Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Game 49: Montréal 7, Detroit 2

This big convincing win against Detroit is enough for a lot of Canadiens fans to remove their tank commander helmets and do a triple-gainer back onto the bandwagon. I know I may have tripped into the lifeboat in my haste to abandon ship, but now, unlike Captain Schettino, I'm contemplating getting back on board the good ship Glorieux.

This was an enjoyable game to watch for another reason than its final score. It was refreshing to see a game played at a high pace and without all the meaningless scrums and facewashes and crosschecking after the play was over. When the goalie froze the puck, both teams would stop, separate, and skate to the faceoff circle for the puck drop. I imagined how the Bruins or the Chris Neils would have reacted to a 5-0 deficit. They would have busted out the brass knuckles and taped on some foil, reanimated the corpse of Lyndon Byers, cried "Lucic" and let slip the McQuaids of war.

I loved the way the Canadiens were sedate and classy in their goal celebrations once the game was getting out of hand for the Wings. The guys congratulated each other but there were no histrionics and no mugging for the cameras. Good stuff. This is the kind of team I want to root for.

Early in the game I observed that when Scott Gomez grabs the puck in the defensive zone, he's one of the few Canadiens who seems like he wants it and knows what to do with it, namely to skate it into the opposite zone. Say what we will, he compares favourably to the putative Canadiens powerplay quarterbacks who appear as if they'd rather not have the puck on their blade, and skate listlessly into the neutral zone already convinced that their efforts will lead to naught. His decisiveness and relative competence may be how he seduces his coaches to allot him seemingly more icetime than you would think he was entitled to. As I was formulating this thought, he whisked his cross-ice pass to René Bourque for the opening goal. The Canadiens, frustratingly, are a better team with him in the lineup than they are without him. That speaks volumes to the lack of depth on the team, but that's the boat we're in.

We also observed a strong game from Tomas Plekanec and René Bourque. Both scored and we can hope that these two can build on this and develop some chemistry. Tomas especially seemed more confident, effective and dangerous on offence. The effort was there in previous games, but he seemed to be flailing and erratic. As much as it was seductive to think that he and Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta could skate circles around the opposition, they never seemed to jell. Let's hope Tomas' new linemate will be a better complement.

Poor undersized overmatched David Desharnais had all he could handle against the powerhouse Wings, all he could muster was two goals and an assist. Evidently a hat trick or even a Gordie Howe hat trick is beyond him. To think we have this guy under contract for another year at almost a million per, what are we going to do with him?

In all seriousness, there was an interesting graphic on RDS a few games back comparing him with Martin St. Louis, an obvious point of reference due to their diminutive size and tortuous route to the NHL. It showed that both first made the NHL at 23 years of age, and that after the same number of games David's scoring pace was twice that of Mr. St. Louis. We can only dream. I'll start the collection for David to attend Martin's summertime conditioning sessions.

P.K. Subban just can't stay out of the headlines. Tonight, again, he demonstrated his consistent boneheadedness and indiscipline. I'd be more incensed if the coaches hadn't reacted well and stapled him to the bench, an effective and just reaction to P.K.'s self-indulgent loss of self-control, which was again, unerringly, followed by a palms up "Who, me?!!?" gesture for the refs. P.K. won't get the benefit of the doubt from any referee for a long, long time now. We can only hope that he can develop a single-minded focus on taking the puck to the opposition net, kind of like Raymond Bourque or Chris Chelios used to do. When they had the puck on their stick, they knew where they were headed, and would fend off the occasional hook or slash on their way to the net. It was almost as if they took them for granted and didn't notice them anymore, it was background noise, extraneous to the task at hand. P.K. needs to improve his concentration and understanding of the game and the situation, and react appropriately to game conditions. Tonight was another flat tire for him on the road to maturity.

CTV Sportsnet is horrible

Just changed the channel from Sportsnet’s news, I never watch them since they’re so horrible. They were doing a piece on Mikhail Grabovski and how he could be moved at the trade deadline. First, former goon Nick Kypreos, who had a forgettable career except for how he took out Grant Fuhr in one playoff by falling on him and rupturing his ACL and effectively ending his career, anyway, this monument to the absence of credibility pipes up by saying that the Leafs centres aren’t going to get the job done if they get into the playoffs, going up “against the Rangers, the Bruins, and the, …, uh, the Rangers….” Another talking head, having done 20 seconds of research, explains that Mr. Grabovski would be a ‘perfect fit’ in Nashville, ignorant of the fact that he would there be reunited with Sergei Kostitsyn, with who he feuded to such a degree when they were both Canadiens that it got him traded to Toronto in the first place.

Great job Sportsnet. I hope you run the Leafs like you run your sports news desk.

Red Wings envy

Interesting writeup by Stu Hackel on the Red Wings who we all compare the Canadiens to in terms of organizational strength, managerial acumen and drafting prowess. We envy their stability and the respect they engender across the league.

