A night at the rink

Posted: November 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Thoughts after a night at the Bell Centre.

The great thing about being there is….the super expensive Molson beer. Okay enough kidding. No the fun is seeing the whole game not just what the TV crew wants you to see.

Sunday’s Montreal Canadiens Islanders tilt was another great game from the Dutch Gretzky. Did you see the set-up on the Desharnais goal? Dale Weise for Prime Minister.

Beauty of a winning goal from Galchenyuk but I was in a state of shock when they announced it was his third goal of the season and his first at the Bell Centre. What?

And the line of the night came from my old pal David Winch who had to endure my Bob Gainey stories all night – Fin de Semin. Brilliant. Not sure I’ve ever seen a softer player. Soft hands, soft everything else.

Carey Price just punching the clock on another 9-to-5 shift. He kept grabbing those pucks in his glove like he was swatting flies on a lazy summer afternoon.

And yeah we were in the Bob Gainey section right at the top of the bowl. Bob was looking over my shoulder as I told this story about…..oh I can’t tell that story now. Buy me a drink some night and I’ll give you the details.

And then Brendan Gallagher going down, blocking a crazy hard shot from Johnny Boychuk. He just staggered around the ice for a few seconds, before heading off in what looked like unbearable pain. After all those games fearlessly taking the hits right at the net, he’s finally brought down by a puck. Huge loss.

  • Brendan Kelly

Dale Weise, our favourite guy in the whole wide universe, got the nickname the Dutch Gretzky after playing for the renowned (eds. note: You’re kidding, right?) Tilburg Trappers in the Netherlands during the NHL lock-out in the 2012-2013 season. As a Trapper, Weise notched 22 goals and 26 assists in 19 games and, unsurprisingly, became a major fan favourite in this country more known for exporting coaches to Manchester United than producing great hockey players.

Until now, the whole funny thing about the story was the contrast between those superstar heroics in the hash cafés of Amsterdam…..I mean the hockey rinks of the Netherlands and his lack of superstar heroics in the Big League here. Until last season, the most goals he’d ever scored in the NHL was six, in 2013-2014, the year he was traded from the Vancouver Canuck to the Canadiens in exchange for Rafael (not Cameron) Diaz.

Last season, he hit a career high, with ten goals. In short, he wasn’t being called the Canadian Gretzky. But now that might not be a bad moniker. Weise scored again Thursday night in Montreal’s 4-1 victory over Jaroslav Halak’s New York Islanders, a beauty of a goal as he redirected a slapper from Jeff Petry during a power play. That gives him eight goals so far this season, in just 15 games. At this rate, he’ll score 43.7 goals this season!

Of course he won’t score 43.7 goals. Because you can’t score 0.7 of a goal. Well also cos he just won’t. He is going to slow down at some point. I mean this is crazy. He has more goals than any other Hab, including Patch. He’s only two goals below league scoring leader Jamie Benn and is ahead of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin.

So what the hell is going on here? Weise is a third-line winger (who’s also done much time as a fourth-line winger). Well part of the story is he happens to be comfortably ensconced on the Habs’ best line right now. Yeah they’re the third line on paper but centre David Desharnais, and wingers Weise and Thomas ‘Flash’ Fleischmann have been on fire. Did you see Flash set-up wee Davey for that goal Thursday night? Wow. (Both Flash and Gretzky are classic Marc Bergevin pick-ups. They didn’t cost much, neither in terms of money nor in terms of what the team had to give up.) And Flash is a big part of the Weise success too. Go back and look at the third Weise goal in his first-ever NHL hat trick, against Calgary the other night. It’s just unreal what Flash does with the puck there.

But Weise is also playing remarkably well. Notice how he always seems to be in the right position, like when he banged in that pass from Galchenyuk at the side of the net Tuesday against Ottawa. And he’s always been one of the real hard workers, a quality kindly ol’ coach Michel Therrien values over all else.

