and NBC’s Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus says playoff beards should go.

It’s hard to know which is the most important of the three. Probably the Cup Final, although as a Habs fan, any playoff passion has been squeezed out like that last drop from a bottle of Four Aces. And then, of course, the Coyotes situation, which everyone should be used to by now, and which could possibly end with Quebec getting their well-deserved team.

But the beard thing is definitely important too.

“I just don’t like the beards,” said Lazarus. “You can’t see their faces. Although, for that very reason, it was good when Brad Marchand grew one.”

For me, I don’t know what to think. The Rocket and Beliveau never grew playoff beards. What about that?

Below, Lazarus at his recent press conference, explaining the beard problem.

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Summer Windbag

May 20 – Mike Babcock leaves the Detroit Red Wings to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the deal calling for 50 million bucks over eight years. Seriously, that’s more than I made at BC Ferries.

Last year Toronto brought in a hot shot advanced stats guy, and now it’s this coach. We’re all screwed. The Leafs will probably be fantastic from now on. Unstoppable every year until the two of them retire. Leafs fans are lucky.

May 21 – Babcock mentions at his big press conference that the Leafs are “Canada’s team”.

May 25 – Today I’ve been thinking about what Babcock said about Canada’s team. I wanted to know who Canada is, the one the team belongs to, so I typed in Canada 411 and had a look.

The problem is, there are quite a few people in Canada named Canada, and I’ve no idea which one the Leafs belong to. There’s Graham Canada in Brampton, Vicki Canada in Vancouver, Gorving Canada in Toronto, Sheldon Canada in Alberta, and a whole bunch in Manitoba, including Mervin and Terry. Others too, including Catherine Canada in Quebec. And then there’s the parents and siblings. All these Canadas, and at least one of them owns the Leafs. Right now we don’t know which one, but I’m hoping it’s Mervin.

Whichever Canada it is, maybe his or her granddad was part of the crew that helped build Maple leaf Gardens and took shares from Conn Smythe instead of money. And if it’s one of the Manitoba Canadas like Mervin, the neighbours probably had no idea. They thought the Canada clan down the road were Jets fans.

May 27 – Guy Lafleur says Brendan Gallagher should captain the Canadiens. Guy says what he thinks, and I say good for him, he doesn’t keep things bottled up inside which could lead to ulcers. Last year he put the hammer down on Max and Tomas Vanek for having lousy post seasons, before that it was Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau’s handling of Alex Kovalev, and in 2007 he said the Habs were a team of 4th liners. I’m sure there were more.

Management must grit their teeth when they find out that the Flower has spoken again.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what Guy or any of us think about who should wear the C. It should be put to a dressing room vote. They know each other. They have showers together. But call the vote when no one’s expecting so there’s no time for players to do some personal brown nosing to garner votes, like buying flowers for the other guys’ wives, or babysitting their kids.

And sadly, Carey Price’s name shouldn’t be on the ballot. You know, the goalie/captain thing. But if Price was a forward or d-man, it’s the captaincy for sure.

June 2 – Jeff Petry signs a new six year, $33 million contract with the Canadiens. I like the Habs blueline. You got yer P.K. and Petry and Beaulieu and Emelin and Pateryn and Tinordi. And yes, even Old Man Markov, who will be relying on smarts only from here on in, which is still good.

June 3 – The Stanley Cup Final featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks begins. Canada’s team isn’t involved. Probably next year because they have the coach and the stats guy. Mervin or Graham, or whichever Canada it is that the team belongs to, will be cheering wildly from Manitoba or wherever.

June 4 – Something slightly unusual happens to me today.

 

 

Habs Chill At Tremblant

The Canadiens are holed up at beautiful Mont-Tremblant, a resort village nestled in the Laurentian Mountains, far from the madding crowds.

Here they’re able to bond, practice nearby, nurse wounds, put shaving cream in teammates’ shoes, and focus on one particular order of business.

Sweeping the Sens.

I just don’t know why they need to escape at all.  Habs fans and the media are a laid-back bunch who would hardly bother them at all. Right?

The Canadiens have been heading to this spectacular region at playoff time off and on for decades, and below are a couple of write ups from my scrapbook when they were preparing to do battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964.

At that time they chilled out in Ste-Marguerite Station.

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A Train Carrying The Habs Nearly……

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There was a moment in time, just a month after I was born, when, according to a story I’d read somewhere a few years back, we almost lost the Montreal Canadiens after a train carrying the boys almost plunged into an icy river. We’re talking the Rocket and Doug and Butch and Elmer and the whole gang.