Watching l’Antichambre tonight, they had on three guests who I had to Google to figure out who they were: Claude Legault, Louis Morissette and Stéphane Archambault. Apparently they are all well-known in Québec, and are all actors and do improv among other talents. In any case, they were there to represent the average fan of the Canadiens, and they were all informed, passionate and engaging. The paradox in their comments is that all three agreed, along with many in the Commentariat, that the Wings is a model franchise in that they have stability instead of lurching from one crisis to another disaster, and their leadership instills respect throughout the league. A minute later though, all three advocated replacing Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey relatively quickly. I guess the priority is change now, stability later.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Conscientious objector Tim Thomas

When I first heard of Tim Thomas purposely not attending the White House due to political beliefs, I thought it was indefensible, as I thought he was doing so because President Obama is a Democrat. Mr. Thomas is a vocal conservative, and I thought it was misplaced for him to shun the traditional White House visit for party affiliation reasons. It is important to remember that the White House is 'the people's house', regardless of the identity of the incumbent President, and I thought he had lost sight of that. I now know that Mr. Thomas' reasons are broader and more complex than this, so I am more lenient in my condemnation of his gesture, but I still condemn it.

Tim Thomas' statement explained his refusal to join his teammates due to a belief that the government of the United States is infringing the liberties guaranteed the American people by their Constitution. I find it hard to castigate someone who has deeply held political beliefs and acting on them in a consistent manner. I would be more confident if Mr. Thomas had abstained from visiting the White House if a Republican had been the sitting President. Also, I would feel better about this if Mr. Thomas wasn't a shill for credit card companies and Dunkin' Donuts, among others. How the corporate world, with its monopolistic practices, cavalier disregard for its employees' welfare and the communities they pillage, and the rapacious greed of its executive class, isn't more of a threat to the liberty and well-being of the American people is a difficult position to adopt.

When athletes such as Steve Nash and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf were vocal and acted upon their political beliefs I was supportive of their right to do so, probably because theirs more closely followed mine. So I'm trying to be even-handed when evaluating Mr. Thomas' actions. It's also hard for me to be objective about him since he is a Bruin, and because of his smug countenance when he's in net. He just rubs me the wrong way.

I dislike the way he carried himself at the 2011 All-Star game when Carey Price, an impressionable youngster, was trying to engage him in conversation during the draft. Mr. Thomas steadfastly refused to participate, or even make eye contact or acknowledge Carey, acting as if they were in church and he was trying to listen to the sermon. Later in the season, during a typical Bruins episode of thuggery and aggression in a game against the Canadiens, Mr. Thomas skated the length of the ice to engage Carey, but in a fistfight this time. Sure enough, after a couple of seconds of grappling with the bigger, younger, and stronger Canadiens goalie, he realized that he had bitten off way more than he could chew, and his deeply held personal convictions evaporated. He collapsed to the ice and turtled, and was an 'aw-shucks-no-hard-feelings' good guy when the refs had him separated and let him back up, now more than willing to ingratiate himself to Carey.

As will be discussed by NHL insiders, I believe Tim Thomas has hurt himself and the team with his actions today which will pigeon-hole him with extreme right-wing militia groups in the public's mind, and may roil the waters for the Bruins in the dressing room for a group that had been having relatively smooth sailing for the last while.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Game 48: Montréal 3, Toronto 1

Wait, what? We're double-shifting Scott Gomez? Then there's no doubt: we're showcasing him to the many pro scouts in attendance.

A team in the market for Scott Gomez would be looking for a 'pure passer', the purest available anywhere as a matter of fact. Let's put our thinking caps on and figure out which team would be willing to take him on.

This team has a sniper or a couple of wingers who need someone to carry the puck and feed them a diet of soft passes in scoring position. They have an injured centreman or one who is criminally underperforming. They are a cap-floor team and need help in the next few years reaching that level, so they must be a low-revenue team. The team must also be scratching and clawing to get into the playoffs to be ready to embark on such folly, so they must be hovering near the 8th playoff seed in their conference.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you the New Jersey Devils. They think they can spin the return of the prodigal son. We're getting Zach Parisé back. It's in the tea leaves. But I'd accept Travis Zajac if it came down to it.

No? Who then?

The Maple Leafs and Canadiens played as if they don't believe in this whole big rivalry that exists between them either. The game lacked passion and rhythm. The Canadiens didn't seem convinced their playoff lives depended on this game, and they're probably right. The Maple Leafs are a softer touch when Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul aren't filling the net anymore.

Something noteworthy was the fact that the Canadiens didn't get pushed around by Brian Burke's pugnacious Leafs. Adding a Mike Blunden and René Bourque on top of Erik Cole has a significant effect on the makeup of this team. We even saw Travis Moen challenge Mike Komisarek to a fight, an offer which the Leaf defenceman turned down. When was the last time the Canadiens were the aggressors? Good on Travis for issuing the challenge, and then carrying on with his game, and not turning into a Paul Gaustad-Chris Neil-type idiot.

