Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Habs For Breakfast - The Biggest Of The Biggest Games Of The Year

The Canadiens are not standing quite on the edge yet, but the outcome of their season rests on tonight's outcome.

Can the Habs continue to outhit, outshoot, outchance, and outplay the Flyers and still lose?

Will the Flyers keep on complaining about officiating that's been kinder to them than they know?

Will Brière continue to whine about no one talking about what the Flyers are doing right?

Two things will answer these question in Game 4. For starters, it would be nice if the Canadiens scored the first goal for a change. Secondly, Carey Price will bounce back, because he's a character kid and is confident he can do better.

And yes, Price will play. Coach Carbonneau is being coy with the media, and perhaps Price as well, when he calls it a game time decision. Forget about it. Anyone who thinks Halak is about to play hasn't been watching hockey long enough to understand that it's just not done in this situations, for three reasons.

It throws the team into a panic mode.

Halak has played what, 4 games with the Canadiens this season? You want the players to feel confident out there, not concerned. The have faith in Price and he would be their choice, no doubt.

Again, from a coaches standpoint, the move isn't about shaking up a team that has done alot well except score. It is teams who lose or win together, and replacing the goalie would absolve the players and their recent mistakes.

It's not a different goalie who will help the team convert all those missed chances. Halak will not create better zone coverage and defensive conscience. All he would be doing is stopping that first puck.

Think about it?

Will It Be Price Or Halak? - Gazette

"The decision to start Carey Price in the Canadiens net tonight was not made yesterday. Or at least it was not announced. Coach Guy Carbonneau says we won't know until 7 p.m. whether Price or backup Jaroslav Halak will get the call to face Philadelphia in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semi-final, the Flyers leading the best-of-seven series 2-1." - Dave Stubbs

Hospital Visit Created Fan For Life - Gazette

"Win or lose tonight, nothing can dampen Robert Vanden Abeele's enthusiasm for the bleu-blanc-rouge. The retired customs officer has been a loyal Canadiens fan since 1955, when he turned 17 and Habs legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard paid a surprise visit to his bedside at St. Mary's Hospital - not once, but twice." - Alan Hustak

Look For Price - Gazette

"Carbonneau has little choice as the Canadiens hope to avoid falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. While Price has not played well in the three games against the Flyers - he has a 3.79 goals-against average and an .853 save percentage - the Canadiens have to look at the big picture." - Pat Hickey

Flyers, fans not feeling love from refs, hockey world - Gazette

"There's nothing like a dose of paranoia - that feeling of us vs. them - to get folks jacked up for a hockey game. The feeling here in the City of Brotherly Love is that the hometown Flyers haven't been getting enough love from the officials in their Eastern Conference semi-final showdown against the Canadiens." Pat Hickey

"Penney's From Heaven" - Gazette

"Steve Penney has a better idea than most about the pressure Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is under these days.That's because Penney - like Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy - also once shouldered the hopes and dreams of hockey's most storied franchise as a hot rookie goalie in the Stanley Cup playoffs." - Mark Cardwell

Price's Cinderella Story Takes An Unhappy Twist - Globe Sports

"I don't like talking about my feelings," he says when the grilling is over and the cameras and microphones have finally retreated. "Maybe it's just a guy thing." Carey Price smiles, but the smile is tired and slips away as fast as a Montreal Canadiens lead in recent playoff games. The thing is, everyone wants to know about his feelings." - Roy MacGregor

Was Brière Right? - Lions In Winter

"Our outrage at first must surely have been fueled by our fear that what Briere said may be true. But, at the same time, we all watch hockey and we know the Flyers don't have any Kostitsyns, any goaltending prospects and were for the most part the same team that managed the least regular season points in recent memory." - Topham

A Fly On The Wall - The H Does Not Stand For Habs

"A conversation between Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey today:
GC: (deep breath) Bob, I want to start Halak next game.
BG: (steeples fingers, regards Carbo intently) Hmmmm...I don't know about that Guy.
GC: Well, Bob, the kid is shaken. He's nervous when he plays the puck, he's missing long shots through the simplest of screens, his glove is slow and he's getting down on himself when he allows a goal. The team is expecting him to give up the lead every game, and it's hurting their confidence.
BG: Well, we've got a lot riding on Carey, and we don't want him to feel like he's failing." -J.T.

Price: "Je n'ai qu'à rebondir" - La Presse

"Carbonneau pourrait-il vraiment décider de faire appel à Jaroslav Halak, qui n'a reçu que deux tirs en troisième période lundi et qui n'a pas joué depuis le 29 mars dans une défaite de 4-2 encaissée à Toronto?" - François Gagnon

Des arbitres qui favorisent le CH? - La Presse

"Pendant que nous, par ici, on se demande ce qui se passe avec Jesus Price, à Philadelphie, eux, ils se posent une autre question, bien différente mais tout aussi douloureuse: les arbitres seraient-ils du bord du Canadien?" - Richard Labbé

Price n'est pas le seul à blâmer - RDS

"Le premier but de Scottie Upshall a été marqué quand il avait la vue voilée. Le deuxième, celui de Mike Richards, a dévié sur Mike Komisarek. Le troisième but des Flyers compté par R.J. Umberger est survenu à la suite de deux revirements. C'est sûr qu'il est là pour réparer les erreurs de ses joueurs mais ses coéquipiers n'ont pas bien joué devant lui en deuxième. Quand un gardien fait les arrêts clés alors que le tien ne les fait pas, les chances de gagner sont très minces." - Benoît Brunet

Price reste de marbre - Le Journal

"La faune médiatique l'attendait en grand nombre à son arrivée dans le vestiaire, elle qui n'avait pu le rencontrer à la suite de sa contre-performance de la veille sous l'ordre de Guy Carbonneau. Pour vous montrer à quel point c'était fou, disons que le jeune gardien n'aurait absolument aucune chance de voir la rondelle si les Flyers pouvaient placer autant de joueurs devant son filet." - Marc de Foy

"On doit aller chercher le premier but" - Le Journal

"Ne soyez pas étonnés si Patrice Brisebois effectue un retour au jeu ce soir pour le quatrième match de la série entre le Canadien et les Flyers. Le vétéran défenseur a rejoint les siens dans la Ville de l'amour fraternel, lui qui a raté les deux dernières rencontres en raison d'une blessure à une jambe. Brisebois s'est blessé durant une séance d'entraînement, samedi dernier." - Marc De Foy

"Personne ne parle en bien des Flyers": Daniel Brière - Le Journal

"Les Flyers ont de la difficulté à obtenir le mérite qui leur revient. Aucune équipe ne voulait affronter les Capitals en première ronde et ils ont réussi à les éliminer." - Pierre Durocher

More from Habs Inside Out, RDS, La Presse, and Le Journal

Oh yeah, and if you enjoyed the "Fly On The Wall" scenario by J.T., here's a look back on one that was posted here last summer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Habs For Breakfast - A Game Of Deja Vu

No short, snappy intro to today's links. It began and turning into a whole other post, which you will be reading shortly.

