Archive for April, 2010

The Not Dryden

April 30, 2010

Jaroslav Halak Leaves The Ice in Shame in Pittsburgh

Can we end the Ken Dryden/Patrick Roy comparisons now? Can we?

5 goals on 20 shots. A .750 saves percentage. Pulled for Carey Price.

The lesson here, my friends?

Three games does not a career make.

Quick.

Where were you when Pittsburgh went 4 for 4 on the Power Play in Game 1?

Show Us Your Colors!

Homerism Gone Wild in Montreal

April 30, 2010

If you’re interested in what passes for journalism in the Montreal Gazette these days check out what amounts to a textual hand job from long time Canadiens scribe Red Fisher, posted over at NHL.com.

For Montrealers, hockey always has been more than just a game. It is our hopes, our dreams, our culture, our national identity.

Nowhere has it been played with more success and more passion. Nowhere does it elicit more joy from its audiences. When the Canadiens win, the fans win. When the Canadiens lose, they lose.

Once, the team was the blinding speed of a Howie Morenz. It was a Maurice Richard sweeping in on a goaltender whenever there was a game to be won. It was the grace of Jean Beliveau, the brilliance of Doug Harvey, the booming shot of Bernie Geoffrion, the finesse of Dickie Moore and the Hall of Fame excellence of Henri Richard, Yvan Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey and so many others.

How many treasured memories have they delivered to generations not only of Canadiens fans, but to Canadians across the land — and elsewhere? How much joy did they bring? How many hearts did they break — particularly among visiting teams?

Of course, you have to put that sort of thing in context. If that’s a hand job then Mike Boone’s Habs Fans of The World Unite! is someting the average guy would have to pay at least 30 CDN for in a back alley behind a Montreal strip club I’m sure.

…the Canadiens’ extraordinary upset of the Washington Capitalists was a victory for egalitarianism – particularly delicious because it sent the running dogs of U.S. imperialism off to join their fellow plutocratic swine on the golf course.

The good guys won – as will be the case when the world comes around to the realization that unfettered free enterprise is commodifying everything, ruining the planet and turning us into mindless consumers.

Um. Okay… A lot of big words in that article, Mike. The one notable omission would have to be “objectivity”.

But, hey, if that sort of embarrassingly hackish, yahoo reporting isn’t bad enough for you, maybe you’ll want to enter the Show Us Your Habs Colors! contest.

How much do you love the Montreal Canadiens? Show us.

We’re putting together a photo gallery of Habs fans in all their bleu-blanc-rouge glory. Send us your photos of your celebrations, your friends, your dog, your cat– anything that proves just how big a fan you are.

We’re also interested in hearing your stories about where you were when the Habs beat the Capitals in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, plus anything else you’d like to share.

Alright, alright. We know you’re riding a high right now. Fine. You upset the Caps and now it’s Destiny in your minds. I’m not sure I can even blame you. But “Where you were when the Habs beat the Capitals…”? Are you fucking kidding me? As much as you’d like to paint it thusly, this wasn’t exactly the assasination of a world leader. No one landed on the moon. And no one flew through the air after scoring an overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup.

So Calm Down. You’re about to face the defending Cup champions and a player so good the puts some of the names on Red Fisher’s dribbling glory list to absolute shame. You’ll also be facing Marc-Andre Fleury, a goaltender a whole lot better than the B-Grade talent the Washington Capitals ran out there. He’s actually got a ring on his finger, too, unlike your new Three Game National Hero. What really might piss you off is that he’s French Canadien and you guys couldn’t cheat the entry draft and get him on your team in this day and age.

So do me a favor. Try and remember the fact that you guys are journalists and not fanboys. Try and do your jobs in a way that is slightly less embarrassing to the profession and there will be less cause for folks like me to sit down and make such gloriously easy fun of you. It might also help you better report on the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the pants off of your girls tonight and the fact that the Stanley Cup is going to reside in an Evil Capitalist American City. Again.

Meanwhile, I’m starting my own Show Us Your Colors style thread.

Where Were You When The Habs Took Three Diving Penalties In One Playoff Game?

