Does the headline give you some sense of how i feel this morning? Yeah I’m upset and you should be too. Our beloved Habs soiled the bed last night. Laid an egg. Mucked up. Effed up.

They weren’t prepared for the biggest game of their season. You explain that crap to me. No really. Michel Therrien can give the journalists the evil eye but fact is that for the second straight series against the Senators, he’s losing the war of attrition with the coach from the nation’s capital.

What exactly is Therrien’s strategy here? Keep throwing the same thing out on the ice and hope things suddenly get better? It  ain’t working. The power play is beyond bad. But the real reason we’re in such deep muck is that our best players have not been our best players.

Max Pacioretty? He had a shite playoff last year and he’s looking to repeat this spring. Is he still feeling the after-effect of the injury? That’s the only decent excuse for his poor play. He’s just been invisible. He has one goal and it’s a goal the long-forgotten Hamburglar should’ve stopped.

Tomas Plekanek? I know journos love to go on about how he’s THE complete player but year-in/year-out he disappears when the playoff heat gets turned up. He’s just not big enough to compete with the Big Boys.

Gallagher? He has his energy but eventually he has to put the puck in the net. Desharnais? See my comment about Plek. His heart is in it but he simply is not a first-line centre on any normal team.

Andrei Markov? You need to ask after that boneheaded pass to Erik Condra in the third. My man P.K. Subban? He’s shown flashes but that’s not enough. He is our superstar and needs to take games like this by the throat and throttle them.

Carey Price? The What Me Worry Kid sure picked an unfortunate moment to have a mediocre game. Sure there was traffic in front of him for the goals but he needs to stop a couple of those. And let’s be honest – he’s had a just-okay series and that’s not good enough. You all laughed at me for criticizing Price a couple of years ago but I’ll say it again this morning just to p— you off – he can have a dozen Vezina trophies in the back of his pick-up truck, fact is he doesn’t get to be called The Great One till he wins big in the post-season.

The guys who’ve been holding this thing together are Dale Weise, Torrey Mitchell, Lars Eller, all three of whom played their hearts out Friday. Meanwhile the high-priced talent stood and watched. Not acceptable.

Look I’m keeping the faith. Like the great Feargal Sharkey said, It’s Going to Happen. But if they treat Sunday like another meaningless Tuesday night game in November – as they’ve treated the past two games – we’ll all be glued to the tube for game seven Tuesday.

Wake the F up!

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/video/ottawa-senators-montreal-canadiens-04-020626291.html

It ain’t over yet

Posted: April 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

Simple message this morning. It’s 2-zip for the Habs and there is plenty to celebrate on this beautiful Saturday morning. As first tipped in David Winch’s now-famous column on Alex Galchenyuk, there’s the Galchenyuk moment to fête – his stunning overtime goal, a spin-round-then-shoot-as-fast-as-you-can move that made the Hamburglar look like he’d never robbed anyone in his life. Then there’s Élise Béliveau’s boyfriend P.K. Subban who came back after messing his bed in the first game and delivered a monster game, as we all knew he would. He rocketed one of his patented Howitzer slapshots over Andrew Hammond’s shoulder, nearly taking off the Sens’ goalie’s head in the process. 140 kmh that one was. Did I mention P.K. is my main man? I know, I know, take a number.

But here’s the message. It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Two-nothing is exactly where you want to be after two games in Montreal but Subban got it right in the post-game scrum when he reminded the ink-stained wretches – not that any journos see any ink these days – that you can still lose a series after being up two-zero. He reminded us that that’s exactly what happened in 2011. The Habs won the first pair in Beantown and then our least favourite team came back to win in seven (with the Bruins going on to win the Cup). That was the infamous Horton-hears-a-Who moment.

It also happened with the Hurricanes in 2006, the infamous series where the Habs stormed out in Raleigh, winning the first two, chasing starting goalie Martin Gerber and, sadly for us, forcing Canes coach Peter Laviolette to unleash 22-year-old rookie backup netminder Cam Ward. You know the rest – Ward turned in a Dryden-like performance that spring, Saku Koivu was lost for the season with a dangerous eye injury in game three, and the Hurricanes won in OT in game seven at the Bell Centre on a weak tipped shot from Corey Stillman that Cristobal Huet most certainly should’ve stopped. (Most believe that was the moment management secretly game up all hope of having any kind of future with the French goalie.)

Don’t get me wrong. I think we will win this series. But it won’t be a cakewalk. That’s all I’m saying. The Habs have won the first two games by one goal each time and now Les Boys are headed to their barn. (Luckily the sad-sack Sens can barely even fill the aforementioned barn with their own fans.) So let’s save the real celebration for the end of the series.