The Canadiens had fallen to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 in Toronto (which was bad enough) on December 20, 1950 , and hours later were heading back to Montreal.

Just 35 miles or so from the city, the train began to cross the Dorion bridge high above the St. Lawrence River, but a cracked wheel bearing caused the baggage car to hop the rails. Quickly the next four cars also left the track, and members of the Canadiens apparently moved to one side of their car to try and keep it from tipping.

Finally, after a few harrowing moments, the train managed to hug the rails and make it across. Barely.

Several passengers were injured although all of the Canadiens players were fine, and everyone was brought back to Montreal by another train and some buses.

But it was as close as can be to losing the entire Montreal Canadiens when their train came within a whisker of hurtling into the cold St. Lawrence below.

Imagine.

 

 

 

 

They Wanted To Meet Rocket

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When the Soviet all-stars, selected from various Moscow clubs, made their historic visit to Canada in November of 1957, their main requests were to see an NHL game and meet Maurice Richard.

They took in a game between Chicago and the Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens, and hoped that the Rocket would visit them in Ottawa on November 6 when the Soviets would play the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, “if the Rocket is fit to travel” they added.

I don’t know why the Rocket wouldn’t be fit to travel on November 6th. He hadn’t been injured and I think he’d played all 14 games to that point. But he sure wasn’t fit just seven days later when he severed his Achilles tendon in a game against Toronto and was gone for three months.

He’d only see action in 28 games that season, mostly because of this serious injury, and  that, along with the fact that he was now 36-years old, combined to make for a dismal season. Two years later he would hang ’em up for good.

And as far as I know, the meeting with the Russians in Ottawa didn’t happen, which of course hurt the already delicate Cold War situation (just joking). :-)

Here’s a photo from my scrapbook, showing the Rocket just seconds from having his Achilles tendon sliced.

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Lots To Read (If You Want)

I once phoned Hall of Famer and ex-Hab Bert Olmstead in Calgary (he was in the phone book), hoping to get him to talk about the old days with the Rocket and Stanley Cups etc. He hung up on me.

When I had my sports bar in Powell River, Frank Mahovlich and Red Storey came in while on an oldtimers tour. Frank told me the Montreal organization was so much better than the Leaf organization. We fed them a spaghetti dinner. That night, referee Storey, with a microphone, told the crowd that the spaghetti at Kane’s was the best.

I spoke to the Habs’ Jim Roberts after a game at the old Forum when I was about 13 , several years before it was renovated in 1968. He was nice to me and I decided to start a Jim Roberts fan club. I didn’t because I figured it was too much work and he wasn’t a good enough player.

I met the Rocket when he was refereeing an oldtimers game in Calgary. I told him he’d sent me a Christmas card when I was about 8 years old and he said he used to send out lots of cards but didn’t remember much at all about the old days. My sister took a picture of him, then the Rocket said he wanted me to take a picture of him with my sister.

My dad took me to a Montreal-Toronto game back in the 1950s. Somehow he corralled coach Toe Blake in the lobby and asked him to take my hockey book into the dressing room and get Doug Harvey to sign it. Blake did.

My peewee coach in Orillia, Jack Dyte, played 27 games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1943-44 season. He had one goal and 31 penalty minutes.  He played alongside Punch Imlach for the Quebec Aces in the old Quebec Senior League and against the Rocket before Richard joined the Habs.

When I lived in Ottawa, it was well known that a somewhat down-and-out Doug Harvey was living in a railway car (which was once used by Canadian PM John Diefenbaker) at the race track across the river in Hull. And what did I do? Nothing. Didn’t go there. Didn’t bring him any smokes or a bottle. Didn’t invite him home for a turkey dinner. Nothing. It’s a big regret.

I had breakfast with HOF goalie Glenn Hall when he came to Powell River for the Allan Cup back in the late-1990s. After breakfast I drove him around the area in my Hyundai Excel.

Butch Bouchard didn’t own a pair of skates until he was 16, and just four years later he’d made the NHL.

I grew up just down the street from Rick Ley, who was a solid defenceman for the Leafs in the late 1960’s and into the ’70s. He also played for the New England Whalers in the WHA and has his sweater retired in Hartford. He then went on to a coaching career in Vancouver and Toronto. He and I would sometimes skate on an outdoor rink before school, and in the summer, during a pickup baseball game, with him pitching and me catching without a mask, the batter tipped one of Ley’s pitches and the ball knocked my front tooth out. I’ve had plastic in my mouth ever since.

In the late 1960s, Rick Ley’s older brother Ron and his buddies threatened to take me behind the pool hall and cut my long hair.