Team's character faces biggest test this season - Gazette

"His skills and confidence haven't gone anywhere," Koivu said of Price, who watched the third period from the bench and might still now be soaking his head in the shower."You don't lose those things overnight." - Dave Stubbs

Too little too late - Gazette

"When you outshoot them 34-14, you've got to win the game," Higgins continued. "It was a tough game for Pricey and he didn't really get a whole lot of shots on net, but on the other end you don't know how much longer it's going to go with the chances we've had." - Pat Hickey

Price or Halak? Carbonneau faces goalie decision for tomorrow night - Gazette

"Does he stick with rookie goaltender Carey Price, who has struggled in the first three games of the series and was pulled last night after giving up three goals on the first 11 shots he faced? Or does he gamble and go with Jaroslav Halak, who made his first appearance since March 29 in a relief role last night?" - Pat Hickey

He was the face of the Flyers - Gazette

"At least I didn't lose the team. That has been my life, being part of being a team. If I would have been cut off ... like what (former Canadiens president) Ronald Corey did to (former GM) Serge Savard ... he should be shot for." - Herb Zurkowsky

Price is wrong - Globe Sports

"It's going to be a long series," Carbonneau said. "If we keep putting 30 shots on goal and hold them to 14, we're going to win." - Tim Wharnsby

Phildelphia Steals Game Three - Dennis Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

"The Habs were ineffective during an early-game two man advantage. They held a big edge in play in the first period. They hit three posts. Carey Price, looking shaky, was replaced by Jaroslav Halak in the third, and the team responded by outshooting Philly 16-2. But it wasn’t enough, losing in the end 3-2, and the team is now down two games to one. They need game four so badly, there’d better be focus, concentration, commitment, no late-night dinners, no over-doing the beer or wine, and a good, reasonable curfew these next two nights." - Dennis Kane

Price Shakey As Habs let Gimme Slip Away - Lions In Winter

"With about 15 minutes to go in the game Halak made what turned out to be a very key stop. It was the only time that the Flyers, in my opinion, had a legitimate scoring chance all night. The puck was fed from Halak's left to his right, just outside of the crease. Patrick Thoresen was the player who seemed to have a certain goal, but Jaro got across with a great right-pad save. It kept the game at 0-3 which at the time may have seemed like a moot point, but as it turned out gave the Habs a serious shot of getting back into this one." - Tobalev

Price n'est pas le seul à blâmer - RDS

"On ne doit pas oublier qu'il n'est âgé que de 20 ans et qu'on lui demande d'être le sauveur de l'équipe, a affirmé l'entraîneur du Canadien, après avoir avoué que le gardien recrue est ébranlé." - Guy Carbonneau

Un air de déjà vu... - RDS

"Même s’il a semblé ébranlé à la suite des deux filets qu’il a concédés en l’espace de 72 secondes, le gardien des Flyers Martin Biron a été brillant par la suite en étouffant toutes les tentatives des attaquants des Glorieux. Le cerbère québécois a réalisé un grand total de 32 arrêts – dont 15 lors de l’engagement final."

Koivu: "Nous faisons face à un gros test" - La Presse

"Car si on peut imputer une large part du blâme sur la piètre performance de Carey Price, ses coéquipiers n'ont pas le droit de s'en tirer aussi facilement. Pourquoi? Parce que si le Canadien a perdu, hier, c'est aussi parce qu'il a été incapable de profiter des occasions qui se sont offertes à lui." - François Gagnon

Brière: "On gagne avec du caractère" - La Presse

"Les Flyers ont en effet passé près de 12 minutes en infériorité numérique. Ils ont esquivé avec succès un désavantage de deux hommes durant deux pleines minutes, mais ont donné au Canadien ses deux buts pendant la punition de cinq minutes infligée à Derian Hatcher. "Le secret de notre force en désavantage numérique? C'est Marty! C'est ça la recette", a lancé Umberger, qui a lui-même effectué du travail colossal en infériorité en plus de marquer un autre but. - Marc Antoine Godin

"Habituellement, un club gagne quand il n'accorde que 14 tirs...": Chris Higgins - Le Journal

"L'attaque massive du Canadien a finalement produit deux buts en troisième période pendant que Derian Hatcher purgeait une pénalité majeure pour avoir dangereusement mis en échec Francis Bouillon contre la rampe." - Pierre Durocher

"On perd et on gagne en équipe" - Le Journal

"Les coéquipiers de Carey Price se rangeaient dans son coin après sa contre-performance contre les Flyers, hier soir. Le contraire aurait été étonnant. Il ne fallait pas s'attendre à voir un joueur le montrer du doigt, quoique Price ne s'était pas gêné pour lancer une flèche à ses coéquipiers après le match de samedi dernier." - Marc De Foy

"Guillaume mérite d'être là": Guy Carbonneau - Le Journal

"Je recherche un meilleur équilibre dans nos lignes d'attaque, a poursuivi Carbonneau. Smolinski et Kostopoulos jouent avec beaucoup de confiance présentement et cela facilitera l'arrivée d'un jeune comme Latendresse, qui a hâte de jouer."

Give Price Time

Teams lose games, not goaltenders.

Though it looked bleak for the Canadiens after 40 minutes, the third period proved the game had not yet been lost.

Players have a job to do. Goalies have theirs. They help each other. They feed off each other. Sometimes, when things are not going well, they lose confidence in each.

At one end of the rink is a team unable to score when it needs to most, and at the other extreme is a goalie who is not delivering.

