Game Three: Boston 2, Montreal 1. Time To Regroup And Get The Power Play Back On Track.

 GAME 3

During the regular season, Montreal’s power play looked like Sophia Loren – beautiful, lovely, graceful, nice to watch. But in this playoff round against the Bruins, Montreal’s power play resembles a drunken Britney Spears. Kovalev’s overtime goal in game two was a power play goal, but that’s it. The only one in three games.

And that’s the main reason why tonight, Boston skated away with a 2-1 overtime win in game three, and now it’s going to take five games instead of four for Montreal to win the series.

Another reason is the ineffective play in the series so far of Tomas Plekanec, Christopher Higgins, Michael Ryder (who can’t hit the net), and pretty well everyone except Carey Price, Alex Kovalev, and the Begin, Kostopoulos, Smolinski line, who have shown up every game. It’s not good when the grinder line is the best line. The Kostitsyn boys, huge in game one, are a non-entity right now. And it’s obvious now that Saku Koivu is greatly missed.

Montreal showed all year that they are a superior team to Boston. But they need to adjust to the adjustments the Bruins have made. There was no fire wagon hockey tonight, only chances that arose from hard work. They need to overcome the tight checking the Bruins have instilled.

Show us your Sophia Loren moves again, boys. Show that you can score often, just as Sophia probably could.

Fourteen wins to go, on hold for the moment. Enjoy the moment, Bruins fans. Soon enough, you’ll be hating the moment.

Game note:

Milan Lucic, Boston’s young power forward, looks a little like a young Phil Esposito. Except Lucic’s nose is quite a bit bigger.

Bonus game note:

Ron McLean called Brad Richards “his boyfriend.”

 

 

Game Two Is In The Books. Kovalev Gets It Done In Overtime

  GAME 2

Regular reader and commentor-extrordinaire, Der Habinator, checked in today before the big game got underway, and what he said was dead-on. Knute Rockne or Dick Irvin Sr. couldn’t have said it any better. And although der Habinator may have done just a little too much acid when he was younger, he’s a good, solid Habs fan.

So today, we’re starting off with der Habinator’s words. This is what all Habs fans should want for today’s game. Take it away, der Habinator.

“Big game tonight.  Why?  Because the intensity level must not only be raised it must also crucially be maintained. We absolutely must come out and play the entire game with unrelenting intensity.  No physical let-up. No mental let-down.  No Mr. Nice Guy.  Now is the time when we must become more, not less, critical of our performance.  The momentum is ours, keeping it means working harder, playing smarter, refining refining refining. Away les gars! Foncez!!”

Montreal didn’t come storming out like der Habinator and myself and the rest of Habs universe would’ve liked. Boston had a brand new, and more effective game plan which involved more physical play and close checking, but Roman Hamrlik scored late in the first to make it 1-0 for Montreal. 

Did this deflate the Bruins?

Not really. Montreal’s power play, with no goals in the two games, is stuck in neutral. Plekanec and Higgins’s names are rarely mentioned by Father Time, Bob Cole. So all the stars aren’t quite aligned right now.

But the team got it done, in overtime, with their first powerplay goal of the series, scored by Alex Kovalev, who had several great chances throughout the game, and had taken a bad penalty to allow the Bruins to tie it up. However, the guy who sideswiped and lay on top of Kovalev prior to Kovy’s slash should have been called too.

So Boston can whine and complain and feel they got the shaft, but all things being equal, the good guys won, as they should have.

Best of all, aside from the fact that Montreal won the game, was that Don Cherry was proved wrong and full of shit by the instant replay. He went on and on about the high stick to the Bruin player’s face just before the guy took a penalty which led to the winning goal. But the camera showed that it was only a follow through from Markov’s shot, which Ron McLean, who is a referee, firmly stated SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A PENALTY. 

Montreal didn’t play as well as game one, and Boston played better than game one, but the only thing I see is a win that makes it two games up for the Habs.

It’s two down and fourteen to go.

