Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Habs Report Cards Are In

I promised myself that I wouldn't go ahead with grading the Habs players and management so soon, in the light of this elimination wound still being fresh. At first I did not wish for playoff disappointment to blur what has ben an excellent and surprising season for the team and the individuals who comprise it.

I decided to go ahead with this in spite of that because this is time where the evaluation and perspective are the most important. How these players performed in the past few weeks speaks greatly for where they are as individuals. The Canadiens are after all, building to win a Cup and not simply be a strong regular season club. In fairness, my assessments will take in both seasons, and the overall mark will reflect what the player brought over the course of 94 games.

So here goes, starting from the net out:

Carey Price:

Price proved to be mortal, fallable and not quite a saviour yet. He was asked to carry the heaviest of burdens and in retrospect, it was perhaps a little much to ask of a 20 year old. Despite his playoff ups and downs, he had a stellar rookie season and his playoff showing does not tarnish the outlook on what should be a very promising career. While there surely will be a tendency to be extremely harsh on Price due to Bob Gainey's decision to trade Huet, it isn't quite the goalie's cross to bear for now. Price had great runs, especially down the stretch, but his slips may be due to the fact that he was in the end overworked (since the whole of 2006-07) and possibly overwhelmed. The experience he has gained in one NHL season is invaluable, and should serve him well as soon as next season. The Canadiens, management and players included, might be guilty of having been caught up in all the hype as well, as they likely relied on him to ridiculous extremes. B+

Jaroslav Halak:

Truthfully, we learned more about Halak's worth in 2006-07 than this season. He is a solid goaltender who will need to play more games before a truer evaluation can be made. I can see him making 35 starts next season and faring extremely well. It would serve the Canadiens interests to use both young goalies smartly next season. A better distrubution of unpicked games for Halak will allow for the goalies to thrive a be fresh and tuned for the playoffs. Halak gets no grade due to having seen too little action in Montreal.

On defense:

Andrei Markov:

Got the big bucks and earned every penny. Played a key role in Montreal's top ranking PP and appeared in his first all star game. Teamed with Mike Komisarek on the Habs top defense duo, the pair shutdown top opponent lines all season and helped the Canadiens to a stronger defensive game. In the playoffs, injuries that went unpronounced kept his effectiveness to a minimum. Komisarek was banged up as well. Markov's health was the main reason the Habs PP went south as his natural tendencies took a hit. His being limited in ability meant the Habs were playing on a crutch. A

Mike Komisarek:

The big bruiser became a top line blueliner this season as a leader in hits and blocked shots. 29 other teams would love to have Komisarek to put on the ice. Overexhuberance might be his only drawback, and he need to learn better when to reel it in and let it loose. His breakaway goal against the Leafs is still on my personal top 10 faves of the year. A

Roman Hamrlik:

Gainey's biggest off season signing helped steady a defensive corps that had a reputation of running wild when pressured. His physical game was a surprising and welcome addition as well. Hamrlik sometimes plays on cruise control and takes a pedal off before games are decided. Overall though, he was a rock for the Habs this season. His play could always be counted upon when the Habs needed to insert a less reliable defenseman into the lineup. Partners of Hamrlik's this season includedBrisebois, O' Byrne, Gorges, and Streit - all handed to Hammer when they needed some calming down. B+

Francis Bouillon:

Perhaps his best season in a Montreal jersey. Made for a solid, if unspectacular, pairing with Gorges. The physical element of his game never dipped and his transition game improved over the past few seasons. Bouillon may still not be in the team's longer termed plans, but he's he welcomed back next season. B

Josh Gorges:

Perhaps a pleasant surprise, Gorges became a dependable third line d-man when teamed with Bouillon and played on his proper side. Adept at taking a hit to make the right play, Gorges consistently delivered the goods without ever sacrificing physical play. All that good being said, Gorges and his partner offer no fear factor's in their smart game and present an area when the Canadiens must gain in size. B

Ryan O' Byrne:

Had his NHL baptism this season and passed the test. His size and strength are NHL calibre though his reads and speed are where he needs improvement most. In time he ought to stake out a reputation and a working space for himself much like Komisarek. Got a good lesson in off ice conduct in mid season. B-

Patrice Brisebois:

A more likeable version of himself returned to Montreal amidst much fear this season, and Brisebois fared beyond expectations for the most part. He found trouble and some old bad aptitudes when played too often for too long, but in the end the Canadiens got what they bargained. Few experienced depth defenseman come this experienced and this cheap. He eould warrant a return of the Habs didn't have bigger things planned for a multitude of prospects in the organization. B-

Mark Streit (D):

I'm taking creative licence here with Mark Streit, and rating him at two positions for fairness. Over the course of two seasons, it appears as though Streit has carved himself out a niche on the team, and it isn't at this position full time. Streit is an ace on the PP point, but his defensive work inside the Habs blueline this season exposed some inadequacies. While his unpressured transition passes are slick, when in traffic he becomes a whole other hand grenade. The demands of a different type of physical game around his end seemed a little too high a reach for Streit this year. Balancing his PP excellence, is the notion there is no longer a need for him on the backline. C+