This change in team makeup comes at a cost though. The Leafs seemed to be the speedier team tonight, getting lots of odd-man rushes and breakaways. The Canadiens won't be skating teams into submission anymore.

A word on P.K. Subban. It seems the sharks smell blood in the water. There were mentions tonight on l'Antichambre about P.K.'s self-centeredness, how he rubs people on the team the wrong way, which we've heard before. There were specifics for the first time though, as those in the media feel more comfortable these days breaking the Code of Silence and explaining how he is regularly late for meetings and how, in the words of one confidential source, if there are five team rules, he'll break seven.

These are the kind of details and specifics we rarely get from sports reporters, since they are usually too interested in protecting their access to, uh, report. We usually hear these concrete examples once the player is shipped out of town. This doesn't bode well for our intrepid young defenceman.

Maple Leaf blues

Contrary to many, I don’t hate or even dislike the Maple Leafs.

I resent the disproportionate amount of coverage this second-rate squad got through their years of awfulness. I hate having their games consistently on HNIC at the expense of the Canadiens and Senators.

I used to hate the Leafs when they had criminals and psychopaths in their lineup: Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi, Wade Belak. I hated them then. Now they have a good roster, and quite a few players I’d like to have on my team. I don’t mind this team.

The whole Toronto-Montreal ‘rivalry’ is a Toronto media creation anyway. Growing up as a French Canadian kid watching hockey in the 70′s and 80′s, the only teams that mattered were the Islanders, the Oilers, the usurpers who were trying to break the Canadiens records. We hated the Bruins and the Flyers. We hated the Nordiques very quickly after they joined the league, and hated them with white hot intensity. I still seethe and clench my fists when I see Dale Hunter. I still think he should be in jail.

When I started speaking English and having to watch hockey on CBC, I was dumbfounded to hear that we were embroiled in this great rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I had never heard a peep about that on La Soirée du Hockey. I never had an inkling that this ridiculous team with Tiger Williams and Mike Palmateer and Harold Ballard that we swept two years in a row in the opening series of the playoffs was one of our rivals.

So I want to win the game tonight, I want to beat the Leafs, but I’d trade two wins against them for one against the Bruins anytime.

If the Leafs are successful and do well, good for them. They’re a hard working team, I won’t begrudge them their good fortune, but I’ll change the channel when TSN goes on a 12 minute elegy on how awesome they are. Unless Jennifer or Natasha is talking. Whatever they’re selling, I’m willing to listen.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Game 47: Montréal 4, Pittsburgh 5 (SO)

Where to start? I could go on and on about giving Scott Gomez the opportunity to take a shootout attempt. In terms of strategy, and in terms of setting an example to the team that performance and effort and results will be rewarded, what a horrible coach's decision. Mr. Cunneyworth must have been playing a huge hunch, and Mr. Gomez responded by rolling snake eyes. Maybe Mr. Cunneyworth has thrown in the towel too, and doesn't believe he'll be here beyond the spring. In this case, he should understand that the rest of the season is his audition for another job. Not too many GM's will look favourably on this and other headscratchers he's made lately.

This near-win was brought to you by Marc-André Fleury. He appeared weak on two Montreal goals, and staked the Canadiens a two-goal lead twice. As a trusty veteran though, he shut the door in the third period and allowed his team to come back.

Peter Budaj, meanwhile, battled the puck all game, with a few Palmateeresque saves as he flopped around like a dolphin in a tuna net, the puck ping-ponging around him. What seemed early on to be a good decision to rest Carey Price didn't turn out well. He, as opposed to Mr. Fleury, got weaker as the game progressed. He ended playing just well enough to lose.

Two of my whipping boys, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Kaberle, both tallied two points, which is positive in that this will help their eventual trade value. Mr. Kaberle was so awful defensively on some sequences that I laughed out loud out loud. Andrei was productive, cashing in some opportunities. I noticed him a couple of times trying to carry the puck into the offensive zone, which affirmed the perception that he's a sniper but not much of a playmaker.

David Desharnais again punched above his weight class, buzzing around in the offensive zone, fighting hard along the boards, and I observed two solid, effective bodychecks against bigger opponents that separated them from the puck.

The unavoidable topic of conversation though is P.K. Subban's theatrics tonight. Personally, I give up on him. He's now in the Darcy Tucker-Claude Lemieux category, a player I'm ashamed to have on my team. His outburst on the bench with assistant coach Randy Ladouceur was embarrassing. Anyone, with any sense at all, knows that you don't argue with your boss. Especially in front of your coworkers. With 20 000 spectators watching and TV cameras pointed at you. That he went ahead and did so shows a significant lack of intellect, or at least emotional intelligence. Immediately after, during his shift on the Max Pacioretty goal, he was a whirling dervish, streaking up and down the ice trying to make things happen, being everywhere on the ice except where he should have been. When Peter Budaj made his outlet pass to Erik Cole, P.K. was nowhere in sight, having rushed far up the ice and generated an odd-man rush for the Penguins.