Rounding Second

April 29, 2010

Well, the good news is I went 7/8 on my first round predictions and the one I got wrong is likely the same one everyone outside the borders of Quebec got wrong as well. I’m not sure I accurately predicted the correct number of games in any of them, however. There were a number of teams that surprised me with how well they could hang with the powerhouses of the league. Whether it’s a case of overrating regular season performance or just the fact that anything can happen once the second season begins, it remains undeniable that the NHL Playoffs can be the most entertaining, exciting thing professional sports has to offer.

On to Round Two, where predictions become exponentially more difficult.

Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks – It begins tonight, seeming seconds after the first round finished up, and the same question that was asked at the beginning of that can be asked now. Is this the series where San Jose chokes? I’m going to say no. It’s not that it couldn’t happen against an excellent Detroit team that showed their talent level and experience in beating Phoenix in seven games but, the thing is, this isn’t Phoenix. San Jose is breathing a sigh of relief after surviving their series against the Avs and, one would think, have a renewed enthusiasm, a renewed hunger, for putting their best game on for this one. The place the balance gets tipped, though, is in goal I think. Evgeni Nabokov has played at a notably higher level than rookie Jimmy Howard so far in the playoffs and I sort of expect that to continue. I also like the Sharks’ complimentary players a lot better. Clowe, Pavelski and Setoguchi have been carrying the Sharks, especially Pavelski. Of course, Joe Thornton and his line will need to be better and Patrick Marleau’s injury will have to be something minor that allows him to return quickly and they’ll need a solution for Datsyuk and Zetterberg but it can happen. I’m thinking it will. Sharks in 6.

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks – This one was a toughie for me initially because I’m looking at two teams that I think are just loaded with talent and I liked them both to be successful this post-season. Now that they’re up against each other, I find myself faced with my toughest pick of the playoffs so far. On offense, it’s the Sedin Twins and scoring machine Mikael Samuelsson versus the young guns of Chicago; Kane, Toews and Sharp, complimented by hired gun Marian Hossa. That’s a wash to me. On defense, Chicago might have the depth and scoring edge. In goal, Antti Niemi is still proving himself with the ‘Hawks but he really did play marvelously in round one against Nashville. And it’s no secret that I’m no Luongo guy. His 2.92 gaa and .893 svpct were, frankly, far below average and easily the worst for all surviving starting golatenders in the playoffs. Can you see the scales tipping the Chicago way? I sure can. Blackhawks in 7.

Montreal Canadiens vs Pittsburgh Penguins – Will the Cinderella story continue for the Montreal Men’s Skating Choir? Will Jaroslav Halak remain the Belle of the Ball? Can the Diving Princesses defeat Sid The Kid and The Malkin Monster to continue their amazing, storybook drive through the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs? No. Fucking. Way. In case people haven’t noticed, Halak may the the flavour of the moment but Crosby is the real deal. The legend just keeps building and, regardless of what the standings showed, he and his Defending Champs are the best team in the Eastern Conference until someone proves otherwise and this Habs team, however speedy and feisty, just aren’t at that level or anywhere near it. Expect the Penguins to march onward and do it with authority. Penguins in 5.

Look for an extended, more in-depth preview of the Bruins-Flyers series before the puck drops on Saturday afternoon.

I’ve stuck my neck out enough for one night.

Philadelphia

April 29, 2010

philadelphia flyers

Consider it the Winter Classic Rematch. Only, this time, it’s not on a baseball field.

It will, however, take place in Boston, at least to start. The Bruins now have the surprising honor of being the host team for their Eastern Conference Semi-Final series against the Philadelphia Flyers when it kicks off this Saturday afternoon.

That’s right, folks. Home ice advantage. Who’d have thunk it?

I guess we have the Montreal Canadiens to thank for it, too.

Welcome to Bizarro Hockey.

Yes, thanks to the Habs astonishing first round victory over the Caps, completed tonight in a 2-1 Game 7 win, the East in now utterly upside down. The 1, 2 and 3 seeds have been defeated. The highest remaining seed is Pittsburgh at 4 and the 6, 7 and 8 seeds have all advanced. Thus, the Bruins, the sixth team, now hosting the Flyers, the seventh while the upstart Canadiens get another shot at giant killer, this time against the defending champs.

Think about it. Teams that made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season are moving on while Cup favorites are breaking out the golf clubs. The NHL Playoffs can be amazing. History will be made, in case you haven’t heard.