Alex Kovalev:

Was TSN's "Comeback Player Of The Year" and a more than worthy recipient. Everything that Kovalev wasn't one season ago, he was in 2007-08. Might just be the most exciting player in Montreal since Guy Lafleur and surely one of the more talented to play in the city. That being said, Kovalev still has his flaws and occasional bad games where he forgets that not everyone playing alongside him has his skill level. His saucer pass feeds, for one example, are more expected by the opposition at this point than by linemates. Those are but a small complaint in what was a big, big season for Kovalev. His passionate play was the engine behind a memorable Habs season. Docked a + for a string of ordinary at best playoff games. A

Saku Koivu:

The captain lost his number one center status on the team this season but none of his fire and grit. The veteran remains the most playoff atuned forward on the Habs, as was seen in his 9 game playoff of 2008. Statistics have always led to an unfair evaluation of Koivu's worth to the team, which involves work in the four corners of both ends of the rink, often against the opponents top scorers. Linemates were shuffled like a deck of cards this season, but Koivu still remained close to his point averages. Still has lots of good years left in him. B+

Tomas Plekanec:

With continued growth this season, Plekanec reached top line center status in his third full season at the position as he nudged both the 30 goal and 70 point plateau. Confidence might be his biggest barrier at times, as he has tendency to slump and shy away from the things that work well for him. There is a growing perception that the Czech is fearful of traffic, yet he plays his best games in the thick of things. Underappreciated is Plekanec's two way, which goes a great length to covering for Kovalev's adventures and Andrei Kostitsyn's inexperience. Plekanec will hit the 30 goal mark as he grows more self assured and his line continues to gel. B+

Andrei Kostitsyn:

The elder of the Kostitsyn brothers had a great full first NHL campaign in what was essentially a rookie season. Having played in 22 contests one year ago and 11 in the season prior, this was Andrei's first turn as a regular and he responded with 26 goals, which would have placed him at the top of the rookie list had he been eligible. While his transition into a pro has taken some time, Kostitsyn learned a great deal in 2007-08. He offered a sound defensive game most nights and was capable of physical play when fighting for the puck. There is much work to be done in regards to his puck posssession skill and his turnovers and it should all round out with experience. A solid season for a first year player on the top line. B+

Mark Streit (F):

Helped fill part of the void left by Sheldon Souray with crisp passes and shifty moves on the powerplay. Plays a more creative role on wing than he is able to on defence, but will not warrant icetime on the top two line. The Canadiens third leading scorer stands out most for his versatility. B

Chris Higgins:

Despite setting career highs in all stat categories, and leading the team in shots on goal with 241, Higgins was somewhat a disappointment this season. His play at times often leads to great expectations before streakiness and slumps even out such assessments. Sometimes displaying the potential of a 40 goal scorer, Higgins is often a victim of trying to do too much rather than play within his means. His enthusiam, seen in this light, becomes both his blessing and his curse as he tries to everything and be all, all at once. It is in his traits as a leader to want to assume so much responsability, but as Guy Carbonneau noted on a pair of occasions, Higgins has to learn his game and play within his talents to be successful. B

Steve Begin:

Begin is a needed component on any team. This season, he brought his usual set of intangibles that include gritty play, throwing checks and blocking shots. He is a perfect example of a player who knows his role and understands how to maximize his assets. His rambunctious style usually means playing through injuries, and as a motivational sparkplug on the Habs, no one does it better. Lack of offense in his case will never be a detriment as long as his play serves to shift the game's flow in his team's favor as it always has. B

Sergei Kostitsyn:

No one saw the younger brother on the scene so soon, but his callup seemed to throw wind behind the Canadiens sails once he joined the team. With superb vision, sleek passing skills, and guts that defy his size, Kostitsyn's season of adapting to the NHL gave many a glimpse into an interesting and productive future. He will, of course, learn in time to reel in his zest and adventurous side. Sergei made many mistakes, but also showed a committment to correcting them while playing a mature two way game for his age. Was a surprsing + 5 for the Habs in the playoffs. B

Maxim Lapierre:

Continued to progress towards being a solid defensive NHL center. When Lapierre is on his game, forechecking, hitting with authority, and creating scoring chances, he can be a gamebreaker. Consistency remains Lapierre's biggest issue still and he has a tendency to coast and disappear on occasion. His upside will never take him beyond 3rd line status, but he could turn out to a dependable pivot with close to a 20 goal in him when he matures. Does his best to give an honest effort every game. B

Tom Kostopoulos:

Brings a game similar to Begin's, but is more of a pest than a pounder. Used his speed well to cause turnovers while annoying anyone in his path. Doesn't have the greatest game in game out endurance, although he rarely lacks for effort. Was a star in the Boston series and had shifts worthy of a Conn Smythe winner at times, before sizzling out quickly and heading for a void. B