Game Note:

Good camera shots at the Bell Centre as they scan the crowd. Quite a few lovely ladies wearing skin-tight Habs t-shirts.

 

Other Thoughts Because Everything’s Already Been Written

It’s Friday, the day before the big game at the Bell Centre, and for now, all’s quiet on the eastern front. There’s nothing I can say about this series that hasn’t already been said.

But I have to keep things interesting, so I’ll talk about………

I live in an area jam-packed with Vancouver Canucks fans. But I’ve noticed lately that not person  brings up the subject. It’s like the Canucks don’t exist.

At this very moment, Ottawa is losing 2-0 to Pittsburgh in game 2. My only suggestion to Ottawa fans is that cricket might be a fun sport to switch to.

Pittsburgh is now leading 3-0. Ottawa fans might consider moving to Sri Lanka where the cricket is top notch.

The mayor of Montreal doesn’t want Montreal firefighters to display any kind of support for the Habs outside on the station walls. This mayor is either a commy bastard traitor, or a relative of Powell River’s mayor, who wants to sue three Powell River citizens, including one who’s 86 years old, because they criticized him in some letters to the editor.

It’s now 3-1 Pittsburgh. Ottawa fans are holding off packing for Sri Lanka in case a comeback is in the works.

I phoned in sick for today and tomorrow.

It’s 4-2 Philadelphia over Washington. Pretty well the entire hockey world is picking Washington because they can’t stop salivating over Alex Ovechkin. But one man does not make a team.

Can you imagine what Ovenchkin’s two-week paycheque would be? I’m no mathematician so I’m not even going to try, but he probably brings home a couple of hundred grand every two weeks. If anyone’s figured it out, please let me know.  Isn’t it something like 140 million over 13 years? 

Pittsburgh is now only winning 3-2 over Ottawa. Can Ottawa complete a comeback? Can they get their shit together, win this game, wake up the city, make it a series, and even win this series?

Let me think. Stranger things have happened. A 135 pound Japanese guy can eat about 50 hot dogs in an hour, for example.

We’ll know soon whether Pittsburgh made a big mistake by giving up on three good young players for notorious lousy playoff performer Marian Hossa.

Boston coach Claude Julien says that for some reason, Boston doesn’t play their best games against Montreal, and for some reason, Montreal plays their best games against Boston. Hey, whatever works.

It’s now Ottawa 3, Pittsburgh 3. Ottawa fans are scampering back in from outside and turning their TV’s back on.

Philly and Washington are tied 4-4, and the Rangers are beating the Devils again, 2-0.

Oh, the game’s over in Washington. Ovechkin scored with a little over four minutes left to win the game, 5-4. The guy’s got the world by the tail, that’s for sure. See what happens when you get a little nooky?

Pittsburgh just scored with a only a minute left, and with an empty netter, beat Ottawa 5-3. It’s karma, you know, for Senators fans, that they’re going through such misery. Many of these fans used to be good, faithful Habs fans. See what happens?

I barbequed some steaks and burned them because I was writing all this interesting information.

 

 

It’s Game One, And I’m Growing My Playoff Beard

  Opening round GAME 1

The idea is to get rid of Boston as quickly as possible. Smash them, dazzle them, and confuse them. Overpower them, upset them, anger them, and frustrate them. Kick them, bite them, gouge them, and stick your fingers in their eyes. (just make sure the ref’s not watching.)

Take them out in four games. Stay healthy, and get Koivu back.  Mike Komisarek, an extremely important piece of the pie, is ready to go. Not sure about Ryder and Bouillin. But these are Montreal Canadiens players, not Buffalo Sabres or Pittsburgh Penguins or Toronto Maple Leafs players. These are Habs. They wear the CH. They’ll be back, stronger than ever.

It’s three hours until game time. I’ve been growing my playoff whiskers since last night, and I won’t be shaving until….sometime tomorrow!

