Tag Archives: Phil Kessel

Habs Hurt Leafs

Canadiens top the Leafs 4-3 at the ACC that should have fans leaving the building feeling they got their money’s worth, and which keeps the Habs train rolling and the Leaf apple cart tottering on the edge of the cliff.

It was a back and forth affair, a bunch of posts behind Carey Price were hit, just two penalties were called for each team on the night, and it was tense going in the final minutes when the Leafs pulled James Reimer and the Habs were holding on.

Montreal looked like they were going to burst it wide open in the first when Max and Rene Bourque both beat Reimer on his glove hand, and maybe a third goal would have really got the ball rolling considering Reimer’s fragile confidence.

But credit to Reimer. He came up with some great saves after those two goals, the game never got out of hand, and the Leafs battled back to tie it until a late first period goal by Brian Gionta made it 3-2 Habs.

Scoreless in the second, and then the obnoxious Nazem Kadri was left open at the side of the net and banged it home to tie things at three.

It was nerve wracking to be sure, and heart-stopping when sniper Phil Kessel waltzed in on Carey Price. But Price would stop Kessel, and soon after Tomas Plekanec converted some nice passing from Markov and P.K. and the boys held on and got it done.

Rene Bourque contributed a goal and assist on this night after being a healthy scratch for the last five games, and he played with rare passion. So much so that HNIC named him the game’s first star.

Imagine that. Rene Bourque. Can he do it again two nights from now?

Speaking of HNIC, the intermissions were all Leafs, all the time. Leafs, Leafs, Leafs. This is one of the main reasons I grew up hating the white and blue. Rarely a mention of the Canadiens.

And at the end of the game, Glenn Healy proclaimed that the Leafs were the much better team on the night, even though Montreal outshot Toronto in the first two periods, the shots overall were even at 36 each, and the Habs won the game.

What the Leafs did win was in the hits department, with 37 to Montreal’s 18.

Dion Phaneuf tried to get rough with little David Desharnais, and considering the way Phaneuf fights, this was a fair matchup.

A great win, the screws are tightening on the Leafs, and the Canadiens are jockeying for a nice playoff seeding. It’s also Toronto’s fourth straight loss which adds to the festivities!

Now it’s Monday in Boston for Les Glorieux when they meet a Bruins team that’s racked up 12 straight wins. But all streaks must eventually come to an end. Like on Monday.

 

Max Fires Home Winner

The Canadiens take out the Leafs 4-3 in overtime with a Max Pacioretty twine bulger, and somehow, some way, the boys just keep on clicking.

Three straight games where it goes to OT, all with Peter Budaj in nets. Two wins in those three games. One loss in their last six.

Putting a tad more distance from the Torontonians who are breathing down their neck.

It’s good but there’s no letting up. A tough California/Arizona test is next on the agenda. Four games against four good teams. But that’s getting way ahead of myself.

This Habs/Leafs clash had its moments for sure, although it started out with whistles about every ten seconds it seemed. But then things got rolling.

The Canadiens overall enjoyed a good first period, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty, but the Leafs would narrow it to one late in the frame when James Van Riemsdyk slipped it under Budaj.

There was no scoring in a bit of an uneventful second period, but in the third, after Budaj had robbed Phil Kessel close in, Andrei Markov on the power play sent a nice pass to the far point which led to a serious change of momentum.

Because no one happened to be there at the time. Except the enemy.

Van Riemsdyck burst down the ice ahead of P.K, Subban and scored one of those depressing shorthanded goals that sinks ships.

It became even worse when Kessel put the Buds ahead. (The Kessel, Bozak, Van Riemsdyck line was definitely a pain in the ass).

But it all worked out (except for the Leafs and Leaf fans) when Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier came out of his crease to corral a puck, was penalized, and P.K. on the power play blasted it home to tie it and send it to overtime.

And that was when good old Max got it done.

Of course if you saw the game, you already know all this.

Random Notes:

Montreal outshot Toronto 30-25.

I thought Lars Eller skated much better than we’ve seen recently and he seemed confident and relaxed.

P.K. was full of beans and did his fair share of dipsy-doodling.

Dale Weise was nailed in the mouth by an errant skate, got sewn up and came back with a cage on. Weise’s wife probably isn’t looking forward to a goodnight kiss tonight.

Budaj came up with some beauty saves and has filled in nicely for an injured Carey Price. Thanks Peter. Now, hopefully, Price will suit up in L.A.

It’s going to be a tough road trip for the boys (aside from leaving frigid Montreal and going to the land of palm trees), with contenders L.A., Anaheim, Phoenix, and San Jose coming up. But with the Habs, who knows, they just might grab a bunch of points along the way.

