Category Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Game Day Routine. Getting Ready For The Sabres

GAME DAY and I need to be sure I don’t stray from my regular routine that involves strict discipline as far as getting a good nap in before I eat some high carb concoction like a fettuccine dish with a baked potato. I don’t know about your habits and routines on game day, but I’m sure your way is excellent, albeit slightly different than mine.

Because the game’s on early here on the west coast, at 4:30 pm, I know I need to get my nap in early too. So I’ll head to bed about 11am and sleep until 1:00. This gives me time to have my carbs and several coffees for a quick boost and not feel too bloated by the time the puck drops.

I like to arrive at the couch early, say about 3:30, so I can fiddle with things on the coffee table, give the TV a good warm up, go over game notes such as what good shows I can flick to during commercials, and plan my strategy about how I’m going to get all the household things discussed early with my wife so she won’t be talking too much during the big game. I learned this early in my career with previous females -(mother, first-wife, daughter, sisters, etc.)

All of this takes some serious concentration and is a good example of why I’m such a good team player, and why experience is invaluable.

FINALLY, GAME TIME. It’s what I’ve been preparing myself for all day, as you can see from the routine. Montreal needs this. It’s all about first over-all and the chance to play the eighth place team, which could be Boston, Ottawa, Washington, Philadelphia, and even Buffalo, who the Habs are playing tonight.

This is why it’s a big game. This is an example of why every game for the last two months has been big. And this is why it’s necessary to have a proper pre-game routine.

Me and the boys will take care of business tonight against the Sabres, the ones with the George Jetson/Los Angeles Rams uniforms, then a couple more days and we’ll be going through the same old routines once again as we prepare for the Leafs.

It’s all part of the strict discipline and commitment that goes into being a professional Habs watcher. 

Whew! Thank Goodness There’s A Way To Tell When Spring Has Sprung

With the big game in Ottawa coming up shortly, with first place overall still not decided, and with injuries mounting, it can be tremendously stressful for Habs fans. But we’re not the only ones with problems. People in general can be stressed. You just got your lay-off notice at the factory. The mortgage is due. Your daughter has a new tattoo on her forehead. The mother-in-law’s coming. The beer fridge is empty.

But when the sun shines in spring, things have a way of looking up. A young man’s (and woman’s) fancy turns to love. And the playoffs.

And things could be worse. We could be Leafs fans.  

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Almost Good News On The Habs Hurting Front. And Tom Kostopoulos Knows What It Takes

Now that the dust has settled on just how healthy the Montreal Canadiens are, it seems  possible that only Saku Koivu might be out for awhile. But even that’s unclear.

What’s clear is that five Habs are hobbling and grimacing. Guillaume Latendresse has neck spasms and although he didn’t play in Toronto, he should play in Ottawa.

Mark Streit took a puck off the foot in Buffalo, didn’t play in Toronto, and although the team’s a bit vague, it seems he won’t be out long either.

Francis Bouillon didn’t play in Toronto either and is suffering from a right ankle injury. He’ll be back quickly though, because he’s a tough little bugger.

Mike Komisarek injured his hip (lower body injury!) in Boston but has started skating again, so this is good.

Which leaves us to Saku Koivu. He took a puck on the foot in Buffalo (like Streit), didn’t play in Toronto, and left Toronto on crutches. His foot is swollen and they’re not sure if it’s fractured or just badly bruised.  If it’s broken, he could be out until sometime in the second round of the playoffs.

When Koivu got the stick in the eye a couple of years ago against Carolina, the team went poof, like air going out of a balloon. But Montreal’s much better now, much deeper, more talented, and much more-rounded, and so although it would hurt to lose him, the boys can still get the job done. But let’s just hope it’s just badly bruised.

I also want to mention something about Tom Kostopoulos. This is guy who was a healthy scratch many times this year. He usually plays only on the fourth line, and he doesn’t get a lot of ink in the papers. But here’s the kind of guy he is:  Mike Komisarek said that when he was being treated in Boston for his hip injury, Kostopoulos was brought in after a fight in which half his face was blackened and his one eye was closed shut. But all Kostopoulos kept saying was to get him an ice pack and hurry because he needed to get back on the ice.

Now I have new-found respect for Tom Kostopoulos. This is old school, old time hockey. This is what separates men from boys. This is a guy who wanted to help his team and his teammates. He’s bounced around the minors, never really winning a job. This is the kind of guy who’d play for free. And players like him don’t disappear in the playoffs.     

Montreal Was In A Coma Saturday Night In Toronto. And Who The Heck Is Anton Stralman?