Carey Price, under the weight of the world, has disappointed in his last two games. He can rebound and has done so in the past. He could well do it come Wednesday night.

It's hard to understand what has gone south in Price's game of late. It's a head scratcher!

I was thinking about how the Senators and Ducks, just like the Hurricanes and Lightening before them, seem to suffer from this Stanley Cup hangover thing. It seems like it almost fact anymore, that when teams play a large number of games in the previous spring that they run out of gas earlier in the following season than other players.

Last year at this time, Price was a Hamilton Bulldog, playing his way into June's Calder Cup run. Right after he performed in the WHL playoffs with Tri - City. Right after the World Juniors gold medal run. Right after a work horse season with the Americans.

The kid's played alot of hockey in the last 18 months. He might be pooped!

I heard an interesting opinion on CKAC this morning. A caller insisted it was not the Canadiens job to manage Carey Price's career - it is their job to win the Stanley Cup.

He could have said it with more perspective - the caller is both right and wrong in a sense - but taking care of Price properly is what should lead us Cup bound for years.

Many will be looking for Jaroslav Halak to make his playoff debut in the next game, but it won't happen. Last season when Carbonneau was in a do or die scenario in the last game in Toronto he chose Huet over Halak. The coach evidently sticks by the notion of dancing with the one who brought you.

I see Carbonneau starting Price and sticking with him as long as the score remains tight. Perhaps if the Habs can start converting some of their first period chances for a change, both ends of the ice will play with more confidence in each other.

They have to get out of this rut together as a team.

If Price fails and lets in a sticker, the hook will be employed.

I have read many good pieces on Price since he was drafted. There has been none better, or perhaps more timely than the one that appeared in the Monday Gazette authored by Jack Todd. My apologies for missing it yesterday morning in the Habs For Breakfast links.

In the article, titled "Give Price a chance to grow into his greatness", Todd said:

"Let's dispose of one fallacy right here: What Ken Dryden accomplished in 1971 or Patrick Roy in 1986 has nothing whatsoever to do with Carey Price or this playoff season. You can read signs and portents all you want, parse seagull entrails, come up with bizarre number sequences that mean the Habs are supposed to win No. 25 this spring.

It means nothing. Rien. Nada. Zippo. This is 2008 and all that has gone before, from the dawn of creation to Game 7 of the Boston series, means nothing. Every playoff game two teams take the ice and nothing before that moment matters. So far, Price has been good enough to win one series and make a respectable start on the next. You can't ask for more."

The piece went to great lengths to point out what world Price must be living in. It's not quite the same as the one in which we are living in, in regards to him.

Todd made the point quite clear. Price is but 20 years old. A little young to be made into a saviour when most kids his age are just as likely a downtown hooligan flipping a police car for kicks.

Price will get another chance on Wednesday against the Flyers, a team he has beaten four times this season, before two disheartening losses.

After reading the article, the phrase "Give Price A Chance" echoed in my head. I began humming it to the tune of the John Lennon song of a similar title.

It took about 20 minutes for these mimicked lyrics to write themselves:

Everybody's talking 'bout Royism, Drydenism, Vezinism, Theoism, Brodeurism, Durnanism,This - ism, that - ism, ism ism ism ism
All we are saying
Is give Price a chance

Everybody's talking 'bout high shots, low shots, screened shots, deflected shots
Yawning goalie picking snots, play Halak and yak yak
All we are saying
Is give Price a chance

Everybody's taking 'bout '71 and '93 and '86 and high sticks, goon scraps and jock straps
Brisecraps and time lapses, synapses
All we are saying
Is give Price a chance

Everybody talking 'bout Habs young pups, fisticuffs, and f*ck*ps, Stanley Cups and Stanley Cups
The kid's 20, time for plenty many, shutout. shut up
All we are saying
Is give Price a chance

Monday, April 28, 2008

This Is Where "Team Toughness" Gets Its Biggest Test

Earlier in the season, a question was brought up to Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, regarding the Habs lack of designated pugilist, someone who would set the opposition straight when games got out of hand.

Three players who filled the role to different extents last season, Aaron Downey, Garth Murray, and Sheldon Souray, were now gone, and the thinking was that the soft and small Canadiens would be pushed around more than ever before.

It must be stated that while the three players named were often willing to throw punches for team mates, none were highly effective in the role. Downey and Murray scared no one while contributing little in hockey terms, and Souray was so important in the team's grand scheme of things last season that he was well advised to choose his spots.

Carbonneau sidestepped the question with sound logic.

He made his point by stating that the Canadiens were a team who planned to roll four steady lines, and that adding a player whose role would be minimal did not fit into his plans.

Of course, had their been a 10 goal scorer available, who struck fear into opponents eyes, and had the ability to backcheck with regularity, the Canadiens would have jumped on him.

As is the case with any rare commodity in demand, players of the like simply aren't running the streets. Carbonneau wasn't about wish for the addition of a player whose contribution to the team would involved less than 10 minutes of ice time.

Smartly, and with little other choice, Carbonneau called for "team toughness' when the going got rough.

Many onlookers felt it a naive choice of terms for Carbonneau to preach considering the elements of the Canadiens lineup, seen by many as being receivers rather than givers when it comes to wrath unleashed.

It is often misinterpreted, the distinction between toughness and having a player who can drop the gloves in each game. This Canadiens team, despite outside perceptions to the contrary, has fared exceptionally at policing themselves when they had to. Surprisingly, the Canadiens managed to take care of their own business when it came to the rough stuff with all the ease of a backhand swipe.

With no goon in sight, and few players to drop the gloves along the way, "Team Toughness" climbed the standings ladder all the way to a first place finish.

The question never came back to Carbonneau, and an opportunity for him to shout vindication on the issue has never presented itself.

Backtracking to when the question was originally posed, several queries pointed to a stage in the post season that the Canadiens actually find themselves in at the moment, wherein that team toughness will be put to the test.

What Carbonneau has preached to his players all season long has worked until now. It may or may not continue to work beyond Game 3.

The Canadiens players must continue to be willing to take hits, slashes, facewashes, and crosschecks to the head with selective retaliation. That is part of the mental toughness required in this type of battle.

The players must also continue to dish out the same in return with unleashed fervor and passion. They will not be backed down by the Flyers, even in their building, but this series will be about who wears down the other first.