They don’t overpower, but they stay high in the standings. It’s all quite surprising.

The next four games are late – 10:30 ET, 10:00, 9:00, and 10:00.

 

 

Hopefully Not Three In A Row

Whenever the Canadiens lose, like they have in their last two outings against Boston and Buffalo, I have to change my television viewing habits. I refuse to watch hockey highlights after the game, and the following day. Especially when the gang gets scored on with two seconds left.

Seeing some sportscaster talk about a Habs loss and how it happened isn’t my idea of a good time. Why do I need this again? It sucked the first time and surely it’ll suck the second time too. It’s been this way for me for many years.

I hate it when Montreal loses, and I definitely don’t want to watch others dwell on it.

I’m on days off now, and  instead of having sports on, I’ll watch a couple of cop shows, recycle, walk, do the dishes, read, pick my toenails, gargle, look in the fridge, swab my ears, vacuum, go to the store, and wait until they win again so I can watch some sports news.

Hopefully they’ll beat the Leafs on Saturday night, although there’s certainly no guarantee. Phil Kessel finally got his first of the year, and watch, he’ll play like Charlie Conacher when the Leafs and Habs connect that night.

When I first heard that Kessel had scored, I said good, I’ve got him in my pool. Then, when I checked my pool to see how I’m doing, I see I don’t have him after all. All along I thought I had the bugger, and disturbingly, it’s probably just another direct sign that I’m losing my mind. It goes along with when I was in Orillia recently and I was looking at a 1972 Ontario license plate for sale in a second-hand store. I went back the next day and somehow it had become a 1973 license plate.

The Leafs, although they’ve played eleven games to the Habs ten, are just one point behind Montreal and we can’t be having the Canadiens lose three in a row and the Leafs overtaking them. How that would suck. And once again there would be no sports on my television until at least after the next game.

Having no sports shows on is fine, I suppose, although I’m a fan of Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown. At least he doesn’t dwell on actual games. He’s into the bigger picture and I’m pretty confident he won’t bring up the latest Habs loss. Although the question lingers – why does he wear sunglasses indoors?

I hate it when Montreal loses. I take it hard. It’s always been this way, and I ask myself -  when am I gonna grow up? It’s only a game, isn’t it?

A Whale Of A Sign

I saw four whales at work the other day, spouting water high into the air and diving under with their big tails following their huge bodies into the drink, and I know what it means.

Other than I’m a lucky guy for seeing this mesmorizing sight, I think it’s a sign that the Bruins won’t win their tenth straight tonight. Ten straight. Gimme a break. Or the Leafs, now in second place in the east with 26 points (behind Pittsburgh with 27), are about to fall back to earth with a thud any day now. Leafs in second place. Gimme another break.

Maybe it means that Toronto’s Phil Kessel, with the most points in the league with 30, and his teammate Joffrey Lupul in 2nd with 26, are about to be suspended after being busted for cross-dressing at a Hell’s Angel party..

Isn’t it an old native proverb, that when four whales are sighted at Saltery Bay ferry terminal, some on top must soon fall hard and heavy?

I hope it also means the Habs beat Carolina tonight, because as lacklustre as the Hurricanes have looked lately, they’re only two points behind Montreal. Imagine, Carolina is in second-last place in the east and are only two points behind the Habs.

We should expect a big game from Erik Cole tonight as he returns to his previous place of employment. But lately we’ve been getting big games from this guy every night, so it should come as no surprise. And I still wonder why Jacques Martin didn’t seem overly-enthusiastic about Cole in the beginning, giving him minimal ice time on the power play and such. The guy’s a star, and even if he had a slightly slow start, Martin’s seen him around the league for years and should have known what this player can bring to the table.

But Jacques knows now. I guess he was given a sign.

Canadiens End Things The Right Way

It only took 82 games but now we know exactly who the Habs will meet in the opening round of the playoffs. The team we figured all along. Sort of.

Bring on the Bruins, as the Canadiens finished off their regular season in fine fashion, taking out the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at the ACC, and doing it front of some people with deeper pockets than me (but maybe not you), shelling out a thousand bucks a lower-bowl seat to see an age-old rivalry going at it in their final games of the regular season.

Ryan White opened the scoring for the Canadiens and got in a nice little fight with some gorilla (names aren’t important) that left White battered and bruised but looking good anyway. Except for the swollen cheeks and forehead.

But he got his licks in and he’s become an important foot soldier for Les Habs.