There will be lots of stories to talk about when the previews for round two begin in full. In the case of B’s-Flyers it’ll be Peter Laviolette or the goalie match-up or Philly’s supposed toughness. A history that stretches from the Big Bad Bruins/Broad Street Bullies rivalry right up to the the Winter Classic here in 2010. It promises to be yet another highly entertaining series for all the right reasons and you can bet your life we’ll be discussing all that and more here.

For tonight, though, it’s just good to know the Who and Where.

Philadelphia.

And right frickin’ here.

Go Canuck Yourself

April 28, 2010

I’m absolutely in love with following article by Derek Zona over at From The Rink and heartily recommend it to all of you as a Must Read.

The Worst Hockey Fans in Canada.

Honestly, living here on the East Coast and following a team in the Northeast Division, it was nearly impossible for me to conceive of any fan base being more arrogant and pathetic than that of the Montreal Canadiens. Or, to a lesser degree in my mind, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The picture Zona so eloquently paints of Vancouver Canucks fans blows that notion out of the water. Brilliant stuff there and a reason to root like fuck for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Share and enjoy, friends.

Seventh Dream

April 28, 2010

So what’s the over/under on how many diving penalties Habs center/actress Maxim Lapierre is going to get tonight? He earned two of them in Game 6 of the Montreal-Washington series the other night and you’d think, with everything on the line in tonight’s Game 7, he’ll be flopping to the ice like a narcoleptic flounder.

Of course, diving has always been an artform in Montreal. It’s not just Rodney Dangerfield who’s perfected the Triple Lindy but, like Rodney, folks who go down that road tend to get no respect. In the case of Lapierre, already fairly well unmanned by his mortal fear of dropping the gloves or getting into anyones face when there’s not a black and white striped jeresy in between, there wasn’t a whole lot of respect to lose. Let’s face it, it’s probably not good for your macho street cred when your name becomes permanently associated with the act of diving.

Still, two diving penalties in one game (Brian Gionta added one more to give the Habs what must be a record three in the game) is a particularly dubious sort of prancing, girlish infamy to try and live down. Might as well trot out there in a pink tutu tonight and complete the mental image everyone has of you now.

However, all the diving calls on Montreal didn’t seem to affect Jaroslav Halak or Mike Cammaleri. The Habs won the game handily to force the decisive Game 7 in Washington tonight and all eyes will be on the home of the Number One Seed in the East to see if they are going to put this series to rest or fall out in one of the more embarrassing upsets of the first round in recent memory (outside of San Jose, that is).

It’s a bit of a fascinating game for all of those reasons and more. Three teams in the East are eagerly awaiting the results to see who and where they will be playing when the second round begins this Friday. Fans of said teams might be rooting for one team or the other depending on who they’d like their boys to face. Here in Boston we’re forced into a difficult decision. Root for Washinton and get Pittsburgh and Matt Cooke or , gag-choke-vomit, root for Montreal to get the Flyers and home ice. I know. A nauseating prospect, to say the least.
That said, Joe Haggerty makes a great case for wanting the latter and I have to say, I think I’m getting on board. The Pens can wait.

Meanwhile, out West, the Detroit Red Wings ended their series with the Phoenix Coyotes with authority in a 6-1 victory in their own Game 7. Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and the veteran Wings line-up ended up being a little too much for the upstart ‘Yotes, as predicted, and Detroit will move on to face San Jose in the next round. Good for the kids from Phoenix for putting up a fight, though. For a team with so many off-ice issues surrounding it, it’s good to see that the guys on the ice have seemingly made the franchise one to watch down the road. The other Western Semi-Final features a mammoth match-up in my opinion with the Blackhawks facing the Canucks. I’ll do my predictions later this week but that one, my friends, is not going to be an easy call. Two excellent teams.

After tonight, round one will close and we’ll know all the match-ups for the next. Will there be one less Canadian team to watch or one less Russian Superstar?

Tune in and see.

Savard Cleared To Play

April 27, 2010

marc savard boston bruins

As hoped, Marc Savard has passed his neuro-psych tests and been medically cleared to return to NHL game action. Savard has been practicing with is teammates for a number of days now.