Team mates will continue to stand up for each other when called on, but discipline will be important as officiating continues to be consistantly inconsistant with what is called from game to game, period to period.

Tom Kostopoulos chose a fair time for his wires to cross in Game 2, when it could not cost the team much. Doing such a thing at an earlier time in the game could cause a major turning point on the road to a loss.

All Canadiens players, regardless of size must continue to drive hard to the net, dish out the big hits when it is feasible and smart, and proceed to the corners and boards where taking those hits often makes a play successful. They must be relentless in their pursuit of this kind of dedication.
The Kostitsyn's, Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Max Lapierre are all playing this way. Tomas Plekanec, Alex Kovalev, Mark Streit, and Mathieu Dandeneault are picking their spots and it has to stop. Some players need reminding that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, with and without the puck.

The Begin, Smolinski, and Kostopoulos trio are wrecking balls whose intensity never drops. They have been role models of fortitude and their success testifies for the unquenched committment in their game.

Saturday's loss to the Flyers sacrificed home ice in the series. The Canadiens need the win tonight to assure they can head back home no worse that tied at two game.

The players mentioned above who are choosing their spots and avoiding what is inevitable must understand that they are about to play two roads game. They must be prepared to do battle in the trenches they have so far been unwilling to venture into.

Tonight's game will come down how badly certain players want to win the Stanley Cup.

Habs For Breakfast - Crunch Time

Game 3 will be a pivotal one for the Canadiens, after having lost home ice advantage in the series against the Flyers. The Habs who have been good on the road this season, good enough for the league's third best road record, haven't fared as well in the playoffs.

In the 9 games played so far in two rounds, Montreal is 4-2 at home and 1-2 on the road.

Perhaps the Canadiens need a pair of road games to refocus their armour. While they may have created all kinds of scoring chances on Saturday, at times they tried too hard to razzle dazzle the Flyers, and it may have cost them the win and the momentum of the series.

A couple of games where the focus is to shoot first, crowd the net, and pounce on rebounds will do them good. The fancy dancing can come after Biron is off balance.

Tonight in Philadelphia, muscle will beat finesse. The Canadiens will need mental toughness as much as the physical kind to get through it and win.

War Of Words - Gazette

"One day after Philadelphia coach John Stevens complained of a cowardly act by a Montreal player, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau issued his own retort, suggesting the Flyers lack class. "They're one team that shouldn't talk. Over 82 games, they had the most suspensions in the league," Carbonneau said, following an optional practice in LaSalle yesterday morning." - Herb Zurkowsky

Kostopoulos accepts blame for sucker punch - Globe Sports

"If Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau was hoping to exploit a late-game incident in which Tom Kostopoulos sucker-punched Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Kimmo Timonen, the guilty party threw cold water on his coach's ploy. Carbonneau defended the late-game behaviour of Kostopoulos. The Canadiens' coach also accused the Flyers of taunting his players after they scored the game's final goal with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining in Philadelphia's 4-2 win to tie the second-round best-of-seven series 1-1." - Tim Wharnsby

Habs Land In Philly - Gazette

"Listen for Flyers fans to tongue-tie themselves as they derisively chant "Kos-to-pou-los." That will be in recognition of the winger's emerging from Game 2 as a prime Philly target for his late-game dustups with Kimmo Timonen and Scott Upshall." - Dave Stubbs

Biron Savours Time At Home - Gazette

"We fed off the energy from the crowd in the first series against Washington when we came back here for Games 3 and 4, and we have to keep doing that," Biron said. "We did what we had to do in Montreal and now we have to take care of business here." Biron has been feeding off the energy of seeing action in the playoffs. He has been in the NHL for nine seasons but this is the first time he's seen playoff action.

A Test Of Character - The H Does Not Stand For Habs

"It's one thing to know you lost because you didn't play hard enough or because you took a bunch of stupid penalties. But to know you completely outplayed the opposition, yet they're the ones laughing at you in your own building (cheap bastard Flyers), is very difficult to accept." - J.T.

Une question de sang-froid - RDS

"La rivalité avec les Flyers a atteint un autre échelon samedi soir quand Tom Kostopoulos a frappé sournoisement Kimmo Timonen après le quatrième but des visiteurs marqué par R.J. Umberger. Personne dans le camp du Tricolore ne s'attend à ce que Kostopoulos soit puni pour ce geste gratuit." - Luc Gelinas

Markov doit être meilleur - RDS

"Parmi les joueurs qui doivent produire davantage, je songe immédiatement à Andrei Markov. En ce moment, il devrait être le général à la ligne bleue pour le Canadien, mais il est incapable de jouer à son niveau de la saison régulière. Il effectue quelques bonnes présences, mais ce n’est pas suffisant. Il doit être meilleur pour donner des chances au Canadien d’aspirer aux grands honneurs." - Bob Hartley

CH: Qui écopera ce soir? - La Presse

"Guy Carbonneau n'a pas encore décidé quels changements il entend apporter en vue du match de ce soir à Philadelphie mais chose certaine, il y en aura. À l'attaque, le trio formé par Maxim Lapierre, Mathieu Dandenault et Mark Streit apparaît le plus vulnérable. "Ils passent beaucoup trop de temps dans notre territoire", a indiqué l'entraîneur, hier." - Marc Antoine Godin

Laissons donc Brière se faire huer en paix - La Presse

"Avez-vous bien regardé les yeux de Martin Biron? Jamais vu quelqu'un avoir l'air de venir autant d'ailleurs. On dirait E.T. On dirait un monsieur d'une autre planète tellement son regard un peu space indispose. Et Daniel Brière, lui? L'avez-vous bien examiné, celui-là? Sérieux, il a l'air de tout sauf d'un joueur de hockey. Avec sa voix haut perchée, son physique de petit vicaire, vous lui mettez un béret sur la tête, un bréviaire entre les mains et voilà que se dresse devant vous le nouveau curé de la paroisse." - Michel Blanchard

"Il faut tirer souvent et lui gêner la vision" - Le Journal

"Mine de rien, les Flyers totalisent sept buts après deux matchs contre le gardien recrue. C'est quatre de plus que Price n'en avait accordé aux Bruins après le même nombre de rencontres." - Marc De Foy