Guillaume Latendresse:

Did not benefit from as much powerplay time as the previous season while matching his rookie year goal totals. Latendresse's defensive game gained a great deal in awareness and positioning which helped make him less of a liability in his own end. His mobility often comes into question in the offensive zone due to his slowness to read developing plays. His instinct isn't yet geared towards crashing the crease like that of a goal scorer though his game shows signs of that aspect coming around slowly. Much more will be expected of him in his third NHL season. C +

Mikhail Grabovski:

A cautious assessment only 24 games into a career warns that Grabovski only has game when owning the puck. Without the puck, he is often not a factor. Displays great speed and offensive instinct, but is not yet able to sacrifice himself in order to make a play. There is much potential in the player combined with a sense that his shortcomings will prevent their use until harder lessons are learned. Two or three dazzling plays per game in his case do not equal a 60 minute committment. C+

Michael Ryder:

A big disappointment this season, Ryder offered little new to his play other than a keener eye for his own zone. Opposition defenses seemed to have Ryder figured out as the space he always found to unleash a wicked wrister was no longer unoccupied. Ryder's playmaking abilities with the puck are barely NHL calibre, and that was part of what lent to a stiffling of his game. The effort and understanding required to combat this never surfaced. C

Mathieu Dandeneault:

A likeable, team oriented player, Dandeneault suffered through a season of reaquainting himself with the forward position to mixed results. His experience reading breaking plays served him well in certain capacities, but there is little physicality in his game to broaden his contribution. C


Bob Gainey:

There isn't much front line work for a GM to do in today's NHL other than the free agency period and the trade deadline. Gainey compensated for striking out signing a big catch in July by adding Hamrlik, Smolinski, Kostopoulos, and Brisebois. There were no home runs hit, but the 4 additions were solid and helped the Canadiens in different ways at different times. At the deadline, Huet was let go to create room and bring on the Carey Price era. Results were immediate, but later tempered. Having Huet around in the end might not have hurt when Price tired, but that is the nature of taking a calculated risk. Gainey resisted selling the farm for Marian Hossa when the stakes reached an insane cost, a wise move that fit in with his poised nature. What Gainey has been busy building is still being built, and the promise looks tantalizingly good. B+

Guy Carbonneau:

Constantly learning on the job, Carbonneau's faults will always gain more print that his merits. It was evident by season's end that he didn't take notice of his goalie's workload or the effect it was having on his play. He might need to work on managing his personel on the fly. He stuck with lineups when his team won ugly and failed to tinker with it when it lost competitively. All that being said, he did many things well, including letting youngsters play and develop and earning better respect and responce from the veterans he counted on. B

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Canadiens Took Big Steps In 2007-08

Upset. Bitter. Disillusioned. Stunned.

These words pretty much sum up the gamut of emotions I am feeling at the moment.

And it's damn hard to write all of this with the wound open fresh.

I have loved every minute of being a Canadiens fan this season. Though I am not happy with how this playoff has ended, I am as proud as I have been all season that the Montreal Canadiens have restored themselves among the better NHL teams. They made greater leaps than anyone imagined this season, and brought us fans an exciting brand of hockey along the way. The 2007-08 season has been a thrill ride.

I don't want to dwell much on Saturday's game or this particular series to any length. I'm not sure that time will allow me to have a better perspective or a deeper understanding or appreciation of what took place during five games. I have the same aftertaste that was left after the Carolina series in 2006.

I don't feel the better team won.

I don't even feel as though the team that played best won.

I feel that the luckier of two teams won. The most opportune team won.

I'm not sure if I can give the Flyers credit for the accomplishment of upsetting the Habs, yet there is nothing that they have done to deserve removal of merit.

All I can say is that I have rarely seen a team capable of taking advantage of every break with such tenacity.

There are many good players on the Flyers that I have a newfound appreciation for, such as Richards, Timonen, and of course Umberger, who simply was a Habs killer in this round.

Martin Biron is the luckiest goaltender alive. There were just too many goalposts hit behind him, muffled open net chances by Montreal, and shots fired wide when he was out of position for me to buy into him as the reason the Canadiens summer is starting sooner than expected.

I'll never be sold on Daniel Briere either. A constant perimeter player, he's good, but nothing exceptional. Hardly worth the king's ransom he's being paid. There's a half dozen Habs I wouldn't trade for him even up. He would have never lasted in Montreal beyond a year or two. The expections that would have been impossible for him to meet would have turned him into Pierre "Pack My Bags" Turgeon as soon as the going got rough.

But enough about the frigging Flyers.

That pretty well covers why I am feeling upset, bitter, and stunned.

What is most disillusioning is the way hockey is officiated in 2008. I'm not going to run through a litany of blown calls - I'd be typing until sunup just to scratch the surface.

Hockey officials likely have the toughest job in all of sports. The game is too fast to be called the way it is presently. Too much is missed, misjudged, bumbled, and misrepresented.