Brian Gionta notched two power play goals, and Tomas Plekanec scored a shorthanded goal late in the game to salt it away. And in all fairness, it appeared that Phil Kessel’s puck crossed the line but was ruled no-goal, and yes, maybe it wasn’t conclusive in two different camera angles, but it sure looked to be with a third angle.

With the contoversial Chicago goal the other night and now this one tonight, can we be sure the guys upstairs were actually upstairs? And I say this while being extremely happy that Toronto’s goal was ruled not in. I’m just wondering if these guys have beer in their war room or something.

Nice to see Montreal end things on a winning note. How much would it have sucked if Toronto had taken it to the Canadiens and made the good guys look bad? Instead, we go into the postseason ready to rock and roll.

Now we have to hit Boston where it hurts – and that’s on the scoreboard. Jump out to early leads and when Shawn Thornton or Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic or the slimy Brad Marchand start getting greasy, just point up to the scoreboard. It’s the perfect age-old jab.

Random Notes:

They were saying on Hockey Night in Canada that Kirk Muller is a much-desired man for the Sens coaching position. It would be a shame to lose him, but he needs to do what he thinks is best for his career. Of course.  But if he ends up in Ottawa my wife might not think he’s handsome anymore.

One other thing to be addressed. I didn’t see the clip of Scott Gomez laughing like crazy during the Ottawa game the other night, but HNIC showed it tonight, and both Mike Milbury and Kelly Hrudey couldn’t quite understand this attitude given that Gomez hasn’t scored since Georges Vezina was playing.

I’m in complete agreement with these two fellows. It upsets me to see a guy, with one of the league’s highest salaries and just 7 goals, who floats much of the time and avoids heavy traffic almost all the time, laughing like that. They say he not prepared to play, and laughing, as Hrudey mentioned, is completely unacceptable.

Rarely if ever in my years as a Habs fan have I disliked the play of a player the way I dislike Gomez’s efforts. If he wants to finally earn some of that big money and have Habs fans on his side at all, he needs to help his team dismantle the Bruins beginning on Thursday. Anything less and he’s a bum and won’t be forgiven.

Carey Price was, as usual, just excellent. He’s the guy who stirs the drink, the guy who’s going to lead his team, and us, to the promised land.

I thought the sign a kid in a Leafs’ jersey held up was hilarious. It read, “Nobody Likes The Habs.”

Jacques Martin recorded his 600th win as an NHL coach. And I’m serious when I say he smiled after game .

Gentlemen, Start Your Skates

Carey Price is under the weather and may not play in the season opener Thursday night in Toronto. C’mon Carey, shape up. Up and at ‘em. Eat six raw eggs and drink a half pint of cod liver oil.

Or if all else fails, smoke a doobie. But not too close to game time.

Finally, after all these months, hockey returns for real. And the schedule maker may have other issues, but having the Habs and Leafs go at it in game one is very good. 

It goes without saying that Habs and Leaf fans love when these two play each other. The rivalry between teams is an old one, a great one, and for those who don’t know, many years ago, many, many years ago, the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.

I know. I read it somewhere in the Old Testament.

I have my mom’s diary beside me that she wrote when she was a teenager, and the entry for April 18th, 1942 is: “The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup tonight for the first time in years.” She was right. It had been ten years since they’d won it before that, in 1932. Overall though, the team in blue has captured the hardware 13 times, which is better than anyone else except our guys, of course. (Detroit has won it 11 times, the Bruins five).

And imagine the Stanley Cup playoffs ending on April 18th.

My mom knew the Leafs’ Bucko McDonald when she was growing up in Sundridge, Ontario, where he’s from, and it’s entirely possible she liked the Torontonians as a young girl. Maybe all those times she helped me type letters to the Montreal Canadiens at the kitchen table, she was secretly a Leaf fan and never mentioned it. (Bucko is known for another reason too: he coached Bobby Orr in nearby Parry Sound when Orr was a wee lad and McDonald can certainly claim some responsibility for helping Orr grow as a player in his formative years).

As a hockey fan, I have great respect for much of the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Conn Smythe and Frank Selke building the team in the early days; Turk Broda, Syl Apps, Hap Day, the Kid Line, Bill Barilko. Later, Tim Horton, Dave Keon, Frank Mahovlich, Johnny Bower.

The Eddie Shack – John Ferguson battles that usually led to bench-clearing brawls. Backstrom and Keon lining up for a faceoff. Punch Imlach with his fedora and arrogant smirk. Harold Ballard saying and doing the outrageous, often distastefully and lacking a certain amount of grace and decorum. But he was a fixture and mover and shaker at the Gardens for decades.