PK1

P.K. Subban is right. In his media scrum Thursday, he said attention should be focused on the Canadiens’ inspirational 4-3 win in game one of their best-of-seven against the Senators and the great work from Brian Flynn – in superstar form, with three points – and hometown hero Torrey Mitchell, who scored the Habs’ first goal of the series.

But all of the talk since the final buzzer has been about The Slash. If somehow you’ve been in solitary confinement since Wednesday at 7, here’s the video.

Subban savagely whacked Sens’ scoring sensation Mark Stone right on the wrist in the front of the Habs net, landing Subban a five-minute major and a game misconduct. At the time, I was saying the refs over-reacted and it should’ve just been a two-minute penalty.

But a day later, I’m thinking the refs got it just right. It was a vicious slash, the type of play that’s simply unacceptable under any circumstances and it could’ve caused an even more serious injury than it did. The Sens said Thursday Stone has a fractured wrist and, according to Sens GM Brian Murray, it is “very questionable” that Stone will make it back on the ice in the series.

There has been a bunch of talk about Senator coach Dave Cameron’s comments after the game, where he appeared to be almost saying his team would retaliate for the slash. Said Cameron: “You either do one of two things. I think it’s an easy solution — you either suspend him, or when one of their best players gets slashed just give us five.”

Cameron was wrong to make a threat like that and, in fact, the League should’ve fine him for the comments.

But what’s lost in all of the media chatter is that Subban was way out of line delivering the slash in the first place. You know how much I love the Subbanator but I have to say it was an incredibly bone-headed move. What was the point of doing that? Lars Eller was already in the penalty box and so Subban’s penalty gave the Sens a 5-on-3, which resulted in two Ottawa goals against the Habs. (Yes Eller scored that beautiful short-handed goal but that’s no thanks to P.K.)

Subban is one of the team leaders and he let his emotions get the better of him. The team had to dig deep to win in spite of the absence of their two best skaters in P.K. and Max Pacioretty. Bottomline is it was a major-league dumb move.

In his scrum, Subban said as much, saying “I can’t point fingers…it’s on me. I got the penalty and it hurt my team.”

So yeah we should be celebrating the all-heart fourth line of Flynn, Mitchell and Brandon ‘I Live For the Playoffs’ Prust. But instead we’re talking about P.K. cos P.K. mucked up. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

Now can we just focus on that extraordinary victory that managed to puncture the Senators’ dream run in 60 lively minutes.

– Brendan Kelly

Jay Baruchel, Marc-Andre Grondin and the Stanley Cup. That's a shaved head under that toque if you're wondering! Top Shelf photo by Brendan Kelly.

Jay Baruchel, Marc-Andre Grondin and the Stanley Cup. That’s a shaved head under that toque if you’re wondering! Top Shelf photo by Brendan Kelly.

I posted on the usual social-media soapboxes after Thursday night’s dramatic 4-3 OT victory over the Red Wings, joining in the celebration of Carey Price’s record-breaking 43rd win this season. I said, and I quote: “That was one of the great moments in recent Habs history. Carey Price sets the record for most wins in a season for a Canadiens goalie and it was beautiful to see his team-mates just going nuts around him, celebrating. Then the Bell Centre crowd gave him the big love. Price looked so moved in the post-game interview. Magic.”

Then we got into a fun discussion of Price getting “pied” right after the game, by that party-animal – NOT! – Emelin, with Andie Bennett getting the real scoop as usual, saying that Markov was the brains behind that operation. In short, we were all busy whooping it up for our man Price.

Most were happy to retweet and like – that’s how we roll these days – but my old friend Marc-André Grondin – who also happens to be one of our finer thespians – wasn’t about the let me off scott free.

“No mention of Halak, Brendan??? ;” tweeted Marc-André.

Fair enough pal. For years, I have been giving Price a hard time and portraying myself as one of the last of the Halakians. I was, like thousands of others, devastated by the Halak trade, and, being old-school Irish, it took me years to recover (and following the Irish thematic, I do of course still hold a psychotic grudge against Bob Gainey). But when Price turned the corner in the past two seasons, I was a big enough man to admit he was looking more and more like The Man. The Man Who Would Bring the Cup Back to Montreal that is. If you don’t believe me, please have a read of my post from Feb. 7 titled, what else?, Carey Price is The Man.

