Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two games in two days? Spooky...

The Habs were in Chicago last night, and they play again tonight. (Something tells me that Joel Bouchard will talk into the camera tonight as if it's the team and tell the players to eat a powerbar. But it's Halloween, so I say chocolate is acceptable.) Last night's game was exciting at times, and if the Habs can keep their energy level up I think that being on home ice against the Leafs might make the difference and win this game. (Also because the Leafs suck, obviously.)

On to last night's game. I'm starting to worry a little bit about games on the road, to be honest. I know that in part it might just be because Pittsburgh and Chicago are solid teams who didn't undergo as many roster changes as we have lately, so we got outplayed, but I'm still a little worried about whether we can keep things together.

That being said, last night's game was a big one for the younger players. Kyle Chipchura continued his trend of improved play. He's been playing with a lot of heart lately... now if only one of those shots could actually get in the net and shut everyone up about him. (Also thank you for getting into a fight and sticking up for your boy.) Max Pacioretty played one of his best games of the season so far. Guillaume Latendresse also had a decent game.
Goaltending was pretty good, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. And thus, I'd like to take this opportunity to say something in case there are still people who need this to be crystal clear: Carey Price does not suck. Sometimes athletes have bad games, yes. But they make it to the major leagues because they don't suck. I can go on, but I won't because it's not worth it.
And finally we get to Matt D'Agostini, who suffered a pretty disgusting hit to the head early in the game, didn't return to the ice, probably has a concussion, and that's all I know. Dear Chicago: You just lost YOUR CAPTAIN to a malicious head shot. Wouldn't that make you more familiar with what happens to a player after a hit like that, and how much the world hates the moron who hit him? No? Okay, then, Andrew Ladd, congratulations. You're an idiot. Thanks for injuring another one of our players, you know, because we can afford it. We have many other words for you, so if you'd like to know where we think you should go, contact us and we'll gladly give you a piece of our minds.

(Then to add insult to injury, Chicago won 3-2, meaning that we had to hear the world's most annoying goal song three times in one night. Good luck getting it out of your head.)

In any case, here's hoping that the team got enough rest since last night, since Mike Komisarek apparently expects to get booed (he's not a moron, you know) and we're guessing that losing to his old team a month ago has only made him angrier.
Tonight also marks the return of the old-school striped jerseys, which look a little dizzying on TV but would make awesome T-shirts, so get on it, merchandise people.

And finally, your bloggers would like to extend the biggest of Happy Birthdays to Tomas Plekanec!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween fun: because there's nothing that scary about a maple leaf, honestly.

What's scarier than getting frozen by the Penguins during a game where at least a few fans were hoping that Hal Gill would pull a Mike Komisarek? Halloween night.

(Yes, I changed the subject, because I just don't want to think about last night's final score.)


So, some of you get to dress up and trick or treat (you know, if you're young enough, which I wish I was), others get to party, but this Halloween there's one thing we're looking forward to: a Habs-Leafs rematch which is expected, as usual, to be a thriller. (Yes, I just said "Thriller" in a Halloween post. No, I'm not ashamed. Yes, I would probably have made that joke before the unfortunate passing of Mr. Jackson.) At first I thought that maybe this game was the reason why Mike Komisarek signed with Toronto: let's face it, there's nothing more scary/funny than a Hab dressed up as a Leaf. I figured maybe on November 1st, Komo would rip off that blue-and-white monstrosity, revealing a bleu-blanc-rouge and cackling "haHA! Gotcha, bitches! I'm back!" (I have since abandoned that idea.)

But that doesn't mean that a Habs fan can't have a little Halloween fun. You can wear your Canadiens shirt and watch the game, but add a few accessories and it's (almost kind of) a costume you can wear while watching the game. 

"I got Lapierre."


So, whose name have you got on the back of your shirt?
Scott Gomez? Stuff your pockets with money and throw on a warm scarf and a sombrero (or a lucha libre mask, if you prefer) in honour of everyone's favourite rich Mexican-Alaskan.
Carey Price? A cowboy hat. But as I've learned during my Halloween shopping this year, they were easier to find at the beginning of the month. You might luck out at a hidden-away Dollarama.
Or, whether you've got a Price or a Halak shirt, you could run to a sports store and get an old-school, Jason Voorhees kind of goalie mask.
Tomas Plekanec? A turtleneck under your jersey, and a cupcake with a candle in it. October 31st is your birthday, and nothing else!
Georges Laraque? (If you bought a Laraque jersey, between last season's injuries and this season's apparent scandals, I would get... my money back, but that's just a thought.) If you happen to be a dog owner, guess who's coming to the party? You should also carry around a celery stick, so you look just vegan enough without the Bugs Bunny comparisons that a carrot would surely bring.
Guillaume Latendresse? Keep some snacks in your pocket. (And no, I'm not judging. There's at least three snacks in my purse right now. Maybe four, if I didn't eat that apple.)
Brian Gionta? Supernatural abilities. Okay, I don't know how to put that into an accessory.
Andrei Markov? Wrap some bandages around your ankle, and carry around Kleenex in case the people around you burst into tears.
Hal Gill? A slightly tacky Stanley Cup ring and stilts. Be ready to hide in case the people around you are angry about the Pittsburgh game.
Andrei Kostitsyn? Make sure any siblings you have are not in attendance.


Do you want to pull your "outdated" Habs shirt or jersey out of mothballs?
If you're wearing a player who was recently let go, just carry around a plane ticket and a drink with one of those little umbrellas in it. Anyplace where you have the slightest chance of walking down the street without getting stopped for an autograph probably seems like a vacation compared to Montreal.
Oh, but if you want to wear your old Komisarek shirt, this is probably your last chance, so get some devil horns and one of those plastic retractable knives to stab any current Habs in the back with.

Happy Halloween, everyone. you've got two days to finish up your accessories and hope that the Canadiens scare Chicago and exorcise the Leafs from the Bell Centre.

(and P.S. no, these pictures aren't mine, copyright bla bla)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Little girl, no more.

