Tag Archives: Tomas Plekanec

Mike Bossy Does It Well, Alex Ovechkin Doesn’t

Watching Henrik Lundqvist get yanked in Sweden’s 5-4 loss to Canada in the World Hockey Championship reminded me of something. Lundqvist speaks English with no accent whatsoever. At least that’s what my ears have heard in the couple of interviews I’ve seen of the Ranger goalie on TV.

Speaking perfect English is an amazing thing when it’s not your mother tongue. It’s very admirable. Some European NHL players have mastered it. For most, of course, it’s impossible.

Detroit’s Swedish star Nick Lidstrom speaks English almost perfectly, but you can detect that Swedish tongue in there just slightly. And it’s a little more so with Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson. You can definitely here the Swedish way of talking in their speech, although their English is excellent.

But not at all with Lundqvist. In those two interviews I heard, he could’ve been the guy in the pool hall, Or the Canadian goalie in the beer league. I need to hear more from Lundqvist. I’m curious about this.

The NHL Russian guys’ English is basically all the same, ranging from pretty good to lousy.  Alex Kovalev speaks English pretty well, with the obvious Russian accent,  but Alex Ovechkin is still a work in progress, and Evgeny Malkin is only beginning. Igor Larionov, on the other hand, spoke excellent English back in the days when Soviet players couldn’t play over here, and so had very little exposure to English. Somehow, though, he got great at it.

Larionov even snuck away from the Russian camp to Wayne Gretzky’s parent’s house in Brantford during the 1987 Canada Cup and partied with all the Canadian guys.

Remember the 1972 Summit Series? We got the odd interview with some of the Russian players including Valeri Kharlamov, and they were interviews using an interpreter. But at the end, the few Russian players managed a meek “thank you” in English, and it was both surprising and wonderful.

The Finnish players pick it up pretty well, like Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne, but you can hear the Finnish accent in there, even though their words and grammar are perfect.

The Czechs, it seems, have a little bit of a harder time of it. Jaromir Jagr’s English is terrrible, after all these years in North America. Tomas Plekanec, however, looks promising as a speaker of English. But the Czechs, like the Russians, use their throats and tongues differently, so there’s many English words they’ll never master properly.

Some of the English guys speak French really well. I can’t learn French, but they speak it with almost no accent. Mike Bossy wins by a landslide on this front.

Henri Richard was so quiet in the early days of his career, that when Toe Blake was once asked if Henri could speak English, Blake replied, “I don’t even know if he can speak French.”

French guys like Daniel Briere, Martin Biron, Vincent Lecavalier, Mario Lemieux, and Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault speak English with only a trace of an accent. It’s very impressive.

It’s just a good thing there’s no heavy-duty Scotsmen in the NHL. Their accent can be thicker than lumpy gravy. I worked with a Scottish guy in Calgary who had been in Canada for years, but he could talk to me for fifteen minutes and I wouldn’t have a clue what he was saying.

Compared to this guy, Alex Ovechkin sounds perfect.

 

A Couple Of Tweaks Here And There And The Habs Will Get Serious Next Year

Rick the Trucker emailed me and told me the Bell Centre crowd started singing that wretched Ole song late in the game when the score was tied 4-4. And not long after the song started, the Flyers scored, of course.

I’ve been saying it all year. I hate that song. I despise it. I cringe when I hear it. I think it pumps the other team up.

If you know anyone who goes to games at the Bell Centre and sings this, please take them out to the country and throw them off a bridge. Or at the very least, rip their vocal cords out with a pair of pliers.

So what went wrong?

Although there’s lots of good about the Montreal Canadiens, why did Philadelphia win?  And why did Montreal almost blow the Boston series?

Why aren’t they ready yet?

Did Bob Gainey get rid of Cristobal Huet a little premature?

Was Carey Price exhausted?

Did the Habs burn out in the regular season going for the coveted first place overall?

Did they go into the playoffs a little too cocky?

Why did the defence disappear during the playoffs? Hamrlik, Komisarek Gorges, Bouillon, all solid as a rock beforehand, and too soft in the post season. And Andrei Markov, a premier defenceman in the league, didn’t play at all like a premier defenceman.