During the lockout, fans were told that many issues had been addressed. I see no reflection of that whatsoever in the way the game is called. Hockey is light speed and officiating is neanderthal. The way things are set up, the team that commits the most subtle fouls that they can get away with is rewarded most.

It's a pity that it is this way, because it prevents the game from growing, both on and off the ice.

I know many casual fans who enjoy the sport who are turned off by an almost blatant inconsistency that often ruins the game. The NHL has often said that it wants to reward the faster, more skilled players. I don't see any evidence of that at all.

Now that I have gotten all that I've been holding back for some time, off my chest, it is time to look upon the reason why this site is here and why you are reading it.

Think back to how you felt about the Montreal Canadiens on opening night last October.

Now look at how far they have gone this season and much they have raised our hopes and dreams.

They made us totally silly with delight along the way.

No one expected this in October.

In the course of those seven elapsed months and 82 regular season games, the Canadiens constantly forced their fans, and the rest of the NHL, to consistently re-evaluate the team. As they climbed the echelons of the Eastern Conference and landed at the top, the Drive For 25 was launched full steam, filling up bandwagons bumper to bumper across the country.

They lit a fuse of enthusiams that captivated many, from the fanatic to the simply curious.

As the season wore on, the expectations went from a post season participation to a shot at the Stanley Cup final, and maybe, just maybe, a sip from mug number 25.

I was not entirely convinced that the Canadiens had the team to pull all this off, but we have all witnessed crazier things come playoff time.

In reassessing the team at the term of 82 games, I honestly felt that reaching the third round was this team's best destiny.

I still believe that is how far they could have gone at best.

It is not a failure that it didn't go farther, but it will be seen that way on radio, television and in print.

While there is value in such analysis, the truth lies closer inside the true fans hearts. What you have seen and felt this season, is no mere illusion. Do not let disappointment warp what you know is concrete.

This was but one year in the evolution of building what will be a great team not very far into the future. It will be stronger next season for certain.

Think about all that has gone right this year.

For starters, not only did Alex Kovalev rebound from a miserable year, he had several voices touting him as an MVP. Late in the season, with Saku Koivu absent, he wore the "C" for a stretch of games. That would have made fans wretch last season. Kovalev put up his second highest career totals and played more passionately than anyone has seen him do before. As I said to someone just a few days back, this season Alex Kovalev became a Montreal Canadien.

We lost our most exciting player from last season, Sheldon Souray, and the team didn't even bat an eyelash. The powerplay Souray once quarterbacked actually improved.

Tomas Plekanec developed into a top line center and is rounding out into a complete player that can be used in many game situations.

Saku Koivu looked to be on the decline, but the playoffs showed he is still the Habs fiercest competitor.

Andrei Markov signed the biggest contract in Canadiens history during the off season, and no one was ever heard complaining that he wasn't earning it. He was obviously slowed in the playoffs by an injury which we will surely hear about in coming days.

His partner Mike Komisarek was likely not playing at 100% either but this season made the jump from a player of great promise into a veteran leader who will continue to improve.

Carey Price was almost everything he was billed as. He was given the team to lead and fared well as the Canadiens rode his strong play during the final month of the year. The likeable youngster will suffer the wrath of some very harsh critics in coming days. The hype for Price was insane, and anything short of a Stanley Cup would have been seen a failure. Through a busy 16 months and close to 100 games of hockey, he must be one pooped out young man. Some of the strangest goals ever found their way by him this spring. Many will now question the trading away of Cristobal Huet more incisively than before. That's hindsight. Price has a lot to take with him from his first NHL season, and only good things can come from it.

In front of Price, there are a talented bunch of kids just getting their feet wet in the NHL, starting with the Kostitsyn brothers. You can just see that this pair oozes potential. I believe they will become ridiculously good in a couple of years.

Next season, all these elements and others will be a whole season smarter and more experienced. The team has gained greatly in so many areas and the bitterness of this playoff disappointment will translate itself into character and conviction by next year.

The 2007-08 season has been a wild ride.

There will be opinions that the Canadiens first overachieved before falling back to earth.

Some will flatly suggest that the Habs were not this good to start with.

You will also probably hear more than a few folks who think they underachieved, or got overconfident, or even choked in the end.

I believe that what occured with the Canadiens all season long, and in the end, is exactly what should have played out.

This is a young group coming together and still being built. They ended up where they have, because this is what they were in sum. As fans, our evaluations of the team were all over the place - built from hopes, dreams, and in Montreal - past templates.

Today, there are only six teams left playing hockey. Last season, on the aftremath of their final game, sixteen teams for left.

What happened in the Philadelphia series was not accidental. Teams that often make great leaps in one season usually hit a plateau.

The Pittsburgh Penguins made great strides last season before going as far as they could.

This season they are better armed.

That should be Montreal in 2008-09.