"Deux matchs pour commencer à les haïr..." - Le Journal

"Francis Bouillon ne trouve pas que les deux premiers matchs de la série Canadien-Flyers aient donné lieu à du jeu très rude, mais ça pourrait changer dans la Ville de l'amour fraternel. "C'était pas mal plus dur contre les Bruins de Boston, une équipe qu'on détestait déjà avant d'amorcer les séries puisqu'on les avait affrontés huit fois durant la saison", a-t-il fait remarquer. - Pierre Durocher

Price a perdu le trophée Calder et 500 000 $ - Le Journal

"Il y a une énorme différence entre passer le premier mois de la campagne dans les ligues mineures et y être renvoyé en plein milieu d'une saison, ce qui laisse suggérer qu'on ne le jugeait pas apte à aider l'équipe à ce moment-là." - Bertrand Raymond

More from Habs Inside Out, RDS, La Presse, and Le Journal.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Habs For Breakfast - Canadiens Let One Slip Away

I'm in a foul mood!

As you have undoubtably seen and will read through today's link, the Canadiens kicked total butt last night, but couldn't thread the needle.

They made a lucky Biron look, by either throwing things right at him or shooting wide.

What I found worse, were the multitude of calls that went missing in this game. The officiating was so brutal, I was tempted to watch the game a second time, and chronologically take note of everything that went uncalled.

I didn't need the additional excercise in frustration, but it was apparent that the officials that worked this game were so far out of step with the play, it was embarrasing. I could get into detail...but enough already.

Carey Price is being pointed as having let in a pair of softies, but those Flyers goals were wicked accurate top corner shots that are exactly what they need to do to beat him.

The bottom line is that the Flyers nailed their few scoring chances and the Habs missed a whack of them. Some games just go that way.

What really riled me up were the Flyers arrogant smirks near the end of the game. Is that what they do when they get lucky and take a game they had no business winning?

For the entirety of the contest, it was the Flyers tactic to have sticks, gloves and elbows up by the Habs faces and heads. A Flyer would hit a Canadiens player, then another would charge into him three seconds later while he was still pinned. I saw a dozen blatant infractions worthy of penalties and the Flyers were allowed to set a real ugly tone in this one.

I couldn't believe my ears then, when after the game, Flyers coach Stevens starts ragging on the Kostopoulos sucker punch late in the game to Timonen. After the Flyers filled the keg with gunpowder, he brings this up?

Clearly, Stevens didn't want to discuss what really went on.

When sticking simply to the game of hockey, the Flyers obviously can't match the Canadiens. How they plan to counter this was apparent in this game.

It should be an all out war in Game 3.

Flyers Even Series - Gazette

"Martin Biron stymied the Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, but he had help from the gang that couldn't shoot straight. The statistics speak to Montreal's shortcomings. In addition to the 36 shots on net, the Canadiens had 23 shots blocked and another 21 missed the mark." - Pat Hickey

This Time, The Other Goalie Was The One Stealing The Show - Gazette

"Next Saturday, it's a pretty safe bet you'll be a moist-palmed spectator of your heroes at the Bell Centre, where depending on the work of Biron and Price, this already-fine series will: a) send Montreal to the conference final, eight victories from their 25th Stanley Cup; b) dispatch the Canadiens into summer, or; c) head back to Philadelphia a week from tonight for Game 6." - Dave Stubbs

Flyers Brière, Biron Deserve 'A' For Effort - Gazette

"What's that they say about the acquisitions and/or trades you don't make are often are the best? Canadiens management hasn't spent any time feeling sorry about their inability to land Brière - and shouldn't - but they must have felt at least a small twinge last night when 13:33 into this game Brière." - Red Fisher

Missed Chances Cost Canadiens - Globe Sports

"We're obviously disappointed with the loss, but we carried that game," said Montreal goalie Carey Price, who did not have a strong game. "If we could have buried half of our open-net chances we could have won 8-4." - Tim Wharnsby

Biron Stands Tall - TSN

"I think Carey said he could have played better," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "Three goals on 13 shots, that's not what we've seen from him in the past. But those first two goals were good shots. We had open nets and missed them, but a good player makes his own luck and Biron was good."

Habs Outplay Philly, Biron Outplays Price - Lions In Winter

"For the third time in 4 games Saku was our best player. He was absolutely dominant tonight as he seemed to be involved in almost every one of the Canadiens' serious chances. His play has inspired Higgins who is playing great hockey right now too. What I continue to notice about Saku that is so unique is the way he uses his body, his stance and his skates to keep and win the puck. He is constantly not only winning open pucks, but is holding on to them long enough to find an open winger or point-man." - Tobalev

Flyers Even The Series, Montreal Will Now Have To Win In Five - Dennis Kane's Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

"Montreal had their chances, to be sure. They could have won this game by three or four goals. Christopher Higgins hit the post late in the game. Almost everyone came close at one time or another. But Flyers goaltender Martin Biron was good, Carey Price not quite so good, and Mike Richards and Derian Hatcher are a couple of pricks." - Dennis Kane

Il faudra s'ajuster en défensive - RDS

"Défensivement, il faut se poser la question au sujet d'une possible blessure à Markov. Il ne joue pas le hockey auquel il nous a habitué en saison régulière. Et c'est évident que lorsque Markov ne joue pas à la hauteur de ses capacités, ça a un effet sur Komisarek." - Jacques Demers

"Martin a été incroyable" - RDS

"C'est bizarre, mais on connaît nos meilleurs matchs quand on accorde beaucoup de tirs", a relevé le gardien natif de Lac Saint-Charles, dans la région de Québec. "Au premier tour, ç'a été le cas dans trois victoires de la série contre les Capitals de Washington."

Price: "Je peux mieux jouer, c'est clair" - La Presse

"Globalement, j'évaluerais ma performance à 6 sur 10, a noté Price. Sur le premier but, j'ai tenté de soulever mon épaule, mais je n'ai pas réussi à temps. Sur le dernier, on a frappé mon gant avec le bâton..."C'est clair que je peux mieux jouer, et c'est ce que je vais faire dès le prochain match."

Higgins: "Les occasions sont là" - La Presse

"Les occasions sont là et on finira bien par en profiter, a pourtant assuré Chris Higgins. On en a eu suffisamment pour se sentir bien à propos de notre attaque. Le problème, c'est que les séries sont une affaire d'exécution."