It remains to be seen where he will fit on the ice but it’s all but a surety he will be there when the Bruins return to action in Round 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Word is, if it’s the Pens, then that series will start Friday night in Pittsburgh. If Montreal manages to upset the Caps in Game 7 of that series, then the Bruins will host the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden in Boston on Saturday.

It’s a tough choice for Bruins fans when it comes to who you might want to play next. On the one hand emotion dictates that a Pittsburgh series would be amazingly dramatic, rough and tumble and full of juicy subplots. Logic argues, however, that one would want to have the home ice advantage against a lower seeded team. I’m starting to think that the latter is the more desirable scenario and that we could strive for possibly seeing that Pittsburgh match-up in the Conference Finals if the team can grind out some wins against a pretty tough Philly team.

Which would put me in the foul tasting position of rooting for the Montreal Men’s Skating Choir tomorrow night. Which would be unpleasant to say the least.

You could accuse me of fence sitting right now given my waffling between the two scenarios and, judging from how sore my bum is, I wouldn’t be able to argue with you right now.

Wait. That was a TMI moment right there, wasn’t it?

I guess I’m just being cheeky, eh?

Bringing It Home

April 27, 2010
david krejci ryan miller

David Krejci Shakes The Hand of the Man He Beat Twice In Game 6

This was David Krejci’s game. And it was Mark Recchi’s. It was Tuukka Rask’s and Zdeno Chara’s. And it was the Boston Bruin’s fans’ at the TD Garden.

Those were the key contributors in the dramatic, hard fought, one-goal victory for the the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres to advance to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against a team as yet to be determined (awaiting the results of the Montreal-Washington Game 7 – more on that at some point).

The Sabres wouldn’t go out without a fight, of course, and Ryan Miller played another excellent game. It may look on the surface like a disappointing playoffs for Miller but he was not to be blamed for the way Buffalo was beaten. If fans up there are looking for goats, you’d have to take a look at guys who took stupid penalties that, for once, the Bruins took advantage of on the power play. An area of weakness during the regular season, the man advatage became an area of strength for the B’s in this series and last night they scored two key power play goals early on to take a 2-0 lead.

Just another example of how the world was turned upside down during this series. A Bruins team that seemed lost and characterless at times and amazingly feeble on offense has now, in the post season, found itself.

Of course, the ugliness of the regular season is what kept Buffalo in this game. Two astonishingly bad turnovers by Dennis Wideman and Michael Ryder respectively led to two Sabres goals that could have been killers. It was the scrappy resolution of Mark Recchi and the focused talent of David Krejci and the octopus-like reach of Zdeno Chara that kept that from happening, however.

Admit it, folks. The Bruins looked pretty damn good. Not bad for a team still without it’s leading scorer and two of it’s top four defensemen. Besides Krejci and the relentless play of Patrice Bergeron, it was the greybeards that kept the B’s alive and moving forward here. Recchi has just been a revelation in the playoffs. Here’s a guy who just flat out gets it. A guy, even at age 42, who just will not stop working and hitting and making all the little plays you need to to get it done in post-season play. A leader in every area and a man with some of the most sublime hockey sense as you’ll ever come across.

The other senior citizen on the team, Miroslav Satan, was again devilishly good as he got his second game winner of the series with a late third period goal. Again, calm nerves and an adept scoring touch when it’s late and the game is on the line. You can’t measure that sort of aspect of a guy’s character. It’s either there or it isn’t and, thankfully in the case of Recchi and Satan, it’s there.

So. A great, tight, hard-fought series and the prospect of another on the way and Boston is the Hub of Hockey once again for a while. Bruins will play either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers in the next round depending on the winner of the aforementioned Caps-Habs game seven. I’ll take either becuase they both promise to be rock ’em sock ’em affairs and the B’s have the ability to beat either, I believe. We might even see the return of an injured player or two.

Onward ho!

Savard In Game 6?

April 26, 2010

Could Marc Savard be available to play in Game 6 of the Bruins-Sabres playoff series tonight at the TD Garden in Boston?

Kevin Paul Dupont seems to think so. In an interview last night on Comcast Sportsnet, he opined that Savard was looking good in practice Sunday morning and could provide the Bruins the emotional lift they need at home to close out the series against the Sabres. “I say he’s in,” said the Hall of Fame hockey writer to Michael Felger in his on air appearance on Sports Sunday.