Why am I not surprised that MontreaL, leading the eastern division, waltz’s into Toronto to take on the sad-sack Leafs who won’t be in the playoffs, and comes out flatter than a pancake. Montreal had no drive, no spirit, not much of anything, as they lost 4-2 Saturday night to Toronto, and some unheard of Leaf named Anton Stralman scores two goals that Jaroslav Halak should have stopped.

I think we might see Carey Price every night from here on in.

Why am I not surprised? This kind of thing has been going on for 40 years. If Toronto played Montreal 82 times a year, they’d be the greatest hockey team in the history of hockey. In reality, of course, Toronto stinks most of the time. But certainly, on this night, Montreal did the stinking.

This is the kind of thing that really plays with my head. For example, what if Montreal loses to Ottawa on Tuesday, then again against Buffalo, then closes the season against these dreaded Leafs. It could mean they lose four straight headed into the playoffs.

It’s just my paranoia talking here. I shouldn’t be thinking like this. But I can’t help it.

And still on the subject of feeling shitty, all Habs fans are waiting to see just how hurt are Saku Koivu and Mark Streit. Both were injured blocking shots in Buffalo.

The team’s been remarkably healthy all season, and now with the playoffs arriving, possibly three key players (with Komisarek), could be on the shelf.

Again, it’s my paranoia casting its’ spell.

Montreal’s rebounded all season from losses that would keep a lesser team down. They’ve surprised everyone. This is why Guy Carbonneau should be a strong contender for Coach of the Year. So I’m gonna say right now that they’ll come out like gangbusters on Tuesday night.

It’s Only Been 41 Years Since The Leafs Didn’t Suck

Regardless of the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs have basically stunk every year since 1967, they still manage to somehow play well against the Habs. Who knows why? Maybe Conn Smythe instilled a voodoo hex on Frank Selke Sr. for leaving the Leafs and joining the good guys at the Forum. Maybe Toronto wants so much to be like the Canadiens that they turn in these weird efforts that they can’t muster against anybody else. habs-too.jpg     leafs.jpg

So a Montreal-Toronto tilt is usually a good, interesting tilt, for whatever reason. And there also would have been big interest in a Montreal-Toronto playoff series which could have happened if Toronto didn’t suck quite so badly this year and had sneaked into eighth place by the skin of their teeth.

A series between these two might even have brought back the oldtimers who say they lost interest in hockey after expansion, fights, the price of beer, less attractive rink chaperones, watered-down product, the Broad Street Bullies, Osama Bin Laden, shopping on Sundays,  the ozone layer, and the downhill slide of Shopsy hot dogs.

Yes, it would’ve been a good series. Even though Montreal would’ve kicked their asses all the way up Yonge Street, possibly all the way to Orillia.

The two teams meet again tonight and at this moment,  game time is still hours away. Leaf fans will now be gearing up, selecting their finest Yorkville ensembles, and preparing for when the Habs take the ice and memories come flying back from when the oldtimers still liked hockey and George Armstrong, even though he was the Leaf’s captain, was still learning to skate.

Holy Smokes! More Fascinating Facts! What A Blog!

Fascinating Fact #1.  It’s just what I always suspected. Patrick Roy is a moron.

Fascinating Fact #2.  In the early 1940’s the Montreal Canadiens were bringing in less fans than the senior league Montreal Royals. The Habs were averaging only about 1500 people in those days.

Fascinating Fact #3.  Guess what changed in Montreal? What caused fans to go from 1500 to 12,000 in only a few years?  Two words – The Rocket.

Fascinating Fact #4.  And guess what completed the growth of fan attendance, from 12,000 in the late 1940’s to regular sellouts at the beginning of the 1950’s. It was the signing of Quebec senior hockey hero, Jean Beliveau.  

Fascinating Fact #5.  Mickey Redmond, who played right wing for the Habs from 1967 to 1971, has been battling lung cancer since 2003. He says he’s feeling fine, thank God. Redmond was also a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series.

Fascinating Fact #6.  Redmond was involved in a major deal halfway through the 1970-71 season when the Habs traded him to Detroit for Frank Mahovlich. Montreal also sent Guy Charron and Bill Collins, along with Redmond, to Detroit.

Fascinating Fact #7.   1950’s Habs grinder Marcel Bonin used to eat glass, and also wrestled bears. And once, while at raining 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.

Fascinating Fact #8.   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.” 

Fascinating Fact #9.   Jim Pappin, who won a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1967, lost his Cup ring years ago.  It was found last year in the Gulf of Mexico when a diver using an underwater metal detector came up with it.