All those many nights when the Canadiens and Leafs went toe to toe at the Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens and fans got their money’s worth in spades.

The story of hockey in many ways is the story of Montreal and those dastardly Toronto Maple Leafs.

But I’m a Habs fan, and so I do what I always do – hope for a Montreal slaughter, a gigantic take-down of the boys in blue. I want a demolishing, a trouncing, a slaughtering, a one-sided embarrassment. It’s not too much to ask.

Bring ‘em on. Bring on Komisarek with the bad passes and bad penalties, bring on the unlikable duo of Mikhail Grabovski and Phil Kessel. In fact, on the subject of Grabovski, here’s a lovely little read in case you missed it; Couple sues Maple Leaf.

Random Notes:

Roman Hamrlik is still nursing his sore knee but seems almost ready. Andre Markov says it’s a secret when he’ll return, and Mike Cammalleri stays in civvies for one night only for getting down and dirty against the Islanders in pre-season. Hey, you don’t mess with Cammy.

 

Sports Illustrated Looks At The Kessel Move

From Sports Illustrated:

The Bruins increased their stockpile of draft picks — but will they use them well?

The Maple Leafs got a young explosive scorer — but one with just one solid season. The only sure winner is Phil Kessel, who got a new five-year, $27 million contract. 

 Time was that a Boston fan’s second-favorite team was whoever happened to be playing the Montreal Canadiens that night. Now they’ll be pulling for anyone lining up against the Toronto Maple Leafs … even if it means cheering on those hated Habs. That’s because every Leafs loss this season and next adds value to the trio of high draft picks the Bruins acquired late Friday night from Toronto in exchange for the rights winger Phil Kessel.

Shortly after sending Boston a first- and second-rounder in the 2010 draft along with a 2011 first-rounder, the Leafs inked Kessel to a five-year deal worth a reported $27 million. Safe to say it was a risky move for both teams. Unable to sell the restricted free agent on the merits of a cap-friendly contract — something on the order of the three-year, $11.25 million deal signed earlier this summer by the superior David Krejci — Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had no choice but to move Kessel.

Don’t expect too many tears in Boston, though. The fifth overall pick in 2006 chafed at the imposition of Claude Julien’s strict defensive scheme and lacked the grit required of a Boston winger. Still, his world-class speed and the Brett Hull-like ability to find dead space from which to launch a nasty snapper can’t be replaced by anyone in the Bruins system. He’s coming off a breakout season in which he scored 36 goals and 24 assists in 70 games and, at just 21, Kessel’s not yet reached his ceiling. By sending him to a divisional rival, Chiarelli risks being haunted by his decision at last 30 times over the next five years. There was method to his madness, however. By accepting draft choices in exchange for the malcontent, Chiarelli kept the B’s under the cap this season, if only barely. And by refusing to make a high-dollar, long-term commitment to Kessel, he left himself some wiggle room next summer to accommodate first line center Marc Savard and/or the demands of the next set of cornerstone RFAs, including Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask.

Those are important considerations — but are they important enough to compensate for the fact that the Bruins just lost a legitimate first-line winger and could end up with nothing to show for him? It’s true that, along with the 2010 Tampa Bay second-rounder acquired last April in the Mark Recchi deal, the B’s now have eight picks spread over the first two rounds of the next two drafts. That’s the sort of cupboard stocking potential that can ensure a team remains a perennial contender in the cap era. But the Bruins have to make the right choices to ensure a fair return on this deal … and considering their last three drafts received middling reviews and have yet to generate a single game played, that’s hardly a fait accompli.

Chiarelli could decide to bundle the picks to move up in the draft and improve his odds of success, or dangle them as part of a package to acquire an impact player ahead of the trade deadline. Whatever he does with his booty, it’s fair to say we’re unlikely to get a real handle on how well Boston made out in this deal for several years.

It’s an equally mixed bag from Toronto’s perspective. Brian Burke’s four-month courtship netted him the best player in the deal, the dynamic, young sniper the Leafs desperately needed, and he did it without sacrificing anyone off his roster — a significant consideration for a man determined to return Toronto to the playoffs this season.

In Kessel, the Leafs add a preeminent gamebreaker — a nice get given that they lost 13 games after the third period in 2008-09, second-most in the league. But Kessel also is a player with just one solid season on his resume, a player whose singular move when entering the offensive zone with the puck has become far too predictable and easy to defend, and who relies on a set-up man like Savard to create most of his opportunities. And while he has plenty of time to mature over the course of his new contract, there’s no denying that some of his former teammates quietly questioned his commitment to the cause. Think about that. It wasn’t an oversight by the Bruins that led to their cap space being filled before their leading goal scorer was accommodated. They simply believed he wasn’t as valuable to their future as some others.