Price rules the goalie roost in the NHL this season. He’s No. 1, period, end of discussion, which is why he will win the Vezina Trophy and maybe the Hart (though Ovie is giving him a run for the money right now). He has a GAA of 1.95, a save percentage of .934, and the aforementioned 43 wins.

And keep in mind he has done all this with a good, not great, defense corps in front of him. Last night, as usual, he said it was all about his team-mates but he’s just saying that cos he’s such a class act. Fact is that it’s all Price. Without The What Me Worry Kid, this Canadiens’ squad would be fighting with Boston, Ottawa, Pittsburgh and Detroit for that last playoff spot in the East.

And his team-mates know he’s their fearless leader. Did you see the way they celebrated with him last night? Such joy. They love this guy and they know exactly what he means to the team.

Night after night, he’s astonishing, and if not astonishing, he’s at the very least very, very good. I think he has had maybe two mediocre nights all season and that’s two games out of 65. Is he better than Jacques Plante and/or Ken Dryden, the two guys who held the 42-wins record for the Habs? Only time will tell. But he’s certainly right up with them.

My pal (and occasional Top Shelf contributor) David Winch quoted some web chatter arguing over this and I think the key point that comes out of that is that Plante and Dryden had much better teams in front of them. Price is doing this with a team that is NOT the 1976-1977 Canadiens.

So yeah I’m right on the effin bandwagon.

One more thing though Marc-André – did you notice that great season of Jaro Halak’s over on The Island? Haha.

– Brendan Kelly

 

Michel Therrien at the wheel. Courtesy of RDS.

Michel Therrien at the wheel. Courtesy of RDS.

As a Canadiens fan, I am not in the least impressed by the fact that the team refuses to provide any details about Max Pacioretty’s injury. But I’m not particularly surprised.

The Habs are the ultimate control freaks when it comes to massaging the information that leaks out of the Bell Centre and this is only the latest example of the team’s mania for making sure every piece of news is officially sanctioned by the Canadiens’ PR machine.

So Patch has an upper-body injury. That’s pretty well all kindly ol’ coach Michel Therrien was willing to say on Wednesday. Now I know there are other NHL teams that would be just as secretive but what gets me here is the near complete lack of criticism of this Soviet-style communications strategy.

The one exception is Réjean Tremblay who had a great column in Le Journal de Montréal Wednesday blasting the Habs “big propaganda machine”. So why is no one else in the media grumbling? Because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. If you dare to throw a few darts in the direction of Canadiens management, you kiss goodbye to the paltry access you have right now – that access being carefully controlled interviews with carefully selected players on carefully chosen topics.

Tremblay – who I usually disagree with – is right. The fans have a right to know if Pacioretty has a concussion or not following a hit from Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on Sunday. (It was a non-event of a hit, shouldn’t have even resulted in a penalty. The problem was that Patch fell awkwardly.) He left the game and the Canadiens announced that he will not be playing the final two games of the regular season. Therrien wouldn’t say whether he would be ready for the start of the playoffs next week.

“We know exactly what he has,” Therrien said. Then nada. As in – we know but we’re not telling.

Apparently Therrien and his cronies are hiding the truth from the public to protect Pacioretty.

“We have to protect the players, that’s the most important thing for us,” he said, as reported in Dave Stubbs’ column. “There are things we can’t tell. We’re a week away from the playoffs.”

Translation – Therrien thinks we’re idiots who are happy to live in a world that’s a cross between 1984 and Brave New World. As in – war is peace, Big Brother knows best. He’s protecting Patch? So if other players know he has had a concussion, they’ll go after his head in the playoffs? Well they already know he has a concussion. No this is all about controlling the flow of information to the fans and it’s an insult to everyone who pays the hefty ticket prices, beer prices and cable subscriptions that help keep the Habs in business.

 

P.K. Subban2

From the start of the brave new Rogers world broadcast order, the prime spot that is CBC on a Saturday night has been reserved for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I get it. Toronto is the biggest media market in the country, the Leafs get the top ratings, so you wanna have their games on the network that reaches the most Canadians.

(We won’t go into here how the CBC executives just gave away that precious air-time. That, alas, is another story.)

But you may have heard that the Leafs have been tanking of late. As Pop Montreal guru Dan Seligman quipped, before it was even true, they’re a Gong Show. They are way way out of playoff contention, have sold-off as many of their decent players as they could, and are now openly dissed even by their most faithful fans (who deserve praise for their hockey-sweater-tossing prowess). In the meantime, the Montreal Canadiens are first in the East, have just made a couple of moves to strengthen their roster, and are far and away the Canadian team most likely to go deep in the post-season.