So look the dream run will end at some point, just like the Habs’ no-loss streak. And he won’t score 40 goals. But if he scores 25 – which is entirely possible – and then has his usual great playoff run, he just might be the difference between going just two rounds deep in the post-season and something much more interesting.

So with tongue-firmly-cheek – or was it as my detractors might say, with head-up-arsehole – that I suggested Friday night on the usual social-media networks that it was time for the Habs to lose a game. I may have written “This is getting stupid. 8-0. The winning streak is becoming a distraction. We need to focus. Throw the Leafs a bone.”

Now it appears my finely nuanced wit flew right over a few heads. So let me be clear for those in the cheap seats. I would love for my beloved Montreal Canadiens to go 82-and-0. But you know what, adds the party pooper. They’re going to lose a game this season and in all likelihood that loss will come this week when they head out for a road trip through western Canada. And if not then, it’ll be somewhere else.

But of course let’s whoop it up while we can. Yes as my pal Harm points out, Les Boys are roundly dominating the plus/minus standings in the league. Andrei Markov – who had five points in the Habs’ 7-2 trouncing of the Sabres Friday – leads the league with a plus-14, followed by P.K. Subban at 13, Max Pacioretty at 11, Tomas Plekanec at 10, and Brendan Gallagher at 8.

The plus-minus domination is pretty simple. The team is 8-0 and has 30 goals for and only nine against. So everyone on the team has pretty decent plus/minus numbers. It also suggests they have been getting pretty good goaltending, which is obviously true. Backup Mike Condon has looked great, including Friday in Buffalo when he kept the lads in the game when the Sabres were pressing in the first period. Note that the Sabres out-shot Montreal 36-26 on the night – and lost 7-2!

I can’t help thinking of what Ken Dryden wrote in his great book The Game about those epic Montreal Canadiens teams he played for in the ’70s – every night, they’d find a way to win. His point was that they’d have off nights but no matter how bad they played, someone would always step up to get them the W. Well actually the 2014-2015 Habs haven’t really had a bad night yet, with maybe the exception of that first game against the pumped-up Leafs where Carey Price had to save their bacon.

So yeah I’m ready to celebrate. And okay, don’t throw the Leafs a bone.

  • Brendan Kelly

And Habs history is made

Posted: October 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

And just like that the Habs beat one of the best teams in the East, the mighty good New York Rangers, and made history. For the first time in the glorious history of the most storied franchise in hockey, the Montreal Canadiens open a season five-and-Oh. Wow that is indeed pretty cool and ca sent quelque’chose (and it ain’t the neighbour’s dog’s doodoo).

So yeah pretty good way to open the season at the Bell Centre. And the first star is – la première étoile – Carey Price, who shut-out the Rangers in this 3-zip victory and made a number of spectacular saves, particularly during the 5-on-3.

So what did the What Me Worry Kid have to say?

‘I don’t think we get enough credit. People have been saying we’re over-rated. But we really have a good hockey team.’

So true. But it gets better. In the on-ice interview he went on to, as usual, downplay his own contribution.

‘I’m just trying to do my part. Make a save every once in a while.’

Yeah right. And Jimi Hendrix just played a bit of guitar.

No Price was Other-Wordly but he was right on the mark with his first answer – this is a good hockey team. All four lines are clicking, the D is solid and Subban and Markov look like two of the great mobile D-men in the league and even if all them have a dud shift, Alfred E. Price comes to the rescue.

Good times.

  • Brendan Kelly

Can you imagine how that phone call went at six this morning? Marc Bergevin’s pulled out of a deep sleep by a caller – the police? Habs communications czar Donald Beauchamp? A reporter? – telling him that the guy he recently traded for, Zack Kassian, was in a traffic accident just minutes earlier.

As reported in The Gazette, the jeep he was in smashed into a tree on Clanranald Avenue near Cote St. Luc Road in N.D.G. A 20-year-old woman was driving the truck and there were two other passengers, in addition to the Canadiens forward.

Kassian suffered minor injuries, acccording to Beauchamp, who was quoted in The Gazette story.