Le Canadien a tout fait sauf gagner - La Presse

"Benoît Brunet a dit qu’il ne l’avait jamais vu jouer aussi bien en séries. Moi j’ajouterais que je ne l’ai jamais vu joué aussi bien, point. Brillant lors des mises en jeu, agressif, rapide, hier, avec un but et une passe, il a été le cœur et l’âme du Canadien puisque de Kovalev, même s’il a obtenu une aide sur le but Koivu, on n’a pas vu grand-chose." - Michel Blanchard

"J'ai toujours dit qu'un bon joueur fait sa chance" - Guy Carbonneau - Le Journal

"Le Canadien a-t-il été volé par Martin Biron ou a-t-il raté trop d'occasions de marquer ? s'est fait demander l'entraîneur en chef Guy Carbonneau au début de son point de presse hier soir." - Marc De Foy

L'émotion a monté d'un cran - Le Journal

"Nous avons davantage montré nos vraies couleurs ce soir", a déclaré Scott Hartnell. "Mais, il faut l'admettre, nous ne nous rendons pas la vie facile. Lors du premier match, nous avons laissé filer une avance de deux buts. Cette fois, nous avons tenu le coup, mais nous n'avons certes pas été parfaits." - François Foisy

"Je n'ai pas soulevé le disque suffisamment": Tomas Plekanec - Le Journal

"J'avais regardé comment Andrei Kostitsyn s'y était pris lors du tir de pénalité qu'il avait obtenu dans le premier match. J'ai essayé un tir du revers, mais ça n'a malheureusement pas réussi."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Are the Habs Destined To Write A Stanley Cup Storyline?

If you have followed the Montreal Canadiens for as long as I have, and you recall how storylines seem to begin writing themselves as the Habs inched closer to each Cup win, you surely must be getting the same sense I have that something special is in the works this spring.

The first Stanley Cup playoffs I watched in whole from the beginning to end, was in 1971, when a Canadiens team most assumed were Cup writeoffs, stunned the hockey world by upsetting a powerhouse Bruins team in the seven game opening round.

Rookie goalie Ken Dryden became the story, as he had played in just 6 NHL games prior to the playoff's start. He gave the Bruins, and two rounds later, the Blackhawks, fits the likes of which only turn up in goal scorers nightmares. He'd go on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and follow it up by winning the Calder Trophy the next season - the totally unheard of stuff of legends.

Dryden was but one piece of the puzzle on that 1971 team. He had games where he would allow four or five goals, and the Habs still won - so somebody else had to be doing something right as well.

The players who became storylines that spring included a cast of wily veterans on a team that was considered in transition. Jean Beliveau, in his final playoffs, was leadership personified. Key goals on ice, wise judgement and counselling off it. Frank Mahovlich, probably the best trade deadline pickup ever, tallied 27 point in 20 playoff games, including 14 goals. Jacques Lemaire and Yvan Cournoyer were both players coming into their own. John Ferguson had come out of retirement to rejoin the team for the final sprint.

Lots of storylines here.

And then there was Henri Richard.

The Pocket Rocket played like a man on a mission, in a rage, on the way to his 10th Stanley Cup. Richard was aging, and had made the transition from offensive center into defensive specialist quite smoothly, but he still yearned for a larger role as one of the elders of the team. He fought constantly with coach Al McNeil, who had taken the team over 25 games into the season, for icetime and respect.

Everything came to a head between Richard and McNeil in game 6 in the final against Chicago. Unhappy about having been sat on the bench for large chunks of time, Henri lashed out through the media at the coach, calling him the worst he has ever had.

With the Canadiens down by a 2-1 score late in game 7 of the final, Richard tied the game shorthanded and scored the game winner in the the third period. McNeil likely saw the fire in Richard's eyes, and made the most of it.

The 1971 win was a surprise Stanley Cup, not unlike those remembered by the Habs younger fans of today, who make references to 1986 or 1993 when recalling their first Cup memories.

From the time I was 14, until I was 18, the Canadiens took all four Stanley Cups in those years. That run spoiled a lot of fans as surely as it spoiled me at the time. It must have been very similar to how fans of the Canadiens felt in the 1950's, when the Habs were winning five in a row.

Constant winning raised expectations and the delivering of those annual Stanley's likely raised fans arrogance levels to the point where followers of other teams began claiming that Habs fans acted as though winning the Cup was an inherant divine right of the Montreal Canadiens.

We, as fans, called it confidence. Other folks called it a whole bunch of other bad names.

But when I look back upon those years, I realize that whenever fans knew a Cup was coming, they weren't often wrong. Often it was figured out in October even.

It was either "Habs are taking it this year" or "Habs don't stand a chance this year". It has always been microscopically studied much like it still is today.

Between the "can do" and "no can do" seasons, lies the type of years where perceptions change as the team progresses.

2007-08 fits that kind of season. Back in October, fans might have felt that the Canadiens were a playoff bound team that could be capable of scratching and clawing it's way up to 8th place.

The Stanley Cup?

Forget about it. Even captain Saku Koivu seemed to agree.

One Eastern Conference title later, all those earlier assessements are out the window.

So now, many Habs fans hopes cling to the underlying storylines that are presently happening, and making parallels between other unexpected Cup wins such as 1971, 1986, and 1993.

Include me in there too.

Beyond the obvious Carey Price equals Roy equals Dryden spin that has Habs fandom wound up, there's other storylines being written with each passing win.

Price's composure and focus through shutouts after losses are one, then there is the Kovalev heroics when he seemingly is supposed to not be playing all that well. Koivu returning from a broken foot to lead and inspire. The emergence of unsung heroes such as Brisebois and Kostopoulos who are offerering unexpected contributions.

There's Steve Bégin, hitting like he is an incarnation of Bob Gainey. The play of the Kostitsyn brothers, united often on the same line, who are developing a habit of each scoring one shift apart from each other.

There hasn't been a storyline involving an illegal stick so far, but the shattering of Flyers Jeff Carter's graphite composite stick late in game one enabled the late game heroics of Kovalev and Kostopoulos.