For now, as the curtain draws on this most exciting of years, I will be taking a little vacation from working on the site. I am beginning a new job Monday and that will be retaining my focus for a bit. I'll have some time to watch my other preferred original six team that wears red go for the big silver mug. After a little breath, I'll get back on here and cover the summer's events that concern the Habs leading up to next season. I doubt I'll feel like doing another post mortem on the team anytime soon. I have certain projects in mind for this site for next season and I will be working on those until October.

I'd like to take this time to thank you readers for tuning in in great numbers this season. It's been a pleasure writing for you all and exchanging comments with some of you. Eyes On The Prize hit 33,000 readers in April - overwhelmed is the only word I feel. Many of you had some very kind words and thoughts to send my way during the season and I'm always pretty freaked out to hear about what this space means to people. It's a warm place you all put me in.

When October grows near, the "Habs For Breakfast" links will return. I hope that during the summer, you will all continue tuning into the great Canadiens blogs that I've made a habit of linking to almost daily.

There are some incredible writers sharing insightful thoughts on the Canadiens out there. I think of them as my six pack for all things Habs. They are: Lions In Winter, Theory Of Ice, Four Habs Fans, The H Does Not Stand For Habs, Dennis Kane's Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog, and the two who allow me to reach many more of you, Habs Inside Out and Habs World. keep checking them out. I know I will be.

Have a great summer.


Robert L

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A One Of A Kind Habs Sweater

A week ago I received an e-mail from reader Bryan Driscoll, a Habs fan living out in Calgary, Alberta, who wanted to share a story with readers here about a fabulous looking home knit Canadiens sweater he had made for him. Agreeing with Bryan, I thought it a rather interesting subject for a post here, and replied asking for him to send me off some pictures detailing the sweater's progression.

What inspired Bryan to want a knit Canadiens sweater occured when he took in a game against the Avalanche at the Calgary Saddledome in October of 2007. There he'd seen a fan wearing a knit Flames sweater that he found awful cool. Although it looked somewhat smallish on the fan, perhaps due to age, Bryan immediately found himself desiring such a creation in Canadiens colours.

The day after the game, Bryan phoned his mother, who is a school teacher living in Ottawa, and told her exactly what he wanted for Christmas!

Through conversations between them, they decided to it would be a little hasty for her to attempt making the sweater without more imput from Bryan in person and they waited to begin the project until he headed back to Ottawa for the Christmas holidays to begin. Once back home, Bryan and his mother got down to the business of taking the proper sizings and measurements and they visited a wool and yarn store in Ottawa to pick out the exact shade of colours required. As luck sometimes goes, the store actually had a patern there for a Senators sweater, but no such thing for Habs fans.

Bryan's mother then embarked on a three month journey of, as he puts it, "snags and snafus around every bend." Being a school teacher, Bryan's mother had to turn into a weekend warrior in order to have the project completed by the start of the playoffs. Sending photo's each week of the project's advancement, Bryan was anxious to see it's completion by playoff time, just in case Carey Price followed in Patrick Roy's footsteps and led the Canadiens all the way.

As the work was being done, Bryan found an NHL patch on E-Bay that he felt would look right in the front of the sweater's collar. He placed a bid on it and won, and as soon as it arrived he sent it off to Ottawa for inclusion on the sweater.

The first part of knitting the sweater had been going smoothly enough as the red, white, and blue horizontal stripes posed few problems for Bryan's mother. It was when she reached the Canadiens CH logo that certain issues came up. Realizing that it might not shape out properly once worn, she decided that beyond knitting the vertical and horizontal lines of the letter "H", the "C" part of the logo would look best if created separately and sewn as an additional layer above the "H" and stripes. In this manner, when the sweater was worn, the logo would keep its shape.

As photos from her work were sent to Calgary, Bryan became the envy of friends as he posted them on his facebook site for all to see.

One final touch Bryan wished for had to wait. He wanted to have "Driscoll 22" sewn onto the back of the sweater, but it would mean waiting until after the playoffs for it's arrival. Bryan chose the number 22 for his fondness of Steve Begin, and for his age when he discovered his love for the Habs. There would be time to add that later, Bryan reasoned, and the finished sweater was sent out west, arriving just in time for the start of the playoffs.

When the gift arrived for Bryan, witnessing first hand all of his mother's hard work, he could not believe that he was in possesion of something so original. He wore it to work the very next day and it was a big hit among his co-workers. Habs fans in Calgary are notorious for gathering at the Rose and Crown for games, and when Byan showed up there wearing his new knit Habs sweater, it quickly became the topic of conversastion.

Bryan is now trying to convince his mom to make a bunch more "one size fits all'' sweaters!

He has now sent the sweater back to Ottawa to have his name and number sewn onto the back.

Looking at the pictures shown of it here, I know what Bryan means when he terms it priceless.

That description could also apply to his mother.

Now I want one too!

Friday, May 02, 2008

What Some Fans Won't Do For A Pair Of Habs Tickets

I heard a funny / sad tale driving around this morning on CKAC radio.