In the overtime period, P.K. was partnered with Josh Gorges and received an easy cross-ice pass from him as they were setting up the rush. They weren't being pressured and had clear possession of the puck, yet P.K. ineffectually, with complete lack of concentration and effort, muddled the puck back over to him, but softly and behind Josh, so that he had to turn around and race back to corral the puck in the corner. Josh got to wrestle with some big Penguins forwards for a few seconds and had his face tattooed on the glass for his trouble. I'll stress again that what was a routine situation turned into a life or death situation that Josh Gorges had to sacrifice and battle to rectify, solely due to Mr. Subban's putrid play and hockey IQ.

P.K. seems to be all wrapped up in himself. On the ice, he overthinks everything and expends effort at the wrong time, making the difficult play instead of the easy one way too often, but conversely doesn't bear down on the simple passes and places himself and his team in trouble.

During the preamble to the scrap between Chris Kunitz and Max Pacioretty, he rushed at Mr. Kunitz, seemingly to avenge a hard but clean hit on Erik Cole. Sure enough, all he did was yap and whirl around and let others do the fighting. That would have been a great time for him to expend some of that vaunted energy of his, and to display some of the gym strength he works so hard to attain. If not, he should just shut his yap and not try to start trouble.

I'll say it again. P.K. and Andrei Kostitsyn should be the nucleus of a package for Shea Weber.

Of course, trying to trade him now, when he has cratered his own trade value, and when the Canadiens are desperate and not dealing with other teams from a position of strength, is tantamount to organizational suicide, but the time has come to consider if trading him away would be a case of addition by subtraction.

Which means that what must happen is for Mr. Subban to get some sense and humility and discipline drilled into him. He needs to sit out three games and enjoy the view from the pressbox. Even better, let's send him to Hamilton for 10-20 games to find his game. And yes I'm serious.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hey sportscaster!

"Once referred to as a living legend, Burke will now be immortalized forever..." Katherine Dolan of TSN.

Hey Katherine Dolan! When you say someone will be immortalized, you don't need to add forever, it's redundant. Once someone is immortal (literally immune to death), it's forever. If not, they are not immortal.

Just saying.

immortalize, immortalise [ɪˈmɔːtəˌlaɪz]
vb (tr)
1. to give everlasting fame to, as by treating in a literary work Macbeth was immortalized by Shakespeare
2. to give immortality to

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Game 45: Montréal 4, New York Rangers 1

Pierre Gauthier has publicly confirmed what many fans have been screaming for years: the Canadiens were too small as a team and need to get bigger. We saw that in the first and second period for long stretches when the big Rangers forwards (Brian Boyle, 6'7", 244 lbs., Mike Rupp, 6'5", 243 lbs.) kept the Canadiens bottled up in their zone with effective, aggressive forechecking. The smaller Montreal defencemen were a little bit skittish along the boards, their heads on a swivel, as they tried to escape with their lives and brain cells intact rather than the puck.

Getting bigger is not an unalloyed boon though, as we saw what the Rangers size meant in terms of lack of mobility. Time and again, Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and even Scott Gomez, buzzed around the Rangers zone, their quickness, agility and artistry with the puck too much for the lumbering behemoths in white.

It is clear that what the Canadiens have been lacking is not solely size and strength. If they had had more finish around the net, more production from the putative goal scorers on the team, and if the powerplay had not been so impotent, they would be comfortably in the playoff seeding and battling for position.

I do agree that the Canadiens need to inject some size and toughness in their lineup, given the conditions that exist with referees overlooking slashes and hooks that were automatic calls after the lockout in 2005, and the Reign of Error of Bettman, Campbell and Jacobs. I wonder how much worse than Chris Campoli or Hal Gill or Tomas Kaberle Shane O'Brien would have had to be to not improve this squad.

The Canadiens can skate and score the goon teams into submission, kind of like the Red Wings do, and like we've done frequently with the Bruins, but an important component of that formula is the scoring part.

Tonight the #1 line played as such, after a few games of relatively meager production. This game should serve as the final nail in the coffin of the line juggling that was rampant this season. In the Post-Cammalleri era, the David Desharnais line has established itself as the best offensive line. Any mix and matching that might occur should be limited to the other lines. The Lars Eller line might be more susceptible to being broken up with the Travis Moen injury tonight, and the benching of its other two members. This might help find a proper fit for newcomer René Bourque, who played with conviction in his first game as a Glorieux and after a five-game suspension.