Bep Guidolin played his first NHL game in 1942 with Boston. He’s the youngest player ever to play in the league, at 16 years old.

Floyd Curry attended his first Montreal Canadiens training camp in 1940 at just 15. He didn’t make the team but it’s still quite a feat.

Bobby Orr played for the Jr. A Oshawa Generals when he was just 14.

Hall Of Fame goalie Johnny Bower didn’t play his first NHL game until he was 30 when he was called up from the minors to the NY Rangers. He played one season, then three more in the minors. After that he was traded to Toronto when he was 34 years old (maybe older). Amazingly enough, Bower played goal all those years with poor eyesight and rheumatoid arthritis.

Claire Alexander, who played defence for the Leafs in the mid 1970s, came into the league when he was 29. Before that, he was a milkman in Orillia, Ontario (my hometown).

In the early 1960s, when I was about 12, my parish priest, Monsignor Lee, was somehow connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think it had to do with St. Michael’s College. At one point he took my buddy Ron Clarke and I to Peterborough to see an exhibition game between the Leafs and Chicago, and the afternoon before the game, we had dinner at the hotel with the Leafs’ brass. The players were in an adjoining room. Ron and I had dinner with the Monsignor, King Clancy, and Jim Gregory, who is now in the builder’s category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In the 1950s, New York tough guy Lou Fontinato (who later was traded to Montreal), got into a scrap with Rocket Richard. Fontinato got Richard’s sweater off and proceeded to rip it to shreds with his skates. A few weeks later, Fontinato received a bill from the Canadiens for $38.50.

I was a milkman in Calgary for awhile and Doug Risebrough was one of my customers. His wife, who looked after the milk situation, gave me a small tip at Christmas. Risebrough played 13 years in the NHL, with both Montreal and Calgary. When he was eating his Cheerios with the milk I had faithfully delivered, he was coaching the Flames. I remember years before, in Ottawa, when the Habs played a pre-season exhibition game at the old Civic Centre, the buzz in the papers was the new promising rookie who would be playing that night in his first NHL game. That player was Doug Risebrough.

I played on the same Midget team as Dan Maloney for one game in Barrie after our Orillia team got eliminated and three of us were loaned to Barrie. I remember he was big, and a real leader even then. We were about 16. I also spent an afternoon with him hanging out and playing pool. Dan Maloney played for four teams (Chicago, LA, Detroit, and Toronto) over 11 seasons, and eventually went on to coach. He was truly a great guy and a tough bastard.

Toe Blake’s real first name was Hector. He got the name ‘Toe’ from his younger sister who pronounced the last part of Hector as toe, as in “Hectoe.”

Turk Broda, who was the Toronto Maple Leaf goalie from 1936 to 1952, had the nickname “Turk” because as a child, his neck would turn red like a turkey when he got angry. His real name is Walter.

During the time I owned my restaurant in Powell River, the Hanson Brothers (from Slapshot) came to town for a promotional thing at the arena. Afterwards, two of them, the Carlson brothers, came into my pub and at midnight, I locked the doors and drank beer and talked hockey with them until about 5AM.

When I was 12, my peewee baseball team played in a tournament in St. Catherines, Ontario. For one game, goalie great Gerry Cheevers, in his early-20s at the time, was the umpire.

When I was about 11 and at the opening of the Hockey Hall of Fame at the CNE in Toronto with my dad and sister, I asked Foster Hewitt for his autograph. He signed for me, but because he was in a deep discussion with someone, he kept my pen. I was too shy to ask him for it so my sister had to get it for me.

Howie Morenz was Toe Blake’s hero when Blake was a boy. He said he even called himself Howie. Years later, in 1937, Blake played for the Habs alongside his boyhood hero Morenz. This was the same year Morenz died from complications from a broken leg.

Toe Blake used such terrible profanity, he was barred from the Forum Billiard Hall.

In the early ’60s when I was about 13 or so, my previously mentioned buddy Ron Clarke and I went to Barrie, Ont. for an exhibition game between the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans. We were there early and somehow got talking to the Buffalo trainer, and he let us be stickboys for the game. The team gave Ron and I sticks, although I broke mine later playing road hockey. And Don Cherry played that night for Rochester, although I only know this from the lineup sheet I still have.

Toe Blake said “Hockey has been my life. I never had the opportunity of getting one of those million dollar contracts, but hockey was worth more than a million to me in plenty of ways.”

1950s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin would at times eat glass (probably after several pops), and also wrestled a bear or two. And once, while at training camp in Victoria, BC, Bonin broke his thumb during some horseplay off the ice. He kept it a secret from Toe Blake, then during the next practice, pretended to hurt his hand on the ice and kept himself from getting into hot water with Blake. It worked.