Fascinating Fact #10.  This is the seventh installment of Fascinating Facts. 

Fascinating Fact #11.  Did I mention that Patrick Roy is a moron?

Mike Has A Great Chair And Shorter Hair Than Before

They don’t get any better than Mike. We’ve been friends for 40 years, and have fought  the good wars together. Those crazy sixties wars. Those times when sex and drugs and rock and rock were as much a part of our lives as waking up. And it was a time when the team we loved took a back seat for a few years while we spent some serious time on the edge.

Mike was involved in the 1960’s movement as much as anyone. He wore his black hair long, crashed where he could, never shyed away from a good party, and ingested a few things he probably shouldn’t have. These were unsettling times, but he and I got through it, and later on he found himself a nice cool chick who he’s still with today. 

But even though we put the Habs on the backburner for a few years in the late ’60’s, it didn’t mean we gave up or forgot. Not me, and not Mike. He follows the Habs closely, has for more than fifty years, and he knows the game and his team and is pissed off when they lose. You’ll see this by his comments he throws in often.

No one is prouder to own a Montreal Forum chair than Mike. And it’s not just any chair. It’s the one he sat in in his only visit to the Forum, in the late 1970’s.

Here’s a photo of Mike’s chair, and the Bud hat signed by Le Gros Bill, Jean Beliveau. And yes, the spelling of Micheal on the chair is the way it’s spelled.

Mike may have been a mover and shaker during the hippie movement, but you can’t keep a good Habs fan down. And even though he lives in Toronto and has for decades, don’t even think about talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs with him. He can’t stand them, even though they’re just down the road. Are you listening, Ottawa fans-who-used-to-be-Habs-fans?

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Montreal Scores 7 Goals In Their Win Over Ottawa, But It Was A Stressful 7 Goal Win

They can’t come much uglier than this. For two periods, life was good as Montreal built up a 7-1 lead against the visiting Ottawa Senators, who previously had humbled the Montreal 6-1 in February and 3-0 March 13. It was a time to dance in the street, sing, hug the neighbour, sing the Olay song. During the second intermission, I was thinking in double digits for the end of the massacre. It was going to be beautiful. habs-logo.jpg

But someone must have slipped horse tranquilizers into the Montreal player’ Gatorade between periods, because in the third, along with giving up fourteen shots to two, also gave up four goals to make it a scary, stressfull 7-5 game that I don’t mind saying made me quite pissed off. And on top of everything else, Montreal took two penalties and had to kill off a two-man advantage for the Senators late in this ridiculously ugly third period. But they killed it and I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if Ottawa would’ve scored during this power play.

I was as stressed as if it was a 2-1 game.

So it was a good-bad kind of thing. Pittsburgh lost 4-1 to the Islanders, so the Habs’ win, (and it was a win, all things considered), increased their hold on first place in the east by three points.  sens1.jpg

The bad, of course, was that they almost blew a 7-1 game and lost.

Imagine if they would have lost. They might have had to line up the same shrinks the Boston Bruins have lined up. It’d be a mind fuck for the rest of the season. The kind of game players, and probably fans too, lose sleep over all summer. The kind of game that can make or break the rest of the season.

And I’d have to listen to all my old friends in Ottawa who once upon a time were good, hearty Habs fans, and changed, believe it not, when their town got a team in the early 90’s. If Ottawa would have come all the way back to win tonight, these friends would have been insufferable.

But Montreal scratched it out and got the two points. That’s the main thing. It’s just good that the game was only sixty minutes and not seventy. And it’s good that Montreal scored seven goals, and not five, which you’d think would be plenty enough.

Let’s just hope there’s not too much mind damage.

 The team now has a rest until their short jaunt into Buffalo Friday, and then a little swing over to Toronto on Saturday. Both Buffalo and Toronto are in panic mode to win every game and possibly make the playoffs.

So both Buffalo and Toronto are going to play their hearts out when the Habs come to town.

So boys, have fun with your wives now for a couple of days, then get down to business. Keep it going. Stay on top. Go over 100 points. (they’ve got 96 now with five games left). Hopefully they’ll meet Boston in the first round.

And don’t worry about the Senators. They’ll be gone soon enough after the playoffs begin anyway.

Kovalev Should Take His Show To Vegas. And The Bruins Probably Prefer The Dentist To The Bell Centre Saturday Night

I’m still trying to wrap my head around Alex Kovalev’s tricks with a stick and puck he does on his new dvd. Honestly, I’ve never seen this before, where someone can fire pucks from a good distance away, with good velocity, into little pockets set up on the top corners of the net, one after another, with only one hand.