Mike Blunden again proved his worth. In his last game against the Rangers in New York, he was assessed an undeserved interference penalty on top of a too-many-men penalty to the Canadiens bench, and he seemed to be punished for that by being made a healthy scratch and then sent back to Hamilton. We saw during the game that his size and enthusiasm is a complement to his smaller teammates. As long as he plays at the same pace, he should be in the lineup.

Another positive point is an easy, assured win from Peter Budaj. Apparently he's a very hard worker during practice, and his game may be improving. Certainly his confidence will improve after defeating the top team in the Eastern Conference, and hopefully the team will also believe in him and not think that unless Carey is in net they have no hope.

Grammar minute 2

In a skit on Saturday Night Live, Kristen Wiig played a flawed mayoral candidate who preemptively produced and aired her own attack ads on herself. Funny, good concept.

In one ad, she explained that she had two daughters, but preferred "the youngest". Many references were later made to the youngest and oldest daughters.

Clearly, they should have been referred to as the 'younger' and 'older' daughters.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Game 44: Montreal 2, Ottawa 3 (SO)

When I first saw a #11 Canadiens jersey on the ice, for half a second I tried to come up with which player wore that jersey, and I first came up with Saku Koivu. Weird. Still haven't gotten used to Scott Gomez wearing that jersey. Maybe that's why he had all that time on the ice, to allow me to reacquaint myself to the whole notion of Scott Gomez wearing Yvon Lambert's old jersey.

During the game I thought of Mike Cammalleri's comments regarding the "losing attitude" of the Montreal Canadiens. During the P.K. Subban goal in the first period which was wrongly disallowed by the referees, we saw Josh Gorges surprise the Senators and probably his own teammates by carrying the puck right to the goal, then skate around for a wraparound opportunity or a pass. The losing attitude should have caused Josh to tighten up and hurry a wrist shot right to Craig Anderson's chest, but he showed patience and creativity, and he produced a goal that should have counted. P.K. finished that play with a nice wrist shot. There's something that should make him think.

He should also take example from Josh, who had a great game tonight, despite a tough delay of game penalty. Josh routinely does the right thing and makes the safe, effective play, until he rushes the net with the puck or leaves the blue line for a sneaky back door goal attempt like Andrei Markov used to do. When Josh does it's a surprise to the opposition, which makes it more effective. P.K. needs to copy this behaviour to some degree. As an offensively gifted player he'll take more chances, but he shouldn't try to deke out the whole team all the time, or pull a spinorama on every possession.

Going back to Mr. Cammalleri's comments that punched his ticket out of town, I think the "losing attitude" quote wasn't awful, I understand what he was trying to say, almost trying to shake things up and wake up the team. He was stating something that is common sense: if the team is confident and has a positive attitude and practices with same, and conducts, for example, its powerplay with confidence that they will be rewarded, they will be more successful. What was incendiary was that this was coming from him. If another Canadien had said this, a veteran leader whose effort every night and contribution to the team was beyond reproach, this would have been merely controversial, and we would have questioned why this wasn't said during one of the numerous team meetings they have been holding, instead of to a couple of reporters. Instead, Mr. Cammalleri has been a noticeable underachiever this season, with varying levels of effort on any given night. He should have kept his yap shut and worked out his frustration and communicated his philosophy during the many morning skates that he has apparently missed this season.

What really bugged me, and possibly team management was of the same mind, was his sneering, snide quote that he needed to work harder at practice since he wasn't getting enough of a workout during games. This was, intentionally or not, a callous swipe at his beleaguered coach, something that couldn't be tolerated. It was also paradoxical, since Mr. Cammalleri, a practitioner of interval training, should have realized that if he was getting less icetime, he needed to work harder during his shifts to increase the intensity to achieve the same training effect in a shorter workout. If the good of the team didn't motivate him, maybe his pride in his conditioning should have. In the end, his attitude had to be excised from the team.

One problem I have with this whole soap opera is how so many reporters and analysts, notably Mario Tremblay tonight on RDS during the second intermission, are now coming to the fore and accusing Mr. Cammalleri of being a disruptive influence and regularly going to the coach's office to ask for more icetime and his choice of linemates. I hate how we, the fans, the consumers of sports and sports journalism, were not told this during the season. All we got were veiled reference to Mr. Cammalleri not being a very popular player with his former teammates in Los Angeles and then Calgary. Why do reporters have all this access to players and coaches and management and then not use that access to inform us? They are caught in a Catch 22: once you have access and sources, you can't use the resultant knowledge for fear of losing that access. It's the same syndrome as we see with embedded reporters covering the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Michael Hastings published what he observed when covering General Stanley McChrystal in his Rolling Stone article of 2010, he was pilloried for breaching this mythical non-disclosure code that is supposed to exist between the reporter and his subject, the abysmal Lara Logan acting as the chief apologist.