So I had started thinking that this game post was going to resemble a protest against what is likely to result in a hemorrage of printed nonsense about "goaltending controversies" and how we may now have one on our hands because apparently, it is probably the worst thing ever to actually be in possession of two solid goaltenders, but there is a much more important issue to address.


Tomas Plekanec.

Well, lookit you, Mr. Badass.


Before going further I must underline and applaud the play of Travis Moen tonight. First star honours were very well deserved in this M├ęchant Lundi special event (otherwise known as "what, we play tonight? Really?") as well as Hammer for continuing his reign on the offensive masters of the Habs' blueline (outscoring Sheldon Souray by 3 goals. Concussion or not, betcha didn't think THAT was ever going to happen). I've also been a little rough on Jaroslav Spacek lately, and that goal made me eat my words.

So, Pleks. This may well be my area of expertise, granted, he has been my favourite player for awhile (and in my sights since his first-ever training camp in 2001). There have been ups. There have been downs. There have been turtleneck jokes and little girl references (and of course, the accompanying creative uses of Photoshop). There is, currently, a one-year contract, $2.75M.

So far, the man we "overpaid" this summer is looking like the bargain he has been since 2001.

This and he hasn't kept the same wingers for more than two games all season. The silent but wily craftsman is back to being one of the highest on the Habs' leaderboard. Eight of his points are assists, but none of those were cheaply made. Roll back footage of Cammy's second goal on Saturday. He is back and he is strong, he is making use of whatever chances he gets despite the instability on either side of him. He has the odd average game, but the Plekanec definition of "average" still means busting his butt every shift. It's been said before, but doesn't always reach into the thick skulls of some Habs' fans (who tend to favour former wearers of jersey #27, coincidence?) who are off in Trade Rumour La-La Land, pointing at his "rising value" and "the need to capitalize on it" as soon as possible rather than acknowledging and even celebrating the fact that this team we couldn't recognize October 1st actually has a familiar face pulling a lot of its strings. He's even added to the formula a little--this season he's slowly adding the extra spice to his game by attempting the human bulldozer on pretty much every opponent, 5'9'' or 6'7''. Doesn't always win, sometimes ends up flat on his butt, but oh, those fearful little Euro forwards, afraid to get in the corners...not so much.

And tonight. End-to-end setup for Hammer's goal. Those playmaking abilities at their very best, that keen vision of the ice, the confidence he so dearly missed last season, it was all there. One thing hasn't changed with his mindset, though. He passed the puck. I'll always remember being present at the Penguins-Canadiens' game a few years ago, again in overtime, where he could have recorded his first NHL hat trick but saw another #44, Souray, in what he felt was a much better position so he passed the puck to him. Souray scored, the entire Bell Centre and beyond went into a fit of deliriousness, ole'ing deep into the metro (I had to hum along, I had no voice left). Pleks? He stuck by his decision like he probably will again tonight. And then there'll be the next game.

But will there be next year? That's not up to me. But you know what would happen if it was.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A hat trick of Plus/Minuses

I'm trying very hard to write an actual Plus Minus here, and not just turning on Caps Lock and typing CAMMALLERI HAT TRICK until my fingers get numb.

So, this week the Canadiens posted three wins at home, including last night's thriller against the New York Rangers, and in honour of that I'm introducing some pictures to Plus Minus:






















PLUS
+ 3 for three consecutive wins, including our first in regulation time
+ the return of Glen Metropolit, which seems to have been some kind of boost to us winning, or at least a pretty impressive coincidence.
+ Scott Gomez gave us three of his best games so far. I'm not claiming I did anything, but this performance streak seems to have started after I watched his One Life To Live video multiple times. (What? I needed a laugh.)
+ Kyle Chipchura definitely earned a plus by playing one of his best games as a Hab last night.
+ Brian Gionta's shootout goal, which introduced a new word into our lexicon...
+ I hate to sound all goofy and egocentric, but can I give a Plus to myself? This week both Hab It Her Way girls invented new adjectives to describe game action: Rookie's "Giontastic" and Czechtacular's "Cammazing," the latter coined after a star turn by...
+ Mike Cammalleri. As mentioned by Red Fisher in today's newspaper, Cammy's been doing very well in his temporary role as assistant captain, and he played some good games against the Thrashers and Islanders, and then THAT HAT TRICK. Wow. To put it briefly, the player who had me making graphics like this during the off-season:


has lived up to my expectations so far:

But obviously, it's not always peaches and cream and Cammalleri.
















MINUS
- Are you serious? There's MORE drama to be had on the Sergei Kostitsyn front? Between the rumours that he and Gomez fought, and the Balloon Boy-esque drama that had us wondering if he was halfway back to Europe already, then getting interrupted in mid-thought by the news that no, there is nothing wrong, I've officially grown tired of hearing about athletes pulling diva fits like they're on The Hills or something. (And no, I have never watched that show and I never, ever will.)
- Too many fans and journalists (read: more than zero) talking about a "goalie controversy." I know that wondering who our #1 netminder is gives you something to talk and write about, and that without a competitive spirit there would be no sports, but I still don't get why no one is happy with having two goalies who are young and able to turn out insane saves and wins.
- Chris Higgins' hair. I hate to say anything negative about the guy, but... that hair. It just wasn't good. If he's going to have it at that colour and length, he should at least attempt some kind of Matthew McConaughey brush-back, because that centre part isn't doing anyone any favours.
- Sorry, John Tavares. You probably hate Montreal right now, and I kind of feel bad because you're a good kid and all. Please don't try to exact any revenge on us. Sincerely, a fellow rookie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I think I know you...

Previously on Montreal Canadiens...

A little boy grew up wanting to play for the Canadiens, but no, this one wasn't born in Quebec. He was a New York boy who played for Yale (yes, that Yale, the one Rory Gilmore went to) before moving on up to his NHL dream team. He played a few pretty good seasons, then he scored his first hat trick, then everything went to hell during the less-than-legendary centenary season of Nos Glorieux. He got a little sloppy, he got lots of bad press (which he may or may not have brought upon himself but it's not my place to judge and it's not yours either) and he got booed. 