So why not move tonight’s Habs game – and all the Habs games going forward – on to CBC? Virtually all of the Canadiens’ games have been on City on Saturday nights, a channel that doesn’t have nearly the reach of CBC. And that’s where you’ll find Saturday’s Montreal-Arizona match-up. So why not flip that one over to CBC and take that meaningless St. Louis Toronto snoozer and put it on City.

It would also be a good way to generate more viewer interest in the Habs as they move toward the playoffs and hopefully boost your post-season ratings.

Of course it’s never gonna happen. Too logical. Just remember that the folks making these decisions all live in Toronto. It’s in their genes. They simply can’t imagine a world where you prioritize the Canadiens over the Leafs.  It’s Don Cherry’s world. And they’ll make decisions like this even though it’s a bad business decision because they’re prisoners of the Leafs Nation. Bizarre.

 

Carey Price being interviewed at the Canadiens fan practice. Photo by Brendan Kelly.

Carey Price being interviewed at the Canadiens fan practice. Photo by Brendan Kelly.

Your Montreal Canadiens are sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference and so you’d think everyone in the Habs Nation would be riding as high as the team. So why do I hear so much grumbling?

Sure the casual fans are all super-enthused but talk to folks who watch closely and, quietly, behind closed doors, they’ll tell you they don’t really believe these Habs are going to go the distance. Compare that attitude to the Chelsea fans we all know. Chelsea are first in the Premier League and their supporters are just ecstatic (to the point of obnoxiousness, suggests this Man City fan).

So why are so many skeptical of the Habs? It’s simple really. You look at the numbers and you realize the Canadiens’ amazing record this season is built on a structure with plenty of wobbly supporting beams. The short version is this – there’s one thing holding this all together and he’s called Carey Price.

Price is, right now, the best goalie in the league with a GAA of 1.92 and a save percentage of .935. He has a league-best 36 wins. But you already know this if you’ve even glanced at a Habs game in recent weeks. Forget this week-from-hell in California and look back and think of all of the amazing games Price has played this season. Prior to this year, we used to say that Price didn’t steal games. Well he’s been on a grand-larceny roll this season. Every couple of games he pulls off a save that just leaves us speechless. He’s in a zone.

The rest of the team not so much. And that’s why the doubters are out there doubting.

Let’s start with scoring. Montreal ranks 22nd out of 30 teams in terms of goals-per-game with a sad-sack 2.6 average. All the teams below them are not playoff teams, including Colorado, Columbus, Florida, Carolina, New Jersey, Edmonton, Arizona and Buffalo. (Florida is the closest to contending given it’s in 9th place in the East and still in the wild-card hunt.)

The Habs can’t score. Simple as that. They have one bona-fide sniper in Max Pacioretty, who now has 31 goals, but after that the scoring dips big-time. The second-highest scorers are Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk, who both have 19. Brendan Gallagher has 18 and then you zip right down to P.K. Subban with 12 and underachieving David Desharnais with 11. (Can I just mention that a first-line centre with 11 goals at this point is a wee bit scandalous?) Then it’s on to the single digits. Not good.

You know why they don’t score? ‘Cause they don’t get shots on net. The Habs rank 26th in terms of shots per game, with an average of 28.3. Yup this would be The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight that launched just two pucks at Los Angeles Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick in the first period Thursday night. Once again the teams that have less shots per game than the Canadiens are all way down in the standings (Edmonton, New Jersey, Buffalo), with the exception of Calgary which is in 8th place in the west.

More worrisome stats? Montreal is also one of the worst teams in terms of shots against, ranked 22nd, with an average of 30.4 shots against per game. Once again the only teams with more shots against are not contenders (New Jersey, Dallas, Arizona, Ottawa, Toronto, Columbus, Colorado, Buffalo).

So guess which stat is the one where the Habs are king of the hill? You got it. Goals against, with an average of 2.2 per game, making them far and away the No. 1 team in this department. Given the high number of shots against, there’s only one explanation for that stellar number and once again the prize-winning answer is the mysterious man from Anahim Lake, B.C.

So yes lots to worry about as the playoffs approach. You could of course argue that Price is indeed one of the Habs players and they’ll go as far as he can carry them in the post-season. But it sure is a risky proposition to have everything hinge on one guy’s performance.

Now I’m hedging my bets here. I’m just reporting the facts. The doubters are doubting and the Habs have a bunch of scary statistics. Does that mean they’re going nowhere in the playoffs? Not necessarily. It is indeed another season and anything can happen. But unlike What Me Worry Price, I am a little concerned.

– Brendan Kelly