This is a regular failing of sports reporters. They keep quiet about all manner of transgressions and failings on certain individuals, and then let it out and pile on when this individual is down or shown the door. Guy Lafleur's 'mysterious' slump in the 80's was easily explained by his interest in being a hockey player being superseded by his desire to be a superstar and his enthusiastic consumption of party favours, but nobody would touch the sacred cow. When cocaine was blowing through the Expos clubhouse, no one said a peep. When Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault in Georgia, Sports Illustrated chief NFL slurper Peter King published an article on how the Steeler quarterback wasn't such a great guy after all, despite having kissed up to him for years. We also remember how Jessica Rusnak's pointed question to Jacques Martin regarding Erik Cole's lack of powerplay time was received. Mr. Martin was used to being lobbed softballs, he couldn't take the chin music by Ms. Rusnak.

In any case, the trade to Calgary will probably work out well for both teams. Obviously Mr. Cammalleri needed a change of scenery. We get in return a player with some size and an edge, skills which will complement well the skills of his teammates. The prospect throw-in and the second round choice also are a soothing balm. Karri Ramo is an acceptable ancillary cost.

Getting back to the game, while watching I had the uncharitable thought that if we are playing Chris Campoli to showcase him and inflate his trade value, we might be better served by benching him, since his shifts do nothing to impress the observer. He did rack up a cheap assist on Max's goal, let's hope he puts up a few more before the trade deadline.

The game and maybe the Canadiens' season can be compared to the shootout period. While the Senators were supposed to be bottom feeders, they were able to trot out Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredson. Our putative leaders and scorers are unavailable (Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri) or in a dry spell (Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty). So we gave Tomas Kaberle an opportunity which he flubbed. Another guy whose trade value is being murdered. If he had any to begin with.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Game 43: Montréal 1, Boston 2

Another 2-1 loss to the Bruins tonight, which took a back seat to the developing story of Mike Cammalleri's alleged trade. The news pretty much took the sting out of the loss. At least the organization is done with wallpapering and spackle jobs, they're now undergoing the major renovation.

How did we get here so quickly? I remember the enthusiasm at the end-of-summer golf tournament, how all was sunny and great. Tonight it's as dark as I can remember since the Irving Grundman and Réjean Houle era.

Mike Cammalleri was, I thought, a consummate pro who trained hard in the off-season and worked hard on the ice, scored big goals but celebrated soberly, with class. I believed that his slow start was a reflection of an early season injury, but obviously there was more to the story.

Long term, I worry about the damage to the organization, its ability to make trades and develop players and attract free agents with the massive drain of credibility occurring this season. The team imperatively must find strong leadership for the front office, to calm the roiling waters, quell internal dissension and set the direction.

While we're trading away big chunks, players who we thought we could build around, let's send P.K. far, far away. I give up. I don't care anymore about his vast stores of talent and potential. His actions tonight disqualify him from wearing the bleu blanc rouge. He dishes out a big elbow to David Krejci, a dirty play on a smaller skilled player who had done nothing to attract that kind of attention. When Brad Ference tried to take him to task, as I grudgingly admit he had a right to, P.K. flopped down, again, and covered up with his arms to protect his beautiful face. Once the scrum was over and the referees had come to rescue him, he stood up with his trademark big grin, as if the preceding events were all a big joke and he was above all this nonsense.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Grammar minute

From :

tenet [ˈtɛnɪt ˈtiːnɪt]
a belief, opinion, or dogma
[from Latin, literally: he (it) holds, from tenēre to hold]

ten·ant (tnnt)
1. One that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another.
2. A dweller in a place; an occupant.
3. Law One who holds or possesses lands, tenements, or sometimes personal property by any kind of title.
tr. & intr.v. ten·ant·ed, ten·ant·ing, ten·ants
To hold as a tenant or be a tenant.

I hate to be that guy, but the founder of was on the Q on CBC radio this morning, and quite eloquently defended the service his company provides to the public. Unfortunately, he on a couple of occasions spoke about how monogamy is a great "tenant" of Western thought as pertains to romantic love and marriage.

Uh, dude, monogamy is not a tenant of anything. You mean to say it's a tenet of Western thought.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Game 42: Montréal 0, St. Louis 3

It's hard to feel enthused about the Canadiens near future and their players on a night like this. At the start of the season I tempered my enthusiasm and predicted that the Canadiens would battle to get into the playoffs, seeing as they didn't have the depth or talent of the Phillys and New York Rangers and Bruins (gag!). That prediction is proving false not only in their being unable to hover around eighth place in the East, but also in the 'battling hard' aspect. They looked listless and dispirited tonight. The frustration exhibited by their captain as he left the ice with an apparently aggravated injury may be leaking on to the team, or maybe is an accurate reflection of what the collective psyche is.

It's hard to write a recap of the game that is positive and illuminating on a night like this. The torpid Canadiens did nothing to catch a viewer's eye and hold his attention. There were no surprises or interesting developments, the Glorieux played down to their results so far this half-season.