Then he got traded.

Right before he was set to become an RFA he was a major player in an epic trade to the New York Rangers that saw them saving quite a few pennies by giving Scott Gomez to Montreal. He was also separated from one of his best friends, a guy named Mike who we're told moved to Toronto but we don't recognize him anymore.

And now, that little boy, Christopher Higgins, comes back here. (We'd say home but New York is where his daddy is.) And he brings with him two assists, a blue jersey, and long, centre-parted TV host hair.

He also brings with him Sean Avery, so I sincerely hope that you all have taken the necessary precautions against swine flu.

I guess we'll see what kind of a homecoming this is. Will Higgy punch his former friends? Will Gomez forget which net he's supposed to score in? We'll find out tonight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snowy, with a chance of victory

So, about last night...
AWESOME.

And I'll tell you why.
Because we had a strong, motivated team backed by a solid goaltender?
Because we outshot the other team?
Because Scott Gomez had a fire lit under him?
Because our power play is improving?
Because we played against a team that doesn't always have their business together?
No.

Well, yes, okay, yeah, all of those things are true, but no.

You see, I have a lot of crazy theories about why things happen. (It's probably why ~czechtacular spends her days laughing at me. Even though we don't see each other every day.) And you are about to learn one of them:

I don't necessarily believe in the weather as an all-encompassing force that controls all things...
Okay, but I don't want to piss off Storm, she's pretty badass

...but you may have noticed that the Habs' win against the Islanders was a) the first win in regulation time and b) insane. It also happened on the same day as the first snowfall. I know that last week or the week before a few flakes fell, but yesterday there were actual flurries. I don't know about you, but I looked out the window yesterday afternoon, saw all those beautiful white, fluffy flakes gently making their way to the sidewalk, and said "oh shit." That's when you know it's snowing. (The rain cleared up that snow, though. Yay.)

Anyway, crazy things tend to happen on the day of the first snowfall. Case in point: Thursday's game.
I was pretty happy after Tuesday's shootout win, a victory best described as, well, Giontastic*. I knew that things could get better, though, and they did. Our Canadiens didn't just win against the Islanders, they actually played to win and kicked some ass. I had almost forgot what it was like to see such epic ass-kicking.

And I'd go so far as to say that this is some weird natural phenomenon that only happens once a season. Things go crazy when the snow first falls. You don't know what it's going to be, you don't always know when it'll happen, but something unexpected is going to happen.

Look at last season: After about a season and a half of nothing, and a few weeks of really trying for it (including a sacrificed stick), Josh Gorges scores his first goal as a Canadien. (And it was a really nice one!). Also that night, Ryan O'Byrne did the unspeakable, but let's not speak of that. And if you looked outside your window or went outdoors after that game, do you remember what you saw? A thin layer of pristine, sparkling white snow on the ground. Now, it hasn't been proven if that game (also against the Islanders, is that part of the pattern?) was crazy because of the snow, or if Storm decided to celebrate the first Josh goal, but there's something there.

Two seasons, two snowfalls, and two memorable games. I'm just sayin'.


* Rookie's note: You can use the word "Giontastic," but don't act like you invented it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breaking news...

Just in case our liveblog turned out to be like the last one (ie. frustrating, undesired result), I saved this news for a potential pick-me-up. Brian Gionta's existence means we need no such mood-lifter, but to hold us over a little while extra I have the following awesomeness.


That's right, your bloggettes (and a friend, poor friend) are headed to a Habs' game and we don't have to go to Ottawa to do it. The proof arrived (rather quickly, I must say) in my mailbox this afternoon, this after I pulled out all the stops in my classroom (!) to get a seat in that waiting room last Thursday, which is what Rookie alluded to in her latest Plus/Minus post. That blasted system usually never works for me, which is what makes this most recent acquisition all the more miraculous. That said, the other 21 270 people had probably best be prepared....

Thoughts on Atlanta-Montreal now....It would be nice if we could win in 60 minutes, not 65, but I'm not spitting on the W. I'm actually convinced that Brian Gionta is Superman. If no one is going to sew that C on his jersey I'm going to find one and put it on myself. With masking tape. If I must. Honourable mentions to Scott Gomez for not tolerating Kozlov's assault on him near the end of regulation, and Max Lapierre for going Extreme Makeover, Rage Edition on Colby Armstrong. And all the more reason to love this game: the Kladno contingent being represented in the other net. Ondrej Pavelec quickly became one of my favourite goaltenders in the Q when my Cape Breton friend pointed him out in several of her game posts four years ago. Despite leading the Chicago Wolves to a Calder Cup he's had a rough go of an NHL career, often playing third fiddle in a goaltending duo that had its own share of ups and downs with the play (or lack thereof) of the supporting cast around them. However, tonight proved how well he's filling in for injured starter Kari Lehtonen. From what I had seen up til now, though, he hadn't had a game quite like this one to really put his coaching staff in a means to really start to think about the future. It's bittersweet to see him pull off what he did in front of the Habs, but I'm glad for him that he did. It'll be interesting now to see what happens in a few weeks when Lehtonen's scheduled to make his return.

In the meantime, wahoo, Habs-Flames tickets! Aaaand goodnight.

I'm not titling this "Atlanta gets thrashed," but...

A few thoughts on the Habs-Thrashers game tonight, which won't be a liveblog per se but I'll probably update every period.