What about Michael Ryder? Will he stay or will he go? He’s going to have to go. They didn’t want him in uniform in the playoffs, so why would they want him in uniform next year?

Why did the big guns become quiet? Alex Kovalev played quite well, and so did Saku Koivu when he came back from injury.  But what happened to the Kostitsyn’s, and Mark Streit, and Tomas Plekanec? Or Higgins and Latendresse? These were guys who turned it down a notch in the playoffs, and hopefully it was such an experience this year, that next year, they’ll turn it up a notch.

Will I be chosen as flag guy at the Bell Centre next year?

Will Danielleia stay a Habs fan?

Will der Habinator buy a new computer?

Will Mike continue to experience ups and downs as an elevator mechanic?

 

Rodney Helps Me Out In Dealing With Those Flyers Fans

Man, those Flyers fans are a tough crowd. They’re letting me have it in the comments section. So I’ve done what I had to do. I’ve prayed to the man above to help, to give me guidance, to make me strong against these folk in Pennsylvania who are rubbing their hands in glee at this very moment at the thought of their team taking out my team.

Dear Rodney, please help.

“Don’t worry, Dennis. They come from a bad neighbourhood. I put my hand in some cement there and felt another hand.”

Flyers fans drink too much. When they give a urine sample, there’s olives in it.

Flyers fans take viagra and prune juice. They don’t know whether they’re coming or going.

They asked Flyers fans to be poster boys – for birth control.

Martin Biron’s mother had morning sickness after he was born.

The Flyers complained to their psychiatrist that everyone hates them. He said they were being ridiculous – everyone hasn’t met them yet.

When Daniel Briere was a kid his parents moved a lot. But he always found them.

When Derian Hatcher was born, the doctor slapped his mother.

STOP THAT, RODNEY.

Sorry, Flyers fans.

In all seriousness, what I’ve garnered from the comments this past week from Flyers fans is this:

They don’t feel their team is getting enough respect. They’re complaining that when I write about Montreal losing, it’s not because the Flyers played well, it’s because the Habs played poorly.

And they don’t think I’m giving enough credit to Martin Biron.

So I’ve been thinking about this. And really, the big reason Philly is doing so well is because of Martin Biron. It’s not because the Flyers are on fire. Daniel Biron’s been good but not great, and also RJ Umberger. But Mike Richards hasn’t, or most of the Flyers forwards, for that matter. And whatever John Stevens did to make his defence so tight around their net, it’s really working.

The reason I say Montreal is not playing up to their standards is because they’re not. They won the eastern division, they scored more goals during the regular season than any other team in the league. And their power play was the best in the league. They played fire wagon hockey all year, they were dynamic, fast, and were a handful for others teams on most nights.

But not now.

During these playoffs, their power play has fizzled and their scoring in general is way off, and that includes the Boston series also. The guys who lit it up during the season, the Kostitsyn’s, Higgins, Kovalev, Plekanec, are quiet now.

So Montreal isn’t playing up to scratch, and Philadelphia is riding with a red-hot goaltender. (And don’t forget, Flyers fans, there’s been a lot of goal posts hit.)

I don’t know why these fans have a problem with this thinking.

And one last little thing. After Philadelphia scored late a couple of games ago, Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen turned around and laughed in Tom Kostopoulos’ face. This is the kind of thing that turns off most hockey fans. It lacked class, you don’t see this type of mocking often, and when Kostopoulos smacked him in the mouth for this, I’m sure hockey fans, even Habs haters, nodded their heads approvingly.

 

Montreal Remembers Their Game Just In Time And Puts Stake In The Bruins

 GAME 7

 It wasn’t their best game of the season, but it was certainly their best game of the playoffs. By far their best game. A beautiful 5-0 shutout. It’s like getting rid of a big boil on your nose.

Monday night, game seven, we saw the Montreal Canadiens we had become used to throughout the regular season. They attacked. They skated. They played with poise. And that’s the way they should have being playing all along in this opening round. 

Maybe they’ve learned something from this stressful seven game experience with the Bruins. From now on, we do the attacking, not the other guys. 