The Plekanec-Gionta-Cammalleri line simply doesn't work. I understand a coach being patient with his players and giving them time to develop a rapport, but their lack of cohesion and their impotence is highlighted when the other two 'scoring' lines are not picking up their slack. Mr. Gionta's injury will require a line shuffling again, so this point becomes moot, but it's disheartening when the players who are drawing the big salaries and should be your leaders are sputtering.

Lars Eller teases us with his flashes of brilliance, we are dying to affix the nickname 'The Great Dane' on him when he really takes off, but I think that's an apt moniker right now. My friend had a Great Dane puppy and he was the meekest, most timid, most uncoordinated dog you ever saw until he turned about a year old, and a German Shepherd charged at him and attacked him. The puppy yelped and howled and got his ass kicked and it took a while for his owner to get to him and break up the fight. That seemed to be a turning point for him, because from then on he became the biggest baddest dog around, he seemed to realize that he needed to take care of himself and the next time a dog tried him on for size he knocked him down and dominated him real quick. I keep hoping for Lars to have this moment when everything clicks and he learns to command his considerable size and skill. The Winnipeg game seemed to have been that moment, but we saw him again tonight generating lots of heat but little light.

In the wake of the Brad Marchand suspension, which he incurred only because his clipping of Sami Salo's was so flagrant that even the perfidious Colin Campbell couldn't massage it into a 'hockey play', I have to comment on the state of the refereeing in the NHL, and the network analysts who comment on the game. In the seconds leading up to the clipping call, Mr. Marchand punched Sami Salo in the back of the head, from behind, completely gratuitously and unprovoked, without a whistle from either referee. Twice. The clipping was obviously intentional not only judged by the mere witnessing of the act itself, but also by this violent preamble that says a lot about the state of mind of the perpetrator. In this 'new era' of concussion 'awareness', and with Sidney Crosby back in the stands after another bout of concussion symptoms, that the play wasn't whistled dead before the clipping incident, with Mr. Marchand safely in the penalty box for a two-minute roughing call is incomprehensible. That Jamie McLennan of TSN described this sequence as being good ole-fashioned battlin' for the puck is an indicator that the League and all its enablers are complicit in the continuing murder of hockey, and that the game must be rescued from Gary Bettman and his orcs.

Mr. Julien tried to bend the facts to purport that Mr. Marchand was trying to stick up for himself and was only defending himself against a bigger opponent, Mr. Salo being well known as a rough and tumble player with goonish tendencies and a huge mean streak, but really what Mr. Marchand was doing was making a bad situation he created even worse. If Mr. Salo was approaching not to play the puck, but, as is the contention of the Bruins, to exact vengeance upon his assailant, this wouldn't have been an unprovoked attack on a defenseless innocent.

This kind of play and refereeing was evident in two plays tonight. One was the offsetting slashing and roughing calls drawn by Mike Cammalleri and David Perron respectively in the first period. Mr. Cammalleri was the clear aggressor, crosschecking Mr. Perron repeatedly in the back during a corner puck battle. Mr. Perron eventually turned around and crosschecked Mr. Cammalleri back, well after the referee should have whistled or raised his arm to indicate a Canadiens penalty. Mr. Cammalleri retaliated with a cross-check to the face-chin of Mr. Perron. At this point the whistle blew and the stick swinging continued, and both players were sent to the bench. This was a ridiculous but routine NHL-referee decision. The recipient of the initial crosschecks can either absorb them without complaint, or retaliate, or 'dive' or embellish by faking an injury. The crosschecker either gets away with it, or at most gets offsetting minors. In the case of the exasperated crosscheckee, his options are to allow himself to be mugged, to lash out with an act proscribed by the rulebook, or turn into a soccer player.

These conditions are the kind which allow the Bruins to thrive. This is how Sean Thornton can slash the ankles of an opposing player who is on his way off the ice onto the bench, and then be outraged that that player swings his stick back, and causes Mr. Julien to play the offended virgin and point to this act by Mr. Burrows to expiate Mr. Marchand's many heinous crimes.

The offsetting minors encourage goonery and thuggery. As long as any scrums and reciprocal facewashes are judged to be self-cancelling, the behemoths will have free rein to intimidate and assault with impunity. When a player crosschecks another five times, when a Brad Marchand punches a Henrik Sedin in the head five times, when a Mark Stuart can slash an Andrei Kostitsyn ten time (by my count) as he desperately tries to thwart the faster forward leading him on a circular chase around his zone, the two minutes should ring up like in a pinball game. Mr. Marchand should have had five minors, Mr. Stuart ten.