You could file it under "what some Habs fans won't do for a pair of tickets to a game".

CKAC is running a contest that is basically asking participants to show or prove how big of a Habs you are. The biggest fans gets the 2 tickets for Saturday's game.

The winner was chosen and awarded the tickets, and I tuned in as the commentator - I believe it was Michel Langevin this morning - was speaking about e-mails exchanged between the winner and the radio station.

The guy who won was named Lauzon, but I could not verify this for certain.

Apparently was he did was paint his house in Habs colours, top to bottom and all four sides. The station was impressed to be sure, as were the many fans who caught the pictures of it in facebook and different fans sites.

Apparently...but, here's the catch.

Appearances can be deceiving. This man it turns out, is no house painter. When was questioned about painting the house, it was said that he skated around the questions swiftly, using terminology that never gave up his ruse until he admitted to it later.

The man was a graphic artist!

It seems he took a photo of his house and photoshopped it so good it fooled a lot of people.

Actually, if you look at the logo on top of this post and compare it to the one on his house, you can almost see what might have given him away.

In the logo, there is a downward arc through the top half of the "C" in a slightly lighter shade of red. There are logo's with this shading for every NHL team and I believe they were created for TSN.

Another thing that gives it away is the blurred license plate numbers on his Honda!
What a crook!

Unfortunately, he didn't break any contest rules and he gets to keep the tickets. How he sidestepped the rules involved creative use of the word "creation".

Talk about artistic licence!

At the moment when I tuned in, the host Langevin, and commentators Gabriel Gregoire and former Hab Dave Morrisette were talking about what this guy had done and giving it a big thumbs down. Apparently, they had ripped into him earlier, after he had admitted and apologized for the ruse via e-mail.

Of course, by then, he had the tickets firmly in hand!

What got the commentators fired up was this guy's second e-mail response after they tore into him. After being likened a cheater, he flung arrows back at Gregoire and Morrisette in regards to their steroid use. Both were about to defend their use by stating it wasn't illegal in their sports at the time, but Langevin stepped up and said there was no need for them to have to do so.

I would have liked to have caught more of it, but I had stayed in the car as long as I could.

Hopefully there will be more coming out of this story.

Habs For Breakfast - Time Is Tight In More Ways Than One

My apologies to regular readers who tune in for these "Breakfast" posts, today's links were thrown up here in a mad hurried rash due to a busy Friday schedule on my part.

For that reason, I am bypassing quotes and photos for each piece today. It is also well before sunup as I post these 17 interesting links.

The usual articles from Gazette, Habs Inside Out, La Presse, and Le Journal aren't posted online at this early time, but can be accessed via the main page link I usually provide at the end of these daily posts.Time allowing, I will add them later in the day.

On my plate today are an abundance of "more important than Habs blogging" neccessities.

Other than driving my wife to work and youngest child to school, I have to bring my oldest girl to a ball hockey tournament 15 minutes out of town between those daily duties. Then I have to return for a poem recital by my youngest before heading off to a job interview at 10 o' clock. The oldest has a game at 10:30 that I hope to catch. My wife and I have lunch at noon. I have a second job interview for 1:30 PM, and a second game to take in at 2 PM if my oldest makes the semi finals. I pick up my youngest at school at 3 and my cuter half at 5. If the oldest reaches the ball hockey finals, I'm going to miss a bit of the game.

In the Robert L home these days, the cash has gotten tight. I've tried to divide family and children responsibilities, job searching, and "Eyes On The Prize" blogging with equal amounts of responsability.

It ain't easy to do.

Maybe I have too many loyalties.

My two young girls are lifers, and I wouldn't want it any different. The two interviews I have today are not all that important. They are longshot job opportunities I owe to myself to investigate. I have been without work for about three weeks now due to a layoff. I will be starting a new job Monday coming either way, with a computer manufacturing firm.

My oldest girl has scored 13 goals in 4 tryout games as a defenseman with her schools Grade 9 AA team. She's only 13 and in Grade 7 at her school. She's usually a center on her travel team.
A full out, interesting day awaits me for sure.

I have a couple of other Habs related posts in the works, which I hope to have up here by Friday's end.

My apologies for the lengthy excursion into my private life details, but I was moved to state my head and where it is at in regards to the rising numbers of readers at this site in the past 2 months. There were close to 33,000 readers here in April and more e-mails than I could answer on a day to day basis.

All I can think of to say is, thank you - over and over.

Brière the invisible superstar makes his mark - Globe Sports
Philly Makes Phour habs Phans Phrustrated - Four Fabs Fans
Rodney Helps me Out In Dealing With Those Flyer Fans - Dennis Kane's Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog
The Bright Spots / A Top Ten / Hubris - The H Does Not Stand For Habs
It Ain't Over Until It's Over - Montreal Canadiens.com
What Will It Take? - Montreal Canadiens.com
Game 4 In Numbers - Montreal Canadiens.com
Le CH n'a pas oublié 2004 - RDS
Carbonneau comprend très bien Bégin - RDS
Carbonneau demeure optimiste - La Presse
Carbonneau demeure optimiste - Le Journal
Le Bélarus espère l'arrivée imminente des frères Kostitsyn - Le Journal

Begin Not To Blame For Game 4 Loss

Canadiens forward Steve Begin was unconsolable after taking the late Game 4 penalty that led to the Flyers winning goal.