LIKE SOME SORT OF TIME-TRAVEL MACHINE, IT’S NOW 3 HOURS LATER, AND THE GAME HAS BEGUN. Another in a long line of Boston-Montreal matchups. Boston has the freak of nature, the behemoth Zdeno Chara. I say grab a chain saw and cut him down to a more normal size.

The dramatic beginning of the telecast, when the teams were waiting in the corridor to go out on the ice, was spine-tingling.

You don’t need me to go over the game. You saw it, or watched Sportscentre or something. The Habs got it done. They dominated.

Montreal 4, Boston, 1. Only fifteen more wins to hoist the Cup.

 Game notes: 

Bob Cole needs to be placed in an old folks home. 

 

Hold On To Your Hats. Habs Fans Are In For A Joyous Ride

Most of the hockey world has weighed in on the state of the Montreal Canadiens and how they’ll do in the playoffs. And frankly, most of them are wrong, most of them are overpaid, and most of their mothers wear army boots. And some TSN computer-generated program picked the Habs to go to the finals but lose to San Jose.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Milt Dunnell, Elmer Ferguson, and Jim Proudfoot rose from the ashes to offer their opinions too.

And the common consensus, the recurring theme is this – If you stay out of the penalty box so the Habs don’t get to unleash their fierce power play, and if Carey Price folds because of no playoff experience, then Montreal can be beaten.

Montreal is so much more than what people, other than Habs fans, are giving them credit for. It’s a young team, faster than lightening, with a system that allows for quick breakouts, and with a steady defence that includes the duo that some oppposing players have said recently is the best defence partnership in the league – Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek.

The team has depth, youth, speed, experience, leadership, closeness, passion, a spirited fourth line, a coach-of-the-year candidate, great fans, spiritual guru Jean Beliveau, and a city of hockey ghosts who have been waiting for years for something like this to happen. The team led the league in goals scored, had the best power play, and got stingier as the season wound down when shorthanded. And if something happened to Carey Price, the team can call on Jaroslav Halak, who was the American Hockey League’s top goaltender three years straight before being called up to the big club.

We’re going to take it one series at a time, beginning with Boston. And if Montreal can go all the way this year, I believe this would be the most special Habs team since the 1970’s. More magical than both 1986 and 1993.

Hold on. It’s going to be great!

In games played tonight, Wednesday night:

Pittsburgh shut out Ottawa 4-0, which is really no surprise since Ottawa’s been in a nosedive for awhile now.

The Rangers went to New Jersey and went away with a 4-1 win which is a bit of a surprise because the Devils are usually pretty stingy (and boring) at home. I’m hoping for the Devils. I don’t want to see Sean Avery any more.

Colorado and Minnesota are tied 2-2 late in the third, and Calgary’s beating San Jose 3-1 early in the third.

But I’ve got to get to bed. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Hoping The Flames Get Through And Lose To Montreal In The Finals

If there’s one team I wouldn’t mind seeing come out of the western division in these Stanley Cup playoffs,  it would have to be Calgary. Of course, Montreal would take them out quickly and effectively in the finals, but that’s not why I want Calgary.

It’s because they were nice to me and a Russian couple a long time ago.

In 1992, after raising a bunch of money by selling Russian pins, I brought a Russian hockey fan and his wife to Calgary for a visit. And the visit had a real purpose. This fellow had been dreaming of seeing an NHL hockey game live for many years. And I wanted to make this happen.

Before the Russian couple came, I contacted the Flames office and explained the story, about how this huge hockey fan wanted to go to a game. At this time, tickets to Flames game were nearly impossible to get ahold of, and I really didn’t want us to end up in the nosebleeds of the Saddledome, which is about three quarters the way to the moon.

For some reason, the Flames understood completely, and here’s what they did. They gave us four lower bowl tickets for a Washington-Calgary game, four lower bowl tickets to a Buffalo-Calgary game, an invitation to a closed Flames practice, a chance to say hello to all the players, and a photo with Theoren Fleury after he came off the ice. Even General Manager Doug Risebrough, a good ex-Hab to be sure, came to where we were sitting to say hello.