Another situation which caught my attention was when Jamie Langenbrunner caught up to Alexei Emelin in a race to the puck in the Canadiens zone along the boards and gave him a body check with a full, strong elbow. No whistle, no call. Since Mr. Langenbrunner is shorter than Alexei, the elbow caught him in the ribs or shoulder, and was therefore allowable. Apparently. Unless Alexei had made a great show of falling down and being hurt, for which he might have drawn a penalty, but would also have incurred the wrath of Don Cherry, who would thunder that the refs should "let them play", and not call 'ticky-tack' penalties. I hate that word, ticky-tack.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Game 41: Montréal 3, Tampa Bay 1

They were due. The lethal combination of Mike Blunden and Mathieu Darche clicked tonight after a mild lethargic spell, ably assisted by notorious blueline quarterback Hal Gill. Those three are automatic, it's puzzling that they weren't checked more closely by Tampa Bay's stifling defence. That was a big mistake, since they sparked the big comeback, the Canadiens storming back from a 1-0 deficit, which sometimes seems an insurmountable lead against the Glorieux.

Randy Cunneyworth is showing his independence from the Jacques Martin regime and its orthodoxy. Sure, he's also playing seven defencemen, but not by grafting the odd man out on a fourth line ipso facto rendered ineffective. Instead, he plays all seven of his defencemen on the blue line, and they all get significant minutes, which allows him to reduce the wear and tear on Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban, and equally importantly, to focus Hal Gill's role on being a shutdown defencemen in defensive situations or on the penalty kill. He then makes up for the missing forward by double-shifting his most effective forwards. It's an effective solution to the lack of depth on the Canadiens roster, and a way to make do with the singular attributes of our defensive corps. Personally, I much prefer seeing twice as much of Erik Cole or David Desharnais, as opposed to the diet of Aaron Palushaj and Andrea Engqvist we were force-fed earlier this season.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Game 40: Montréal 7, Winnipeg 3

What a game for the Great Dane! That's the Lars Eller I've wanted to see since we first got him. I understand that he's young and will improve, but the price we paid for him was pretty steep, namely a Jaroslav Halak at the height of his powers. If this can be the game in which the dam breaks, and Lars finally becomes an offensively effective centre, then I won't worry too much about what Jaro's Save Percentage is or even about Ian Schultz languishing in the minors.

In a game reminiscent of a hack screenwriter's cheesy offering, a young dauphin, aspirant to the #1 centre position of a glorious team which has been searching for years for its 'gros joueur de centre', has a breakthrough game with a Youngblood-esque finish. He starts off with a real goal-scorer's goal, a wrist shot from the slot for which he found the time and space necessary to get it off instead of being blocked or stripped of the puck. He adds a second then a third, and they are sniper goals, kind of like Steve Shutt used to pot home. The fourth is pure Hollywood, a penalty shot he buries with artistry and flair. Credits roll as he receives an ovation comparable to Saku's or Guy's.

In a 7-3 win, there are lots of positives to note. On Lars' first goal, we saw strong forechecking by Andrei Kostitsyn and good support at the blueline from Alexei Emelin. Andrei was a force all night, forechecking effectively, hitting defencemen, making good passes. His assist on Lars' third goal was a beauty, it was great to see him skate with the puck and to do it with authority and a plan. Travis Moen also clicked tonight, fighting off two Jets to set up Tomas Kaberle's goal, and completing Lars and Andrei well with solid hits and timely passes. I know it's axiomatic that Montreal coaches must monkey with the forward trios, but maybe we leave these guys alone for a while, they seem to work well together whenever they've had the chance.

Carey Price had a good game, and luckily for once he didn't have to be miraculous. I noticed many occasions where his mobility around the net and his puck movement skills almost provides the Canadiens with an extra defenceman in their zone. Some other goalies come out of their net and stop the puck or clear it forward and I question the utility of that move. It seems that Carey always makes the right decision and finds the open man, and that the Canadiens are playing in such a way that they expect his passes and position themselves accordingly. Jet coach Charlie Huddy mentioned during a between-period interview that they needed to take Carey into account when they dumped the puck in, because if they just blindly threw it in there he would corral it and clear it out just as quick.

The David Desharnais line and the Tomas Plekanec line both chipped in a goal, and it's good that on this night it didn't sink the Canadiens that they weren't more productive. Mr. Desharnais fed the puck to Josh Gorges for his first goal since signing his new contract, from which I hope we all reap the rewards.

Erik Cole was all over the ice tonight as well, playing his entertaining, exciting brand of physical, skilled hockey. I dearly wish that we find a sniper to play with him, since while he's a one-man wrecking crew, he's not really a finisher. If only Mike Cammalleri and he could develop a rapport, Mike could become the pilot fish on this great shark, feasting on the remainders and garbage around the net. The centreman would become extraneous to this equation: Erik speeds around the defencemen and crashes the net, causing mayhem, and Mike darts in and roofs the puck skittering just outside the crease.

Evander Kane is a beast. He blew by Raphaël Diaz and left him spinning on the ice on the Jets' first goal. I think a good policy for Trevor Timmins might be to draft any eligible Vancouver Giant. Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Evander Kane, now Brendan Gallagher, that's a good pipeline they have going there, you can't miss. Unless you pick Gilbert Brulé....