He was not available to the media immediatly after the game.

Begin is a player of an emotional nature who will do anything it takes to win. Just minutes prior to his penalty, he took a point shot straight in the gut looking much like a front line soldier gunned down on a battlefield. I have always referred to Begin as the Habs captain without a letter, and he is exactly the type of forward a team needs to have on the ice in crucial moments such the one in Game 4.

While he may not have enjoyed a 20 goal season since prior to playing junior in the QMJHL, he knows what it takes to win. The Calgary Flames made Begin their second choice, 40th overall in the 1996 draft, after a season of 13 goals and 218 penalty minutes with Val d' Or Foreurs. Five seasons later, Begin scored 10 goals in 19 playoff games for the Saint John Flames and was named the MVP for the Calder Cup winners.

With a player a Begin's nature, who hits anything in his path, there is always a risk that his enthusiam will get the better of his common sense.

The penalty he took late in game 4 has been termed "stupid" in several print stories.

It may have been untimely, and regrettable, but I saw it as anything but stupid.

In a game where so many similar calls away from the play are ignored for that reason, many folks are wondering why this infraction was singled out at this particular time when it had absolutely no bearing on the play in progress.

It is a question we aren't likely to hear an answer for anytime soon.

One question I have heard is, what exactly did begin think he was doing when he hit Sami Kapanen?

From the angle that I saw it from initially, I felt that Kapanen was lingering a second too long between Begin and the open door to the Canadiens bench while the Habs were in the midst of a line change. Opposition players are often seen running all kinds of subtle interference - like a basketball pick play - and doing such near an opponents open bench door during changes has always been an effective ploy in getting a too many men on the ice call.

In that case, a referee could have called both players for infractions - Begin for the hit, and Kapanen for interference or obstruction for getting in Begin's way at the door.

Having watched the game three times in total - twice on the RDS Express - it looks less like Begin was only concerned with coming off the ice. He was also finishing a check after a Kapanen dump in.

I found this clip, from a different angle, on the TSN website. Nearing the 1:40 mark of the clip, the Begin penalty plays. You can see Tomas Plekanec, who is not a linemate of Begin's in the play. Between Kapanen backhanding the puck into the Canadiens zone and Begin throwing a shoulder into him, there is about 1.7 seconds of elapsed time.

That cannot be called a late hit. It cannot be viewed as a hit on a player who didn't have possesion of the puck. There was no elbow or high stick involved in the hit. Other than the compromising open door, which is awaiting Begin. Begin is in fact exactly where he ought to be, already in stride, and simply finishing a check as he has done all series long.

Bruntly, this isn't even a penalty on opening night in October, nevermind the playoffs.

The NHL and its officials never go on record as saying they call the playoffs any differently. They invoke player adjustment to the rules whenever the number of called infractions dropping comes into question. While skating around the admission that officials call things the same, they also give creedence to the notion that the officials take into consideration that they do not want to make a borderline call that affects the game's outcome.

It is almost akin to speaking out of both corners of the mouth at once.

More often than not, the calls they fail to make affect the outcome of games more drastically than what is called.

The intensity of playoff hockey is upped several degrees from regular season play. There are triple the amount of calls that could be made if the rulebook was followed to a point with any consistency. As hockey fans, we do not want it any other way in terms of how the players approach the heightened action. Additional judgement by officials on calls away from the play is required to assess their importance in the grander scheme.

That's all fine and good, but mere days after word from the league stated that they sought to avoid calls on inconsequential plays that did not affect the outcome of games, the Begin call goes in the absolute opposite direction. This call gave the Flyers an opportunity to win the game at the most crucial of moments and made Begin a goat in the process.

I'm not here to whine about the officiating - I could do that for 82 games a year in all honesty, and so could the fans of 29 other teams. Nothing can be changed about Wednesday's game and alot of it should be forgotten by the drop of the puck on Saturday.

I find it terrible that Steve Begin feels he cost the Canadiens a chance at winning game 4.

I find it equally absurd that he is being pointed out and his actions termed "stupid".

The Canadiens have lost the last three games for a litany of incomprehensible reasons that only time and understanding will give a proper perspective to.

The Steve Begin I've always known and appreciated is the one I'm hoping shows up for game 5.

The Canadiens are going to need his game, risks and all.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Habs For Breakfast - The Script Remains The Same

The experiment of tossing Jaroslav Halak between the pipes did not work as Guy Carbonneau had planned, just as I figured it wouldn't.

While goaltending has been a concern, the Canadiens biggest issue has been it's inability to convert on it's numerous scoring chances. There wouldn't have been much Halak could have done to rectify that.

