Max & Co. Come Through

I was delayed getting to the computer. I saw that Toronto and Winnipeg were tied 3-3 with seven minutes left, and I wanted to see how the Leafs would lose.

But they won in overtime, and that’s quite a few minutes that I just wasted if you don’t mind me saying.

The Canadiens, led by Max Pacioretty with two goals, got the job done by taking out the decent-looking Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 at the Bell, with Tomas Plekanec getting the insurance marker by notching a shorthanded empty net goal.

Two big points for the team, a win that halted that little two-game losing streak they found themselves in, and a win which allows them to sit in their rightful place in the universe – on top, a point ahead of the New York Islanders.

In the background, the outdoor game in California is being played, but I have the sound down. Sometimes I forget it’s on, look up, and there again are the LA Kings wearing some sort of grey and white ensemble, highlighted by white pants and huge numbers on the sleeves. The luckiest fans are the ones at the top of this massive football stadium that can’t see these uniforms.

Carey Price was, of course, solid once again in the Montreal net. It goes without saying. I said it but it goes without saying.

Nathan Beaulieu was truly impressive. The young defenceman is getting better and better every game now, he’s won himself a job, he’s a great skater and puckhandler, and as the confidence grows, so does his time spent doing all the right things.

How great it is to see a young d-man coming into his own, and at the same time two blueliners are on the shelf. God is a Habs fan.

I thought Jiri Sekac and Jacob de la Rose had some nice moments too. Two very fine young players with very fine futures. Is it de la Rose, or De La Rose?

And good old Max, notching a pair which gives him 29 on the season, and he rolls along, enjoying a fine and fruitful campaign. Of course he and P.K. Subban were left off the All-Star team, because the league is run by a bunch of morons.

Other things to note – Jarred Tinordi had his second fight in the last two games, coming out second best against Jared Boll, but not getting massacred. And Christian Thomas and Matt Calvert squared off, and when all was said and done, both looked like they’d walked into a telephone pole.

Columbus outshot the Canadiens 32-24, but again, it’s the Carey Price factor.

The team now heads out on a two-game road trip, first to St. Louis for a Tuesday night battle (8:00 ET), and then it’s Thursday in Columbus to face these Blue Jackets once again.

And to get way ahead of myself, next Saturday the Leafs sneak into Montreal.

In the background, John Fogarty is singing Proud Mary between periods at the outdoor game. John looks and sounds pretty well like he did in the 1960s with Creedence. This is obviously not a Keith Richards type of rock star.

Me and my buddies Mike Williamson and Hobo saw Creedence Clearwater at the Atlantic City Pop Festival in 1969.

Hometown Heroes

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Two fine hometown boys, Hall of Famers Gilbert Perreault (inducted 1990) and Mr. Beliveau (inducted 1972).

Perreault was born and raised in Victoriaville, Quebec (pop. 43,462), and Jean moved there with his family when he was six.

From the HHOF’s “One on One”I was a Montreal fan,” admits Perreault. “The Canadiens were our main team in the NHL. They had so many great players. I admired Jean Beliveau. I watched him a lot. I liked his style, I liked the way he moved and I liked his stickhandling.

Anyone who saw this great Buffalo Sabres star play knows just how how talented he was, with an extraordinary slickness when it came to handling the puck, just like Jean. Simply an incredible player with the Sabres from 1970-71 to 1986-87, notching 512 goals and 814 assists along the way (1326 points in 1191 games).

Perreault starred for the Montreal Junior Canadiens for three seasons before joining the Sabres, and when you see him with the Junior Canadiens (as in the Youtube video below), it’s a definite reminder that he would’ve looked good in a Habs uniform.

Thanks to Kathleen in Maryland for sending me the picture above  via Twitter @bflosenrab, and she adds that her sources say it was taken in good old Victoriaville.

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.

 

Canadiens Lose Game And Emelin

Alexei Emelin crashed awkwardly into the boards just 20 seconds into the game, he never returned, and to add to the glumness, the Canadiens fell 4-2 to the normally shitty Ottawa Senators.

Maybe Emelin’s injury is serious, maybe not. Maybe Sergei Gonchar’s injury, after being nailed into the boards by Toronto’s David Clarkson on Saturday, is serious too. Maybe when P.K. Subban, after blocking a shot, took his skate off after the game and his foot ballooned to a size 18.

P.K. returned for the third period but was definitely hurting. Of course, Bruins fans in particular will say he was embellishing.