And on top of that, they also threw in an autographed stick for this very surprised, and blown away, Russian guy.

The Flames treated this couple so well, and I always appreciated it, even though I’ve never cheered for them.

So I hope they surprise San Jose and keep it going, and in the end, lose in the finals to Montreal.

It’s probably not every team who goes above and beyond like the Flames did in 1992.

Who Should Win. And The Best Things Boston Has Going For Them

    Wednesday it starts, the quest for the Cup, with Ottawa visiting Pittsburgh, the Rangers are in New Jersey, Colorado goes to Minnesota, and Calgary takes on San Jose.

On Thursday, the other four series begin, with Nashville travelling to Detroit, Dallas goes to Anaheim, Philadelphia is in Washington, and, last, but not least, the best of them all, the only one that matters, the beginning of the saga – those dastardly Boston Bruins, right now shaking in their boots, jet to Montreal whether they want to or not.

And although Toe Blake said predictions are for gypsies, I’m going to have my say about who I think will win each series. And this isn’t rocket science.

It’s not going out on a limb to say Pittsburgh will beat Ottawa.

The Devils very possibly could be taken out by the Rangers.

Minnesota should beat Colorado because I don’t trust Jose Theodore.

San Jose should wipe the floor with Calgary.

Detroit will have no problem with Nashville.

I’ve no idea who will win the Dallas-Anaheim series, but probably Anaheim will.

Washington, because they’re on such a roll, should beat Philadelphia.

And Montreal will ice an almost healthy team and spank the Bruins like they’ve never been spanked before.

The best thing’s Boston has going for them is:

Don Cherry doesn’t coach them anymore. They’re in big enough trouble already without having any ‘too many men on the ice’ penalties called against them.

Boston goalie Dave Reese no longer plays, so there probably won’t be any Montreal players getting a ten point night like Darryl Sittler did.

Fans at the Bell Centre won’t be in danger because Mike Milbury, who liked to fight up in the crowd, is only a lousy hockey anaylst now.

Eddie Shore is long gone, so Montreal players are safe from getting clubbed over the head.

And Phil Esposito’s retired, so there’ll be no trails of brylcreem all over the ice.

 

 

Dazed And Confused. And Another Classic Montreal-Boston Playoff Series

Okay, so I’m confused. But it’s the not the first time, and won’t be the last. And I’ve got the best excuse I can think of. I went through the sixties.

Here’s my confusion, and maybe I’ve missed something, and maybe you can clear it up for me.

Pat Hickey in the Montreal Gazette wrote that if Montreal won the eastern conference, which they did when Pittsburgh fell 2-0 to to Philadelphia today, it would be the first time since the 1977-78 season that the Habs did this. So just for fun, I got out my handy, dandy numbers book and saw that, yes indeed, Montreal won the east in ’77-’78 with a whopping 129 points. Boston was second with 113.

But then I noticed something else. The book says the Habs also won the conference in 78-79, when they had 115 points, with Boston again coming in second with 100 points.

And then I noticed that they also won the eastern conference in 1980-81, with 103 points. Then again in ’87-88 with 103 points, then again in 88-89 when they tallied 115 points.

So am I nuts or what. Why am I reading something different than Pat Hickey? Can you help?

Thursday, the show begins. Boston’s packing their spare sticks and jockstraps right now, and probably aren’t feeling real good about the propects of taking on our Habs, considering that Montreal has beaten them eleven straight times dating back to last year.

But I’ve seen before how anything can happen in the playoffs, so there’s no over-confidence here, or smugness, or looking ahead to the second round. No way. The Bruins are a proud bunch, I’m sure, and has tons to prove.

So I’m going to think and talk about this series in a quiet, sombre, respectful, and mature way, and in the end…………………………………….THE HABS ARE GONNA KICK THEIR ASS!