And then he moved out to centre ice, got down on one knee, and his first shot landed on top of the net, and his second, lordy, lordy, went right into the pocket he was aiming for.

Speaking as a smallish yet speedy right winger for Byers Bulldozers circa 1965, I can honestly say this is practically impossible what the shifty Russian did. But I saw it, along with many others, so he did it. It was there in living colour. Holy Mackinaw!

I remember hearing years ago that Gordie Howe could stand at his own goal line and shoot a wrist shot over the glass at the other end. Until now, this has been the big feat for me. But Kovalev has taken showcase skill to a new level.

Or am I wrong? Is it possible that many pros can shoot from far out with accuracy with one hand, or shoot from centre ice on one knee with accuracy? Or is it just Kovalev. I’m really interested in finding out.

Saturday night the Bruins come to Montreal, hoping to put an end to the misery they’ve experienced against the Habs, beginning with last year. If Boston loses on Saturday, they’d better start seeing some serious shrinks. And if Boston finds out they’ll meet Montreal in the playoffs, someone better watch the players and coaches carefully that they don’t do anything drastic.

I’m also pretty sure the Bruins better not watch Kovalev’s dvd.

In a quick recap of Friday’s games, several little delicious surprises happened, some benefitting Montreal. New Jersey lost 3-1 to the Islanders, which is a surprise. Toronto beat Buffalo 4-1, which is also a surprise. And Philadelphia beat the surging Rangers, which concludes the surprises.

This keeps the Devils off Montreal’s back, and slows down the Rangers, who are quickly nipping at Montreal’s heels. So this was a good night. 

Vancouver also plays tonight but nobody cares about that.

We’re Not All Part Of Leaf Nation: Especially Habs Fans

Since I started this blog, the following topic has been bugging me, especially since I don’t have any specialty channels to see the Habs more often. It alway seems like the Leafs are the priority.  William Houston of the Globe and Mail does a nice job saying just what I was thinking. Here’s his fine column.  

  We don’t all live in Leaf Nation you know

From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail

With a month remaining in the NHL’s regular season, Hockey Night in Canada should be moving to increase its coverage of the Canadian teams outside the centre of the hockey universe.Leading up to last Saturday, the two leading NHL stories in this country were the dismissal of John Paddock as coach of the Ottawa Senators and the surprising success of the Montreal Canadiens, who gave the starting goaltending job to rookie Carey Price, who won his first two games.Despite the cheery optimism of Mats Sundin & Co., the Toronto Maple Leafs are unlikely to make the playoffs.Still, the conversation on the most recent Hockey Night focused almost entirely on the Leafs, 12th in the Eastern Conference.

The first intermission Coach’s Corner: Not a word about a Canadian team outside Toronto. Heavy discussion about Leafs rookie Jeremy Williams and Sundin’s decision to stay in Toronto.

Second intermission Hotstove panel: More talk about the Leafs — speculation about Sundin and the next Leafs general manager. Nothing about Ottawa, Montreal or the other NHL teams in Canada, except Vancouver, which was mentioned in passing as perhaps a destination for unsigned Swedish star Fabian Brunnstrom.

To be fair, Hockey Night aired a feature on the Canadiens during its afternoon Pittsburgh Penguins-Senators telecast. And the pregame show carried reports on Ottawa and Montreal.

However, in the important slot of 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (ET), when one million-plus viewers tune into the CBC, the Leafs dominated the conversation.

This seems self-defeating, because when the playoffs start, Hockey Night will be hoping that one million or more viewers become interested in, and watch, the Senators and the Canadiens, as well as the Calgary Flames and the Canucks, assuming they make the playoffs.

Don Cherry controls the subject matter of Coach’s Corner, but Hockey Night has the ability to increase the relevancy of the Hotstove outside Toronto.

Montreal-based P.J. Stock makes the occasional appearance, but on most Saturdays the three commentators are from Toronto. The programming mandate for Hotstove is originality and that is accomplished by the Toronto panel some of the time, but a good amount of the content also consists of speculation or information that has been touched on elsewhere.

Hockey Night made the right move last week when it increased the distribution of the New Jersey Devils-Canadiens game to include Manitoba-West as well as Quebec. But a bolder statement would have been to place the Habs in Atlantic Canada as well, limiting Leafs-Washington Capitals to Ontario.

The CBC will decide later this week on the distribution of the two 7 p.m. games for this Saturday, Devils-Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes-Senators.

If Toronto picks up two wins this week, perhaps placing Devils-Leafs in most of the country makes sense. If not, Coyotes-Senators would be the better choice.