Focusing on the present allowed Burke to assess Kessel’s value differently. He continued a rebuilding shortcut that suggests the Leafs will ice a more competitive side this season, but in doing so he ensures Toronto’s scouts will spend the next two drafts picking through the leftovers after all the blue chips have been scooped up. That’s a steep price to pay, even for a team that re-loaded the prospect cupboard with college free agents this summer. The only real certainty here? With a new jersey on his back and a fat contract in hand, Kessel clearly comes out on top. Whether Toronto or Boston joins him in the winner’s circle at some point is yet to be determined.

Liking The Habs Two Days In A Row

Habs 2, Sens 1.

Do you think the Canadiens should wear their team jerseys and jeans, or nice suits, in the Stanley Cup parade next June?

JUST KIDDING, PEOPLE. We’ll talk about this later.

My wife is disappointed. And when she’s disappointed, I’m disappointed. But I don’t know how to make it better. I pointed out new coach Jacques Martin to her, and she doesn’t think he’s handsome enough. Forgive her for her shallowness, but she’s still a huge Habs fan, loves her team, and is pissed that Kovalev isn’t there.

Curious and interesting to see our new big guys out there. Defencemen Hal Gill, 6’7″, 240 lbs, Paul Mara,6’4″, 210 lbs, and forward Travis Moen,6’2′”, 211. What a different look the Habs are this year from last, between last night’s game with Gomez and Cammalleri and company, and tonight with these guys. All these mixtures and styles. I like this.

Max Pacioretty: With your gangway style and lanky bow-legs, you remind me of Dave Balon. That’s a great thing. He was a great player.

Tomas Plekanec: I was so happy to see you play tonight with energy and purpose the way you did two years ago. If I was your neighbour, I’d cut your lawn.

Brian Gionta: You slick little bugger. You were born to play in Montreal.

Random Notes:

I’m not happy about Phil Kessel joing the Leafs. He’s good, and we want Toronto to be bad. But we’ve got Gionta and Gomez and Cammalleri and Plekanec and the Kostitsyns’ and…….it just goes on and on. So there’s no worry about Kessel. And anyway, this makes Boston a little less dangerous.

Next Up – Habs in Ottawa Saturday night to visit Alex Kovalev.

Canadiens Can’t Get It Done Against This Solid Bruins Squad

If I was an Ottawa Senators fan, I think I’d have a hard time watching the Montreal-Boston series, which the Bruins now lead three games to none and will soon put all of us out of our misery. Because if I was a Senators fan, I think it’d be a bummer knowing that Zdeno Charo once played in Ottawa and was cut loose when the Sens decided to go with Wade Redden instead. Redden isn’t even with Ottawa anymore. He now toils as an ordinary blueliner with the Rangers, and Chara, carrying on nicely in Boston, will win the Norris.

Imagine how Chara would’ve helped the Senators. He’s a force, a gigantic leader, shooter, checker, passer, thinker, thumper, and, if you dare fight him, you lose.

The Canadiens stormed out of the gate on this night where the final tally was 4-2 Bruins. They took the lead, played their best period of the series, and yet, when twenty minutes was said and done, could only manage a tie. By the time the third period rolled around, the early energy and pace of the Habs had been slowly snuffed out by a patient and systematic Bruins.

The Bruins are finely-tuned and well-coached, and when you think of how Ottawa let go of Chara, you can also think that Claude Julien was fired as coach of the Habs, and Bruins sniper Michael Ryder, who’s been dangerous, was traded away by Bob Gainey.

I see now that Boston has a team that can very well win the whole thing this year. They have a tight checking system, but unlike trapping teams such as New Jersey and Minnesota, Boston also has a load of snipers like Phil Kessel, Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron,  Ryder, and a handful of others. Goalie Tim Thomas is as solid as they come. Milan Lucic, serving a one game suspension, makes his presence felt every game, in a big-time way.

And then there’s Chara.

Random Notes:

Yannick Weber and Chris Higgins scored for Montreal. The aforementioned Ryder notched the winner for the Bruins.

Alex Tanguay and Mathieu Schneider sat it out with upper body injuries. Sergei Kostitsyn sat it out because he’s brain dead. And Carey Price has now lost six straight playoff games. Does it get any worse?

I’m sure I heard some of the Bell Centre paying customers boo the Star Spangled Banner, and I definitely heard them boo Carey Price at a stage in the game when they should be rallying around the youngster, when the team still had a chance to win the thing. Yes Virginia, there are some loutish Hab fans.