PREGAME THOUGHTS:
-Okay, I'm mostly just happy to have a Tuesday evening game again because I've seen way too much So You Think You Can Dance Canada over the last few weeks... there's only so much my brain can take.
-Halak in nets tonight. This is only his second game of the season, so he could definitely use the ice time if we want two healthy and sharp goalies - and I don't know about you, but I do.
-Ilya Kovalchuk is the face of the Thrashers... I've always been happy that the Habs were more of an overall team than a supporting cast for one guy, but at a time when our team is in transition and needs some time to blend together into one unit (at least, that's what I'm hoping our problem is) I've got to be honest and admit that I'm a little worried about this game, if only because we're the weaker team going into it. (My random selection of Atlanta among potential backup teams isn't seeming like such a ridiculous idea anymore, is it?)
-Marc Denis becomes the latest in a long line of hockey players turned TV sports journalists. I'm going to play the ever-valuable rookie card here and choose not to comment because I have no idea how he'll fare.
-Could it be that part of the reason why francophone journalists love francophone players is not only because they have a language in common but also an upbringing? Joel Bouchard talking to Marc-Andre Bergeron basically just seemed like two cousins getting together at some brasserie on a Saturday, or something.
-Another mistake by RDS: There have been a few lately, and this one, "David Setoguchi," is pretty glaring. I don't know who's been making the graphics lately but they might want to start taking vitamins or something.
-The Impact gets honoured for winning their championship, and the whole team (led by my boy, Mauro Biello) comes onto the ice to celebrate their victory. It's like a minute of cheering, but it's better than nothing. Keep in mind, the Impact's season started off pretty weak too so you never know what'll happen in sports.
And we're off.

FIRST PERIOD:
Ondrej Pavelec in nets for Atlanta, and I shouldn't be the blogger to comment on this. No line changes for Montreal with the exception of Paul Mara's linemate, new Hab Marc-Andre Bergeron, who chose a great number in 47, pulled a Jenny Slate and got a penalty two minutes into the first period. It's nice to meet you, too. It's not like his was the only penalty, though, and if both teams keep this up throughout the game we REALLY need to work on special teams.
I think Roman Hamrlik's been exercising his offensive potential quite a bit this period, and I'm most definitely not complaining.
After about a million power plays, Brian Gionta scores the first goal of the night. It's his fourth of the season. Thank heavens.

SECOND PERIOD:
Ondrej Pavelec steals goals from us left and right, but at least we're getting some shots in.
Okay, at least Jenny Slate didn't get her ass kicked on SNL. Bergeron just got a disgusting hit from Armstrong, causing a pretty big skirmish starring a very angry Maxim Lapierre and also involving rookie Thrasher Evander Kane, who's been quite physical so far this game.
Pierre Houde dropped a few words in Italian at the end of an interview with Mauro Biello, thus notching him even higher on the awesome scale.
Karma had her way with Armstrong, who wound up with a bloody nose even though the Canadiens hardly touched him.
Habs stayed in Atlanta's offensive zone for quite a while, including a power play that sadly didn't produce any goals but did go off better than a lot of other power plays this season.
It's still 1-0, which is actually pretty good considering our record lately, and I'm sure that things will continue to go our way.

THIRD PERIOD:
Joel Bouchard interviews an extremely distracted Maxim Lapierre.
Period starts on a power play for Atlanta, carried over from Hal Gill's penalty at the end of the second.
Ugh. I knew this lead was too good to be true, Thrashers tie it up at 1-1.
Max Pacioretty has trouble controlling his speed and hurtles into the net, but even I know that you need a puck to score a goal, and thus our tie is not yet broken.
Evander Kane tries to hit us where it hurts by hooking Tomas Plekanec, one of our most effective forwards these days, which could have been bad, but instead gives us a power play, which is pretty good, even though none of our shots on goal are fruitful.
Uh oh, the team seems to be going back to their old 3rd period tricks, so I'm getting a little worried, but Halak doesn't seem to be faltering as much as the rest of the team, which is a relief. And we get to...

OVERTIME
It took RDS this long to tell us that Guy Carbonneau is sitting in the front row tonight. Hi! (One has to wonder if they'd have mentioned him at all if there was no overtime...)
Habs miss a few chances to score, most notably an awesome wraparound by Cammalleri, but at least they're playing.
Lapierre gets combative, nothing new there, but the aggression is most certainly welcome. But that anger is nothing compared to a dirty cross-check on Scott Gomez which makes him very, very angry, and justifiably so. Two infractions for Vyacheslav Kozlov, including a major for boarding, and one minor for Gomez. Power play, but the Habs can't quite make it happen. So...

PENALTY SHOTS
Geez, it's not that I don't like the excitement, but I also like winning games in regulation time, but they make me wait even longer because of a Zamboni break.
Cammalleri: misses.
Kovalchuk: gets booed, and misses. Still, don't boo him. He's not Mats Sundin.
Gomez: YES. Wow, is that what it looks like when he gets the puck in the net?
Peverley: misses. Great job, Jaro!
Gionta: HOT DAMN. Gets the puck in with a fakeout that you can't help but cheer at. Amazing. He's like a superhero.

Three stars, apparently, are Gomez, Pavelec, and Gionta. I would have made Gionta first star, but no one ever listens to me.

We won, and the game ended on a high note, and it feels really really good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

+/-, week two: good guys finish last?

Hmm, okay so maybe we Canadiens fans didn't have the most spectacular week, but you take the good with the bad, right?


PLUS


+ No insane injuries this week. Wow, that's actually a plus? Is this really the kind of week it's been?

+ Gomez & Gionta taking over for what used to be called the Kovy's Kids loge. Jose Theodore and Alex Kovalev were total gentlemen for giving kids a chance to have a fun Bell Centre night when life wasn't so great for them, and I think it's a great move by two new guys to show that they're committed to not only the team, but the city. If I were a little kid given the opportunity to see a game at the loge, I'd be excited not only about the experience but that I was being given that chance by Brian Gionta.

+ For the second week in a row, Tomas Plekanec. Maybe this isn't the best streak he's had, but if some people's opinions were right and Pleks was our most problematic player, then, um, we wouldn't be on a losing streak. And also for this from the Canadiens homepage earlier this week, which is awesome in many ways:

+ The kids who opened up the Bell Centre ice before our home opener. I already mentioned the little goalie who tripped but tried not to show any potential embarrassment. (I'd have been mortified until I saw players falling on the ice during that same game.)

+ The Gazette for running an article on Chris Chelios' drive to play some games in the NHL this season. After reacquiring Mathieu Schneider for the end of last season, I figured we might as well leave the doors open to whatever veterans want to come back, and I think it's awesome that Chelios still has some fight left in him. (And to be honest, I wouldn't mind a little extra push on the blue line.)