Watchful eyes are out for who is going to be playing the roles of this year's Brian Skrudland, Claude Lemieux, Eric Desjardins or Paul Dipietro.

The 1986 and 1993 Cups are my reference points for such expectations and hopes for this year's team. I think that in my Habs heart and mind it is almost inevitable, to be truthful.

In those seasons, I felt the Canadiens had pretty good teams, though I did not believe or expect would go all the way initially.

For 2008, I believe that Montreal will last three rounds and perhaps extinguish against the victors of the Penguins and Rangers series. I truly believe that the Habs have what it takes to beat either team, but a whole slew of things have to go swimmingly right first for it to happen.

What propels those beliefs for me, are those underlying storylines that I speak of. The more I see of them, the more I mentally refer to past playoff trends. It invloves heroes emerging, the forging of a team identity, and other intangibles.

It mounts with each passing win and finding new ways to win. It takes those storyline threads and trends to start happening to fully convince me that this is the Habs year to go for it.

In 1986, Claude Lemieux looked like the second coming of the Rocket while scoring 10 playoff goals as a rookie. When Patrick Roy slammed the door shut on the New York Rangers in a third round overtime game, I sensed that there was more to come.

In 1993, after the Canadiens came back from a 2-0 deficit in games to the Quebec Nordiques in round one, I felt something special was underway. The team's, and Roy's overtime run, spoke loudly that a special thing was indeed about to happen. You could almost feel the vibe, it was so present.

In both those years, there was a moment that told me, even though I started the playoffs feeling unconvinced, that the Habs had a Cup in the bag! As longshots, or as underdogs, sometimes it takes an external turning point that opens the door wide open and says "this Cup is ours for the taking".

In 1986, it was Steve Smith bouncing a puck into his own net off goalie Grant Fuhr, interrupting an Oilers dynasty, and clearing a path for the Canadiens 23rd Cup.

In 1993, an overtime goal by the Islanders David Volek felled the two time Cup champion Penguins, thus making the Habs road to June a whole lot less complicated.

With each of those goals, I concretely knew the Canadiens were about to be Stanley Cup champions.

I can't say for sure, but maybe my intuition came from microscopically studying the domino's of destiny.

I don't know why, but I just knew it. Everyone else that followed the team in those years surely the felt the same special sensations.

I recall two other such times where I felt destiny was almost at hand, and where a special team was forming to become larger than the sum of its parts. The 1984 Canadiens, led by goalie Steve Penney, had the defending Cup champion Islanders in a 2-0 bind before it all came apart. In 2006, the Habs had Carolina in drowned and shackled when an eye injury to Koivu became their Houdini.

Each time, I felt the Habs were but one win away from being within sniffing distance of the Cup finals.

I didn't see it quite the same way in 1989, when it was accepted all season long that Montreal and Calgary were the NHL's best two teams, and that barring disasters would meet in the finals. Montreal were leading 2-1 in games when Roy, Chelios, Carbonneau and Bobby Smith were outplayed by Mike Vernon, Al McInnis, Joel Otto and Doug Gilmour. The Flames won the final three games.

That season, the Canadiens boasted close to a dozen players with over 40 points, but their calling card was a stiffling defensive trap employed by coach Pat Burns. Roy lost only 5 games that season, only once at the Forum. Stephane Richer was having an off year, sandwiched between two 50 goal seasons. Lemieux's antics were more of a story than his play was.

Once the Habs reached the playoffs, heroes did not seem to be rising out of nowhere like before. The team became perfunctionary at best. It won with calculated and unspectacular regularity.
Perhaps because there was no underdog storylines to follow that spring, or that Calgary and Montreal were perfectly matched, there seemed to be little sparkle to this otherwise excellent team.

That year, it was the Flames who owned all the magical storylines. The mustachioed Lanny McDonald was about to retire, the cannon blasts of McInnis were scaring goalies to death, the aquisition of Doug Gilmour gave the Flames more grit and depth, and finally the trading of Gretzky to the Kings enabled Calgary to rise from the shadows and become Alberta's best team.
For Montreal that spring, it simply wasn't meant to be.

In this 2008 spring, I can feel some rumblings. I have a kind of premonition. I see certain things about this team coming into shape, and I see those telltale storylines forming. I get the sense that we will all know if this Habs team is Cup worthy, if once it gets past the Flyers and into the third round, it is within 6 wins of the Cup before either of their Pittsburgh or Ranger opponents are.

It takes about that long to really tell when a team is for real.

Sometimes it is like watching destiny unfold, and you get the sense that you've seen this movie before.

When Mike Richards of the Flyers was nabbed for kneeing Kovalev late in game 1, I sensed a convincing calm, as though I knew for sure lightning was about to strike.

Maybe tonight, some Habs player will pull a Jacques Lemaire and nail an 80 footer through the legs of a distracted Biron.

For now, the Canadiens are a young team that is learning how to win together in the playoffs by beating teams that they ought to be beating.

The real deal is next round.

Habs For Breakfast - April 26, 2008

A few notes about today's links.

There is a story in La Presse today about the relationship between Carey Price and his father Jerry. As it is not in english, I wanted to point out a little anecdote from it.

When Carey was playing midget, he was involved in a tournament where his team was so outmatched, they were given no chance of winning at all. The heavily favored team outshot Carey's team 65-15. Carey's team won 3-1. The other team had already ordered their rings!

Hockey's Greatest Legends is running down all the Stanley Cup winners starting with the Canadiens in 1930 and 1931. Check 'em out - it's a good history lesson.

Blogger Dennis Kane had an interesting idea - a dream actually - he wants to be the flag boy at the Bell Centre for one game.

Usually the Canadiens emply a couple of kids from local minor hockey and have them do a lap around the ice and Dennis wants in on it.

I can't blame him. What a thrill that would be!

I got a good mind to mimic his letter to the Canadiens organization.

How cool would that be? A pair of Habs hockey bloggers carrying the flag in honour of their favorite team.

I've had crazier things happen in my life!

I should write that letter!