So what happened for the Montreal Canadiens, down and out after blowing a three games to one lead, with the Bruins carrying all the confidence and momentum going into this deciding game? How could they come out in game seven, find the game they were desperately looking for, and skate away with a mouth-watering 5-0 shutout to eliminate the pesky Bruins?

Carey Price kept them in it early in the game, and then it was like a lightswitch went on. The Canadiens suddenly remembered how they won the eastern conference. Everyone stepped it up, they attacked, and the Bruins became no match.

Alex Kovalev was flying, so were the guys who had been in a funk – the Kostitsyn’s, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Mark Streit, and about ten others.  Carey Price, who went from giving up ten goals in two games to none when it counted the most, in game seven, was fabulous, and showed he doesn’t rattle in a pressure cooker.

Guy Carbonneau was no longer outcoached by Claude Julien, and whatever he did to get the team to open it up like they did, he’s got to bottle it and feed it to his players in the second round.

And what a difference Saku Koivu makes when he’s in the lineup.

The Bruins were good, fought hard, they stressed out me and most Habs fans, and I’m glad they’re out of there. I’ve had enough of Zdeno Chara and his shorter teammates. They were good, but Montreal showed that when they’re firing on all cylinders, they’re better. 

So it becomes this – If Philadelphia eliminates Washington, then Montreal plays Philadelphia in the next round. But if Washington wins, Montreal takes on Sean Avery and the New York Rangers.

I don’t care who it is. Bring em on!

Just play every game like Monday’s game, boys, and you’ll take out either one of them.

 

Let’s Just Bury Game Six And Concentrate On Game Seven

  GAME 6

The picture is now crystal clear. Boston has figured Montreal out, and Montreal doesn’t know how to figure Boston out. Claude Julien understands how playoff hockey works, adjusted nicely, and his team has delivered.

Tonight, it became a 5-4 Bruins win, and it was a game that surely has left all Habs fans grumbling and more than slightly pissed off.

Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau has not been able to light a fire under his boys, and so again, in this game six, it meant four Boston goals in the third period, the same as in game five. It meant five goals scored again by Boston, the same as in game five. It meant that again, Montreal was flat, their power play was flat, and although Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec finally broke out of their scoreless draught, it was a non-effort by almost everyone on the Montreal team.

Or maybe it wasn’t so much a non-effort by Montreal, but a better effort by Boston.

So I don’t want to but I have to ask this one question, a question which makes me uneasy, but I feel must be addressed. Are there too many Europeans on the Montreal Canadiens to understand what it takes to win in playoff hockey?

The playoffs aren’t the regular season. And for a couple of decades now, we’ve seen many examples of players from across the pond not understanding the importance of the Stanley Cup, unlike North Americans, especially Canadians, who have this emotion implanted in their hearts and souls.

I hear from Canucks fans all the time how the Sedin twins, from Sweden, are the furthest things from playoff performers. 

If you say this is bullshit and I’m out of line, then where have the European Habs gone?

Russian-born Alex Kovalev, mentioned as a possible league MVP, has brought his game down a couple of serious notches and is no more the straw that stirs the drink during Montreal’s once daunting power play. The Kostitsyn’s, from Belarus, can’t crack Boston’s playoff checking. Tomas Plekanec, from the Czech Republic, was an offensive marvel during the regular season, and now is playing like he’d rather be some place else. Switzerland’s Mark Streit is playing like he belongs in the American Hockey League.

Even Russian Andrei Markov, frequently called one of the top defensemen in the entire league, has posed no threat whatsoever.

This is a very disappointing turn of events. It was such a short time ago that talk of a Stanley Cup was rampant throughout Hab universe, but now this is a team hanging by a thread, playing scared, playing tight and nervous, while Boston is a team of happy campers, feeling good about themselves, and can’t wait for game seven Monday night.

Of course Montreal can redeem themselves in one game and make everyone forget they haven’t deserved this series. They can win still, make no mistake about that. They’ve been a team of surprises all year, and now it’s time to pull one last trick out of their bag.

But so far, and it pains me to say this, I haven’t seen a Stanley Cup contender from my Montreal Canadiens.

 

Al Jazeera, A Fan Mugging, Bin Laden, And Some Excellent Excuses For The Habs

I think it’s important that you should know that:

The Middle-East newspaper Al Jazeera prints the NHL standings.