 

Montreal Ends It Off In Style. Now Bring On The Playoffs And Prove The Experts Wrong

Don Cherry thinks the Ottawa Senators will do well in the playoffs but the Habs won’t. Broadcaster Bob Cole threw water on the fire every time sidekick Greg Millen started to say great things about the Habs. “Watch their power play,” Millen would say. “Watch how they never stop moving, how unpredictable they are, how hard they are to stop.”

And Bob Cole would chime in, “yeah, but they haven’t scored yet.” And throughout the game, you could feel him cheering for the Leafs. Cole needs to retire. We’ll keep Cherry around for a chuckle here and there. But he loves the Leafs too.

It’s been like this all year. The so-called elite of the hockey media, Cole, Cherry, McKenzie, McGuire, Hodge et al, just can’t bring themselves to concede that maybe, just maybe, Montreal is a serious contender.

It’s the junior members like Millen and Glen Healy who are the ones who don’t mind offering up superlatives. The old guard won’t do it.

I guess, if the television screen’s right, Montreal meets Boston in the first round after taking out Toronto tonight (April 5) 3-1 in yet another impressive performance by all concerned, including a young buck in his first game, Gregory Stewart, who nearly scored a couple of times, and got the edge in a fight with Brian McCabe at the final siren.

Stewart skated off the ice to the cheers of the faithful and the pats from his new teammates, with this amazingly proud look on his face.

But back to Cherry and Cole and the like. I suppose by the third round, these guys might concede that the Habs look good. But you can be sure that they’ll say Montreal doesn’t stand a chance against the contender from the west.

It’s going to take a Stanley Cup to shut these guys up. Bring on Boston.

It Sure Wasn’t Hard Becoming A Habs Fan

I’m asked from time to time why I cheer for the Habs and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, seeing that I grew up only an hour north of Toronto, in Orillia. The answer’s easy. The Montreal Canadiens were a gift from my dad.

My dad’s 87 now, and of course, still watches hockey. He’s been a hockey fan all his life, followed the Leafs when he was young, and he once wrote a letter in the 1930’s to Ace Bailey who lay in a hospital after Boston’s Eddie Shore clubbed him over the head, ending his career, and nearly killing him.

Bailey’s wife wrote a thank-you note to my dad in return.

But slowly, my dad began to turn. The Toronto Star and Telegram both plastered their papers with Leafs stories and my dad began to wonder about the almost invisible other teams. It was always “Leafs, Leafs, Leafs” as he used to say. Foster Hewitt was the definitive homer, and this rubbed dad the wrong way. And dad, being the introverted type, cringed when he read or heard about the goings-on of brash, loud, and arrogant Leafs owner Conn Smythe.

In the fifties, with television entering households, it was only Leafs game shown, and when the Montreal Canadiens played in Toronto, my dad liked what he saw on his TV. There was the Rocket, Beliveau, Harvey, and Plante. Stanley Cups began to be won by the Habs on a regular basis beginning in 1955, and the Leafs just kept plodding along. The Canadiens had something the Leafs didn’t.

When I was a boy, my dad started a big Montreal Canadiens scrapbook for me. He helped me write fan letters to the the Rocket, and at one point, the Rocket sent me a Christmas card. He took me to Maple Leaf Gardens a couple of times, and once, when we were early and stood at the gate, the entire 1958 Montreal team walked right by us.

He bought me a hockey book which he mailed to Montreal asking for autographs in, and it was mailed back signed by the entire 1958-59 Habs – Richard, Plante, Toe Blake, Beliveau, Geoffrion etc, and the only one missing was Doug Harvey. When we went to a game at the Gardens, he brought the book with him, took it down the the Montreal dressing room corridor, saw Toe Blake standing there, and asked Blake if he would take the book into the dressing room and get Harvey to sign it.

Believe it not, Blake did just that. My son has the book now.

So of course I became a Habs fan. They’ve been magical for me, and the magic has never gone away. It’s been a lifelong love affair.

And it’s all because of my dad.

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