Puck Stops Here - Globe Sports

"He bends a long finger up toward the line from John McCrae's In Flanders Fields that graces the Canadiens' dressing room wall ("To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high ...") and runs it across faces once distributed across the country by Beehive Corn Syrup — the Rocket, the Pocket Rocket, Boom Boom Geoffrion, Plante — until he stops at one that it seems no 20-year-old aboriginal kid from the isolated northern B.C. community of Anahim Lake could possibly know. "There's George Hainsworth," he says." - Roy MacGregor

Brothers Providing Spark For Habs - Globe Sports

"Down 2-0 in the second period, the Kostitsyns enjoyed some dynamite shifts. Their stellar play resulted in a penalty shot for Andrei and a skillful rush from Sergei that his older sibling finished off, scoring Montreal's first goal en route to an important come-from-behind 4-3 victory in overtime in the second-round series opener against the Philadelphia Flyers." - Tim Wharnsby

Gritty Sparkplug - Gazette

"Things can change so quickly," Kostopoulos said when asked about his newfound celebrity. "Halfway through the year, a lot of fans probably weren't too happy with me. The way things are going, there are some fans behind me, but it goes so quick." - Pat Hickey

Flyers Refuse To Blame Bad Breaks For Game 1 Loss - Gazette

"But if Kovalev doesn't hit it, it probably goes in the net anyway. The rebound shouldn't have been there in the first place. It should have been smothered or in the corner instead of popping up in the air. I don't want to put the rebound up in the air for somebody to whack it in." - Martin Biron

'It's not about me,' Flyers' Brière says - Gazette

"Brière had three shots, including one late in the second period that temporarily eluded Carey Price before the goaltender fell on it in the crease. Brière also was removed from the faceoff circle three times, was minus-1 and looked more like the player held by the Canadiens to two assists in four regular-season games." - Herb Zurkowsky

Habs Grinders Gain Carbonneau's Confidence By Producing - TSN

"The Habs checking line hasn't necessarily lit it up in the playoffs, but it's produced goals when the team needed them. Through the first three games of the Canadiens first round series against the Bruins, the line combined for eight points - with Kostopoulos scoring twice - while Montreal's big guns had trouble getting into playoff mode."

1930: Boston Chokes, Hainsworth Shuts The Door - Hockey's Greatest Legends

"Hainsworth was the key player of the post season. He led all performers with a brilliant 0.75 average and three shutouts in six games." - Joe Pelletier

1931: OT Hero Gardiner Can't Ground Flying Frenchmen - Hockey's Greatest Legends

"The year in 1931. The Montreal Canadiens are defending Stanley Cup champions are flying higher than ever. They are heavy favorites to repeat as title holders, facing the Chicago Black Hawks, who entered their first Stanley Cup finals." - Joe Pelletier

There's Still A Chance I Can Become A Montreal Canadien - Dennis Kane's Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

"This letter is regarding the two young kids at the beginning of the game who are dressed in Habs uniforms, carry flags, and skate around the Bell Centre ice. I would like to apply for this position.

Kostopoulos impressionne - RDS

"J’étais très excité après la victoire jeudi soir. Contre Boston, j’avais raté une belle chance en prolongation et j’y avais songé toute la nuit ", commente Kostopoulos. "Cette fois, j’ai obtenu deux chances marquer. Il est certain que je n’aurais pas dormi de la nuit si j’avais été incapable de compter." - Reneaud Lavoie

Le regard de papa Price sur son fils Carey - La Presse

"La chance n'a évidemment rien à voir là-dedans. Price s'est démarqué partout où il est passé. Chez les midgets, son équipe avait remporté contre toute attente le championnat provincial. «En finale, elle avait été dominée 65-15 dans les tirs au but, mais elle avait quand même gagné 3-1 contre l'autre équipe... qui avait déjà commandé des bagues de championnat», raconte papa Price." - Jean François Bégin

Carbo ne demande que d'être chanceux dans 16 matchs - La Presse

"On voudrait tous jouer des matchs parfaits, a-t-il repris. On n'a pas bien joué dans le premier match contre les Flyers, mais on a gagné. On a fait ce qui était nécessaire. On demeure une jeune équipe, je serai toujours inquiet." - Robert Laflamme

"Kostopoulos est sur une nuage": Carbonneau - Le Journal

"C'est le plus gros but de ma vie", a lancé un Kostopoulos tout sourire après avoir procuré une victoire de 4 à 3 au Canadien en prolongation jeudi soir. T.K., comme le sur nomment ses coéquipiers, a mangé son pain noir durant la saison. Il a souvent été laissé de côté par Guy Carbonneau." - Pierre Durocher

Des soldats venus d'ailleurs - Le Journal

"Don Cherry a repris une vieille rengaine à l'occasion de son segment télévisé, jeudi soir. Il a répété que le hockey appartient au Canada et que les meilleurs joueurs au monde sont canadiens. Quelqu'un pourrait-il nettoyer ses lunettes?" - Bertrand Raymond

Le temps de s'observer et s'ajuster - Le Journal

"Plutôt que de s'inquiéter, on devrait simplement saluer la victoire de jeudi obtenue de haute lutte. On a tendance à oublier que le hockey est un sport d'équipe et que les vedettes n'existent que pour traîner leurs coéquipiers dans leur sillon. C'est ce qu'a fait Alex Kovalev en marquant deux buts essentiels, dont l'un douteux évidemment mais combien important. Kovalev, dans sa version 2007-2008, joue un rôle majeur pour motiver ses jeunes coéquipiers." - Guy Lafleur

More from Habs Inside Out, RDS, La Presse, and Le Journal.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Habs Girls Of The World Unite

There is a Facebook site called Habs Girls that is having a contest to find the "First Annual Habs Girl".

The chosen winner will win gifts from names such as La Senza, Oakley, Oil Of Olay, and a Rolls Royce.

Just kidding about the Rolls!

The rules are simple. There ain't any. Just be a Habs Girl. Throw on something bleu, blanc and rouge with a CH on there somewhere, get a picture taken, and send it in.

Better yet, take off something bleu, blanc, and rouge with CH that reveals something else underneath that is bleu, blanc and rouge with a CH, and send that in. Hell, just send it to me and I'll enter you....or something like that!

At the moment, there are a mere 60 or so entrants, so it's wide open...

The contest ends when the Habs step from the ice for the last time. In other words, you have until the second week of June.

Only a portion of the pictures featured here below are at the Facebook site. I posted them all together here because....well because I can, so I hope you enjoy them.

You can check out other fans photo postings from my archives at these four links.