Will this be a reality or is it one man’s wishful thinking? I don’t know and neither will anybody until the last possible moment, I’m betting. Best not to get out hopes up, I think. Yes, it’s true, the B’s need to win tonight and not let this go back to Buffalo. And, yes, they need to pull out all the stops. Will that include Savard?

Dupont reiterated his ideas this morning in his Globe Column.

The bet here is that Savard is wearing his familiar No. 91 tonight, provided all his medical mojo is found to be in order this afternoon. Not only could he contribute on the power play, where extra space on the ice would limit his risk of getting hit, but Julien also would have an easier time spotting him into even-strength situations. Home team, remember, gets last change.

The thing to remember here is that Dupes, as good as he can be, is not above a bit of attention seeking behaviour, saying something outlandish or inflammatory that he knows will draw attention to himself and his column. Whether it’s the goofy nicknames or calling for Bettman’s resignation or stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy, it’s sort of the way Dupont operates. He’s not going on anything here other than his own opinion that, needing an emotional spark, this is what the Bruins will do.

Whether management, coaching and medical staff agree remains to be seen.

_

Update: Definitive word from the Garden.

Marc Savard will not play in Game 6.

Nice try, Dupes.

Bruins Forfeit Game 5

April 24, 2010
claude julien boston bruins

Claude Julien and The Boston Bruins: Not In Attendance For Game 5

Because that’s what it is when only one team shows up for a game, right? A forfeit?

Sorry to be so hard on the boys, folks, but that’s the way Game 5 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo last night seemed to me. I mean, I don’t mind losing a game if it’s hard fought and you get beat in an honest match. That’s going to happen. Look at the Capitals being unable to close out Montreal last night at home. Finishing off a series is a tough thing to do. What I do mind is when my team bends over in a spread legged stance and lets the other team have it’s way with them. Sorry for the crude analogy, friends, but it is what it is.

The Bruins were done in that game as soon as the second goal was scored. Maybe they were done when Paul Gaustad showed some snarl on the opening face-off. Certainly no one on the B’s showed any aggression in return. All night long the Sabres were nasty, in the Bruins’ faces and there was little or no return battle until the last second ticked off the clock and Zdeno Chara decided enough was enough and went after Gaustad with a vengeance.

Little late, Z.

Luckily, the NHL decided not to suspend Chara as a result of the incident, which is actually a break for the Bruins given how hard the league looks at stuff that happens in the last 5 minutes of games. Peter Chiarelli apparently had to submit a written request to league officiating to have the instigator recinded, likely based on the wicked slash Gaustad laid on Z to initiate the throw down. Bit of luck, there, folks, beacuse if Chara had been sitting for Game 6…? Oh, man.

They were lifeless in the snarl department the rest of the night, though. The score sheet had the Bruins throwing 24 hits in the game and I do think that’s being generous because it seemed like less. In contrast, the Sabres threw 35. Probably would have been more but the way their opponents turned meek and started going through the motions in the second period, they obviously realized they could back off. Hits are the best measure of how into a game a team is, how much desire and will they have to get ugly and get the job done. In the two wins in Boston they threw 38 and 46 respectively. Last night there was less hitting and more skating around after the whistle with their heads down. Their body language had “loser” written all over it.

I’d like to be in the Bruins locker room before a game like this and hear what the Claude Julien has to say to his team on the subject of agression. Does he not believe in being a hard, hitting, scrapping team on the road, fearing it will only inspire the local crowd and boost the home team? Does he tell them not to fight on the road? Because if there was ever a time to show some nasty to the Sabres and maybe send a message it was last night.

Nothing happened, though, not until the game was over.

What worries me is that this sort of a stinker can easily swing momentum back to the Buffalo side. It could inspire the return of the characterless sort of play that plagued the Bruins all during the regular season. It sets a dangerous tone when you don’t show up in a game. It’s the sort of thing that can be contagious. Bad habits return and the team goes flat.

My hope is that the hometown crowd on Monday night at the Garden won’t let that happen. That they’ll be rockin’ and rollin’ just like they were on Wednesday and the team will play up to their previous level. I hope, I hope.

Because they let one slip away last night and now there’s only two more chances to make it right.

If they’re smart, they’ll only need the one.