Marc Bergevin has said many times that you can’t have too many defencemen, and of course he’s right. You start losing regular d-men, you’d better have solid replacements. And imagine if P.K. had broken his foot and was gone for two months? Seeing him take that shot was a real reminder that fortunes can change in the blink of a slapshot.

We probably need a major blueline recruit before the trade deadline, but for now, Greg Pateryn played in Ottawa, and Jarred Tinordi is on his way from Hamilton. If only Bryan Allen hadn’t been so incredibly underwhelming in his five games before being shipped down. We could’ve used his 6’05” hugeness.

And the game? An exciting affair, with Montreal firing 44 shots at Sens goalie Andrew Hammond, in his very first NHL start, and Ottawa shooting 39 pucks at Dustin Tokarski, who has lost four of last five starts.

Max scored his 27th marker, and Nathan Beaulieu finally notched his first.

Next up – Tonight, when the Panthers visit the Bell.

I was very late seeing the game after coming back from Sooke/Victoria. I’m still going though a very weird personal time, one which forced Lucy and I move back from Montreal to deal with, and which has us going back and forth from Powell River and Victoria way too many times.

Maybe at some point I can explain it to you. It’s very complicated and very serious, and I need to figure out how to say it. One thing I can say now – I’m not in any kind of trouble, and my marriage is as solid as a rock.

 

 

Habs In Motown, Via Sooke

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Lucy and I saw the Habs and Red Wings clash from a corner table at Buffy’s Pub in Sooke, BC, pop. 11,000, home of nearby Potholes Provincial Park, where, apparently, some great big holes are.

It was a fine experience. A classic West Coast workingman`s pub – chicken wings, cheap beer, loggers, fishermen, a few women scattered about. About as far away from La Cage Aux Sports as you can get.

We watched it online, because, as you can well imagine, there probably aren`t that many bars in BC that subscribe to RDS or pick up Sportsnet East. The quality was pretty darn good, aside from some slight jerkiness, and geez, I could do this more often!

A fine and solid 2-0 win by the boys. Carey Price’s 30th career shutout, which passes Patrick Roy for fifth best in Canadiens history. A much better performance than what we’ve seen lately by those in front of the world`s greatest goalie, which shows us that those bummers against lesser teams are probably some sort of sick team humour thought up by that wild and crazy P.K. Subban, and we just have to play along with the joke, that`s all.

A goal by Tomas Plekanec with 2:30 left in the third to break the scoreless tie, an empty netter from Max, his 26th of the season, to seal it, and a big two points to put some distance on Hotown, er, Motown, and stay just ahead of the pesky Tampa Bay Lightning who lost 4-3 to LA. (Boston lost too!)

The gang stays best in the East. They’re feeling good, I’m feeling good. Buffy’s has cold beer.

Hic. Wish I was still there.

Next up – Canadiens in Ottawa on Wednesday and the Florida Panthers visit the Bell on Thursday. Four big points isn’t too much to ask. And Ottawa and Florida aren’t complete basement dwellers so there’s no reason to lose.

 

Habs Lucky To Lick Laffs

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It would’ve absolutely sucked to lose to the lowly Laffs on Hockey Night in Canada, coast to coast on a Valentine’s Day Saturday night, when Hab fans far and wide took their dates to romantic bars that also happened to have televisions.

But Montreal didn’t lose. They won 2-1.  Although it took a shootout to make it happen.

No use talking about how the Canadiens play their lousiest when it’s a basement dwellar they face. They can lose to the lowly Oilers and Sabres and Coyotes. It’s almost something we have to accept because they can be assholes that way.

But to lose to the Laffs would have been the last straw. It’d be like Gary Lewis and the Playboys winning a Battle of the Bands showdown with the Beatles. The Washington Generals clobbering the Harlem Globetrotters. Wile E. Coyote outsmarting the roadrunner.

But the Canadiens got it done in the shootout when both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais showed some sweet moves, and the Leafs didn’t. (One of their guys scored in the SO but it wasn’t sweet like our guys :-) ).

All in all it was a fairly tight and slightly rough affair, with Toronto’s David Clarkson doing battle with Brandon Prust early in the first and then with Nathan Beaulieu later on after Clarkson had nailed Sergei Gonchar into the end boards and Beaulieu came a callin’.

An excellent “fight for your teammate” moment for Beaulieu, and an excellent removal from the game for Clarkson. And Beaulieu’s actions certainly go a long way in him becoming a true and respected regular on the team, something he’s been working on for several seasons, little by little. It appears his time has come and it must feel good.