This is the paper that Bin Laden and his band of bearded brutes use when they want to send a message to the wicked west.

Is it possible that Bin Laden reads the NHL standings?

Could Bin Laden be a Habs fan?

This is my own opinion, but I would have to guess that Bin Laden grew up cheering for the Broad Street Bullies, is now rooting for the Bruins, and also likes Sean Avery.

I wonder if Bin Laden and his greasy pranksters clip the standings out of the Al Jazeera sports section and have a hockey pool every year.

There’s a rink in a mall in Dubai where locals skate and play hockey. Maybe Bin Laden and pals get together at 11:30 Wednesday nights for their beer league game.

IN OTHER NEWS:

In a shocking display of poor sportmanship, the Boston Bruins have refused to let the Montreal Canadiens win easily, which explains why several Montreal Canadiens still haven’t arrived for the series. “I haven’t tried because I thought Boston was supposed to not try,” explained Montreal forward Christopher Higgins. “Somebody should have told me.”

 “It’s not right,” added Michel Ryder. “They’re skating fast and checking us and everything. Boston’s not playing fair. They’re cheating.”

“Nobody told me it was going to be hard,” complained Tomas Plekanec. “And anyway, I was really good in the regular season, and now you want me to be good in the playoffs too?”

IN EXTRA OTHER NEWS:

A Montreal fan got beat up in Boston the other night. It’s impossible that he may have deserved it. Okay, so maybe he was wearing his Habs jersey, and maybe he was yelling “Go Habs Go” at the top of his lungs, and maybe he told these Bruins fans that their team sucked, and maybe he was drunk and got right in their faces, and maybe he drooled all over them, and of course he wasn’t loud and obnoxious on someone else’s turf.

 

 

 

 

 

Montreal, With A Big Shutout Win, Made Me Very Happy Tonight

 GAME 4

Whew. That was as blue collar, lunchpail as you’re ever going to see. It was playoff hockey, tough, close, hard- working, well-earned chances at either end. And Montreal won the big one, a 1-0 shutout, and it doesn’t get any better, or any more beautiful than this. Up three games to one and going back to Montreal.

It’s amazing how stressful hockey can be. And how satisfying when the right team wins.

Today I was talking to the local newspaper publisher, a woman who’s always been a tom boy and a hockey fan. She’s a big fan of the local senior team, but she said she didn’t like NHL hockey much anymore. “Too many low scoring games,” she said. “Too boring.”

I wonder if she watched tonight. This low scoring, 1-0 game was anything but boring. It was back and forth, tremendously intense, with non-stop hitting, and with a main sub plot starring Mike Komisarek and Milan Lucic having their private parties.

Montreal made adjustments tonight. But they need more. They stopped Boston’s offence, but their own offence is still a concern. Higgins and Plekanec in particular still haven’t gotten it together, and although I keep mentioning it, they’re obviously not listening to me. What, they don’t read the blog?

And the Kostitsyn’s aren’t playing with the swagger they showed during the regular season.

The good news is that the lone goal scored, by Patrice Brisebois, was a power play goal. Like I said yesterday, the power play’s been their bread and butter.

Three down, thirteen to go.

Game note:

As much as the Boston Bruins give me heartburn,  the Rangers’ Sean Avery gives me slow burn.

 

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.

 

Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec Saves The Day In Buffalo

I’m so tired I feel like I’m getting sleep-deprivation torture in a Saudi prison. It’s because I’m going to bed fairly late and getting up at 3:30 am to go to work. And today, at the ticket booth, I had trouble getting a guy’s credit card to work because the system was acting up, and finally, after it did work, the guy drove away and sarcastically said, “Thanks, you’re a real pro.” So I said “You’re welcome, you’re a real asshole.”

The Montreal-Buffalo game is on and it’s the end of the first period. Nothing really has happened so there’s nothing to report. So while I’m waiting for something to happen, I might as well say what I’m gonna say, and that is, “Mike’s an elevator mechanic. There’s a job that has it’s ups and downs.” BADDA BIN, BADDA BOOM!

Sorry. (This marks the eight thousandth time Mike has heard this.)