+ I know which stamps are going on my Christmas cards this year! It's a shame I don't really know anyone in Toronto or Boston.

+ This Twitter update from Dave Stubbs, which is a tad meaner than he usually is but as brilliant as he always is: "#Habs team photo tomorrow. Smiles to be inserted with Photoshop?"

+ For the ticket sales on the 15th of every month, allowing us a do-over from a hideously unsuccessful ticket sales day in September. 


MINUS


- Special teams. Dear Scott Gomez: Since when is "power play" synonymous with "pass the puck to Spacek instead of shooting it"?

- I know this is usually what fans say when their teams lose, but biased reffing. We endured some pretty useless penalties and were deprived of at least a couple of well-deserved power plays.

- People whose loyalty to a player outshines their loyalty to their own team. Since WHEN do you cheer like that when your own team loses? Which, don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see Kovy again and I'm glad that he still loves the city, so much so that he's a good sport even when asked to model a suit best described as Beetlejuice Chic...



- The team generally fading as the game progresses... two consecutive third periods that left me a little disappointed, to say the least.

- 2 Oh yeah, and more losses in games that I believe the team could feasibly have won. I almost made another minus for "no Tuesday game" until I realized that it probably wouldn't have gone down so well.



And, in not yet plus or minus news, we'd like to welcome Marc-Andre Bergeron to the city, as he's presumably ready after some victories in Hamilton, and I guess Shawn Belle can't be our guest anymore for a while.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An attempt at live-blogging

...so that Rookie doesn't beat me to posting.

Ottawa Senators @ Montreal Canadiens, October 17th, 2009....

I'm a little late as the first period is about to end, but a few thoughts to begin:
-I have to say I'm a little impressed with the Senators' record thus far. It's early yet, but really? This was the team that was supposed to be down and out with the "loss" of Heatley? Hmm.
-I think the hat trick from two nights ago (including 2 SHG) was proof enough that Milan Michalek should NOT be left alone just because we have a power play.
-Tomas Plekanec expressed how he thought Kovalev would be the first ex-Hab to be cheered by the Bell Centre crowd. Much to my chagrin he's partially right. But I still hear the boo birds!
-Guy Carbonneau makes his debut as commentator on HNIC tonight. I can't help but smile at this. Good on him.
-"Oh, I hate that guy." My mother feels strongly about Chris Neil, apparently. First I hear of it.
-That 5 on 3 was a little nuts, but for once you can't accuse the Habs of not shooting.
-Cammalleri! (See, I can spell it. His own teammates can't.)
-Score: 1-1 going into the intermission.
-Another power play, another bunch of chances in close. Now the PK unit comes out.
-Nice tumbling there, Alfredsson. Not. 5 on 3 for the Sens, Kovalev on the point. Mr. Gymnastics (Alfie) scores to reclaim the lead for Ottawa. Kovalev gets an assist.
-Yet ANOTHER 5 on 3 for Ottawa, the only highlight of which was the kerfuffle involving the referee.
-"Michalek ... knocked off stride!" more like hatched by Paul Mara. Interesting.
-Jarkko Ruutu doing what he does best: raising some hell. Which better not reel in the Habs because they've had enough penalty trouble lately.
-Do my eyes fail me or did Andrei Kostitsyn finally shoot?
-Third period begins, Ottawa 2, Montreal 1.
-My friend and I concur that D'Agostini needs to do some more of that to-the-net action.
-Props to the guy in the front row who's brave enough to get footage of Kovalev's nostrils by recording the skirmish with Mara on his phone.
-Two minutes for holding the shirt? ...no?
-Halfway mark of the 3rd. Something, anything, needs to get going here.
-Something happened all right, but for the wrong team. Kovalev makes it 3-1. (You knew it had to be him, seriously. Surprised it took this long.)
-The cheers at the 1:00 mark are only for the fact that this game will be over soon.
-"Who are these people?" My brother hasn't watched a full Habs' game since the massive influx of newbies, but tonight I ask the same question. Hopefully the real Montreal Canadiens will show themselves soon, because you know what everyone will be saying between now and Tuesday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rookie's take on last night's home opener

I guess this wasn't the most epic home opener of all time. Which sucks for me, since it was my first real "home opener" experience. Okay, fine, I wasn't AT the game, but a home opener is a once-a-season event that needs to be watched from start to finish. 

Two seasons ago, I maybe half-watched it - to be honest, I don't really remember because that was back when hockey was just something that was on. (In hindsight, I should totally have watched it and paid attention considering how that season unfolded.) Then last year, I missed it for academic reasons. In the spring, my reasoning for a Wednesday evening class made perfect sense - the class sounded interesting, Lost wasn't on until midseason and hockey games on Wednesdays were relatively rare. I made a bad call on that one. The class was useless and dull (and yes, everyone's friend Czechtacular had warned me about the awful professor, but for some reason I didn't listen). I had tickets to a preseason game on a Wednesday - stupid, I know - so I had already missed one class for hockey (kids, do as I say, not as I did) and couldn't fall behind just to watch a game on TV. Obviously, I had NHL.com and Mike Boone's live blog open in separate windows as I took notes, and compulsively hit refresh about every three seconds, but neither source would make any mention of the pre-game ceremony and all the legends in attendance, so a good while after the game was set to start all I knew was that the puck had dropped. So this was the first real home opening game I got to see.


I was very excited for this home opener... so excited that I delayed my viewing of the 30 Rock season premiere, which was a pretty tough call to make. (To put things into perspective, the 30 Rock premiere is like the TV equivalent of the home opener when your team is coming off a wicked last season and a Stanley Cup win, but not in a bucktoothed Sidney Crosby kind of way. I love Tina Fey more than Carey Price loves Garth Brooks. I speak more highly of Tina Fey than Jacques Demers does of Guillaume Latendresse. I've been quoting old episodes nonstop in anticipation.)