Gonchar was gone for the night after that check, and hopefully he’s fine.

Not a pretty affair for the CH, not passionate, far from perfect. But we take the two points, retain fine bragging rights (Montreal edged Toronto 4-3 in the season opener), and the good guys get a chance to make it three in a row on February 28th when the Laffs once again return to the Bell to experience another heartbreaking disappointment. :-)

Random Notes:

Brendan Gallagher tied things in the first period, a power play marker after some nifty passing from Pleks and P.K.

P.K. racked up more than 35 minutes on the ice, including a stretch of four straight in the second frame. I played a game last winter at a rink near Montreal and was ready for a defibrillator after four seconds.

Canadiens outshot Toronto 32-29, and Carey Price was his usual self. We expect no less and we get no less.

Next up – Monday, when the boys are in Detroit. I’m hoping like hell I’ll be near a television so I can see and then babble about. If I’m not near a TV, maybe I can bullshit my way through.

Nice little tribute to Danny Gallivan before the game, with much of the commentary from his buddy Dick Irvin.

Hearing Danny’s voice gives me goosebumps.

Danny

Take That, Mats

My first wife and I and our two kids were in Russia in September of 1991, the same time the Canada Cup was being played back home. It was my first of six trips to Russia, and of course, because it was the first, it was the most magical.

We watched several Canada Cup games in our friends’ Leningrad home that fall, and it was simply a wonderful and fascinating experience. Not a lot of North Americans had seen the inside of Russian apartments at that time, it was at the beginning of the Soviet Union’s ultimate collapse, and here we were, in a home filled with Russian friends young and old, with plenty of laughter, food and drink, and with them and us wondering what each other was saying as we toasted each other or when a goal was scored on the little TV.

But this isn’t about Russia.

On our way to Leningrad we had made our way through Sweden and Finland, and I’d bought the comic book below while in Stockholm. It mentions the Canada Cup on the cover, but on the inside pages there seems to be nothing about the tournament, unless you count the Mats Sundin photo.

Mats, who had just completed his rookie season in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, was playing for his native Sweden in the 1991 Canada Cup, and was quoted in the local paper, with a huge headline, as how he and his Tre Kronor pals would have absolutely no problem with Team Canada. (I know because I asked the lady at the hotel desk to translate).

But they did have a problem. Canada kicked Mats’ Swedish team’s ass twice – 4-1 in round-robin, and 4-0 in the semi-finals, before taking out the Americans in two game straight to hoist gold.

Take that, Mats. Don’t poke the bear.

 

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Canadiens Drop Another

Couldn’t see the Habs-Coyotes Sunday matinee, but I heard that the boys, except for a flurry at the end, were reasonably lousy in their 3-2 loss to Arizona.

I did manage to catch the Habs and Sabres on Tuesday though, and aside from a third period flurry, were reasonably lousy in their 3-2 loss to Buffalo.

The Canadiens had plenty of chances, with pucks missing the net left and right. It’s infuriating to say the least. Maybe a bunch of them need to see an eye doctor.

Hit the net for #$&@ sakes.

I don’t have much to say. I’m a tired guy just back from an exhausting trip.  Here’s my official summary – the big shot 5th place Habs, busy feeling high and mighty after back-to-back 1-0 shutout wins over really good Rangers and Washington teams, suddenly lose to the 27th place Arizona Coyotes, and the 30th place Buffalo Sabres.

And I’ll add this. It’s a grueling marathon, this 82-game season, and there will be stinkers. Doesn’t matter if pro athletes make millions. Sometimes they don’t give the expected 100%.

Keep in mind, the minute the playoffs start, most of us will forget all about the regular season.

Next up – New Jersey Devils at the Bell on Saturday, and then the Canadiens head to Boston for a Sunday meeting.

Brandon Prust was involved in a cool sequence to tie the game at one in the 1st and lure us into thinking that it was the beginning of the end for the Sabres. Prust burst out of the penalty box, knocked the puck off Tyler Myers near centre ice, the puck scooted to DD who sent it back to Prust who buried it.

DD, in the 3rd frame, would score his team’s other goal.

Shots on goal – Habs 34, Sabres 18.

Left winger Jacob de la Rose was called up from Hamilton for his first NHL game and was -1 with 5 hits recorded.

Gabriel Dumont also saw action, while Michael Bournival, Manny Malhotra, and Mike Weaver didn’t.

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