So let’s hope that he and the other passengers are all doing fine.

Now on to the impact on the Habs. The short answer? Not so good. Bergevin traded fan favourite Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks this summer in return for Kassian, who was an enigma with gusts up to a dud in Vancouver. Prust has been on a decline since his strong first season in Montreal and after a terrible playoff this past season, it was clear Habs management no longer had any faith in the gritty forward.

The view amongst many I talked to was that the Habs traded one problem for another. The other thing to keep in mind is that the Canadiens have always had a zero tolerance policy re off-ice problems. From Chris Chelios to Shayne Corson to Andrei Kostitsyn to Mike Rebeiro to Prust, the team has been quick to ship out guys when there’s even a hint that they might be a bad influence on the other players.

So what happens with Kassian? My pal Bruce Dinsmore insists they were on their way to church and certainly I’ve often made that trek straight from the after-hours club to the house of worship. Rafael Oullet suggested – ‘il allait bruncher avec ses cousines je crois!’ Maybe.

But let’s just be mild-mannered here, for a change, and mention that this is kind of a disastrous way for the first weekend of the season to start.

  • Brendan Kelly

I haven’t been watching much pre-season action because I do actually have a life – though if you read my avalanche of FB output you might question that! – and so I only finally got to see one of those three-on-three OTs last night.

Both sides had all kinds of chances and then Bobby Ryan from the Senators scored at the 1:18 mark to put the clown act out of its agony.

Wow just when you thought Gary ‘How Tall Am I?’ Bettman couldn’t make the league any more Mickey Mouse. It’s Cirque du Soleil man. I mean really. It makes the shootout seem Old School. Just don’t do it. It cheapens The Game.

End of rant.

  • Brendan Kelly
Photo of Keith Richards by J. Rose.

Photo of Keith Richards by J. Rose.

I know, I know, this is my Habs blog but hey hockey and rock’n’roll go together like beer and chips, so here are my thoughts on that new Keef movie.

I just loved the Netflix documentary Keith Richards: Under the Influence, which I watched last night. ‘You’re not grown up until they put you six feet under,’ says Keef. Now I know a few of you who think I could do some growing up but the great thing about this documentary directed by Morgan Neville – the guy who also made the brilliant Oscar-winning doc Twenty Feet From Stardom – is to be able to get to watch and listen to Keef, at 71, showing the same excitement about the music he loves as he did at 16 when he first met Mick on the train and realized this fellow had a couple of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters albums under his arm. He still lives for the music (and Mick doesn’t, which is a big part of the reason they hate each other but that is another post/story). There’s a great moment where he starts talking about how boring rock became. He calls it marching music and he just nails the dullness of post-1970 rock.

His point is that it was missing the pulsing, throbbing beat of the original rock’n’roll and blues that cranked his switch back in the mid-’50s.

‘Excuse me but I like the roll,’ he says and then bursts into that trademark smoky laugh that’s the symbol of this chap’s unlikely eternal youthfulness (even if his face looks like it’s been carved out of the side of Mount Rushmore).

What’s great about Under the Influence, as my pal Harm-Harry Duzink pointed out last night, is that, in spite of what the title might suggest, this is about the music that influenced Keith, not the drugs. One of the key figures here is Muddy Waters. We see him performing with the Stones in ’81 in a classic clip and then Richards drives up to Muddy’s former home in Chicago, where he reminisces about a party he went to there back in the day (he remembers arriving but is a little less clear on how he left, remembering only that he ended up waking up in Howlin’ Wolf’s house round the corner).

There’s also great stuff with his idol Chuck Berry, behaving like a total tool of course, and lots of conversation about the blues, country and reggae artists that changed Keith’s life. Oh and he explains how he got that extraordinary guitar sound on Street Fightin’ Man (he used an acoustic guitar mic’d with a rinky dinky cassette recorder). So if you care in the least about the history of modern music, you ought to have a look at this.

And best of all, Mick barely makes a cameo appearance.