I had had the chance to see Calgary's home opener last season, with every player called to the ice like a hero. (I unfortunately was called away for the five seconds that Jarome Iginla was called up but turned back to the TV just in time to see the guy after him, a certain Michael Cammalleri). I figured I knew what I'd be in for and I was hoping for some big to-do since we're almost at the tail end of these centennial festivities. 


And what did we get at the beginning of this game? The same video we'll be seeing for the rest of the season, and a lineup of "Je suis" introductions. Hardly the pomp and circumstance of last year's opener, although I guess it's useful if you're still confused by the dozens of new guys who materialized over the summer.

Props to Andrei Kostitsyn for being a rebel and skipping the "Je suis." Everyone knows that that's who he is, anyway. And I don't care if he follows the script or not, because he gets paid to play. I'm a little disappointed, though, that his was the only deviation from what the players were probably told to say. No one decided to maybe stick a middle name in there, or a "Hi Mom," or maybe pull a switcheroo and say some other guy's name, or introduce himself as James Bond or something. Les boys were all business.


Also, I was under the impression that our city had the most legendary hockey team in the NHL, or something. Is it just me or was standing around passing a mic just a little bit low-fi? I may watch hockey to see the games, but the guys barely even had time for a wave or a nod of the head. Couldn't there have been more lights, or a sparkler or two, maybe more little kids?

Is it because they thought tripping was contagious? Because that little goalie kid did a heck of a job, even wearing all his padding, only tripping once. Scott Gomez fell like a dozen times during the game, and he's a full-grown man. A short man, perhaps, but still an adult-sized one who skates for a living, so I'm giving a huge 

thumbs up to the little goalie kid for picking himself up and keeping on. (Or herself? Was it a little Kim St-Pierre in training?)

The players didn't even skate around that much when they came out, but I guess that that made for an even playing field with the injured players. Obvious statement of the year:

 I miss my Andrei Markov.



Did I miss something? Was all of the awesomeness offscreen?


On to the game:

So the first period went off pretty well. We scored the first goal, because Roman Hamrlik was totally on fire and deserves credit for seeing a really good opportunity and taking the shot.

The first period also called a penalty for something that isn't an officia

l crime of hockey but should be: Checking A Guy After You Knocked His Helmet Off. Thanks, Colorado, for trying to fell another one of our players. We're already down by three at our home opener and I'm pretty sure that Max Pacioretty hasn't done anything to deserve attempted brain damage.

In the second period, Colorado apparently tied the game 1-1 but come on. Who are we kidding. That was a goal of complete fluke and stupidity. It wasn't actually scored by anyone.

Colorado scored a second goal during a moment of Carey Price weakness (opinions may vary on his play last night, and I'm more or less in the middle. We've seen him play better, we've seen him have worse games, but there were some brilliant saves and don't you deny it.)

There were some decent shots on goal but unfortunately we didn't score a second until Tomas Plekanec rocked it out in the 3rd period. Czechtacular will have more on this for you, since both goals were scored by her guys.

Overall, I think this game, if anything, proved that fans (you know which ones I'm talking about) can't just rely on the new players we were so jazzed about this summer. I didn't lose faith in our returning players and I'm feeling pretty good about that right now. I'd probably feel even better if I didn't need to make this argument and everyone played this well all the time and no one had to be an apologist for their favourite player, but Mick Jagger told me that I can't always get what I want.


The game ended 3-2 but there was a strong effort at the end of the game to score a third goal, and that first Colorado goal barely even counts, so I'll be in denial and say it was a tie game. Last night's game was a reminder that NHL hockey isn't easy, and there's work to do this season. I'm up for it, and it appears that the team is up for it, and hopefully for the long run.


And in case you're wondering, yes, 30 Rock was great.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Mask

If you haven't seen it yet, go on over to Habs Inside/Out for a look at Carey Price's new mask. A new mask is great news for anyone who wasn't a fan of his old cowboy-themed ones (which I didn't mind, because it's part of the package when you've got a cowboy goalie).

We'd been promised an "edgier" look for this season and, um, we got it?
The mask is primarily red, with a Ghost Rider-style Grim Reaper riding a motorcycle adorning the side. It's also got some flaming ace of spades cards, a Habs logo, and a tribute to Olaf Kolzig's charity on it.
There's definitely got some detailed airbrush work on it, and I really dig the look of the chrome on red and the "net" effect over the CH.
...And I think I'll leave some other stuff unsaid while I get ready to cheer for Carey this season, no matter what the mask looks like.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Les boys are back in town

It couldn't come soon enough. After three consecutive losses, a homecoming must feel pretty good for our Habs right about now. (Ssshhhh, I'm imagining a Montreal without player haters, which is pretty tough these days...)

Welcome home, boys, we missed you. I did, at least. If I was still working retail I'd be on my toes hoping for a tall athletic customer to brighten my day between fielding complaints over the phone and answering endless questions from the creepy old men.

And a special welcome to Shawn Belle (the defenceman, not to be confused with soap opera characters), who's been assigned the spot vacated by the now-in-Hamilton Yannick Weber, who I'm hoping to see again soon at some point (but I'm also hoping to make a quick Ontario trip sometime soon).

The brightest news of the week is that there's a game on Thursday. Less than 48 hours!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Plus/Minus for the first week of the season

Welcome to the inaugural (and hopefully not last) +/- post, where, like a player's plus-minus ranking, we're going to keep track of what happens, spotlight the good, and sulk at the bad. Since this first week (technically, nine days, but that's procrastination) was as insane as we've come to expect during the hockey season (especially for Montreal), we've got a lot to get this going:


+ Winning the first game of the season. Take that, Toronto! Not even the big bad defenceman that we molded (who then jilted us) can hold us down.

+ Josh Gorges starting his season with a game-winning goal.

+ Beating the Sabres.

+ Brian Gionta saving our asses on a regular basis.

+ Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec de-zombifying from their former selves and producing goals in both road losses, one of which was a wicked backhander that had an eye for the net

+ The return of Kyle Chipchura and the unleashing of his badassery on Eric Nystrom (the newly-born Habs' killer). While we know he's no Laraque (and...thank goodness for that, actually), we need to see Chip bringing that physical edge to his game and hopefully he'll find other ways to keep his spot, for good this time.