Montreal needs this game so I hope they’re regrouping in the dressing room. They need first overall for that prime spot in the playoffs, where they’d play in the first round, hopefully, Boston.

Buffalo is scratching and clawing for the final playoff spot, and if they reach it, they could play Montreal in the first round. So this is a team that’s desperate and hungry.

It’ll be interesting how this all plays out. Right now though, I’m tired.

A couple of small observations. I like the original Buffalo Sabres’ uniforms better than the ones they wear now. The ones now look like a cross between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, George Jetson, and the Los Angeles Rams football team.sabres.jpg

But I really like how low the cameras are placed at the HSBC Arena. It’s just like the old days in Montreal and Toronto. And these cameras are about a mile closer than the ones in Tampa Bay.
Second period’s over. Kovalev just tied it up 1-1, finishing a nice Grabovsky play. I’m also thinking about what der Habinator said about Pete Rose should be in Cooperstown and I think so too. I also found it interesting what Mike said about how it would take an elevator mechanic 48 years to make the same money as what Patrick Roy turned down. Kinda makes you think.

Holy smokin arseholes! Tomas Plekanec scored two goals in the last two and a half minutes of the game to tie it, then Chris Higgins wins it in overtime.  They won it even though Habs fans in Buffalo sang the olay song. Maybe the song works after all.

Tomorrow night, it’s up the Queen E to Toronto. And I was thinking. If the team wants to make a side trip to Orillia before they need to play Ottawa on Tuesday, several of them could probably stay at my dad’s house on Elmer Ave. They’ll have to be quiet though. He’s 87 and goes to bed at seven. And they could go out for drinks at the Atherley Arms. I’m sure the peelers would get a charge out of it.

Montreal’s back on top in the east with 98 points. They finished with 90 points last year.

Life In The Russian League Would Be A Good Life For players Like Grabovski

When recently called-up forward Mikhail Grabovski got his shorts in a knot about not playing and ran into the arms of his agent, it possibly marked the beginning of the end for the young Belarus centreman as far as becoming a real player for the Montreal Canadiens. After his hissy-fit, coach Carbonneau did absolutely the right thing by not dressing him for the LA game.

But surprisingly enough, at the time at least, the young guy played the next night in Anaheim. And as it happens, he set up Alex Kovalev for a really nice goal, and also lost nine of ten faceoff draws. But it turns out he only played because Tomas Plekanec had the flu.

And next year, he could see lots of ice time in the Russian Super League.  

You see, here’s the thing about this Russian league. I’ve been to a handfull of games in Russia since 1991, and back then, players’ yearly salaries there amounted to what Ryan O’Byrne and the other rookies left as a tip in Tampa Bay. It was mostly bus rides, not planes, silly old Soviet hotels, and not much in the way of adulation from fans. And not only that, when the games ended, players from both teams hung around centre ice and shot the shit, which I found really bizarre.

But it’s different now by a country mile. And not just hockey, but Russia in general. Gone are lineups into little food shops for some cheese and a loaf of bread. Now it’s modern malls with food courts, and fast food, fast cars, and fat cats abound. Someone who’d been away from Russia since 1991 and just came back wouldn’t recognize it.

And so it’s filtered down into hockey. Players now in the Russian League who were making $200 a week not that long ago, are now signing million dollar contracts. Where once they were living in old and decrepid Soviet housing, they now have swanky condo’s.

So for guys like Grabovski and other young players from Eastern Europe, playing near home, knowing the language, eating food they grew up with, is a wonderful alternative to the NHL.

Don’t be surprised to see the number of Russian players and those of nearby countries slowly dwindle from the NHL as life in the old country continues to improve.

Maybe it’s best for Mikhail Grabovski. Although he’s small, he’s got lots of raw talent, but to play in the NHL, your head has to be screwed on properly.  Not being happy about not playing is one thing, and is actually appreciated by coaches and teammates. It shows you need to play, to help the team. It sucks not to play. 

But when you bolt the team and run to your agent, it’s different.

It also really bugs me about the “agent-father-figure” thing. Am I wrong to believe that these agents are there for the money, the healthy cut of the player’s salary, not because they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart?