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Don’t ya think? We’ve had to put up with a lot of crap in the last year or so. First we had like six mayors that had to quit because of corruption allegations. Then there’s that seemingly neverending corruption inquiry with all these characters talking about stuffing safes/socks/envelopes with money, deliberately making highways with self-destructing materials, and generally making us look like a banana republic.

Did I mention the Charter debate. That was fun. But nothing compared to the bitter divisive provincial election campaign. We all needed a week of showers after that one (to paraphrase Don Macpherson).

So I just thought of the perfect cure-all for our blues – a nice lengthy Habs playoff run. Look, it’s not likely that we’ll win the Cup – of course we could but it’s not the likeliest of possibilities. But the Canadiens could go two or three rounds and just think how that would improve everyone’s mood in this distressed city.

I was listening to Mario Langlois and Philippe Cantin on 98.5 FM this morning talking about Habs fever and Langlois was waxing eloquent about how important the Habs are ici. He was yakking bout how the CH insignia is like the Quebec flag, that the Habs are our Church and that when they’re rocking in the playoffs, suddenly we’re all pals, we’re all on the same team. (Except, I might add, for all those disgrunted old Nordiques fans out there! You know who you are! I won’t mention any names but for the sake of the story, I’ll call you Rafael. Ha ha.)

Cantin also underlined how the team unites anglos and francos. And it is true that the Habs is maybe the only thing both communities agree on. At the end of our recent appearance on Q on CBC Radio, Marc Cassivi ended the conversation by noting that at least we have the Habs to keep us going through all these unpleasant social/political/linguistic arguments.

So how cool would it be if we could keep this thing going for at least a few weeks? Well obviously we have to take it one game at a time. That was just the first one Wednesday night and you know the others are gonna be harder. And if and when Les Boys dispense with Tampa Bay, they’re going to be staring at the ugly face of the Big Bad Bruins, who will be ready and willing to destroy our still-smaller team player by player. (The “joke” is that there will be no Habs standing by the end of a seven-game series with the Bruins. They whacked two in just one game!)

But hey a boy can dream. I still remember that last playoff run like it was yesterday. Spring of 2010. Everyone laughing at us. ‘Caps in 3′ chuckles the Habs-haters in the Toronto media. Then the Caps were gone. Then the Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Earlier today, Ted Bird – tweeting that I’d be a guest on Montreal Hockey Talk this Sunday – called me the past president of the Halak fan club. And I am. Cos My Man Jaro is the reason we had one great playoff moment in the past two decades. I’ll never forget dancing around the living room with my son after we knocked off the Pens, laughing as Sid whined about how his was the better team.

Remember how cool that was? The Halak stop-sign t-shirts. The excitement. What I remember is how everyone was into it. After the brilliant marketing of the Gillett years, the Canadiens have become more popular here than ever. The odd wrinkle is the team is bigger than it ever was even though the on-ice product in the past 20 years has been a pathetic shadow of the great teams of years past. Amazing what those creative Mad Men can do.

As you can see, I’m feeling pretty upbeat today, hardly my normal state of mind I know. And I’ll be back yelling obscenities as soon as Carey ‘What Me Worry’ Price lets in a soft one from Steven Stamkos in game two. But right now I’ve had a jug of the Kool-Aid and I’m feeling it. Hi my name is Brendan and I’m a delusional Habs fan.

Montreal Stand Up! Les Canadiens forever.

- Brendan

People – okay my pal Avi Goldberg – are already grumbling online Thursday morning. ‘Where the hell is Kelly’ they’re saying. Where are the tweets, the blogs?

Hey it was a late night and a late rising this morning. Guilty as charged. I was at the bar watching the game, so I couldn’t tweet with my usual prolific style and it’s a been a slow start today.

But I’ve got a couple of lattes in me and I’ve already congratulated Xavier Dolan on his making the Cannes Film Festival competition with his movie Mommy, so I’m finally ready to weigh in.

First things first. Carey Price has to be better. Four goals on 16 shots? Not good enough. That goal from Steven Stamkos to make it 2-1? Pricer has to have that one. (Note that I am NOT making a Halak-would’ve-stopped-that-one joke here!) Now he did come up big in the overtime on a couple of occasions but fact is he seemed nervous, as if thinking way too much about his mediocre playoff history.

If Montreal had lost in OT, this city would be in full-on let’s-fire-Price mode – and it almost happened. Josh Gorges miraculously dove and pushed the puck out of the way with Teddy Purcell set to bang it into an empty net after Price had made the first save and had no chance of getting back into position.

But I am not going to join the chorus of crazed anti-Price ranters who’re clogging up the phone lines of sports radio in Montreal. He had his first-ever full solid season, he has a Gold Medal in his back pocket and I believe he’ll be back with a better game Friday. If that’s not the case, it’ll be 1-1 going back to Montreal.

Second thing. The playoffs are all about character guys and it was the character guys who came through to win it all. On that play, the aforementioned hero Gorges kept the puck in at the blue-line, sent it behind the net to Danny Brière, and then Danny B sent it out to fourth-liner Dale Weise who potted the winner (apparently forgotten by the entire Tampa team). That was all that was needed. Result – 5-4 Montreal.

Let’s have a look at Brière’s all-time playoff stats. 109 points in 108 playoff games, including 50 goals. And he’s on the fourth line? Listen, you can’t argue with a 100-point season but crap like this is why I remain – how do I put this politely – a Michel Therrien skeptic.

Third point. Thomas Vanek. Just that. Need I say more? This guy adds so much to the team. He’s the most exciting forward to wear a Habs jersey since The Artist (aka Alex Kovalev) and whenever he’s in the line-up, you have a chance to beat any team.

Last point. The pub was going nuts during that overtime – cheering wildly, shouting, screaming, ooohhhing and aaahhhhing, chanting ‘Carey Carey Carey’ and, in the end, raising our glasses and singing ‘Ole Ole’ as if we’d just won the Cup. It was effin amazing. It’s the playoffs, the Habs are in the hunt, it’s almost spring in Montreal, and everything is right in the world. Bring it on. This is just what we need after the sh– this city has to put up with over the last year!

And let’s end with GM Marc Bergevin getting all funky on us after that OT winner! Could you picture Pierre Gauthier shaking it like this?

 

A lot depends on Carey 'What Me Worry' Price.

A lot depends on Carey ‘What Me Worry’ Price.

There was a lot of optimistic Habs chatter going on Friday night at the bash to inaugurate TSN690′s new studios in the Bell Media radio HQ at the corner of Rene Levesque and Papineau. Play-by-play man John Bartlett said he hoped to be calling Canadiens games well into June and Mayor Denis Coderre actually started a chant of ‘Go Habs Go’ when he took the stage. When I arrived at the party with my mate Noel Butler – aka Mr. Soccer – I bumped into Habs president Geoff Molson leaving and I wished him luck in the playoffs. (He did a double-take. Molson, like most of you, is obviously surprised/shocked to see that I appear to be on the Habs bandwagon.)

Of course the folks at TSN690 want Montreal to go deep into the playoffs. It’s good for business. The Habs are the station’s bread-and-butter, so the longer they stay alive, the better it is for the Little-Station-That-Could.

But for us independent observers, la question qui tue is – just how deep will Les Boys go? Longtime readers of this missive will know that for most of this season I have not been a believer. But I am a big enough boy to admit I was too pessimistic. You can’t argue with their record. Going into the final game of the season against the Rangers, Montreal has a 45-28-8 record, giving them 98 points, good enough for third place in the Atlantic division, a point behind their first-round opponent Tampa Bay.

I also underestimated l’effet Vanek. I was grumbly about the trade because I didn’t see the need for a Rent-A-Player. That’s cos I didn’t see the team going far in the Real Season. But Thomas Vanek has changed this team. All of a sudden they have a truly great first line for the first time in ages and again the record speaks for itself – they’re 7-2-1 in their last ten.

Now all this has the city’s often-delusion fans talking of making the Cup final – and maybe even winning Lord Stanley’s famous champagne holder. My first observation would be that Habs fans – myself included – are probably in need of psychiatric attention. We suffer from serious mood-swing disorder – deadly lows followed by ecstatic highs. There is no middle-ground for us. The upside to that is there’s never a dull moment for us. The downside is there’s never a dull moment for us.

So first thing’s first, sure the Habs could win the Cup. But it really isn’t the most likely outcome. Making the final? Also possible but not likely.

Look. Here’s the bottom-line. All the experts will come out with their explanations in the days leading up to the start of the playoffs Wednesday but the hockey biz is like the movie biz, which screenwriter William Goldman summed up perfectly with his famous phrase – “Nobody knows anything.” No one ever knows if a movie is going to be a huge hit. And no one ever knows if a team is going to win a playoff series or not.

Who predicted the Habs would make the conference final in 2010? No one. I remember before both the Capitals and Penguins series, the Canadian hockey media – who all live in Toronto oddly enough – just laughing at Montreal. “Caps in 3″ chuckled the TSN boys. Well guess what? The experts were full of something. They all got it wrong.

They didn’t see the Halak Stop Sign movement coming. Just like maybe none of us are ready for Kristers Gudlevski to steal the Habs Lightning series. Hey it could happen. Who dat? He’s the 21-year-old netminder who was just unbelievable in that crazy Canada-Latvia game in Socchi, making 56 saves, many of them simply spectacular. He was in the nets for Tampa’s 3-2 win over the Blue jackets Friday night. It was his first game in the NHL. Did someone mention the words ‘Ken Dryden’? Ha ha. Okay so it’s not that likely but my point is you just never know what’ll happen in a series.

Who called the Habs, hardly a Dynasty team at the team, to best the Stanley Cup champ Bruins in the first round in 1971? I mean did Red Fisher even predict that one? (An aside. What would Red have done without the story of that series? That provided a lifetime of columns. But I digress.)

Okay so I do think Montreal beats Tampa. Pat Hickey is right that the loss of giant Habs-slaying goaltender Ben Bishop is huge. If he’s not there at all, you have to think the Habs can take this one. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – Carey Price has to have a great series. And he’s never had a great playoff series in the NHL.

Now again I’ve often grumbled about the What Me Worry kid but there’s no denying that he’s a different man today. He has finally had a fully real solid season and he was just fine in the Olympics (though we should just mention that the Habs defense corps is just a wee bit less solid than the Berlin Wall that was the Ds on Team Canada). Me I think he’s matured and that he’ll be great. But it’s never happened before.

Then it’s on to face Boston. On paper, the Bruins are a better team than us. But we bring something different to the table when we face Boston. If you don’t believe it, look at that last game in Boston when the Habs won 2-1 in the shoot-out. I heard Pierre McGuire on with Mitch Melnick saying the Bruins desperately wanted to win that game. They out-played Montreal and still lost.

Something strange happens with Boston-Montreal games and series that defies all rationality. Look at that series a couple of years back when the Habs took Boston to OT of game seven in the first round. We almost finished off the team that went on to win the Cup that year. And Montreal was not by any means a great team that year.

Give us a good Anakin Slayd anthem, Pricey in a zone and Patch on a mission to prove something to the thugs that nearly ended his career and……well anything can happen.

So yeah I’m feeling pretty upbeat this morning. But all that proves is I’m just another delusional Habs fan.

So what did you get out of that bizarre 7-4 Habs victory over the Senators Friday night? That there really is a Habs-Sens rivalry? Check. That Pierre McGuire is right that the Canadiens have character? Check. That Peter Budaj is a guy we can count on? Check. That the Senators are a mess? Check. That the Senators have the worst fans (or maybe the least amount of fans) in the league? Check.

But those are side-shows to the main story-line. That would be the one that stars Max Pacioretty.

Patch notched his third – !!! – hat trick of the season, giving him 38 goals on the season. And they were mostly things of beauty, including two breakaways. Even better, he could’ve easily scored a couple more. Even better, he also added two assists and ended the nights with five points.

He is the first Hab to score 38 goals since Vincent Damphousse and Mark Recchi in 1995-1996 and it sets him on pace to become the first Habs’ 40-goal-scorer since Damphousse hit the 40-goal plateau in the 1993-1994 season.

A couple of things. One, Patch is amazing. Just think, he has 38 goals and he had a very slow start of the season. And this morning, he’s sitting pretty in fourth-place in goal-scoring – ahead of Sid the Kid for heaven’s sakes. Second, that line is more than amazing. Yes I grumbled about the Thomas Vanek trade – hey I’m a miserable character! – and my point at the time was that I felt we didn’t need a Rent-A-Player who wasn’t going to sign with us.

But I was wrong and now you know why Marc Bergevin gets the big bucks and I do this scribbling for free. Thanks to Vanek – who’s also on a tear – Montreal is in the playoffs and in a great position. And you know he’ll be a huge asset in the post-season. Now I still haven’t drank the Kool-Aid that so many Habs fans are gulping down these days so you’ll hear no talk of Cup Final appearances here. But two rounds? Yeah we can dream that this morning. But first let’s survive that series with Tampa Bay.

The other thing about Patch’s stats is the absurd fact that not one Hab has scored 40 goals in 20 years. What kind of team goes two decades without one player scoring 40 goals. Who? The Hab-Nots of course. If you needed an indictment of the last 20 years of Habs (mis)management, there it is.

Patrick Roy.

Patrick Roy.

No really. Bear with me for a moment here. On Dec. 2, 1995, a boneheaded Montreal Canadiens coach decided to teach superstar goalie Patrick Roy a lesson and show him who the boss was – and, well we all know what happened next.

Roy told team president Ronald Corey to take his team and stuff it, Not So Super Mario sealed his fate (fated to become a L’Antichambre coach), Le Trade happened (bye bye modern hockey’s greatest goalie and my hero Mike Keane, hello a bunch of Avalanche guys whose names I’ve forgotten) and our beloved Habs went into a near-two-decade tailspin.

No really. It’s the Roy curse. Ever since that night when Mario Tremblay let the Red Wings laugh in Roy’s face, the team has been but a shadow of its former self. Yes it also happens to be the same era that I returned to watching hockey – don’t ask what I was up to for the previous decade! – and became a Habs fan for the first time in my life. That’s me. I didn’t like the Canadiens back in the day, when they were winning on all those Cups, preferring to cheer for the Blackhawks, a few decades before they started winning Cups again. I’m maladjusted. I admit. But I digress.

So maybe Tuesday night’s inspirational 6-3 win over Patrick Roy’s Colorado Avalanche marks the end of the Roy curse. Maybe the Habs have finally exorcized those demons.

Just a thought.

And what a way to break the curse. Roy also managed to wake up Thomas Vanek, who not only scored his first goal as a Hab but racked up a hat trick. I know, you’re thinking I was a bit grumbly about the Vanek trade. Hey I changed my mind! Sue me! More seriously, I still don’t like Rent-A-Players but let’s stay on message now.

And each member of the Grind Line scored – Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Dale Weise. When your fourth line works, your team works.

So is the curse lifted? Hey a fellow can dream.

Here’s Moen’s spinorama backhand goal. I mean – WTF! Where did that come from? Since when does Moen make moves like that?

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=-6&id=580205&cmpid=rss-whatsnew

FrancisBouillon

It was one of the most extraordinary Habs games in years. Now granted the bar is pretty low given how many sad-sack games we’ve had to sit through in the past couple of years, but still.

This was something else. I was watching the game with a pal and as the third period wound down and the score 4-1 for the Ottawa Senators, we were having a good time sipping our Jameson’s – hey it’s St. Patrick’s weekend lad! – and yapping about how this might finally be the end of the Michel Therrien era. How Therrien doesn’t get the younger players, how he’s destroyed Lars Eller, messed up P.K. Subban and played mind games with Danny Briere. That there was simply no explanation for how much ice time he was giving to Francis Bouillon.

And we were agreeing that Carey Price, right about now, is probably thinking he should’ve stayed in Sochi.

Then something strange happened. First the aforementioned Mr. Eller scored to make it 4-2. And looked suitably grim after the goal, in essence saying – ‘Hey I’m a team player, I am not going to even half-celebrate this one, even though it’s a huge goal for me.’ Then Gionta scored. Then with 0.3 seconds left, wee Davey Desharnais popped it over Robin Lehner. 4-4.

And the magical night was capped by an overtime goal from – who else? – Francis Bouillon. It was his first goal of the season. Of course it was.

Just minutes earlier Therrien seemed like the worst coach in hockey, just nano-seconds away from the unemployment cue. Now? He’s the 2014 version of Scotty Bowman.

Of course he isn’t. Reality is he’s somewhere between the two extremes. But who cares right now. Bottom-line is that was one wild ride.

“What I’m hoping for is that this could change a season,” said Therrien after the game.

You believe that? Maybe not. Though I think I did tweet out something around that time that included the following hash-tags – #1986 #1993 #2010. As in, maybe the magic could happen.

Now on to the Top Shelf contest. What album or song did last night’s Habs game remind you of? The winner this time is none other than TSN 690 main-man Mitch Melnick who suggested The Beatles’ Helter Skelter as the night’s soundtrack. Exactly. You remember the first line of that under-rated White Album track, screamed by a hoarse Paul McCartney, over gnashing metallic guitar lines from George Harrison and John Lennon: “When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide.”

Sums it up quite nicely don’t you think?

Other suggestions? Jim Withers – Thriller (Michael Jackson).

Brendan Clarke – Lucky Man (ELP).

Paul Yatrou – Unbelievable (EMF).

Daniel Weinstock – It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over (Lenny Kravitz).

Stewart Dowbiggin – Gotta be Abbey Road. They left the most of the best effort until the end.

Tommy Groszman – Supertramp — Dreamer ( although I dearly wish they were that good and this is a turning point).

Simon Fauteux – Never Say Die (Black Sabbath).

Hugo Cassivi – Sarah McLachlan’s Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff, Volume 2. A song called Prayer Of St Francis (Bouillon) on that album.

Alin Delong – Springbreakers soundtrack (running gag!).

Doods – Jump (Aztec Camera).

Jimmy Zoubris – Don’t Stop Believing (Journey).

Paul Wong – Never Mind the Bollocks cause all the Pistols songs are 4 minutes or less. Like tonight’s comeback.

Rich Thorpe – Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap (AC/DC).

And the last word goes to Paul Cherry – Something from Puccini or another opera with the way the Senators were waiving their arms and crying at the end.

Why is this man not smiling?

Why is this man not smiling?

A new Top Shelf contest was launched on social media Thursday afternoon. After each Canadiens game, the following question qui tue will be launched – what album did last night’s Habs game remind you of?

My old pal Mike Abraham came up with the idea and the first lucky winner is my former Gaz colleague Jim Withers, who suggested that Wednesday night’s Bruins-Habs match-up could be best described by the title of Bob Dylan’s 1975 masterpiece Blood on the Tracks. Brilliant! It was just about as much of a downer as that classic divorce album.

This was a huge game for the Hab-nots. And they came out of it soundly humiliated by their Beantown rivals. Just think back to the euphoria last week in the Habs Nation following the signing of Thomas Vanek. ‘Oh we can beat anyone in the East’ said the guy on the bar-stool beside me (along with every other crazed Habs fan in the city) and folks would keep pointing to the two wins earlier in the season over Boston.

Well those fans aren’t quite as euphoric today, following the Bruins’ 4-1 trouncing of Les Boys. Yes Montreal got all kinds of chances in the first period – out-shooting the Bruins 13-6 – but all that matters is they came out of that period tied zippo-to-zippo. Chances and $4.50 will get you a milky “latte” at FiveBucks.

You have to capitalize on your chances and that’s exactly what the Bruins did. The headline on Richard Labbe’s column in La Presse summed it up nicely: ‘Savoir profiter de ses chances.’

Fact is the Habs’ scoring is still seriously broken. By the way, the team has lost three games since Vanek arrived from The Island and he’s managed just one assist. Worse, now more and more commentators are starting to mention that he’s actually quite the one-dimensional player. All he does is score. He doesn’t hit, back-check, defend, forecheck. He’s what I like to call a puck-activated player. When the rubber is not attached to his stick, he’s not moving.

And he’s not scoring. And no one else is either. Writers here love to celebrate Thomas Plekanec but I nearly spat up my Corn Flakes when I heard the commentator on the highlights – low-lights? – say that he has one goal in his last 18 games. One thing that’s clear is that Vanek hasn’t been clicking with Plek and Brian Gionta and so maybe kindly ol’ coach Michel ‘Losing the Room’ Therrien might want to keep up that third-period experiment that had Vanek skating with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.

The bottom-line? Having nabbed just two points in their last five games, the Hab-nots are sitting not-so-pretty in fourth place in the East, with 77 points, just four points out of eighth in the conference. Or as my pal Erik Leijon put it memorably on Twitter just after the game: ‘Habs are four points above eighth place in their joke of a conference.’

Aren’t you glad we got Vanek? What did I say a few days ago? Bread and circuses, man. Or to paraphrase a line from St. Bob  on the first song off of Blood on the Tracks – It’s all just an illusion to me now.