+ Travis Moen unleashing his angry self. We've seen his bad side, and it's scary stuff

+ New additions to Centennial Plaza. The central monument has a clean, classy design. It's also nice to see de la Gauchetiere renamed. It wasn't necessary, but it's a nice way to recognize the epicenter of hockey in the city. I mean, the Hippodrome is on rue des Jockeys, the Labatt brewery is on Labatt street, and there are streets named after recording artists, so why shouldn't a legendary hockey franchise get the same treatment? And who wouldn't want a miniature Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal street sign as part of their hockey-themed home accessories? (I'd take it over a wooden sign anyday.)

+ The Hamilton Bulldogs starting off their season with a 3-0 win against the Ice Hogs, which is just an unfortunate name for anything.



-3 for injuries to Andrei Markov, Ryan O'Byrne, and Glen Metropolit happening way too early in the season. And for happening at all. If we subtracted a point for all of their jersey numbers, it'd be -97. And I have half a mind to do it because my favourite Canadien is out for four months, but I'll try to hold back.

-2 for two losses on the road, especially getting flattened in Vancouver (but I think it's a general consensus that no one wanted that game to end that way... except for maybe the Canucks.)

- This letter to Stu Cowan, Gazette sports editor, that was actually published in the newspaper. The letter-writer may simply have intended to express appreciation for the numerous Quebecois hockey heroes of yesteryear, but all I saw when reading this letter was a whiny, xenophobic rant about the supposed evils of money and the ethnic vote and I honestly thought we'd be past that as a society.

 


AND OUTSIDE OF HOCKEY

a PLUS to Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother. She's a total HerWay girl: smart, funny, knows her hockey and wouldn't be caught dead in a pink jersey (we assume). We should be mad at her since her Canucks beat our Habs, but her mini-speech about the 2004 Canucks in this week's episode was made of awesome. We'd still totally be her friend if she was a real person.


a MINUS to public transit, since over the last week or so, both of your friendly neighbourhood bloggers were basically left stranded on their way home thanks to malfunctions of some sort or another. It's just not normal for a 35-minute commute to take over two hours.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Monument Unveiled Today

... and I like it!

There were some barricades around it when I passed by Centennial Plaza this evening, but I was still able to get in close enough. A mere three weeks ago in that spot all there was, was a foot-high platform. Now there's an adorable circle of bricks decorated by children and a tall black stone slab topped with a giant (bordering on too big, but really just right) full-colour CH logo. Engraved on the sides of the slab are paragraphs and lists honouring the heroes of our team's first 100 years as well as the players who may have spent a bit less time in the spotlight but who gave Montreal all they had, no matter how many minutes they played.


No monument is complete without an epic historical paragraph. And no epic historical paragraph is complete without Jean Beliveau's name. So far so good!

One side honours the winners of NHL trophies.


The part everyone knew about: listing the names of every Canadiens player from the team's first century.




I'm pretty proud that I managed to get the names of legends Dickie Moore and Howie Morenz in the same picture as the names of our beloved current assistant coach AND the most likable personality on RDS, five-time Hab Dave Morissette.



This is where I have a rookie moment, because I didn't know that there was a Craig Ferguson who wore the CH, and as a TV fan I can't help but ask if he can crack a joke.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fighting Fire With Fire

A Habs-Flames encounter from last season, with a very familiar-looking Calgary centreman.

So, this was supposed to be an update BEFORE tonight's game but the STM had other plans for your friendly neighbourhood blogger, so it's a postgame dealie instead. I also apologize in advance for any poor writing quality, but I'm fighting a cold so hard you'd think it was a Leafs fan.  

Dear readers, today you learned that ~czechtacular loves the Flames. She LOVES them. Believe me. I have yet to officially choose a backup team, but I do like Calgary. Jarome Iginla is one of my absolute favourite NHL players outside of Montreal. I've been a fan since the Olympics. (I don't remember which Olympics, because it was my pre-hockey days.) Sorry to say, but your bloggers have been looking forward to this game for a while. (We're guessing Mike Cammalleri's been looking forward to it too.)  

A quick welcome back to our boys Kyle Chipchura and Yannick Weber. We'd prefer to see them back under better circumstances (you know, not because of an epic amount of injuries), but Chip's been off the ice too long and I have lots of hope for Weber. Also good to see Halak in net: not only does this give me hope that we'll see a healthy distribution of work between our two goalies, keeping them both in great shape, but it reminds me of how brilliant he was against Calgary at the Bell Centre last December. We were at that game, obviously losing our minds, and Halak was amazing. He proved that he can handle the Flames, and that he can put in a great performance and not be overshadowed by a more experienced goalie like Miikka Kiprusoff.  

Pretty good game tonight. It would have been better if we'd won, but that goes without saying, I guess. 
Jay Bouwmeester's a much better fit for the Flames than his name is on the back of his jersey.  

You might be interested to know that ~czechtacular predicted both the Prust/Stewart fight and the Nystrom/Chipchura fight. I'm not even kidding. She called Prust/Stewart today at lunch and while it was happening said Nystrom and Chips would be next, and indeed they were.  
Speaking of Eric Nystrom, he scored the first goal of the game, a pretty decent faraway goal. Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez collaborated to tie the game, then a mere thirty seconds later Guillaume Latendresse turned into that Wicked Awesome Gui that shows up from time to time and scored a goal worthy of the awesome fist-pump he celebrated with. 
Then it was Pardy-time for Nystrom and the game got tied 2-2. Jarome Iginla scored a third goal on a power play (but, I mean, it's Jarome Iginla, unguarded, near a net, on a power play. We may not like it but these things are to be expected.) Welcome back, Tomas Plekanec! I think our #14 may have scored the goal of the night in the closing moments of the 2nd period. 
Third period. Third goal for Nystrom. Damn. (Some people may argue that Josh Gorges had an accidental hand in this goal, but I won't hear of it.) The game would stay at 4-3, but there were a few pretty awesome shots on goal in the second half of the last period. We didn't lose for lack of trying.  