Two NHL players who were notorious for treating rookies on their own teams badly were Steve Shutt and Dave Keon. Shutt’s reasoning was, “Hey, it happened to me so it’s gonna happen to them too.”

Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago. But it was found several years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

I saw Bobby Orr twice in my home town of Orillia. Once when I was sitting in the park down by the lake, he and his wife strolled by. He had a hockey school with Mike Walton in Orillia at this time. The other was out at one of the local beverage rooms, and he and a bunch of people I knew a little, sat near us. There’s a strong chance my table drank more beer than their table.

Gary Lupul, a great ex-Canuck and a good friend of mine who passed away several years ago, introduced me to goaltender Richard Brodeur, who was in town on an oldtimers tour. Gary told Brodeur I was a Habs fan, and Brodeur said “Oh. I don’t want to talk to you.” (He was joking. I think.)

I was also introduced to the Hanson Brothers’ manager when the Hansons came to town. I held out my hand and he asked “Do you wash your hands when you take a crap?” I said of course, and it was only then that he shook my hand.

A kid I played minor hockey with for four or five years, John French, ended up getting drafted by the Montreal Canadiens and played a couple of years with the club’s farm team, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. But it was the early 1970s and extremely difficult to crack the Habs line up, so French signed with the New England Whalers of the newly-formed World Hockey Association instead. He played with Gordie Howe and another good Orillia boy, his old friend Rick Ley, who had played for the Leafs before jumping to the WHA.

The best seat I ever had at a game was in the first row at the Montreal Forum in the late-1970s, behind the net, just to the right of the goal judge.

The worst seat I ever had was at Edmonton’s Northland Coliseum for a game between the Habs and Oilers, and we were in the very first row behind the Oilers bench. John Muckler and his two assistant coaches stood right in front of us, so the only time we could see was when the play was down at either end.

Canada’s greatest pool player, Cliff Thorburn, is a long-time Habs fan.

The first two artificial rinks built in Canada were in Victoria and Vancouver.

From a documentary I learned that Russian Czar Peter the Great would often go incognito to Europe, with a shaved mustache and old hat, and from a painting of him shown in the doc wearing these,  he looks a dead ringer for deceased Russian hockey star Valeri Kharlamov.

When the Rocket was playing for the Verdun juniors in 1939, he took boxing lessons in the off-season. He became so good at it that he was entered into a Golden Gloves competition, but a damaging punch in the nose by his coach prevented him from participating.

Leaf star Darryl Sittler and his wife Wendy were staying at Paul Henderson’s house and looking after their three daughters when Henderson scored those big goals during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Team Canada had a six-hour stopover in Paris on the way to Stockholm. Goalie Ed Johnston said this about Paris: “What’s wrong is the same thing you find with all these European cities. Too many old buildings.”

While in Stockholm, a Swedish fellow at the press conference mentioned that maybe Bobby Orr, who was injured and didn’t play in the series, wasn’t as good as Russian Valeri Kharlamov. “He’s good in the NHL,” said the guy, “but in Europe he’d be only average.” A Canadian who overheard this said, “Put this down. Bobby Orr-healthy-would eat any Czech or Russian alive. And he’d spit out any Swede.”

In Moscow, the Canadians were seen coming back to their hotel at all hours of the night. While some of the boys were sitting around the lobby of the Grand Hotel, someone mentioned hearing that the Russians had put street crews with jackhammers outside the Canadian team’s windows in the early morning. “No problem,” said one player. “We won’t be in anyway.”

Coach Harry Sinden celebrated his 40th birthday while overseas. “Ten days ago I was 29,” he said.

Some Canadian fans who arrived in Moscow found out there were no tickets available for them. These included Maurice Richard, Punch Imlach, former referee-in-chief Carl Voss, and legendary wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Those left out were given three options: they could take an all-expenses paid 10-day tour of Copenhagen; they could fly home and be refunded; or they could stay and take their chances on finding tickets. Most chose the third option.

Dennis Hull, after a tour of Moscow, gushed, “I really like the place. It reminds me of Buffalo.”

 

 

 

Hockey And Other Great Coins

These complete sets of 1961-62 and 62-63 hockey coins weren’t rounded up through eBay or the likes. They were lovingly collected by me, back in the day, by buying lots of Shirriff potato chips and wheeling and dealing in the schoolyard.

That and my mom chipping in by stocking up the cupboards with serious amounts of Jello.

The 1961-62 NHL coins are plastic and the shields could be ordered at the time, while the 1962-63 metal coins never had shields.