This game played out like the three before it.

In this series, we have yet to witness how the Canadiens, the defense and goaltender, would play if given a lead to support.

I'm hearing a lot of old clichés abounding the thoughts that it isn't always the team who plays best that wins or that it isn't even always the best team that wins.

Both are empty consolations.

The Canadiens can take something from the fact that they are doing many things well so far if that adds up to anything. They can build on that on continue to forge ahead believing that something's got to give sooner or later.

The veteran's on the team will surely recall to the younger players that coming back to win three straight is doable. In very similar circumstances, the 2004 Habs did it to Bruins. This time the Canadiens are the top seed and not the eighth. Like Biron, Andrew Raycroft was then playing over his head until the Habs solved him.

Do the players believe it can happen again.

They'd better.

Habs on brink of elimination - Gazette

"Sooner or later, if time doesn't run out on the Cinderella Canadiens, this team will learn what it's like to play with a lead. It's entirely possible, however, that midnight will strike first." - Dave Stubbs

Habs behind eight ball - Gazette

"There has been a lot of whining in this city about the penalties that have been called against the hometown Flyers and those that haven't been called against the Canadiens. But there were no complaints from the Flyers last night as they took advantage of an unnecessary penalty by Steve Bégin late in the third period and scored on the ensuing power play to snap a 2-2 tie." - Pat Hickey

Going with Halak was a gutsy decision, but it didn't stem Flyers' tide - Gazette

"Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was talking about being pulled from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal and said sometimes it's good to look at the game from the bench. Price got a longer look last night as head coach Guy Carbonneau played the wild card and decided to start Jaroslav Halak in Game 4." - Pat Hickey

Carbonneau rolls the dice in goal - Globe Sports

"Montreal Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau went far more with his gut than with his brain when he elected to go with an untried 22-year-old sophomore in goal rather than the team's 20-year-old rookie sensation. "It's my decision," Carbonneau said, "because I'm the one who's going to get blamed." - Roy MacGregor

Biron, Brière baffle Habs - Globe Sports

"The Montreal Canadiens can crow all they want about how the final scores have not been indicative of how well they have played against the Philadelphia Flyers. But they can't conceal the reason they suffered a 4-2 loss last night: mistakes at inopportune times." - Tim Wharnsby

Reasons To Believe - Lions In Winter

"Saku Koivu: The best pressure player I have ever seen on any team I support. In the past 4 NHL seasons, he has played in 6 elimination games. In those 6 games, he has 2 goals and 9 assists, and has been the star of most as well. That's even without considering his victories over terrible injuries and illness. Can he play better? We may find it hard to conceive how he might, but he will – it's what he does." - Topham

Bleeding Red White And Blue - The H Does Not Stand For Habs

"The Canadiens have tried...boy, have they tried! We can pick their play apart all we want, but the fact remains, they've outshot and outhit the Flyers in every game. They've had chance after chance and hit post after post when Biron wasn't robbing them blind. Sure, they could get more bodies in front of Biron...but we know our team isn't that kind of team. They don't have the personel to change styles just like that. They're a speed, finesse team. It's how they're built and how they thrived all season long." - J.T.

Sounds Like A Country Song: The Dog Got Run Over By A Pickup Truck, I Gotta Pay Money To The Man, And The Philadelphia Flyers Beat The Habs - Dennis Kane's Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog

"Montreal’s scoring slump has happened, inexplicably, in the playoffs, and there’s no time to work it out. It has to be now. Not next week. They’ve dug a deep hole, and there’s been only periodic flashes of fire and getting their noses dirty during this second round against the Flyers."

Le CH doit continuer d'y croire - RDS

"Ce serait plus difficile à vendre si on perdait 3-1 et qu'on jouait mal", a noté Guy Cabonneau. "La situation est frustrante, a continué l'entraîneur. On vient de subir trois défaites, mais je ne peux pas m'asseoir avec mes adjoints pour voir ce qu'on pourrait changer comme stratégies.

Halak: "Je voulais bien faire" - La Presse

"Il me l'a annoncé ce matin. Je voulais bien faire et pour être certain de ne pas être victime de trop de pression, j'ai abordé ce match comme n'importe quel autre de la saison régulière. Exception faite du premier but, je crois que j'ai disputé un bon match, mais ce but m'a vraiment déplu." - François Gagnon

Carbonneau pense que les officiels ont été influencés - Le Journal

"Guy Carbonneau a éprouvé toutes les misères du monde à se retenir quand on lui a demandé son opinion au sujet de la pénalité coûteuse écopée par Steve Bégin après la remontée des siens en troisième période, hier soir." - Marc De Foy

"J'étais aussi emballé qu'étonné": Jaroslav Halak - Le Journal

"Halak reconnaissait avoir été faible sur le premier but des Flyers, inscrit par R.J. Umberger, qui l'a déjoué avec un tir du côté rapproché durant une supériorité numérique des siens."

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