I thought it necessary to point out that during the second period, Pierre Houde made a reference to "Dustin Prust," who isn't anyone, but as soon as I said it out loud, he corrected himself. And this is proably the only time that I'll ever get to point out Pierre Houde's mistake, since he's a gentleman and a scholar and probably the best thing about RDS. (Sorry, Dave Morisette.)  
And a shoutout to Calgary's in-house announcer. Our Michel Lacroix is unparalleled, but Mr. Saddledome's got some pipes in him. And just in case you think I'm getting just a little bit too pro-Calgary, I'll say what must be said: Montreal's throwback jerseys are MUCH nicer. I know it goes without saying but honestly. They don't even look good on the skanky ice girls. (Am I allowed to say "skanky"?)

Sleeping with the enemy?



Roman Hamrlik with then-teammate Dion Phaneuf. This D-Unit no longer exists, and if they had to get used to that, so do I.


My mother would disapprove of the inspiration behind this post, as it has to do with a concept she disagrees with: mistress teams. Well, blame the calendar. The Montreal Canadiens hit the Saddledome this fine Tuesday and I happen to count the Calgary Flames as part of my beloved "side-dishes." I'm sure I'm not the only one that has this as a potential conflict one or two (or six, if you're harbouring some secret Bruins love or Sens sympathy) times a year. A guide to dealing with the outbursts that come as a result of such matchups can be found below.

Determine best-case scenario. Unless it's a game in late March and the Flames (or other team) are on the edge of either falling out of the playoffs or grabbing first spot in the Northwest whereas the Habs are comfortably sitting way up in the East (such a scenario hasn't happened to me as a fan, I don't know about you), don't be wishy-washy about who has to win. Habs. Always. (I was born in '86 and not '89 for a reason.) Whether you want a 2-1 shootout win or a 6-5 goals' festival is something else.

Gather a support team. Watch the game with friends, live or online where your numerous keysmashes (or verbal keysmashes) will be understood. You can be fed popcorn to shut you up from garbling about faceoffs, or cheered up with hilarious emoticons when Kipper is sitting there in the crease looking like someone stole his blanket. The support team is primarily counted on to remind you of Guide Rule #1, no matter how many games Iggy hasn't had a goal (and can you believe some people in Calgary are already concerned about this? It's two games in, for Pete's sake).

Calculate fight possibilities, even the alien-sounding ones. Even if the teams don't face off often during the year, rivalries tend to build up pretty quickly. You laugh about them afterwards (Rookie and I were witness to Plekanec being this close to dropping the gloves with Cammalleri last season, and all of a sudden they're linemates.) but if you're a fan of certain pugilists you might want to think about who they'll be sharing the highlight reel with so that your face doesn't drop off when it happens in real-time.

Have fun with it. Make predictions for scorers and/or the eventuality of shootout candidates. Mute the tv and do your own play-by-play (recommended for some games that don't even have such a conflict, but are only featured on a certain channel with annoying announcers). Create a drinking game*.

Allow for a little grudge period. Robyn Regehr isn't very well-liked by Habs' fans, even if Aaron Downey and Matt D'Agostini are alive and well. However, he is a solid defenseman and generally awesome the other 364 days of the year. You don't have to like what happens during the game, and you can frown a little afterwards, but then again, when the next Flames' game is against the Oilers and certain pesky opponents actually need to be crunched mercilessly against the boards, the spilt milk dries up pretty quickly.

*a guide for a Habs' drinking game, started last season, will be up sometime this year when all the amendments are made. Given that one of the rules was "if Kovalev's helmet falls off, take a shot," you can guess that there will be a number of subtractions, as well as a number of additions.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Get Your Shop On

Until tomorrow (October 4th), $1 from every purchase at shop.nhl.com will be donated to Hockey Fights Cancer. If you were going to buy anything, I'd say now's a pretty good time to do it!

There's also new items produced specifically to for Hockey Fights Cancer... the women's T-shirt is a dark asphalt grey (so we're starting off well) with a screenprint that I probably wouldn't be a fan of if it weren't for a good cause, but it is. As per usual, the men's T-shirt is pretty cute. If I had an excuse to wear a tie (pretty much verboten for girls thanks to Avril Lavigne back in 2002) I'd want it to look like the HFC tie since it makes light purple look pretty sweet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Open Season

Photo: Habs Inside Out

Canadiens won their season opener, and we beat the Leafs on their home ice, and Josh Gorges scored the game-winning goal. The night was filled with moments that made czechtacular turn to me and say "We HAVE to blog that." It was like a dream come true.

Except for the fact that it was a close game that would have been better won in regular time (as long as Gorges still scored the GWG) and Andrei Markov had to be helped off the ice.

I gave Mike Komisarek the benefit of the doubt all summer. I bought his story about wanting a change of scenery. I held my breath for the entire five minutes between hearing that he was close to signing with another team and finding out that he was a Leaf. I listened to "Don't Speak" a bunch of times. I wondered who in this city could have made him leave, and what they did. I ignored all the player haters who turned their backs on him faster than it would actually take someone to physically turn around.
And then in one game, he did more punching than I remember seeing him do ever last season... even against the Rangers... even against the Leafs. I mean, I guess I can understand why he'd have beef with Scott Gomez, but he's never been that mean. When he speared Andrei Markov I could practically hear my own disappointment.

And speaking of Markov, my favourite Canadien is out three to four months because of an accidental injury. (I can't even blame this on Evil New Komo! I wish I could.)
As if it wasn't bad enough that a random stomachache felled me near the end of the game, not even being able to fully enjoy (yes, I'll say it again) a game-winning goal by Josh Gorges. It's almsot 24 hours later and I don't feel any better... I left work early, came home, buried myself in blankets and Kleenex and found we've got no Markov until after Christmas.

At least I didn't have to be operated, flown back to Montreal with my ankle in a cast and the rest of me in a wheelchair.

Get well soon, Marky!

(and a happy belated birthday to Jacques Martin, who got a pretty nice gift. In case the Canadiens are wondering, my birthday's in April.)