But hockey coins weren’t all I went after. Around this time, car coins also made an appearance, and although I don’t have the complete set, I have many of them. These coins display cars from the beginning, the late 1800s, and make their way up to the early and flashy 1960s, and were great fun to collect.

The car coins, below, came out in 1961, and were collected after eating dozens and dozens of bags of Hostess (not Sherriff) potato chips, and again, piles of Jello and wheeling and dealing in the schoolyard. They also had a neat poker chip-type holder one could order.

Plenty of other coins were to be had back then too – baseball and football players, airplanes, flags of the world and more, plus the first NHL set from 1960-61. I used to have bunches of these, but alas, not any more.

Rookie Orr Signs The Sheet

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A bit difficult to see because they’re in pencil, but this is a set of signatures from 1966-67 when the Bruins and Leafs played at Maple Leaf Gardens. The autographs are mine now, but I wasn’t the one who got them in the first place.

1966-67 was Bobby Orr’s rookie season in the NHL, and this group of signatures includes Orr (on the bottom right corner), and his dad Doug (two above Bobby’s, on the right).

Joining them are Ed Johnston, Wayne Connelly, Ron Schock, Ted Green, Joe Watson, Tom Williams, and J.P. Parise from the Bruins, along with Leafs George Armstrong, Larry Jeffrey, Brian Conacher, and Ron Ellis.

If you’re wondering how I know these are from 1966-67, it’s something I had to put into practice numerous times when I worked at Classic Auctions. Simply a quick look at each player’s career and find the year that’s common ground for all them. In this case, it’s 1966-67.

Canadiens Nailed By Lightning

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Nice to see Carey Price stop everything in sight once again. If only his teammates in front of him could do……something.

The Canadiens dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, which meant Price went for more than six periods without allowing a goal. But jeez, he’s gotta get some support from his buddies.

The team scored just a pair in their win against the lowly Coyotes on Saturday (one into an empty net), and none tonight. Price is doing everything he can to help his team win.  If he could score he would (and someday he might). But that particular aspect of the game is left up to the other guys, and they’re not holding up their end of the bargain.

Tampa owned the puck for much of the night, outshooting Montreal 36-19, and it has to be said – without the best goalie in the world back there, the Canadiens might be sitting in a world inhabited by Leafs and  Devils and Flyers and other mediocre squads with mediocre points.

It’s tremendously depressing. Not to mention that these two teams could meet in the postseason.

I thought, when it was scoreless in the third period and Price robbed Ryan Callahan, that the boys would finally say enough’s enough, they have to give their backstopper a helping hand once and for all.

But nope. They were outshot 10-2 in that final frame, and ultimately they deserved to lose. Price didn’t, but the rest did.

Now it’s Ottawa paying a visit to the Bell on Thursday, and once again, Price will stand on his head, do his job in Price-like fashion, and it’ll be up to the rest of them to do their share for a change. We’ll see. I know it’s asking a lot.

March so far? One win and four losses.

Outmatched In Anaheim

It was just the other day, while sitting in Buffy’s Pub in Sooke, that I pointed to the TV and said to Lucy, “Look, the Leafs lost 4-0 again. Two games without a goal. Are they ever lousy. Hah!”

Then the Montreal Canadiens went out and dropped a 4-0 stinker in San Jose, and two nights later are smothered and outplayed as they lose 3-1 in Anaheim. I should never have been smug about the Leafs. Because sometimes the Habs can suck too.

It  also took until the 18:19 mark of the third period before Alex Galchenyuk scored with a Duck in the box, making it one of those rare and unusual sightings, a….how do you say it……successful power play? Thus keeping the team from being shutout two straight nights which would have made the Leafs comparison even more sickening .

Now it’s a short freeway ride to downtown Los Angeles to meet the Kings in a few hours. No predictions, no thoughts. No idea. Only that they have to start playing better than they have these past two games.

Karma, you got me good with the Leafs smugness. Now, enough’s enough.

Random Notes:

Props to the Ducks, who basically smothered, bottled up, outchecked and outskated Montreal for most of the night.

It was 2-0 in the second period when Max burst in alone while his team was shorthanded. Imagine how the momentum could have shifted. Maybe.

Canadiens outshot the Ducks 38-33, which for all intents and purposes looks like they played well. But they didn’t.

Ex-Hab Jiri Sekac took Subban out of the play, allowing new teammate Rickard Rakell the chance to score, which he did.

The guy we got in the Sekac trade, Devante Smith-Pelly, was again underwhelming and it blows my mind to hear reports that he’s out of shape. What the hell is that? It’s March. How can a player not be in shape at this time?